Contextually appropriate institutional development

This research analyzed institutional development and policy implementation in Afghanistan, a so-called fragile (or “failed”) state to identify factors to be considered by foreign and local actors interested in strengthening good governance in such states. Its purpose was to analyze the extent to which the effectiveness of policy implementation initiatives was associated with the degree to which they were contextually-appropriate, that is, endogenous and compatible with the contexts in which they were being carried out.  

International development is a massive enterprise which according to the World Bank spent over US$30B in 2012, about 22% of which was on Afghanistan.  The  global scale of the enterprise is significant.  For example, the German development agency GIZ is considered the third-largest bilateral donor, after USAID and DFID, and it has some seventeen thousand employees in Germany and around the world.  There are in addition other large and small German agencies involved in various aspects of the international development field.  This is just one country’s operations – others, including multilateral agencies such as UNDP, are larger.  There are questions about the effectiveness of the entire field, making it a worthy subject of analysis. 

One of the key assumptions of this research is that it is useful to try to strengthen governance in a context as turbulent and troubled as Afghanistan, and to better understand what is involved in this effort.  In spite of an on-going insurgency, wide-spread corruption, disunity and predatory elite capture of the institutions of state, and in a donor-dependent rentier state that produces some 90% of the world’s opium and continues to be the site of others’ proxy wars, governance activity is taking place and well-intentioned leaders and officials are doing what they can – with international support – to improve the government’s performance and foster stability. This thesis is a small contribution to analyzing these efforts.