Universität Bonn

State Failure and Local Governance
in Afghanistan and Somalia/Somaliland

A lot of research has been devoted to understanding the origins, causes and contributing factors of state failure and collapse, particularly in respect to Somalia and Afghanistan.

By comparison, the often simultaneous, local or regional formation of new governance structures has received little 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, revitalised traditional authorities, religious courts, local businessmen, etc., who continue or begin to exercise authority as "functional equivalents" of the former state, at times aspiring to replace it.

The comparative research project aims at contributing to the understanding of the local, regional and national formation of governance structures after state collapse. From a basic research perspective, the primary interest is in the social processes driving the "survival" and reconfiguration of former state institutions and traditional authorities, the sub-ordination and transformation of powerful actors of violence (warlords, militia, former government army), and the dynamics of governance structures emerging in the virtual or effective absence of a state. More specifically, the goal is to explain the patterns of interaction between these diverse and partly competing actors both from within the governance structure and its social and institutional embeddedness.

Furthermore, the project will produce policy-relevant findings helping to understand the functional logic of governance structures, including the differences between their localised realities. In practical terms, this goal may also be advanced by the development of an applicable analysis framework for governance structures, which could prove useful in the identification of potential project partners and entry points for external interventions.

Overall, the project intends to contribute to the adaptation of peace building and good governance concepts to the context of collapsed states.