Failing States; A global responsibility

October 10, 2005 - nr.35


1 Summary

A failing state can be defined as a state that:

  • is incapable of controlling its territory, or large parts of it, or of guaranteeing the safety of its people, because it has lost its monopoly on the use of force;
  • is no longer able to uphold its internal legal order;
  • can no longer provide its population with public services or create the conditions for such provision.

A state that oppresses its population and makes reprehensible choices in the provision of services to its population is not a failing state, although it could become one in the longer term.

A failed state continues to exist as a legal entity. The general principle prohibiting intervention in the state’s territory remains intact. The failing state’s theoretical responsibility for its actions, and for its failure to act, will not in general have any practical consequences until many years after normalisation. Aside from invoking state responsibility, individuals and armed opposition groups may also be called to account under international humanitarian law and/or international criminal law. Under certain conditions, individuals may be tried by the International Criminal Court. It is also possible to sue multinational companies before a national court for unlawful acts. In such proceedings human rights violations are regarded as elements of unlawfulness.

State failure is largely man-made. Difficult circumstances may place a state under strain. Modern state institutions grafted into traditional societies may suffer from rejection symptoms. But it is people in positions of power within the country that choose to abuse that position for the benefit of themselves and their own group. In doing so, they undermine the structure of the state, until it eventually crumbles. There is always an international dimension. Opportunists and other interested parties outside the country exacerbate the process of decline.

The failure of a state has numerous harmful repercussions: for the state’s own population, for the region, for the international community, and for individual third states. These repercussions give rise to corresponding grounds for intervention: solidarity with the population, the aim of regional stability, the aim of peace and security, and the interests of specific states. Ultimately there is a certain overlap between these grounds and self-interest, certainly in the case of Western countries such as the Netherlands: a stable world is the best environment in which to promote economic interests, to maintain the international legal order, and to combat crime, disease, environmental hazards, and terrorism.

The ‘modern’ state as a framework for economic growth, with balanced powers and a transparent and serviceable machinery of government, ultimately provides the best conditions in which to safeguard respect for human rights.

It is therefore important to preserve the state, not so much for its own sake as an institution, but for its population (and ultimately also for people elsewhere). States must be prevented from failing, because of the enormous costs of such failure, in terms of financial loss as well as pain and suffering. Policy instruments should be geared towards all the factors that contribute towards a state’s failure.

Action to prevent the failure of states and (where this is unsuccessful) to repair failing states exemplifies the crucial importance of integrated policy. Policy instruments from the spheres of development cooperation, politics, diplomacy, economic life, and defence must be deployed in conjunction. Focusing all these instruments on the task of preventing and repairing failing states could be called a new paradigm. The use of development funds should be viewed from the same perspective. To prevent the immeasurable harm that ensues from a failing state is a legitimate policy objective, in development terms and when viewed from the vantage point of the Netherlands’ own interests.

Policy must be coordinated nationally and – more importantly still – internationally. What matters is the overall policy pursued, and achieving the most effective use of resources by pooling efforts.

The process leading to a failing state can be divided into several phases: growing internal divisions, decline, and actual failure. Different policy instruments are required in each phase.

In the phase of growing internal divisions there are three areas in which preventive measures may theoretically reduce the risk of failure in any state.

First, an effort should be made to mitigate the effects of the adverse conditions that place the state under strain and make it vulnerable (population pressure, a non-productive economy, unemployment, the proliferation of small arms etc.). Policy in this area is geared solely towards creating enabling conditions. Most elements of current development policy in fact come under this heading.

Second, more targeted policy is needed to reduce the friction between institutions of different origins. The people of the state concerned must be given an opportunity to find a mode of government, and to determine their priorities for the future within an authentic form of self-determination based on the participation of all groups in society. Actors from outside the country cannot steer an internal dialogue of this kind; at best, they can create enabling conditions. The same applies to economic policy. The principle underlying intervention must be to create a situation in which the population’s human rights will be respected. Human rights are not only an end in themselves but also a means of bringing about effective participation and a yardstick of that participation.

