Consensus is growing that the use of the Western model of the Nation State in post-crisis contexts poses many problems. This particular model of the State is at the foundation of the current international system. While it originates from the specific socio-historic context of Europe, the model is widely applied in post-crisis countries (post colonial, post-conflict and post-Soviet) under the assistance or influence of the international community. Mainstream models of State-building assume that State legitimacy can be established and State collapse avoided through international intervention combined with military presence, huge amounts of aid and democratic elections. Realities on the ground lead us to question their effectiveness, at least in the way measures have been implemented. Rather than the methods of State reform or State-building, the focus of this conference is the question of the model of the State and its transformation. Far from basing itself on the Weberian concept of the State, the conference takes the expectations and needs of the population as a foundation for State transformation.
While international and national actors are involved in the building of the State, local and regional actors are also involved in forming governance structures. They have received much less attention. The authorities taking over when States fail, and ultimately collapse, include the actors of war, such as military faction leaders; but they also include remnants of the former State administration, revitalized traditional authorities, religious courts, local businessmen, etc., who continue or begin to exercise authority as "functional equivalents" (security, social services etc.) of the former State, at times aspiring to replace it. Civil conflict can therefore be understood as centrifugal dynamics that benefit private actors (political, military, religious, social leaders) on the basis of sub-national communities. At regional or international level, the presence of cross-border identities (be it of ethnic, religious, language, or other nature) may represent a further competition for the State and may increase interference in State affairs (through military interference, diaspora support).
The link between legitimacy and stability established decades ago by Max Weber still sounds very contemporary when considering post-conflict contexts: there is no possibility of recourse to coercion to impose a political system in the long term. A key question during the conference therefore is how to assist in the (trans)formation of States so that they can function in the interests of populations at local, national and international level.