Institutional legacies of violent conflict

This project aims to increase understanding of the long-term effects of institutional dynamics that develop during violent conflicts.

Date Published
1 Dec 2020
Expected Start Date
15 Dec 2020
Expected End Date
31 Dec 2023
Project Type
Project Status

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 – where more than 1.5 billion people currently live (World Bank 2017). While peace and stability are central to the prosperity and security of countries and their citizens, we have currently 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. All these factors are key to understanding the long-term legacies and persistence of conflict, violence, political instability and fragility because they shape the distribution of different power configurations, a central condition explaining the long-term risk and impact of violent conflicts.

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, in order to provide policy guidance on achieving SDG 16. The project will include theory-building combined with the use of empirical data at the individual, household, community and national levels. The project is organised around two thematic areas: (i) the effect of war dynamics on state-building trajectories in post-conflict countries (Theme A), and (ii) linkages between wartime institutions and post-conflict economic development (Theme B). Given current circumstances, the project will include 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.

Upon the launch of the UNU-WIDER Work Programme 2019-2023 the research programme was divided into 6 flagship projects. Two years into the work programme these flagships have matured into several standalone project, of which “Institutional legacies of violent conflict” originally under “Capable states - building the foundations for achieving SDGs” is one. As of 1 January 2021, this project will be included in Pelikan as its own entry.

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