Third, the abuse of power by leading government officials must be curtailed (at an early stage) by means of targeted policy. This means setting international standards, monitoring compliance, offering technical assistance, and conducting a political dialogue. In addition, creating conditions for transparency can help greatly to curb abuses. After all, transparency allows national and international actors alike to engage in ‘naming, shaming and praising’. In their own policies too, Western countries should respond appropriately to revelations of abuses involving companies operating in such countries.

In the second phase, that of decline, it is scarcely feasible to use development policy to influence the country’s fate. The accent then shifts to political action and possibly to sanctions geared towards influencing the main political actors.

Once state failure is under way, the international community’s involvement is no longer optional; it has a responsibility to take effective measures. As a final resort, logically speaking – but not chronologically – the option of military intervention must be considered. Besides the lawfulness of intervention, an assessment must be made of its appropriateness and of the risks involved.

The failure of a state does not in itself constitute grounds for intervention by the UN or by another state. The general prohibition on the use of force and the existing exceptions remain applicable. The Security Council may always intervene, including taking preventive action, by invoking the concepts in Chapter VII of the UN Charter, such as a threat to the peace (Article 39). States may defend themselves if they are attacked. In highly exceptional cases, and on the basis of strict criteria, it may be defensible for a state to intervene in a failing state (without involving the Security Council) for humanitarian reasons. The intervening state may not, however, station troops in the failing state preventively before involving the Security Council. Since states are adversely impacted by state failure in many ways but are scarcely permitted to take any military action, under international law as it now stands, the UN has a great responsibility to be watchful and decisive. Unilateralism can only serve to undermine its role.

Careful consideration should be given to the phase and manner in which the deployment of military resources can help prevent state failure or restore a failing state. There must be a clearly-defined objective, such as to restore the monopoly on the use of force or to mitigate certain negative effects of the state’s failure. The next step is to assess the circumstances facing the troops on arrival, to find out who is prepared to contribute to the operation, and to estimate whether it is feasible to attain the objective with the available resources and what the costs would be in terms of lives lost on all sides. Ample resources are the key to maximising the chance of success, and will reduce risks to the troops themselves. In addition, an effective command structure is particularly crucial in an internal conflict. In practice, this means that the deployment of an ad hoc coalition is preferable to a UN force. Besides a short-term goal for the military operation, there must be a follow-up plan to set a course for the failing state’s future. The ultimate litmus test is whether the lives of the state’s population will be better after the intervention. Where the failure of a state has had specific adverse effects on third states, it is also necessary to take the population in these other countries into consideration.

Recovery will involve all the factors that played a part in the state’s failure. This means that the state should not be literally restored as it was before. A plan must be devised to build safeguards against a repetition of the failure into the fabric of the state and into substantive policy. There is a growing recognition that this cannot be left wholly to the state itself.

The UN’s current involvement in the restoration of failing states is a result of its having supplemented peace operations with the exercise of civil responsibilities. In the history of peace operations, this was an understandable and justifiable step to take. Partly through the broad interpretation of certain concepts in the UN Charter, this approach made it possible to contribute substantially to the restoration of states in numerous operations. It presents certain disadvantages, however. By their nature, military operations are of shorter duration than the reconstruction of a state. The withdrawal of troops is often determined more by military factors and criteria than by the sustainability of reconstruction. The need for coordination between the two dimensions is indisputable. The AIV and the CAVV believe that the UN should create a political coordinating organ for reconstruction efforts. This would reduce the democratic deficit and could help to discourage unilateralism. A permanent committee of the Security Council would be best suited to taking on such responsibilities. After any intervention by the UN, the ultimate responsibility for fulfilling the tasks of the state, as transferred to the UN, would lie with this Committee.

The Committee’s stature should contribute to the authority of the Temporary Administrator representing the UN in the country concerned. This official must be given strong coordinating powers. Major donors and UN agencies can be consulted at both levels. With its specialist orientation, the Committee will develop its own momentum and esprit de corps. Under its auspices, a newly created department of the UN Secretariat could advise and assist at the preventive stage, at the request of the state concerned. This too falls within the Security Council’s responsibilities under Chapter VI of the Charter.

