Building State Legitimacy

In September 2014, The Fletcher School was awarded a two-year grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to develop strategies for bridging the academic-policy divide.  The Leir Institute administered the grant, leveraging the multi-disciplinary expertise that exists at The Fletcher School and other relevant Tufts centers, such as the World Peace Foundation and the Feinstein International Center.  Other partners on the project included the Inclusive Peace and Transition Initiative at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, the Overseas Development Institute, and the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium.

The substantive focus of this research was examining the role of legitimacy in the governance of conflict-affected or fragile states, and more specifically on how, in peacebuilding programs, perceptions of legitimacy intersect with political inclusion, provision of basic services, security sector governance and corruption in the criminal justice sector.  After research findings were disseminated, discussions with targeted policy audiences focused on the implications for policy response.


The research and findings focus on four key areas:

Inclusion in Political Processes

Drawing on the Inclusive Peace and Transition Initiative’s data from 40 cases around the world, research finds that more inclusive peace processes result in greater likelihood of an agreement being reached, that the agreement will be implemented and that it will hold in the following years. The research also finds that parties involved in the conflict tend to initiate inclusion for strategic reasons, in an attempt to strengthen their legitimacy in the eyes of a variety of audiences – both internal and external.


Delivery of Basic Services

Based on a panel survey carried out in DRC, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Uganda, along with supporting qualitative work, research finds no linear or consistent relationship between provision of basic services and perceptions of legitimacy at local or central governance levels.  It also does not seem to matter who delivers services.  What matters for perceptions of legitimacy of governance is the quality of the services, the relations between citizens and those who provide services and the channels citizens have to press for better services.



Security Sector Governance/Reform

Drawing on research into African peace missions, including both political/mediation exercises and peace support operations, the study of security sector governance and reform (SSG/R) examines how state legitimacy has been contested and is reconstructed through political and military processes. These processes are both internal and external: our research challenges the preconception that armed conflicts in Africa are primarily internal, indicating that externally-driven processes of conflict resolution, peacekeeping and peace enforcement, and post-conflict SSR and disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) result in the consolidation of new governance networks that are both domestic and external to the countries concerned.



Read more on the African Peace Missions project, including research briefings and case studies, at the World Peace Foundation’s website.

Corruption in the Criminal Justice Sector

Based on research in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, this work identifies a mismatch between the strategies used to combat corruption and the nature of the problem itself. Anti-corruption efforts often fail to take account of drivers of corruption that are rooted in social norms and political dynamics.  Using a more holistic analysis of corruption dynamics and programming options, our research considers whether and how corruption’s effects on state legitimacy vary with the kind of corruption and source of demand, in order to develop more effective anti-corruption strategies and programs.