Nation-building reflects different things to different people


At the end of my earlier article entitled “Nation Building through Normative Concept”, I have shortly introduced the concept of Dudley Seers (1920-1983) who specialized in development economics. After his military service with the Royal Navy he taught at Oxford and then worked for various UN institutions.
Dudley Seers presage and foretell on the concept of human development. In the context of country development, he touched on the issues such as poverty, unemployment and inequality. If all these have declined from high levels, then beyond doubt this has been a period of development in a country.
In the 1990s the UN Development Program brought out the Human Development Report and the Human Development Index to focus on those aspects of development other than economic, including in the index both health and education. Many UN programs, as well as NGO efforts, focus on these aspects. Moreover the World Bank has begun to focus on poverty.
Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba, two American authors, in 1963 introduced the concept of “The Civic Culture” to the development literature. “The Civic Culture: Political Attitudes and Democracy in Five Nations” is a 1963 non-fiction political science book.
The civic culture, which combines tradition and modernity, is one of the processes that sustain and protract democracy. Almond and Verba defined as part of this civic culture the obligation to participate and the sense of civic capability, competence and cooperation. They also noted the importance of the role of education in the development of a civic culture.
Alexis de Toqueville (29 July 1805 – 16 April 1859 was a French political thinker and historian) had noted the importance of various associations in sustaining Democracy in America at its earliest stages.
Robert David Putnam is a political scientist and Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard University John F. Kennedy School of Government. Putman in exploring the civil traditions in modern Italy that make democracy work, includes in his notion of the civic community such as civic engagement, political equality, and solidarity, trust, and tolerance, in addition to associations. He finds the presence of choral societies in Italy, bowling leagues in the US, and other associations to be important in democracy.
The importance of civil society also became clear as a factor in the movement from authoritarianism toward democracy in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe at the end of the Cold War.
The role of civil society received much support in early nation-building as well as democratization efforts in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. However, it has drastically declined since then.
This concept of the importance of civil society as a foundation to democratic nation-building seems to be given lip-service in current efforts. In reality it is not seen as significant by nation-builders when one measures this trend by the yardstick of budget and spending.
If nation-building in the 21st century is to be successful, one may want to look back at some of its early theorists. There are many ingredients such as the importance of the democratic values, of the civic culture and of the civil society that develops and sustains itself.
Moreover, other factors are the importance of increasing social, political, and economic equality in conjunction with that of human development. These are critical in any successful strategy for long-term democratic nation-building.
Nation-building is more than just state-building. To be a sustainable force for peace building, it must incorporate more than just the Western appendages or just adding less important parts of democracy. Mere supplementing the voting systems and free market development and increasing the GNP per capita are not likely to bring stable peace.
Why does nation-building matter?
Nation-building is a complex subject to deal with or multi-faceted matters including intractable conflict or inflexible disagreement because of the theory that a strong state is necessary in order to provide security as a whole. Moreover, that the building of an integrated national community is important in the building of a state. Furthermore, that there may be social and economic prerequisites to the building of an integrated national community.
In addition, when nation-building implies democratization, there is further hypothesis known as the democratic peace hypothesis or theory.
Immanuel Kant (22 April 1724 – 12 February 1804) was a German philosopher who is considered the central figure of modern philosophy. Originally explicated in details by Immanuel Kant in the 17th century, the democratic peace hypothesis says that perpetual peace can be achieved by developing a federation or league of free republican nations. Representative democracies, organized in an international organization, would bring peace.
Political scientists who have explored this hypothesis have focused on one of two versions: (a) democracies do not make war against each other, or (b) democracies do not initiate war at all. There is certainly evidence of the former, and some evidence of the latter.
The other side of the coin is that nation-building may sometimes be simply given another name for external intervention and the extension of empires.
A “failed state” is a political body that has disintegrated to a point where basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government no longer function properly. Likewise, when a nation weakens and its standard of living declines, it introduces the possibility of governmental collapse.
It can be said that failed states are the cause of national, regional, or world security problems, or that of human rights abuses are so extensive, then intervention is likely to occur. If the situations get worse and if there is the need to overcome the difficulties, then intervention in the name of nation-building can be seen as the justification. Sometimes nation-building may simply be used as a rationalization for the expansion of imperial control. So the nation-building needs a complex and complicated approach.