For the work to be done under the auspices of the Committee, the UN will need considerable financial elbow room. This is unlikely to materialise with the current style in which the UN budget is negotiated. A change of style is needed. The likelihood of achieving this will depend on perceptions of political urgency. A sense of urgency will mount as the adverse effects of failing states ripple out more widely. A fund which can be drawn on immediately would be a useful instrument for achieving timely international involvement.

2 General policy conclusions

Taking all factors into consideration, the AIV and CAVV draw the following general policy conclusions:

In debates on international policy, the problem of failing states is here to stay. It is of the utmost relevance to human rights, security, and opportunities for development. The consequences of this problem (the extent and gravity of which have increased in recent years) impinge not only on people in the failing state, but also on those further afield. From the viewpoint of solidarity as well as in our own self-interest, it is imperative to find more effective means of curbing this trend.

Failing states help generate and fuel a variety of serious problems: terrorism, international crime and drug mafias, uncontrolled arms trafficking and the spread of the technology to produce weapons of mass destruction, and chaotic flows of refugees (sometimes in combination with ethnic conflict). These problems in turn can all help to precipitate state failure.

As much as possible, actors that possess the necessary resources must together pursue policies designed to prevent, avert and reverse the process that leads to state failure. And where it has proven impossible to tackle a particular situation directly in good time, the negative consequences must at least be mitigated as far as is possible. Policy must be harmonised on the basis of a common analysis, and the more intrusive the measures adopted, the more closely they need to be coordinated. Given that the available resources will always be finite, and that their effectiveness will sometimes be limited, it is necessary to adopt a selective approach.

There will be a need for coalitions willing to commit themselves in the longer term, in cooperation with the states in the region of the failing state. A policy of this kind can succeed only with the use of ample resources, manpower, and political clout over a long period of time.

Military intervention is the most formidable instrument, but that does not mean that it can be deployed only if all other means have failed; the early deployment of troops can be effective. Under the UN Charter, the Security Council bears primary responsibility for the deployment of military resources. Its actions should be prompt and effective enough that there is no need for any party to intervene without involving it (other than temporarily, in self-defence). If much more vigorous action is called for than in a traditional blue-helmet operation, it is greatly preferable to grant a mandate to an existing coalition capable of exercising the necessary force, provided its actions are carefully embedded in an integrated approach. To achieve this, the Security Council and the UN Secretariat must be reorganised to enable them to take more preventive action and to improve the effectiveness and consistency of their actions.

By means of creative ad hoc interpretation of the Charter, the Security Council, whose responsibility begins as soon as there is any threat to international peace and security, has already carved out considerable scope for the UN to play a part in preventing crises, in intervening where peace is threatened, and in state building.

To promote the consistency and sustainability of such policies, the AIV and CAVV believe that responsibility for the problem of failing states should reside with a permanent committee of the Security Council (the Committee on UN Administration and Governance Assistance, modelled after the Counter-Terrorism Committee). This Committee would take over certain tasks of government, either at the state’s request or on the basis of intervention by the Security Council. Those tasks would be delegated to a UN official based in the failing state who would have strong powers and the support of a specialist department of the UN Secretariat. The end of such an operation must be determined by an exit strategy based primarily on the question of whether the causes of the state’s failure have been addressed.

To enable different parts of the UN system to respond quickly and effectively, a new fund needs to be created from which money could be drawn immediately to finance post-conflict measures.

The Netherlands can only help to draft and promote proposals along the lines suggested above as part of a strong coalition. The most obvious forum through which to promote a policy of this kind is the EU, which explicitly incorporated the problem of failing states into its Strategic Concept of December 2003. The AIV and the CAVV therefore advocate initiating political debate on this issue first within the EU. If there is sufficient support for this approach there, the debate can be continued within the UN.

