The Political Economy of Transition: Coming to Grips with History and Methodology

By Jozef M.Van Brabant | Go to book overview

11

TRANSFORMATION AND INTERNATIONAL ASSISTANCE

One of the greatest challenges facing the global community since 1989 has been the management of the multiple economic, political, and security changes, in some cases of seismic dimensions, due to the demise of state socialism. Of course, many other changes in the global context have transpired, but I focus here on “transition.” The ensuing management tasks include not only coming to grips with these mutations as they crystallize or threaten to erupt. It may arguably be even more important to be in a position to address in an orderly manner the repercussions emanating from these, as well as other, changes through various foreign interactions. These include the remaking of the postwar monetary, financial, and trading regimes without which the world order will once again come to rest on the hazards of intergovernmentalism. In a world without clear hegemons this spells broad immobilism and ultimately inability to avert, or even to cope with, open conflicts.

Without a doubt, the tasks of managing the post-Cold War world have become more formidable. The magnitude and scope of the problem are presently arguably more complex than was the case even a few years ago, given the disintegration of collective security, the reluctance or inability of the big powers or those aspiring toward that status to influence events, and the broad apathy of a world becoming seemingly inured to regional conflicts, even mass slaughter and starvation. Even the most tentative of answers to any of the many questions is still outstanding. If only for that reason, it should provide the rationale for qualifying the cited challenge of managing global economic, political, and social affairs as “the greatest.”

The purpose of this chapter is not to engage at length the whole debate, but to provide a summary view on managing assistance to transition economies and the lessons that can usefully be drawn from this experience. After looking at the stance taken by the international community since 1989, I adduce a rationale for it as well as a framework for best-practice assistance delivery in general. Thereafter I examine its institutional arrangements. Europe’s early assistance approaches, and the hopes and disappointments around the Europe Agreement, are detailed in the next two sections. Then I spell out how assistance to the transition economies could prospectively be improved with implications for

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