Strengthening Democratic Governance in Conflict-Torn Societies

Aims and Objectives

This large research programme was concerned to understand the conditions under which democratic institutions in developing and transitional economies are effective in resolving social conflict, broadening political participation, and delivering development. The objective was to generate concepts and empirical data to would enable policy-makers to formulate proposals for crafting democratic structures which would be effective in the following three senses:

  • Democratic effectiveness: capable of deepening democracy and democratic citizenship;
  • Policy effectiveness: capable of tackling fundamental developmental problems of poverty and social equality
  • Conflict-management effectiveness: capable of channelling conflicts and rendering them less destructive.

The democratic, policy and conflict-management effectiveness of experiments in political liberalisation was explored in four countries with a history of violent conflict:

  • Bosnia
  • South Africa
  • Sri Lanka
  • Uganda


The broad questions and objectives animating this research were refined through:

  1. conceptual overviews: of the promises and deficits of democracy in developing and transitional contexts, and of new forms of conflict;
  2. an historical analysis of the politics of institutional choice in six countries; and
  3. cross-national empirical studies on four comparative themes: women’s political effectiveness in democracies, the role of civic organisations in deepening democracy and conflict prevention, the contribution of decentralisation to controlling conflict, and approaches to controlling military and security establishments in new democracies.


Summary of key research findings by theme:

  • Conceptual work on Democratic Institutions and Politics in Context of Inequality, Poverty and Conflict
  • Conceptual work on New Forms on Conflict
  • The Politics of Institutional Choice
  • Democratic Institutions and Women’s Political Effectiveness in South Africa and Uganda
  • Civil Society, Decentralisation and Conflict-Mitigation
  • Security, Structures and Democratic Governance

Project details

start date
27 January 1998
end date
27 January 2002



Recent work

Journal Article

Global Transformations and New Conflicts

IDS Bulletin Vol. 32 Nos. 2

The central argument of this article is that a central feature of post-Cold War conflicts has been the delegitimisation of public authority, interacting with globalisation, through a process which is almost the reverse of state and nation-building.

1 January 2001