Advice request
  1. Mr F. Korthals Altes
    Chairman, Advisory Council on
    International Affairs
    Postbus 20061, 2500 EB Den Haag
  2. Prof. K.C. Wellens
    Chairman, Advisory Committee on Issues
    of Public International Law
    Postbus 20061, 2500 EB Den Haag

     Human Rights and Peacebuilding
     Department (DMV)
     Peacebuilding and Good
     Governance Division

     Date     28 May 2003
     Re     Request for advice on failing states


Dear Mr Korthals Altes, dear professor Wellens

The events of 11 September 2001 have cast the issue of failing states in a new light, demonstrating that failing states are no longer an isolated and distant problem. Today, these states pose a threat not only to their own populations but also to neighbouring states and indeed to the world community as a whole.

It is not easy to give a watertight definition of failing states.1 Where is the dividing line between a poorly functioning state and a failing state? A failing state is in any event one that:

  • is unable to control its territory and guarantee the security of its citizens, because it has lost its monopoly on the use of force;
  • is no longer able to uphold its internal legal order;
  • is no longer able or willing to deliver public services to its population.2

A failing state’s authority has been undermined de facto to the extent that all or part of its territory exists at times in a vacuum of authority. The absence of state authority is usually exploited by non-state actors like armed groups of rebels, political movements (in some cases organised along ethnic or religious lines), local warlords and criminal or terrorist networks, including ones from outside the state.

Failing states pose a threat at three levels:

  • At national level: a failing state does not offer its citizens security. Its very weak political system fosters economic malaise and social disorder. Poverty increases. Human rights are no longer guaranteed and crimes frequently go unpunished. There is often internal armed conflict that may lead to violations of the humanitarian rules of war.
  • At regional level: various cross-border effects mean that conflicts in failing states can jeopardise regional stability and security. The vacuum of authority in a failing state can act as a magnet for countless criminal elements from the region. There are often negative effects on the region’s trade and economy. Large groups of refugees initially seek refuge nearby. Together these circumstances can destabilise a region.
  • At global level: failing states sometimes pose a threat to security beyond their own region. They are often a safe haven for criminal organisations and a base from which terrorist networks can theoretically exert influence world-wide. In addition, the implosion of the national state and mounting local conflicts create international flows of refugees.

As we know, it then takes a very great effort on the part of the international community to start remedial action through humanitarian aid, international mediation attempts, peacekeeping missions involving the military, reconstruction aid, repatriation efforts, initial steps towards development cooperation and so on. Furthermore, these efforts are not always effective. The question is how intensively the international community can or should become involved in nation-building. Should the central authority of the state be restored from the outside, for example by imposing some form of international administration? Or is this kind of paternalism.

Another problem is that failing states obstruct the working of the international legal system, based as it is on the principle of the sovereignty of nation states. International security is built largely on the ability of states to prevent national chaos and to stop it spilling across national frontiers. It is questionable whether state responsibility is a viable concept in areas where the recognised government in reality lost its authority long ago. This prompts the question of how to deal, especially (though not exclusively) in failing states, with crimes committed by non-state actors that would count as human rights violations if perpetrated by states or their representatives.

Against this background, we would ask you to provide an incisive analysis of the subject of failing states and to produce an advisory report on a possible approach to this problem. The following questions may serve by way of guidelines:

  1. What is a workable definition of a failing state? In what situations and on what grounds should the international community (UN, IFIs, NATO, regional organisations) help prevent or rescue failing states? What role could the Netherlands and the European Union play in this regard?
  2. What tools does the international community have to prevent states gradually collapsing and to help revive states that have already failed? What is the best way of using political and economic tools, including development cooperation? Does the provision of humanitarian aid play a specific role or not?
  3. Under what circumstances should military deployment be considered? How do external interventions of this nature square up with the doctrine of state sovereignty and the principle of non-intervention?3 Can military units be deployed preventively, i.e. before a state's authority collapses altogether? At what stage can government authority be deemed to have been restored to the extent that a peacekeeping operation can be ended without the danger of a resumption of hostilities? Can indicators be developed for the pre-hostility and post-hostility phases to show when a state has lost, or regained, the ability to function independently?
  4. Are there any developments in international law that allow the international community to hold non-state actors to account for offences that would be classified as human rights violations if committed by states or their representatives? What substance does the concept of state responsibility retain in failing states, and how should international law be applied in situations in which it is no longer clear who are the lawful representatives of the failing state?

