Nation-Building and the Complexities of Creating the Organizational DNA of Democracy – When Should Boundaries be Redrawn if Ever?
The rule of law starts when there is no fear of a guy with a gun. How do we get to a situation where legal force is stronger than arbitrary force? Throughout the world, the DNA of democracy is created a step at a time: creating a market for protecting endangered species that finances an anti-poaching police force and thereby complies with participation in the Endangered Species Act. These are admittedly small steps, but taken together, they create a tapestry of civil society and a set of incentives for non-corrupt individual behavior. This rule of law is a prerequisite for the kind of economic activity which creates sustainable prosperity. How does the rule of law become established? There is obviously a cultural phenomenon, the habits of consensus-building which are part of many traditional societies, the unscripted natural order of a chaotic highway or an English bus-queue, enforced by learned habits and an incentive to create efficient markets. The process is hard, practical work: developing management capacities for the delivery of essential services, organizing compliance with international trading systems and providing a framework for the peaceful resolution of disputes. It is the result of millions of decisions on the ground which translates into a social network of collective decision-making. But it also requires the political will of the international community to ensure that there is no “guy with a gun” who can misappropriate wealth.
Transparency International, an increasingly valuable organization demonstrates (www.transparency.org) a sophisticated approach to assessing levels of corruption and the impact of corrupt governance on economic performance. By simply measuring corruption, it sets a standard for improving behaviour and creates benchmarks and targets for all community to strive for. There are informal tests that we can all use: (a) Are compliance laws, like the endangered species act, enforced? (b) Are serious laws about human rights and due process enforced? (c) Is there widespread petty corruption at the level of bureaucratic transactions?
For political scientists, the issues of creating viable democracies have long been central to the development of a meaningful approach to political theory. The debate over democratic state formation is a constant. The question of homogeneity of culture is one raised frequently in debates about the prerequisites for democracy. As Canadians, we have long a familiarity with managing cross-cultural institutions. As Canadians, we have also developed a predilection for economic integration between culturally distinct regions and an aspiration that we can create the circumstance for win-win deals between these regions. This habit is not, however, one which can be applied to all contexts and situations. Few thoughtful Canadians advocated that Slovenia stay in Yugoslavia or Ukraine in the Soviet Union (although that was the orthodox view of the U.S. State department in both cases). The issues of when restructuring post-colonial boundaries requires the design of new states is one which can only be decided by those involved, but proponents of international rule of law have a stake in HOW it is decided.
Three political analysts have written in the last decade with special insight into this issue. The first, Jeffrey Herbst of Princeton writes about Somaliland and Somalia. The second, the great Nobel laureate in literature, Wole Soyinka, writes about Nigeria. The third, the Israeli political philosopher Shlomo Avineri, writes about Iraq and the possible desirability of “Three Iraqs”. Each is countries is dealing with the remnants of colonialism and the impact of arbitrarily drawn border-lines. These have resulted in extraordinarily complex issues for government. The issue of the remnants of arbitrary colonial decision needs to be explicitly addressed. Whatever decisions are made, it is unrealistic and inappropriate for the Banquo’s ghost of arbitrary colonial decisions made a century ago to linger and simply be ignored. At a minimum, in designing democratic institutions, proponents of the rule of law and sustainable prosperity need to create mechanisms for regional economic integration that compensate for these past colonial decisions. Avineri is right that there is no magic formula for culturally diverse societies. Each case is separate. The importance is that the debate is conducted democratically and the issues are recognized and addressed.
Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan, Somaliland, Somalia, Nigeria are all complex cases which require different and nuanced discussion. The issues involved here go to the heart of issues of modern security, the creation of “social capital” and economic development. There has been a pattern in U.S. thinking that no matter what the historical circumstances, states should not break up. In this view, partition is always bad in this view and the geographical implications of decolonization are a bit of a lottery. The view was dogmatically enforced until the ending of states called Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union. There has to be renewed interest in designing mechanisms of economic and political integration which allow modern citizens to have multiple loyalties: Quebecois AND Canadian, Catalan, Spaniard AND European, hypothetically Somali-speaking, Ethiopian AND a member of Northeast African Shared Prosperity Zone.
The challenges here are enough to keep political science students busy for a generation. Why should Somali-speaking Djibouti be a separate country because of its colonial heritage and Somaliland not? How does one democratically resolve whether Nigeria should remain a single country, whether Turkish Cyprus had a right to resist a military junta in Athens, whether Kurds and Shia Iraqis should share a state with Sunni Arabs, whether Aceh should remain party of Indonesia? These questions will not disappear conveniently for democratic state-builders and would-be architects of global sustainable prosperity. All we can do to answer it is to suggest that as Canadians, we know something about establishing the rules of democratic disentanglement and the challenges of building win-win economic bargains between culturally diverse regions.
But the issue cannot go away. Understanding the historical context can alleviate much political tension and create first step to forcing the next generation of decision-makers to acknowledge the past and move on, the past having been acknowledged and not ignored.
Geoffrey Herbst on Somaliland and Somalia
Shlomo Avineri on Three Iraqs, not one
Wole Soyinka on the future of Nigeria
The work of the Japanese activist and economic writer, Kenichi Ohmae is of continuing relevance in discussing the increasing importance of regions and the development of many layers of economic alliances. For a discussion of Ohmae’s recent thinking, there is a review by John Heilemann in the July 2005 Business 2.0 http://www.business2.com/b2/web/articles/0,17863,1083383-2,00.html
For a summary of Francis Fukuyama’s views on social capital, see his speech to the 1999 IMF Conference on Second Generation Reforms http://www.imf.org/external/pubs/ft/seminar/1999/reforms/fukuyama.htm#I