4: How important are choices?
Countries like the ones we are talking about here are largely governed by what in technical language is called neo-patrimonial logic: That is, even though a modern country exists on paper, this country is more governed by personal relations with a socio-economic character (patrimonial ties) than of the bureaucratic-legal rationality that we mainly find in the Norwegian country. This means a lot for the importance of elections – a key element of a modern country. Elections are important contributions both to creating a stable government and as a mechanism for conflict resolution. The idea is simply that if people can freely choose their own leaders, then this will have a conflict-reducing and conciliatory effect.
Elections play an important role in all societies where real elections are conducted. But if they are carried out in fragile, vulnerable countries, they will actually become more important than in our societies. Why? The answer is simple. Although many in Norway may have strong opinions about who should win in a parliamentary election or a municipal election, there are hardly many in this country who believe that the election concerns life and death. Here, daily life continues more or less as before after the votes have been counted. No one loses their job; nor is there anyone who suddenly experiences being treated completely differently by the judiciary or the police.
This is exactly what often happens in vulnerable countries. It also means that there is often very limited what choice means for reconciliation and stabilization after conflict. The election only produces winners and losers, and this can easily lead to new social tensions in fragmented societies where people like to vote according to ethnic , religious or regional divides. The result can quickly be that a majority achieves dominance, something a minority may perceive as very threatening.
5: Extensive corruption
According to healthknowing, a vulnerable country is thus a country that is struggling with great internal fragmentation – in addition to problems with poverty and loss of income, and thus lacks the very resource base to be a modern country. The people are divided along different ethnic and / or religious dividing lines, and these constitute centers of power to such an extent that the country does not have full control over its own borders, the monopoly of violence is strongly challenged and the country is not necessarily the most relevant actor for the daily population. .
Courts are either absent or used to a small extent by the country’s inhabitants. For either they have no real power to enforce their decisions, or people know that a judgment can simply be bought by the one or those who can pay. Schools and health services are either completely down, or are in such a miserable condition that people are looking for other alternatives – for example, what religious institutions can offer. And government employees can hardly expect salaries to be paid, at least not the entire salary or that it arrives when it should. Rather, they often have to use their position to create both their own income and the income of those who sit above them in the system.
If you are stopped at a police checkpoint along the road somewhere in DR Congo, there is little reason to believe that the police officers will be paid to stand there during the blockade. Rather, they have to pay others higher up in the system a percentage of what they get for the right to stand right there and print fines. And fines are not paid in a public office, but directly in the hands of those who stand there. This is the practice in a number of vulnerable countries and an example of a systematized informal economy.
6: External help is urgently needed
The consequences are many for those living in vulnerable countries, but also for the outside world. The challenges in such vulnerable countries are often so great that they are impossible to solve with the usual tools in the aid policy toolbox.
The challenge facing the international community in the Sahel and in the Middle East in Iraq and Syria, among others, is formidable, and they require international action. The problems do not resolve themselves, at least not in a short time. If the international community fails to stand up, people in these areas have only two choices as war, conflict and climate change have made traditional lifestyles less and less useful:
- Either they have to move and embark on a journey towards Europe,
- Or find something else to live on where they live.
If the international community is not present and contributes better than today, there will be room for action for other, alternative actors . These actors can be transnationally organized criminals, local smugglers, but also various armed movements, such as jihadists, or more secular groups. The question thus becomes how the international community should relate to vulnerable countries and regions?