Economist Paul Collier studies the political and economic problems of the very poorest countries: 50 societies, many in sub-Saharan Africa, that are stagnating or in decline, and taking a billion people down with them. His book The Bottom Billion identifies the four traps that keep such countries mired in poverty, and outlines ways to help them escape — a thesis he outlines in his TEDTalk from 2008.
Onstage at TED@State, Collier describes the 3 traditional principles for intervening in a failed state:
1. It’s the politics that matters — first, try to fulfill the political expectations
2. It’s a bad situation but it’s short-term
3. The exit strategy for peacekeepers: an election and a return to prosperity
And, he says, this approach denies reality. Doing good politics is infinitely easier in a climate of prosperity. An agenda of inclusion is key to rebuilding a failed state. But if the object of repairing a state is to hold elections, you create a group of outsiders — the people who lost.
What are the 3 keys to rebuilding a failed state? Jobs, health, clean government.
Most important: jobs, and especially jobs for young men. Because young men need something to do or they create more conflict. How to employ them? Focus on the construction industry -– an industry not subject to foreign competition, and employing lots of young men.
Rebuilding basic services: Too often, in a postconflict nation, all resources for health services go directly to NGOs –- which doesn’t help rebuild the nation from the inside. Instead, help the country develop independent service authorities with standards of accountability for NGOs, to “co-brand” services with gorvernment and NGOs together.
Clean government: A typical postconflict government is out of money. It needs money just to exist. It’s vital to have accountancy and openness to remove the temptation to steal and cheat.
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