ECMI presentation at the Research Colloquium of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg (IFSH)

ECMI’s Senior Research Associate PD Dr. Jan Asmussen gave a presentation to the Research colloquium of the Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy at the University of Hamburg. Dr. Asmussen talked about ‘Staatsaufbau nach dem Systembaukastenprinzip – Grenzen und Möglichkeiten des Externen State-Building’ (building states with a system construction kit – Limits and chances of external state building).

Dr. Asmussen argued that the concept of state-building has been seriously challenged by the realities of international policymaking in cases like Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo. More recently, American state-building efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq have been proven faulty. The main rationale for state-building in those cases was the assumption that failed states can’t be renovated but need to be fundamentally reconstructed from scratch. Accordingly the international community tried to apply a number of tools and methods that had not been tested in previous cases. Moreover, this was done without sufficient analysis of the long term impact state-building measures had or will have in terms of sustainability. There can be no doubt that the concept of state-building, as practised so far, has failed to produce the desired results. One of the reasons might well be that too little responsibility has been put on the shoulders of local politicians and too much was carried on those of the international community. Another reason, not thoroughly thought over yet, is the fact that the international community did away with traditional institutions and instruments that were in place in those failed states and that might have had the potential not only to sustain a reformed state, but also to sustain reforms better.

Assessing the successful balance between traditional justice and sustainable democratic development and societal reconciliation is vital for successful state-building. Dr. Asmussen, in his presentation, evaluated different approaches to transitional justice and state-building in cases as diverse as Germany, Japan, Iraq and Afghanistan. He explored if and how the international community might find ways and means to restructure state-building tools and measures by strengthening traditional institutions rather than creating new ones. However, he warned that if the international community would continue to build states according to the logic of system construction kits there was little chance of success. Especially divided societies like Kosovo, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq that encounter divisions on national, religious and ethnic lines would require  careful analyses of minority-majority set-ups in order to secure successful state-building.

Dr. Asmussen is heading ECMI’s research cluster on Conflict and Security. The cluster aims to enhance European security by means of sustainable trust and reconciliation. The cluster has a particular focus on research and revision of reconciliation policies in Europe.

Place and date:  Hamburg, 26 January 2011

For further information, please contact:             

Jan Asmussen, asmussen@ecmi.de


ECMI founders:

The German Federal GovernmentThe German
Federal Government
The Danish GovernmentThe Danish
The Federal State Schleswig-HolsteinThe Federal State