This same request has been submitted to the Advisory Committee on Issues of Public International Law/ Advisory Council on International Affairs. We trust that the two advisory bodies will cooperate in issuing a joint advisory report. We look forward with interest to receiving your report.

Yours sincerely

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer
Minister of Foreign Affairs

Henk Kamp
Minister of Defence

Agnes van Ardenne-van der Hoeven
Minister for Development Cooperation


1 Other terms are also used: the World Bank refers to low income countries under stress (LICUS), while the OECD/DAC uses difficult partnerships.

2 See for example the speech made by UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw to the European Research Institute, Birmingham, on 6 September 2002; see also Robert H. Jackson, ‘Surrogate Sovereignty? Great Power Responsibility and “Failed States” ’, Institute of International Relations, University of British Colombia, Working Paper No. 25, November 1998.

3 See e.g. the core principles for humanitarian intervention in the Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty: ‘The Responsibility to Protect’, December 2001, Synopsis pp. XI-XIII

Government reactions


President of the House of Representatives                                  Human Rights and Peacebuilding

Of the States General                                                               Department

Binnenhof 4                                                                              Bezuidenhoutseweg67

The Hague                                                                               2594 AC  The Hague




Date      11 March 2005


Re        Government’s response to the AIV/CAVV

            Advisory report ‘Failing States: a Global Responsibility’


Cc        Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV) and

            The Advisory Committee on Issues of Public International Law (CAVV)



Dear Mr Weisglas,


On 28 May 2003 the government asked the Advisory Council on International Affairs (AIV) and the Advisory Committee on Issues of Public International Law (CAVV) to prepare a joint advisory report on failing states. The resultant report, ‘Failing States: a Global Responsibility’ was presented to the government on 15 July 2004.


On 29 October the government informed the House by letter1 that its response to the advisory report would be postponed pending the release of the report by the High-Level Panel (HLP) of the UN.2 The report was published in November of last year, and whenever relevant, the HLP’s findings have been incorporated into this response.



The government would like to thank the AIV and CAVV for their advisory report. It provides a useful analysis of the concept of ‘failing state’ and paints a good picture of the complex problems associated with this phenomenon. The government shares the report’s conclusion that failing states pose a threat, not only to the region but also to the Netherlands and the European Union. The EU Security Strategy also recognises failing states as one of the greatest threats to Europe. For this reason the government feels that preventing states from failing and aiding in the recovery of failing states is of major importance. To achieve these goals, the entire range of available instruments should be used in an integrated way. The report presents a good description and clear analysis of failing states. There is, however, no internationally agreed definition or accepted list of failing states, nor is there any reason to expect such agreement in the foreseeable future. This means that we will always have a considerable amount of latitude in making policy on this issue, with political choices being the decisive factor. The process of failing is not linear, and even within a state, different regions may fail in different ways and to varying degrees. Consequently, there is no clear-cut solution to this problem.


Integrated policy

A use of integrated and coherent policy instruments tailored to a specific context is key to tackling the various phases and degrees of failure. The situation in a country like Afghanistan shows that a simultaneous and coherent use of political, military and development-related instruments is necessary to manage the transition from conflict to relative stability. Policy should cover a variety of areas, including: conflict prevention, conflict mediation, peace enforcement and peacebuilding (including reforms of the security sector), demobilisation and reintegration programmes, and forms of reconstruction tailored to the given situation.


To give this integrated approach concrete form, the government has decided to establish a Stability Fund, which will bring together the expertise of Foreign Affairs, Development Cooperation and Defence. This fund makes it possible to lend rapid and flexible support at the junction of peace, security and development and to use various policy instruments and resources in a more coherent and integrated way. Thus the Stability Fund can be used to help build capacity in the security sector in countries where Dutch troops are stationed. The various ministries have been working together closely to formulate, discuss and coordinate policy on reconstruction and peace, security and development. The House will be informed about this presently in greater detail in the government memorandum ‘Reconstruction after Armed Conflict’.


