Building peace in Latin America

Stanford University’s Dr Francis Fukuyama says weak states are holding Latin American countries back.

A lack of legitimate states derails the development of peace in Latin America.

Hamstrung by historical, internal class divisions and thwarted by difficult geographical terrain, states in Latin America have failed to consolidate territories and government institutions in a way that provides the legitimate authority to manage conflict.

Presenting these ideas at the annual Positive Peace Conference at Stanford University, Dr Francis Fukuyama says few countries in the region have been able to institutionalise the state.

“If I had to point to a single weakness in Latin American polities in general, it’s actually not democracy,” Dr Fukuyama said.

“What is really missing are states, meaning legitimate monopolies of force that can exert authority over territory.”

“It’s an interesting meta-historical question about why strong states never emerged in Latin America, but I think it’s this combination of both physical geography and internal class divisions that prevented the emergence of strong states and that continues to happen up until the present moment.”

“You’re not going to be able to settle some of the basic inequalities and some of the internal peace problems, until that kind of authority is somehow established.”

In this context, a “strong state” is one that is able to deliver public goods such as roads, hospitals, schools on an impersonal basis across its territory, a characteristic of modern democracies in Europe and North America. According to Fukuyama, very few Latin American countries have been able to achieve the same level of state institutionalisation.

Dr Fukuyama spoke at the conference, which serves as a platform for discussion and collaboration on building peace, with a focus on the Americas this year. More than 130 attendees including peace practitioners, academics, policymakers and students joined Dr Fukuyama and other insightful speakers for the event.

In its third year, the Positive Peace Conference was co-hosted this year by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), the Stanford Center for Latin American Studies and Mercy Corps.

Positive Peace is a framework derived by IEP through the in-depth statistical analysis of global peace and consists of eight interconnected socio-economic factors or “pillars.” Positive Peace is defined as the attitudes, institutions and structures that correlate to the world’s most peaceful and resilient nations.

The IEP-developed model is a holistic approach to developing peace in any society. It not only reduces violence and the level of grievances, it also provides a model for robust human development.

Drawing from the framework, IEP seeks to shift the paradigm of peace by re-framing the focus towards what works.

To watch Dr Fukuyama’s complete welcome address at the 2018 Positive Peace Conference, click on the video above or visit the Global Peace Index YouTube channel.

Dr. Francis Fukuyama is Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI), and the Mosbacher Director of FSI’s Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law.

Vision of Humanity

Editorial Staff

Vision of Humanity is brought to you by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), by staff in our global offices in Sydney, New York, The Hague and Mexico. Alongside maps and global indices, we present fresh perspectives on current affairs reflecting our editorial philosophy.

The eight interconnected Pillars of Positive Peace:

  • Well-Functioning Government
  • Equitable Distribution of Resources
  • Free Flow of Information
  • Good Relations with Neighbours
  • High Levels of Human Capital
  • Acceptance of the Rights of Others
  • Low Levels of Corruption
  • Sound Business Environment

The eight interconnected Pillars of Positive Peace:

  • Well-Functioning Government
  • Equitable Distribution of Resources
  • Free Flow of Information
  • Good Relations with Neighbours
  • High Levels of Human Capital
  • Acceptance of the Rights of Others
  • Low Levels of Corruption
  • Sound Business Environment
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