Agency and Governance in Contexts of Civil Conflict

Violent conflict results in enduring constraints to development efforts in many parts of the world. However, violence has an instrumental role beyond destruction. In particular, it is used strategically by political actors to promote social, economic and political transformation and form institutions that determine the current and future allocation of power.

One way in which transformation takes place is through the emergence of local governance structures in places where the government is absent or heavily contested. In the available literature, such circumstances are usually referred to as state 'collapse' or state 'failure'. However, the collapse of 'government' does not necessarily have to be accompanied by the collapse of 'governance', rather it is accompanied by institutional changes as different non-state actors gain the monopoly over the use of violence in contested areas. The impact of the actions of these actors, and ensuing social and political transformation, on the lives of those living in contexts of violent conflict is likely to be considerable though largely unknown.

The main purpose of this study is to fill this theoretical, empirical and policy gap by analysing how the relationship between populations living in contexts of violence and armed non-state actors controlling or contesting those areas results in forms of local governance and order, and how these in turn affect the access to and effectiveness of livelihoods adopted by individuals and communities in contexts of violence. The study is based on comparative qualitative and quantitative empirical work in Colombia, India, Lebanon, Niger and South Africa.

Key contact

Photo of Patricia Justino, IDS Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction Research Fellow

T: +44 (0)1273 915752


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Photo of Becky Mitchell

T: +44 (0)1273 915706


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T: +44 (0)1273 915688


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Photo of Jaideep Gupte, IDS Research Fellow

T: +44 (0)1273 915656


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Jean Pierre Tranchant is a Research Fellow with the Vulnerability and Poverty Reduction Team


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Political Violence, Drought and Child Malnutrition: Empirical Evidence from Andhra Pradesh, India

HiCN Working Paper 173 (2014)
Justino, P., Mueller, C., and Tranchant, J.P.

Civilian Resistance to Rebel Governance

HiCN Working Paper 170 (2014)
Arjona, A

Wartime Institutions: A Research Agenda

HiCN Working Paper 169 (2014)
Arjona, A.

Pervasive But Not the Political Order: Violence, Xenophobia and Insecurity in Townships

Agency and Governance Policy Brief 5 (2013)
Piper, L. and Wheeler, J.

How Do Endemic Riots Affect Poor Urban Households? New Data From India

Agency and Governance Policy Brief 4 (2013)
Gupte, J., Justino, P. and Tranchant, J-P.

Fleeing, Staying Put, Working with Rebels Rulers

Agency and Governance Policy Brief 3 (2013)
Guichaoua, Y. and Lomax, L.

Local Violence and the National Process of War Termination in Lebanon

Agency and Governance Policy Brief 2 (2013)
Schulhofer-Wohl, J.

Local Institutions Can Limit Non-State Armed Groups’ Power and Expansion

Agency and Governance Policy Brief 1 (2013)
Arjona, A

Households Amidst Urban Riots: The Economic Consequences of Civil Violence in India

HiCN Working Paper 126 (2012)
Gupte, J., Justino, P. and Tranchant, J.P.
Project Dates:
September 2010 - November 2013
Project Status:
Department for International Development (DFID)
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)
Research Themes / Programmes:
Building Inclusive, Secure Societies