As stated in the government’s response to the AIV’s report ‘The Netherlands and crisis management: three issues of current interest’, the government firmly believes that the greatest current obstacle to an integrated security policy is not a shortage of resources, but rather the complexity of the problems and a lack of familiarity with them and the way they should be tackled, from the perspective of both policy and practice.3 The Stability Fund is due to be evaluated in late 2005 or early 2006, after it has been in operation for two years. This will be an opportunity to take a closer look at the size and performance of the Fund.


When is it legitimate to intervene in a failing state?

The report rightly concludes that under current Public international law, the failure of a state does not constitute an independent ground or obligation for intervention (whether civilian or military) by external actors. The principle of national sovereignty also imposes limits on external intervention. These facts add weight to the conclusion that the choice of whether to intervene is motivated primarily by political considerations. As the failure and its repercussions become more serious, the political obligation to intervene will become more pressing, and more drastic measures will become necessary. Conversely, the use of more radical instruments requires a more solid political foundation and a broader support base. This is particularly true in the case of military intervention. Ideally, a political decision sanctioning military intervention should be grounded in public international law. In such a case, the intervention should occur:

·         at the request of the legitimate government of the state in question,

·         on the basis of Article 51 of the UN Charter (in the case of self-defence), or

·         on the basis of a Security Council resolution, authorising the use of force.

The government shares the opinion of the AIV and the CAVV that the timely deployment of military resources can help rescue a state from collapse. It also endorses the emphasis placed by the AIV and the CAVV on the central role of the Security Council in deciding such matters. It agrees that the Security Council should be so alert and effective as to make military intervention without the Council’s authorisation unnecessary, except in cases of self-defence.


The Security Council should be swifter in expressing a firm position on a given failing state: early warning should lead to early action. The five criteria proposed by the High-Level Panel for the legitimacy of intervention by the Security Council seem to be an appropriate guide for the Council to determine whether military intervention is necessary.4


In exceptional cases in which the Security Council fails to act, a situation described in the motion by Van Baalen et al. (Parliamentary Papers 29800 V, no. 34), the state may yet have a duty to intervene. For a more in-depth examination of this question, the government would refer to its response to the AIV/CAVV advisory report ‘Humanitarian Intervention’ and the elaboration of the criteria formulated at conferences in Noordwijk and Scheveningen.5


Role of the United Nations

The report advocates the establishment of a new political body within the UN, to improve cohesiveness in donor contributions and hence to meet the need for well-coordinated international cooperation. The government agrees that, in general, the UN should be given a stronger coordinating role in the recovery process. The aforementioned report by the High-Level Panel discusses this specific topic at some length, and like the AIV and CAVV, it makes recommendations on how this can be achieved.6 The HLP report states that peacebuilding and reconstruction are, over the long term, essential for preventing a relapse into conflict and that the UN system is inadequately equipped to play a general, coordinating role in supporting states in their transition from war to peace. The report recommends establishing a Peacebuilding Commission (PBC) that would be responsible for the entire continuum from early warning to post-conflict reconstruction. At the same time, the UN Secretariat would be enriched by the addition of a Peacebuilding Support Office (PSO), which would play a supporting role and ensure that the Secretary-General can institute wide-ranging action, using all the instruments of the UN panoply, if need be. The PSO would also support actors in the field. In addition, the report recommends strengthening the position of Special Representative, so that he or she is better able to coordinate activities on the ground.


The government feels that the time is ripe for a new coordination and cooperation structure, particularly in the field of post-conflict reconstruction. It would also refer to its letter to the House on the subject of reforming the UN, which also argues for a more permanent structure to deal with the problem of failing governments.7 Ideally, the government would like to see a flexible structure which guarantees continuity by using existing instruments and organisations. Close cooperation with the Bretton Woods institutions and other UN organisations, along with relevant regional organisations, would be an essential aspect of such a structure. The proposed commission would operate under the Security Council’s auspices to give it sufficient authority. However, the new structure proposed by the AIV and CAVV appears rather ungainly and centralist. The one described in the HLP report seems more flexible, with a remit that is less controlling and more coordinating and representative of all actors concerned. The Panel operates under the premise that the new structure should not give rise to additional bureaucracy. The commission should make maximum use of existing knowledge, from the UNDP and from the Department for Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO), which has aimed for a more integrated approach to peacebuilding since the Brahimi report.8 These bodies should also be represented in the proposed structure. The proposed Peacebuilding Support Office (PSO) would also have to use existing expertise as much as possible. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General should also be given a more important role to play. The Representative should be able to take decisive and effective action, both in the early stages of a failing government and in post-conflict situations, when a peace mission is withdrawing and the continuity of the reconstruction process must be ensured.


