8.0 What is stable governance?
Stable governance refers to an end state where the state provides essential services and serves as a responsible steward of state resources; government officials are held accountable through political and legal processes; and the population can participate in governance through civil society organizations, an independent media, and political parties. Stable governance is the mechanism through which the basic human needs of the population are largely met, respect for minority rights is assured, conflicts are managed peacefully through inclusive political processes, and competition for power occurs nonviolently. National and subnational government institutions may work with a range of non-state partners to provide some of the government functions. Essential services— defined here as security, the rule of law, economic governance, and basic human needs services—are addressed fully in Sections 6, 7, 9, and 10, respectively.

8.1 What are the key governance challenges in societies emerging from conflict?
Societies emerging from conflict often have debilitated or corrupted governance institutions, lack professional capacity for governance, and require new or reformed legal frameworks for political engagement. State security forces may be degraded, nonexistent or have been co-opted by warring parties. An urgent demand for humanitarian assistance, amplified by a general lack of institutional capacity, often exists, especially for minority or displaced populations. Due to the degradation of security and the rule of law during violent conflict, a culture of fear may have overwhelmed a culture of civic participation, resulting in the collapse of civil society organizations and media.

8.2 Why is stable governance a necessary end state?
Without stable governance, political spoilers may rise to fill the governance vacuum and usurp state resources. Their quest to gain authority and control over resources—often aided and abetted by organized criminal groups, terrorist organizations, or other profiteers — can destabilize the state and motivate a return to violence. When the government cannot provide for the population, people will do whatever it takes to put bread on the table and ensure their own security, even if it means supporting opponents to the peace process or engaging in criminal activity.

8.3 What are the necessary conditions to achieve stable governance?

  • Provision of Essential Services is a condition in which the state provides basic security, the rule of law, economic governance and basic human needs services; essential services are provided without discrimination; and the state has the capacity for provision of essential services without significant assistance from the international community.
  • Stewardship of State Resources is a condition in which national and subnational institutions of governance are restored, funded, and staffed with accountable personnel; the security sector is reformed and brought under accountable civilian control; and state resources are protected through responsible economic management in a manner that benefits the population.
  • Political Moderation and Accountability is a condition in which the government enables political settlement of disputes; addresses core grievances through debate, compromise, and inclusive national dialogue; and manages change arising from humanitarian, economic, security, and other challenges. A national constituting process results in separation of powers that facilitates checks and balances; the selection of leaders is determined through inclusive and participatory processes; a legislature reflects the interests of the population; and electoral processes are free and fair.
  • Civic Participation and Empowermentis a condition in which civil society exists and is empowered, protected, and accountable; media are present, professional, and independent of government or political influence; equal access to information and freedom of expression are upheld; and political parties are able to form freely and are protected.

8.4 General Guidance for Stable Governance

8.4.1 Build host nation ownership and capacity. Stable governance is fundamentally dependent on domestic capacity to perform core administrative, political and economic governance functions.346 That means helping leaders, government personnel, and civil society acquire the skills and tools needed to govern accountably, participate in political processes, and provide core services for the population. This may often require helping to build the capacity of informal/non-state governance institutions to complement formal/state functions.

8.4.2 Act only with an understanding of the local context. Understand the specific and unique governance needs of the host nation. There are few universally applicable approaches for achieving the conditions necessary for stable governance.347 Programs aimed at strengthening governance must be based on in-depth needs assessments and specific knowledge of the host nation’s historical, cultural, societal, economic, and political background. This understanding should include input from the host nation population from various sides of the conflict and marginalized groups such as women, minorities, youth, and the poor. Key considerations include the following:

  • What are the core functions the government must perform?
  • What role did institutions of governance play in the conflict?
  • What is necessary and acceptable to the host nation population given cultural, political, and historical considerations and resources?
  • What are the core institutions—state and non-state—that can perform governance functions and in what condition are they?
  • What laws and regulations, processes, and procedures, if any, govern these functions?
  • What is the condition of the basic infrastructure required to perform core functions?
  • What financial and human resources exist? Are they adequate to provide essential services to places in need?
  • Are there oversight mechanisms for state institutions? Are they empowered to take action?348

8.4.3 Prioritize to stabilize. For stability, prioritize governance functions that support the delivery of essential services and contribute to political settlements.349 Focus on producing political settlements that help resolve conflicts that were not addressed in a peace agreement or a mandate. Think hard about the protection of critical state resources— human, natural, financial, cultural, and infrastructure—that are necessary to prevent and mitigate conflict. Priorities should ultimately be determined by their potential to prevent conflict and increase the strength of nonviolent political settlements.350

8.4.4 Use a conflict lens. All choices in governance affect power relationships. The choice of an interim minister, the location of a municipal center, the adoption of a regulation, or the award of a contract to a local business has the ability to exacerbate tensions or address and resolve internal conflicts. Be sure to identify and understand the specific sources of conflict and motivations for violence to ensure that governance reform efforts do not reignite violent conflict.

8.4.5 Recognize interdependence. The widely understood core functions of governance—security, the rule of law, meeting basic human needs, and economic governance—are intertwined like a rope. Failure to provide one will unravel the ability to provide the others. The administration and delivery of humanitarian assistance and basic services to the population, for example, depends on adequate security for civilians and some basic rule of law system that prevents banditry and looting of critical supplies and resources. All of these core services depend on sound economic management and governance.