The importance of local democratic state institutions for lasting security and development is widely recognised (Risley & Sisk 2005). At the same time, state fragility at the local level is an area that has received very little attention in both academic and policy circles. A particular knowledge gap is the interface between citizens and the local state; how the state – citizen relationship can be rebuilt in an environment where social and political trust is minimal and where the threat of violence persists.
Failing to address local state –citizen relations may hamper the consolidation of viable local democracies and undermine state legitimacy in the long run. Aid agencies and other civil society actors play important roles in these challenging and often hostile environments.Though their programmes may not be focused on local level state building, many of their activities have nonetheless implications for local governance. This paper will outline key issues for local state – citizen relations in fragile settings. Thus it aims to unpack some of the complexities of local state fragility, from which we can deduce implications for aid actors.