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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 January, 2004, 13:55 GMT
Analysis: State-building lessons
By Carl Bildt

Carl Bildt - the former Swedish prime minister who acted as the international community's first administrator in Bosnia-Hercegovina - assesses the difficulties facing the US-led coalition in rebuilding Iraq.

In Iraq, we are learning again that it is far easier to destroy a regime than to create a new one.

Carl Bildt
Building peace is a far more fragile, complex, costly and drawn-out process than fighting a war. So a peace coalition normally needs to be much broader than a war coalition
Carl Bildt
Building peace is a far more fragile, complex, costly and drawn-out process than fighting a war. So a peace coalition normally needs to be much broader than a war coalition

We have tried before, and there is much to be learned from the experiences of the past decades - from Haiti to Kosovo and East Timor.

The task is state-building - not nation-building.

In most cases, we face situations where different national, religious or tribal loyalties have to be bridged by functioning state structures. That was the case in the Balkans - and that is the case in Iraq.

No two situations are identical, but seven lessons of state building stand out.

Lesson 1: It is imperative to establish a secure environment very fast.

As long as the gun remains the fastest way to power and property, there will be no room for democratic politics.

There is often no alternative to outside armies keeping the order. We have to be prepared to commit suitable forces for an extended period of time.

Lesson 2: The central challenge is not reconstruction, but state-building.

Reconstruction of the physical scars of war is certainly important, and it can be costly and take time.

But building a political infrastructure that unites competing forces and ensures some sort of order must always be the focus.

Lesson 3: To build a state, you need to know what state to build.

This requires some sort of a peace agreement or constitution.

When this is not the case - as in Kosovo - everything is more difficult. In the Balkans, we have seen the challenge of a multi-ethnic environment.

Iraq is another part of the post-Ottoman area that stretches from Bihac in Bosnia in the north-west to Basra by the Gulf in the south-east.

Prisoners are taken away from near the blast site
Iraq remains volatile with ongoing attacks on coalition troops
The potential of Iraq for disintegration is obvious, as are the consequences if this was to happen.

There is an urgent need for an agreement on a constitutional structure that will unite Arabs, Kurds, Turkmen and Assyrians of different beliefs in a state structure acceptable to them all.

The problem is not to ensure the power of the majority - but rather the inclusion and the loyalty of the minority.

It is only when you achieve a consensus on the structure of a state that you can move forward towards electing the representatives to govern that state. Then, elections could unite, otherwise they risk causing greater division.

Lesson 4: There must be an early focus on the preconditions for long-term economic growth.

Reconstruction of the physical scars of war is certainly important ...but building a political infrastructure that unites competing forces and ensures some sort of order must always be the focus.
There must be an early focus on issues like currency, customs, taxation systems, commercial law, banking, debt restructuring and clearing any legal obstacles to accessing international capital markets.

Job creation, and bringing back a vibrant middle class, is the key to long-term stability. Without them, despair and resentment will soon disrupt even the most ambitious efforts at state building.

Lesson 5: There has to be a benevolent regional environment.

The peace efforts in Bosnia or Afghanistan would not have been possible without the co-operation of the neighbours. If neighbours try to destabilise, they will sooner or later succeed.

Iraq is now a fragile zone in one of the most volatile areas of the world.

Just about everyone recognizes that if the liberation of Iraq from tyranny is not followed by the liberation of Palestine from occupation - giving true security to Israel, too - the presence of US and other coalition forces in Iraq will be very difficult.

Lesson 6: The greater the international support, the easier the process.

Rebuilding in Iraq
State-building is more important than re-construction, says Bildt
If there is international disagreement over the state-building process, this sooner or later risks translating into conflicts in the country in question.

Some sort of UN framework normally helps, although it is not a guarantee.

Building peace is a far more fragile, complex, costly and drawn-out process than fighting a war. So a peace coalition normally needs to be much broader than a war coalition.

Lesson 7: Nation-building takes a longer time, and requires more resources, than most initially believe.

As the first High Representative in Bosnia, I was told that everything should be concluded within a year.

When the folly of this was recognised, a new deadline of two years was given.

But five years after that has expired, the fourth High Representative is hardly less busy than the first.

Bosnia and Kosovo might be easy cases compared with Afghanistan and Iraq. Peace building requires an abundance of patience.



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