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Coherence and Coordination The Limits of the Comprehensive Approach

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This article explores why international actors assign such high importance to coherence. It argues that the assumptions on which the principle of coherence is based are flawed, and that the empirical and theoretical evidence indicates that there is much less room for coherence than generally acknowledged in the policy debate. It recommends that the international community should lower its expectations and adopt more realistic polices. The current approach tends to put pressure on all partners to adopt a maximal approach to coherence, regardless of their relations to each other and the operational context. Coherence should not be understood as an effort aimed equally at all, nor should all partners be expected to achieve the same level of unity of effort. Coherence should rather be understood as a scale of relationships, and the most appropriate and realistic level of coherence that can be achieved will depend on the exact constellation of organizations in an interdependent relationship in that specific operational context. This article offers a typology of the range of likely relationships, as well as an explanation of the circumstances that may determine the level of coherence that can be realistically expected to develop, depending on the context and the nature of the relationships among the partners.


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