The government recognises the usefulness of a multilateral post-conflict fund for failing states that could foster coherence between peace, security and development, as proposed by the AIV/CAVV. A post-conflict fund would have to make use of existing structures. The HLP makes a similar recommendation, suggesting that the proposed Peacebuilding Fund should have a total value of at least $250 million, and should be used for activities dealing with reintegration and rehabilitation, as well as for recurring government costs.9 The government believes that the fund should have a wider remit to prevent fragmented and incoherent use. Such a fund should be embedded in existing structures. It seems more efficient to have a single fund from which all stability-related expenditures can be drawn, with the consent of the PBC. An example of such a fund is the Thematic Trust Fund for Crisis Prevention and Recovery, managed by the Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery of the UNDP, to which the Stability Fund contributes.


The government would also emphasise that the World Bank (and the IMF) can play an important role when it comes to economic recovery, given its financial expertise. In this connection, it may be observed that the debates around reform of the UN and donor harmonisation are also driven by a desire for a more effective system of multilateral institutions. As you know, the development activities of the UN are handled by a variety of organisations. On top of that, there are also the Bretton Woods institutions. Less fragmentation, a more solid and predictable funding system, and a clearer division of labour between the UN and the World Bank/IDA, in particular, would substantially increase the impact of these institutions’ reconstruction efforts.


Use of military resources by the Netherlands

On the question of military deployment, the advisory report states that the Netherlands should take part in brief missions at the higher end of the spectrum of force. The government shares this view, and for a fuller discussion of this issue, it would refer to its response to the aforementioned AIV report ‘The Netherlands and crisis management: three issues of current interest’.10 In addition, if the government commits itself to long-term involvement in the stabilisation and reconstruction of a state, the armed forces can make an essential contribution to rebuilding and reforming security structures.


Military expertise can also be enlisted at an earlier stage. This mainly applies to circumstances in which the specific expertise of the armed forces is deemed desirable, as part of Security Sector Reform (SSR) or for the military integration of ex-soldiers in conjunction with Disarmament, Demobilisation and Reintegration (DDR). Good governance of the security sector, which encompasses both the police and the armed forces, is essential for lasting stability. Devising and implementing programmes aimed at SSR and DDR helps to prevent further failure and creates conditions for reconstruction and development. In contrast to what the AIV/CAVV suggest, this military role does not have the character of CIMIC. CIMIC activities primarily seek to ensure the safety of peacekeeping forces (force protection) and facilitate the smooth running of the operation (force acceptance) and are thus confined to activities related to the peace mission itself.


Thus the use of military resources can be broader than the classic crisis management operation, which attempts to stabilise a situation. It also may be advisable to consider reconstruction activities in areas where Dutch units are stationed, in order to bolster the security of Dutch troops and foster their responsible withdrawal when the time comes. For this reason, we should contemplate a broader range of development activities in countries where Dutch troops are stationed, though an automatic linkage between the two could hinder the effective implementation of reconstruction policy on both sides.


Dutch commitment to reconstruction

Given the many countries that currently find themselves in a post-conflict reconstruction phase and the limited financial resources, Dutch efforts to help rescue failing states must necessarily be limited to a relatively small number of countries. Current efforts can be explained as follows.


As part of a regional approach, a number of countries are being supported in the post-conflict stabilisation process up until the structural reconstruction phase. This mainly applies to the three priority regions for development cooperation, namely the Great Lakes region, the Horn of Africa and the Western Balkans (see the memorandum ‘Mutual interests, mutual responsibilities’). In addition, in specific cases the Netherlands can support countries outside these regions in their efforts to further peace, security and stability. A small group of countries engaged in reconstruction can count on extended and diversified Dutch support, and they will join the group of development partners in due course. At present, this type of aid is being offered to countries in the Balkans and in Afghanistan.