What can be done?
There is disagreement among current theorists of nation-building as to the relationships between the development of a free market economy and the development of democratic participation. There is a different view as well over the necessity of building a civil society as a prerequisite for the development of state institutions for democratic participation.
Different theories of nation-building emphasize different parts of the arguments. Different versions of nation-building benefit different groups. Some appear to benefit more to the outside countries, or the international governmental and nongovernmental organizations. Some benefit to the elites in the nation being built or rebuilt. Some spread benefits widely in the society; some do not.
Nation-building that is likely to contribute to stable international peace will need to emphasize the democratic participation of people within the nation. It will need to build the society, economy, and polity which will meet the basic needs of the people so that they are not driven by poverty, inequality and unemployment. This does not mean only in establishing the formal institutions of democracy, but also the underlying culture which recognizes respect for the identities and needs of others both from within and without.
It means development of human rights, political, civil, economic and social, and the rule of law. But it also means development of infrastructure including sewer systems, and roads, and jobs. Perhaps most important, it means the development of education and health.
Nation-building must allow the participation of civil society, and develop democratic state institutions that promote welfare. Democratic state-building is an important part of that. This is a multi-faceted process that will proceed differently in each local context.
Who can do it?  The US or the UN?
Another question is whether an outside country can build a nation in another country. Is nation-building more effectively done by a single country, by the UN or UN-related organizations, by regional organizations, or by some combination of these?
Michael Grant Ignatieff is a Canadian author, academic and former politician. Michael Ignatieff has written a convincing article critiquing “nation-building lite” in Afghanistan, prior to the start of the second Iraq war. He acknowledges this as imperialism, arguing that “nation-building is the kind of imperialism you get in a human rights era, a time when great powers believe simultaneously in the right of small nations to govern themselves and in their own right to rule the world.” He argues that Afghans “understand the difficult truth that their best hope of freedom lies in a temporary experience of imperial rule.” James Francis Dobbins, Jr. is an American diplomat who served as United States Ambassador to the European Union, as Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs, and as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The 2003 RAND study by James Dobbins and others reviews the lessons learned in US nation-building efforts. By comparing seven historical cases namely Germany, Japan, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan, they concluded by saying “in which American military power has been used in the aftermath of a conflict to underpin democratization elsewhere around the world since World War II.”
Dobbins and colleagues recognize the advantages of a multilateral approach, arguing that while it is more complex and time-consuming, it is less expensive for any one participant. It is more important, and is better at producing both transformation and regional reconciliation. They also recognize the important role of neighboring countries.
The United Nations has participated in nation-building efforts both through the Security Council’s authorization of peacekeeping missions involving primarily military, but also civilian and police participants as well. Among these have been Cambodia, Angola, and Bosnia in the early 1990s, and later Kosovo and East Timor.
Some have been more, some less, successful.
It has also participated in development and human rights efforts completely aside from peacekeeping. Efforts range from those of UNICEF in fostering children’s rights, to the UN Development Program in providing human development aid, to the World Food Program, to UNESCO’s Education for All programs.
These are also an important component of nation-building. Economic, social, and political development and institutions that protect human rights have been provided for the rule of law. They are important not only to post-conflict peace building, but to nation-building at any stage of development or any stage of conflict.
And it may be harmless to wind up that the international legitimacy can be provided by a global institution much better for nation-building than efforts by any single country, or a regional organization, or a “coalition of the willing.” Accusations of “imperial nation-building” are reduced when there is greater international consensus.
Nation builders are those members of a state who take the initiative to develop the integrated national unity, social harmony and economic growth through government programs, prioritizing rule of law and sustainable and lasting peace in the country in conjunction with national contented mass schooling in education and basic health care reaching grassroots level. It needs in eradicating poverty, unemployment and inequality.
In conclusion, it is safe to say that Nation-building is constructing or structuring a national identity using the power of the state. Nation-building aims at the unification of the people within the state so that it remains politically stable and viable in the long run.

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