How can we help those seeking a way out of endless chaos? Éric Beugnot (AFD) and Jacques Levard propose consensual power-sharing for a limited duration in exchange for massive and sustainable aid.
In a previous article, we showed that international aid in a context of State collapse can be profitable in that, if significant, the efforts made can eventually generate greater economic value added for the country. Based on the example of Cambodia, which benefited from massive aid following the Paris Agreements (1991), we imagined aid of similar proportions for the Central African Republic.
An important factor still needed to be developed in this reflection – aid governance. We are now returning to the bold idea of consensual power-sharing to justify massive external aid. Below a certain critical mass, aid will likely be wasted. It is important to ensure its effectiveness.
Let us start by recalling that poverty is not inevitable. The wealth gap between Rwanda and the Central African Republic, two geographically close, landlocked countries, is increasing. Costa Rica has a GDP per capita six times higher than neighboring Nicaragua. According to Haiti’s statistics, the bankrupt country is ten times poorer than the Dominican Republic.
These disparities far outstrip any product of natural capital and history—in Europe wealth gaps between countries range between multipliers of one, two or three at most. Haitians’ capacity to generate wealth is no lower than that of their neighbors. What is missing, among other things, is the framework of stability required to encourage foreign and domestic investments.
The concept of consensual power-sharing
The idea is to establish temporary power-sharing arrangements, agreed upon in the context of a partnership with aid donors. The offer would be part of the democratic process and, once an agreement is reached, this sharing process would be drafted in a sufficiently binding text, in exchange for massive aid for a predefined period.
This sharing must be envisioned within a balance that protects the aspirations of the people and brings development choices to the fore. At the same time, this partnership will protect this balance from attempted attacks from different factions.
This balance could, for example, take the form of a small national assembly, of which half of the seats are reserved for representatives of the donors and a government of national unity. Of course, the representation of donors must not be tied to any country or special interest and must therefore be designed within a multilateral framework (as in the case of UNTAC in Cambodia between 1992 and 1993, and the UNMIK in Kosovo in 1999-2001). A specific external “counsel” could be envisioned to provide accountability, as a restoring force and additional guarantee of independence.
The aid must target sovereign issues (security, justice, taxation) as well as infrastructure in order to increase productive capacity with investment to meet the challenge of forming an effective administration and employable productive forces. This is not a question of tens or hundreds of millions of euros (or dollars) but rather billions (as in Cambodia) or even tens of billions, if applied to several countries.
The partnership period must be long enough to allow for both the emergence of structuring effects (education, creation of a middle class within one generation rooted in an effective rule of law) and the framework of stability needed to attract investments. This is somewhat in the spirit of the Nouméa Accord (1998) signed after the conflict between loyalists and independence supporters, which aimed to ensure a political status quo with economic and social support over a period of twenty years, before organizing a series of referendums.
The major challenge of acceptance of power-sharing by the local population
The terms for the acceptance of a partial loss of sovereignty, even for a limited period of time, are the primary obstacle for the parties who could potentially agree to this arrangement. It is easy to imagine criticism from opponents both before and after the agreement. To address this challenge, the parties must approach the issues with a great deal of lucidity and educational effort. It will likely be necessary to integrate this project into a government of national unity. British research on elite bargains offers interesting leads in this area.
The momentum for this type of change is important. National elections would allow for public debate and a potential democratic base, while still involving the difficulties mentioned above.
Finally, the obstacle of cohabitation with an outside body seen as imposing supervision is not much easier. Overcoming this obstacle requires competent governance in terms of authority, diplomacy and vision which remains impartial and above reproach. Ideally, this governance should be surrounded by a team of nationals with experience in international institutions.
Objections based on any reference to “recolonization” must be rejected in our opinion: this would be a consensual agreement for a limited time period within a multilateral framework. While in the past, colonization was legitimized by pseudo-agreements or imposed by post-conflict coalitions, in this case, the democratic process changes everything.
There must also be an awareness of how the intentions of the “powers” involved have changed, in light of 70 years of development aid. However, there is an additional difficulty, that of inventing a new mode of governance capable of securing approval of this partial loss of sovereignty, with all the necessary authority and without humiliation. The semantics used for this process must be stripped of any post-colonialist references.
A bold concept, but similar to current aid mechanisms
Upon reflection, this arrangement is conceptually not very different from current aid mechanisms, it simply adapted to a different scale. Current aid, whether in the form of a project or budgetary aid through loans or donations, is most often subject to conditionalities. Furthermore, it is often established within the framework of foreign technical assistance.
During this phase, the approach remains voluntarily at a general conceptual level in order to allow an understanding of the overall context and to prompt a discussion. The principles, which remain simple, have already been applied. What changes is the scale and mode of governance. Marshall plans for Africa have already been requested, but failure to ensure proper use of the funds has been an obstacle for donors. The oil curse could prove them right. No company invests in the capital of another company without taking some control over the governance, except that in such cases the shareholding is presumed to be final. In the present case, the same principle is used, but the control is associated with strong rules and is above all a temporary structure.
This is a few levels below the thousands of billions in aid mobilized to respond to the subprime mortgage crisis in 2009 and the current Covid-19 crisis. Of course, donors would still need to coordinate this special development tool and integrate it within a framework of renewed multilateralism. This restructuring experience could bring new life.
The attempt to rebuild Haiti after the earthquake in 2010 included many of the previously mentioned principles. This attempt failed and has been vehemently criticized: the massive aid, in part, remained an empty promise and the sharing of power has not been efficient. The lessons learned from this experience could however be useful to future initiatives. These two articles offer different perspectives, one critical and one supportive.
Crises: new solutions for a post-crisis world
This conviction bears repeating aid that does not succeed in bringing about a country’s recovery is wasted. On the other hand, if it attains a critical mass, it offers the country more than the cost paid by the international community, for the benefit of all. It prevents both present and future costs caused by lawless situations that eventually affect the entire world.
Vision for a “post-crisis world” requires radically new solutions to ensure a fair and sustainable future. The framework presented here is not intended to be established doctrine, but rather a hypothesis upon which to work with one or two countries who would accept to participate. It would be worth including in the “arsenal of aid”.
The goal is to help those who desire to break free from endless chaos by including them in a mechanism that creates a positive dynamic. If the terms solidarity and a world in common mean anything, it is up to developed countries to offer true means of resolving these crises, in the same way they resolve their own crises and with the same determination. The world will emerge stronger as a result.