External Actors and Public goods Provision in Failing States – Special Issue in Governance

Stephen Krasner and Thomas Risse edit a special issue in the latest issue of Governance where they look at the capacity and efficacy of external international actors in providing vital public services in areas of limited statehood and why some are more successful than others. All the countries covered experience deficits in terms of statehood, some can be categorised as failed states with limited writ over their territory. As the number of these un-governed and ungovernable spaces (Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan?) rise across the world and so do the range of external international actors, state and non-state, that aim to mitigate their rise, it is key to identify the conditions underpinning the success of some of these external actors. The important takeaway is that despite severe deficits, some of these states are not ungovernable. Through partnerships, services can be delivered and citizen needs can be met, provided certain conditions are met.

What are they? As the editors argue, ‘three factors determine success: legitimacy, task complexity, and institutionalization including the provision of adequate resources.’

  • Legitimacy is key: ‘Without legitimacy, external efforts at state-building or service provision will inevitably fail. If the external actors are considered legitimate, simple tasks can be accomplished even under the most adverse conditions, while complex tasks require strong institutionalization.’
  • Task Simplicity matters: ‘The simpler the task, the more likely it is to be provided.  More complex tasks, all tasks associated with state-building (enhancing the ability of authority structures in target states to provide key services), and some associated with service provision are more difficult to provide, especially in failed states, where indigenous state capacity hardly exists, as opposed to polities with areas of limited statehood.’
  • Institutionalisation design also important: ‘The institutional arrangement linking external and national/local actors matters for the effectiveness of either enhancing state capacity or providing collective goods and services. Institutional design features include the degrees of legalization, formal institutionalization and level of resources.’



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