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.