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Rich World, Poor World

State Building and Global Development

June 15, 2006
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"State Building and Global Development," is one in a series of CGD Rich World, Poor World public education briefs prepared for a general readership.

What is state building?

State building is creating and strengthening the institutions necessary to support long-term economic, social, and political development. In the U.S. we often take these institutions for granted, but in many countries they are weak or absent. State institutions include:

  • Legislatures, like the U.S. Congress, to make laws
  • Judicial Systems, like the U.S. federal and state court systems, to interpret laws
  • Executive agencies, such as the Departments of the Treasury, Education, Transportation, and dozens of others, to administer the laws which control the domestic economy, education, trade, and diplomacy, for example
  • Police and military forces, to provide security

What happens without state building?

In dozens of poor countries, development is simply not taking place because state institutions are precariously weak or have failed. A glance at recent headlines provides a powerful demonstration; for example:

  • Afghanistan, remains a sanctuary for Al-Qaeda terrorists and drug smugglers and produces nearly three-quarters of the world’s heroin supply.
  • Haiti, after the fall of its president in 2004, is attempting to build a working government, protect basic human rights, and escape from profound poverty.
  • Liberia, is engaged in post-conflict reconstruction after removing its dictatorial ruler in 2003, who left the country in shambles and incited conflict throughout West Africa.

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