Benefits of International Aid

There have been many cases where the international community has assisted with issues regarding Côte d’Ivoire and, in some instances, the efforts have actually made a difference. For example, external support from France, the US, and the UN, played a key role during the export ban on cocoa in 2011. Because of their assistance and resources, the people of Côte d’Ivoire remained fairly safe as former President Gbagbo was finally drained of his finances, and therefore security forces, and was removed from office. Nevertheless, many still criticized the international community in 2011 as some nations turned their back on Côte d’Ivoire. The innocent unquestionably endured the most from the constant violence and displacement during this time, which also greatly threatened regional stability as more than 95,000 moved into neighboring Liberia (Dufka 2011).

Englebert and Tull emphasize two trends concerning the idea that external assistance lacks the “capacity and will to maintain the necessary commitment to rebuilding African states,” (129). The first is that reconstruction efforts to African nations are usually temporary. In the case of Côte d’Ivoire’s 2002 conflicts, international aid commitments were granted from the European Union, France, IMF, and the World Bank. Although these efforts successfully reunited the country’s politicians and organizations after the faulty presidential elections in 2000, there is a clear drop after 2002 (129). The decreased involvement into 2006 and presumably subsequent years did not account for the fact that Côte d’Ivoire’s internal disputes were nowhere near the end.

Englebert and Tull argue, “the international community is not well-equipped for creating effective state institutions, regardless of the scale and intensity of its involvement,” (137). They continue by stating that some institutions interfere too much and are not necessarily more successful than less-intrusive ones. Although I agree with the validity of their statements, I still believe external reconstruction can temporarily assist in stabilizing a country. The problem stems from the fact that development aid is often short-lived. For this reason, the international community should focus on “long-term construction of self-sustaining state institutions” provided to failing nations such as Côte d’Ivoire (137).

However, the focus should also be shifted towards the people of Côte d’Ivoire to take action and support those capable of alleviating the country’s many problems. President Ouattara seems to be that very person, as the international community has supported him since the election. In this video, President Obama speaks to Ivoirians as he encourages them to “reclaim [their] country and rebuild a vibrant economy that was once the admiration of Africa.” This idea that external aid can exist but must also construct self-sustaining institutions is validated by President Obama’s closing statement: “You deserve the right to determine your own destiny…and those who choose that path will have a friend and partner in the United States of America.”

As far as Côte d’Ivoire’s most recent endeavors, they are striving to recover political, economic, and social entities with the leadership of President Ouattara. The UN seems to be at the forefront of this plan with the creation of an active profile in their UN Peacekeeping webpage through the Better World Campaign, in addition to a project with the UNEP aiming to “address environmental and natural resource governance on a national scale and as a precondition for sustainable development and conflict prevention.” These are precisely the advocacy and support that weak or failing nations should have more access to and I hope it is only the beginning.

Effects on the Region and World

The effects of Côte d’Ivoire’s state weakness have greatly impacted not only the people residing within its borders, but also those in the region and around the world. In previous posts, I have described some of the social, health, and economic atrocities many have experienced due to the recent violent events. For more information about this, please refer back to my post titled “For the People of Côte d’Ivoire.”

Although locals endured countless instances of violence, displacements, and general social injustice, those in the surrounding countries of Burkina Faso and Mali, for example, now face ethnic, cultural, and economic concern. Ever since 1995 when former President Bédié began promoting the nationalistic concept of Ivorité, the term has remained a part of discriminatory Ivoirian culture. President Bédié claimed this was to increase cultural identity and not political exclusion. Critics deemed it divisive, xenophobic, and intended to eliminate political competition from President Ouattara, who was at one point not considered “genuine” Ivorian. Whether a person is “genuine” or “not genuine” Ivorian continues to be a source of regional conflict. Moreover, the government became concerned with immigration as the idea of a Muslim victory supported by domestic and immigrant Muslim communities was a possibility.

Finally, Côte d’Ivoire plays a key role in transportation and trade for its landlocked neighbors since it contains about 71 miles of coastline along the Gulf of Guinea. Because of the Port of Abidjan’s reputation as the busiest port in francophone West Africa, much of the business from Burkina Faso and Mali suffered a great deal after the export ban on cocoa in 2011. Many businesses were forced to halt their business relations, negatively affecting their commerce and economic activity. This was particularly detrimental to the countries because they are ranked at 35 and 38 on the 2013 Failed States Index Report.

Globally, the 2011 cocoa export ban meant cocoa traders, chocolate makers, and consumers were forced to wait for the effects of the supply and price of this important commodity. During the export ban, which was set ultimately with the purpose of removing President Gbagbo from office, there was a division between countries around the world about how best to proceed. More information about this topic can be read in my previous post titled “The Politics of Agriculture.”

However, another more recent action under President Ouattara has affected the cocoa industry worldwide. In July of 2013, security forces began flattening houses and forcefully removing farmers in order to phase out agricultural practices and diversify the economy away from cocoa due to its negative environmental impact. Three-fourths of West African country’s forests have disappeared in the past 50 years because of farming, including cocoa plantations. Ouattara expressed a willingness to pay this economic price in order to save the tropical forests and as an effort to reassert the state’s authority. In this case, Côte d’Ivoire’s state weakness may be turning around as a positive consequence towards regaining government legitimacy and control.

For the People of Côte d’Ivoire

Thus far, I briefly introduced a history of Côte d’Ivoire and topics relating to how and why its stateness has weakened since the 1960s. However, I feel I have neglected some important questions: what does state weakness mean, especially for the people of Côte d’Ivoire? How has ineffective governance affected them?

State weakness encompasses a variety of definitions and is influenced by numerous factors, including its financial systems, transnational security, environmental stewardship, infrastructure and development, healthcare, and education. Unfortunately, Côte d’Ivoire has experienced its fair share of most, if not all, of these political goods.

When comparing the economic, political, social welfare, security and GNI per capita standing of the world’s 141 weakest states, Côte d’Ivoire placed in the bottom quintile for its overall score in 2008 (Rice and Stewart 10). Although there exist some methodological differences between the Failed States Index and the Brookings Institution’s Index of State Weakness in the Developing World, both reports have ranked Côte d’Ivoire with similarly low scores within the past five years. The Brookings report defines weak states as those incapable of “fostering an environment conducive to sustainable and equitable economic growth; establishing and maintaining legitimate, transparent, and accountable political institutions; securing their populations from violent conflict and controlling their territory; and meeting the basic human needs of their population,” (3).

“Nation-states fail because they are convulsed by internal violence and can no longer deliver positive political goods to their inhabitants,” (Rotberg 1). In light of this statement, here are a few comments from the video that I found to be particularly alarming and disheartening:

“The people have been traumatized. There were presidential elections in Ivory Coast and we’ve seen what happened. For the trauma is still there. People saw what happened. They voted in masses and it ended in war.” –Father Cyprien, Catholic Mission

“They tend to come describing generalized body pain. Then they start to realize all they’ve been through. They relive it all again, all the killings and the violence they’ve experienced.” –Marie Koudou, psychologist at MSF

“The shock of violence, troubled mourning, and lack of security is leading to psychological and neurological disorders.” –Narrator

How can the common people of Côte d’Ivoire even think about setting goals and having dreams when they are facing such traumatic experiences and are lacking basic human needs like food, water, and a home?

Although parts of Côte d’Ivoire have begun to look past the violence from the 2002 election, it seems like the 2011 election has only worsened the lives of other communities. Will they be able move forward if most are still trying to recover physically, mentally, and financially from previous events? It seems like they cannot break from this vicious cycle of political corruption, widespread violence, and overall suffering, simply because certain individuals seek greater power.