The State's Legitimacy in Fragile Situations

Unpacking Complexity

State legitimacy matters because it transforms power into authority and provides the basis for rule by consent, rather than by coercion. In fragile situations, a lack of legitimacy undermines constructive relations between the state and society, and thus compounds fragility. Multiple sources of legitimacy often compete and conflict, leaving the state unable to impose the ultimate rules of the game.

Donors working in fragile environments have paid relatively little attention to legitimacy, instead concentrating their efforts on capacity development and institution building as a way of strengthening state effectiveness. The State’s Legitimacy in Fragile Situations urges donors to pay much more attention to legitimacy. It also invites them to broaden their understanding to encompass aspects of legitimacy that derive from people’s shared beliefs and traditions, not just from Western state models. Finally, it encourages donors to monitor the impact of their interventions so as to avoid undermining state legitimacy. The publication concludes with practical recommendations on how donors can support better relations between state and society in fragile situations.

09 Feb 2010 67 pages English Also available in: French 9789264083882 (PDF)

Author(s): OECD