Academic journal article Global Governance

Social Capital Building as Capacity for Postconflict Development: The UNDP in Mozambique and Rwanda

Academic journal article Global Governance

Social Capital Building as Capacity for Postconflict Development: The UNDP in Mozambique and Rwanda

Article excerpt

In this article, I intend to conceptualize two postconflict reconstruction projects supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as efforts in social capital development in postconflict situations. I specifically focus on the UNDP's support for the creation of focus groups within the Mozambican government and for the Rwandan government's reorganization of its policing system as reform measures in the countries' state systems. I argue that by creating a focus group in Mozambique, which provides an avenue for collective decisionmaking that involves previously fighting factions, and by streamlining the police service in Rwanda, which makes it easier to predict and monitor the operations of the country's police force, the UNDP is not only assisting these countries to transform uncertainties into risk in postconflict situations, it is also redesigning the institutional environments, hence rebuilding trust among the citizens and between them and the state. It is important to note that the most critical task in postconflict (1) reconstruction is building trust, which Fergus Lyon sees as "an integral part of what is termed social capital." (2) After all, of what use are material and ideational resources meant to assist a people to restore normalcy after a ravenous war if the people still cannot count on even a modicum of trust among them? (3) As Charles Call and Susan Cook observed, "Preventing future conflicts is not solely a matter of keeping those with guns from using them, but of establishing accountable, transparent, and participatory systems of authority." (4)

Even in normal political situations, the need for at least a small degree of trust among the citizens and between them and the state can be considered non-negotiable. This is because, as Valerie Braithwaite and Margaret Levi aptly put it, "Trust may ease coordination among citizens and with government actors, reduce transaction costs, increase the probability of citizen compliance with government demands, and contribute to political support for the government." (5) Conflicts shatter people's concept of trust, and in most cases it is to the extent that even when open hostility is declared to be over, a sense of fear and insecurity continues to loom over the area concerned. This makes it difficult for survivors to return home to resume normal life. In the absence of trust, institutions are no longer capable of coordinating interhuman interactions, hence the difficulty of making and implementing collective decisions. Trust can thus be seen as a major victim of social strife, particularly violent conflicts. It is in this sense that I have argued that the overall impact of conflict can be likened to the role of the market in the free enterprise economy: it sets an upper limit to productivity via its negative impact on the affected people's concept of trust. (6)

This article is motivated and informed by information I collected in the two countries, Mozambique and Rwanda, during my visit there in late winter 2002. (7) This study is primarily about process and not necessarily result. One key benefit of this approach is that, by being long on concept and short on empirical materials, it provides an opportunity not only to reexamine three key ideas (8) in contemporary international development--postconflict, social capital, and developmental capacity--but also to show their interrelatedness. I argue that, given the precariousness of postconflict situations, the two projects under discussion must be seen as efforts to renovate the citizens' "idea of the state" in the sense Barry Buzan used the term. To Buzan, the idea of the state is about "what binds the people into a socio-political and territorial entity," going beyond the observable functions of the state, which include maintaining civil order and providing collective goods and external security. (9) These efforts must thus be seen as attempts at revamping the trust and confidence of the people in their state. …

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