New paradigm

The AIV/CAVV report puts forward a new paradigm for Dutch foreign policy, namely that preventing states from failing (as well as the damage that would inevitably follow) can have a greater net effect than incremental progress in stable states. According to this paradigm, an integrated review of Dutch interests should lead to a greater commitment of resources to prevent states from failing.


The government does not endorse the position that preventing states from failing has a greater net effect on development than incremental progress in stable states. Obviously, preventing states from failing and sinking into conflict is preferable to helping failing states recover. But systematically preventing states from failing (in contrast to short-term crisis intervention) is largely impossible, due to the absence of a basis for such actions in international law and the lack of political will to intervene. The government would also point out that the opportunities for effectively eliminating the fundamental causes of failure are limited in states that do not meet the basic criteria for good governance. The current preference for committing development resources to states that exhibit a positive trend in the area of good governance is prompted in part by experience that this is more effective than attempting to do so in states that do not meet these basic conditions.


Concluding remarks

The AIV/CAVV report devotes a considerable amount of space to the use of military instruments and a ‘reconstruction scenario’, whereby the solution for reconstruction is sought mainly in temporary international administrative bodies. The report says little or nothing about alternatives to such a large-scale assumption of administrative duties. And yet contemporary practice teaches us that this is not always possible or desirable. A more common construction is one in which a locally formed government remains in power and the international community contributes to the recovery process. The report is unclear about how a full-scale administrative take-over in a country the size of the Democratic Republic of the Congo would work in practice. The report also stresses the importance of human rights, democratisation and the rule of law but offers few concrete suggestions about what specific steps can be taken to prevent states from failing and rebuild states that are already failing.


Essential to the entire process of rebuilding a failing state is the responsibility of regional actors and, inasmuch or as soon as it is possible, that of the country itself. The HLP’s proposal that regional organisations be involved in the PBC from day one is a step in the right direction. The government also endorses the report’s position that regional organisations should be strengthened.11 In the African context, there seems to be a particular need for a new structure that would aid in the recovery of failing states. To achieve this end, it may be possible to build on the existing structure of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in Addis Ababa. This would go a long way towards creating the necessary support base in Africa.


It is worth mentioning that the member states of the African Union have recently agreed that the Union has the right to authorise intervention in a member state in the event of certain exceptionally grave offences: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.12 The authority to make such a decision rests in part with the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the AU. The AU and all its organs will first attempt to decide by consensus, but if a consensus cannot be reached, the PSC has the right to decide by two-thirds majority.13 With this system, the AU has created a legal basis for intervening in the most egregious situations.



Bernard Bot                                                                            Henk Kamp

Minister of Foreign Affairs                                                         Minister of Defence




Agnes van Ardenne

Minister for Development Cooperation




1        Parliamentary Papers, House of Representatives, 2004-2005, 29800, no. 6 (29 October 2004).

2        Report by the High-Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change: ‘A More Secure World:

          Our Shared Responsibility’ (General Assembly, A/59/565), 29 November 2004.

3        Parliamentary Papers, House of Representatives, 29521 no. 5 (29 June 2004).

4        Ibid. 2, sections 207-208.

5        AIV/CAVV advisory report no. 1, 'Humanitarian Intervention', The Hague, April 2002 and the Memorandum on 

          Humanitarian Intervention, 30 October 2001, Parliamentary Papers no. 27.742, 2001-2002, no. 5.

6        Ibid. 2, sections 261-269.

7        Parliamentary Papers, House of Representatives 2003-2004, 24832, no. 5 (1 June 2004).

8        Report by the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations (A/55/305 - S/2000/809), 21 August 2000.  

9        Ibid. 2, section 228.

10      Parliamentary Papers, House of Representative 2003-2004, 29521 no. 5 (29 June 2004).

11      Ibid. 2, sections 270-272.

12      Art. 4, Principles (h) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union.

13      Ibid., Art. 8 (13).


Press releases

The press release related to this report has not been translated.