This paper aims to provide a very distilled summary of the concepts shaping the discourse around state-building in fragile, conflict-affected situations, and to explore some of the operational implications for international development practitioners working in these settings, drawing on experience from two post-conflict countries. The paper arises out of a collaboration between Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (UNDP) and the World Bank’s Fragile and Conflict-Affected Countries Group to strengthen their analytical work and guidance to country offices in the area of state building, and to extend interagency cooperation at headquarters and field level. This paper, and the operational guidance it proposes, is a product of the missions to Sierra Leone and Liberia, and its principal audience is country office staff in fragile and conflict-affected settings. The material in this paper is organised around four themes:(i) Current concepts and theory on state-building; (ii) Our practical experience with applying a state-building lens to specific aspects of programming in Sierra Leone and Liberia; (iii) Some operational considerations on approaching statebuilding in fragile, conflict-affected settings; and (iv) Proposals for what an overworked country office can do to support state-building. This paper sits alongside a detailed report on, Donor Support for Capacity Development in Post-Conflict States: Reflections from Two Case Studies in West Africa, which was also developed as part of the UNDP-World Bank collaboration and field missions.