Institutional Legacies of Violent Conflict

One of the most critical challenges in international development today is to understand how best to support peace, security, economic recovery and legitimate political authority in countries affected by political instability and violent conflict. While peace and stability are central to the prosperity and security of countries and their citizens, we have limited understanding of how and why violent conflicts persist in modern times, how and why their legacies endure across time and what can be done at the policy and practical levels to reduce the risk and impact of violence. This project seeks to fill these gaps in knowledge and policy.

The central hypothesis driving the project is that the persistence of violent conflicts, their legacies, and the effectiveness of conflict interventions, are shaped by the different political dynamics and complex processes of institutional change that take place during (and due to) the conflict. These complex dynamics are grounded on how local political authorities behave, compete and make decisions, how different governance structures produce or limit the use of violence, how territories and populations are ruled and controlled, and how alliances across intersecting identities of gender, religion, class and political orientation are forged or contested across time and space.

The goal of the project is to increase understanding among policymakers, academics and practitioners of how institutional dynamics that develop during violent conflicts shape state-building and economic development trajectories in the long run. The project will include theory-building combined with the use of empirical data at the individual, household, community and national levels. The project is organized around two thematic areas: (i) the effect of war dynamics on state-building trajectories in post-conflict countries, and (ii) linkages between wartime institutions and post-conflict economic development. The project includes also two cross-cutting themes on the interactions between conflict dynamics, COVID-19 and associated policies to contain it, and on the rise of protests, demonstrations and riots across the globe.

The research team, collaborators and working papers are listed here.

Inequality and Governance in Unstable Democracies: The Mediating Role of Trust

This project, which I direct, is funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council. The project seeks to provide new theoretical insights and empirical evidence on how trust within and between social groups and towards institutions shapes the relationship between economic inequality and governance in contexts where democratic structures may be unstable or under threat. Even though consensus is emerging around the importance of inequality for the quality of institutions, there is limited evidence on how and when inequality affects how societies are governed. The main aim of this project is to explore one key mechanism that mediates the relationship between inequality and governance – trust.

Trust is central to understanding the effects of inequality on governance because the way people have confidence in others and beliefs about the legitimacy of governance institutions shape political and social behaviour and mobilisation patterns among different groups in society. However, these relationships remain under-researched and most of the evidence comes from a handful of developed countries where data are available. This project focuses on a set of countries – Colombia, Mozambique and Pakistan – where democratic institutions have faced considerable challenges, including political violence at times. Comparisons will be made with Spain, a country where democratic governance is well established but where economic pressures in recent times have increased social and political tensions.

Co-investigators include: Laia Balcells (Georgetown University), Tilman Brück (ISDC – International Security and Development Center), Ali Cheema (Institute of Development and Economic Alternatives), Leopoldo Fergusson (Universidad de los Andes, Bogota), Kristian Skrede Gleditsch (University of Essex), Sam Jones (UNU-WIDER) and Stathis Kalyvas (University of Oxford).

Life with Corona

Life with Corona (LwC) is a global research project to collect real-time data on the economic and social impacts of Covid-19. The Covid-19 pandemic affects the daily lives of every single person on Earth – not just those exposed to the virus and front-line workers. How governments respond today will be of crucial importance to how societies, economies and polities will be organised beyond the pandemic. Informed policy-making based on the best available evidence is therefore essential. The main objectives of the Life with Corona project are to: (i) generate global, real-time data on how people around the world are coping with the pandemic, (ii) produce empirical analysis on the impacts of the pandemic, and (iii) support policy actions to address and mitigate the health, economic, social and political effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the measures to contain it.

This project is led by Tilman Brück (ISDC/IGZ), Anke Hoeffler (University of Konstanz), Wolfgang Stojetz (ISDC) and myself.

Media coverage: The Guardian (UK); Der Spiegel (Germany); Newsweek (USA); Yle (Finland); VRT NWS (Belgium); The Telegraph (UK); The Economist; O Publico (Portugal)

Households in Conflict Network

Tilman Brück, Philip Verwimp and I founded the Households in Conflict Network (HiCN) in 2004. HiCN brings together researchers interested in the micro level analysis of the relationship between violent conflict and household welfare. The purpose of HiCN is to undertake collaborative research into the causes and effects of violent conflict at the household level. See list of affiliates here. The Working Paper series of the Households in Conflict Network is available for free here.

For other recent and past projects see here and here.

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