The rules of the game: Towards a theory of networks of access
The post-Taliban state-building process began earnestly and with great optimism at the Bonn conference in 2001. At Bonn, the international community brought together a carefully selected group of Afghan stakeholders and created a new vision for the country’s future, premised on democratic governance, de-personalised state institutions and markets. Yet, even as the implementation of these ideals clashed with realities inside Afghanistan in the ensuing years, very few dared to question the rationale underpinning state-building and governance efforts. Fifteen years on from Bonn, Afghanistan is a ‘failed’ state.1 The National Unity Government hinges on a highly contentious, precarious political settlement. State institutions at all levels are fragile and nepotistic, with tenuous links to the population and limited capacity to deliver security, governance or basic services. The government is heavily reliant on donor largesse and aid agency capacity to fulfil basic functions, including paying government salaries and providing basic services such as healthcare and education.