Power, Politics, and Change: How International Actors Assess Local Context

In recent years, donor governments and international organizations such as the UN and the World Bank have developed a number of frameworks and tools to assess governance, conflict, and fragility. This report argues that there are multiple, and often contradictory, objectives underlying the development and use of such assessment tools. Underpinning this multiplicity of objectives are deep assumptions, many of which remain unstated. Different agencies tend to define the problem through their own institutional lens, and the assessment tools they create reflect these biases. As the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development Development Assistant Committee’s (OECD-DAC’s) work on governance assessments has pointed out, assumptions underlying governance assessment methodologies are usually not explicit, but tend to measure governance against existing norms in OECD countries. Similarly, the different approaches to conflict assessment adopted by major bilateral and multilateral actors demonstrate conceptual and intellectual differences in their understanding of the nature of conflict; the same may be said for various donors’ approaches to assessing state fragility.

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