Book Project

Islands of Stability: Local Statebuilding in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia. Manuscript.

Project website: Islands of Stability in Fragile States

Abstract: Under what conditions do ‘islands of stability’ emerge in countries with failing central governments? Through paired comparisons of similar regions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, as well as nearly 70 interviews with local elites, this study develops a new theory to explain variation in subnational security provision in fragile states. Building upon Mancur Olson’s typology of stationary and roving bandits, it posits that the presence of locally bounded rulers crucially affects the level of local security. Locally bounded rulers hail from a local majority group that is a national minority. Their identity’s local appeal thus does not extend to the national level, which bounds their political ambitions within a given province or region. As a result, they govern with a long time horizon and enter into cooperative contracts with their population: rulers guarantee protection in return for information and support for the regional government. To explore the theory’s empirical validity, the study leverages an original dataset on provincial governors in the three countries. It shows that locally bounded rulers stay longer in office and experience less violence during their tenures. These findings suggest that creating subnational security in fragile states benefits from longstanding, local leaders who are able to earn the trust of their people.

Working Papers

Essential Decisions: Donor Strategies for Managing Risk in Conflict Zones (with Sidak Yntiso).

Abstract: How do international donors adapt to high-risk environments? As fragile states have become the dominant target of foreign aid, this question is increasingly relevant for governments, international organizations and aid workers. We develop a novel theory of strategic adaptation to security risks by donor governments. We posit that conflict shocks increase risks for donors, but also improve donor ability to demand policy concessions from recipient countries. Whether expected gains—in terms of policy concessions made to donors—will outweigh the risks of aid delivery varies depending on the type of donor involved and the recipient country’s strategic importance. In the face of risk, donor governments are likely to increase bilateral aid in strategically important countries because the value of expected policy concessions outweighs the costs of operation. Conversely, they will decrease aid in non-strategic countries. Donor governments will generally reduce multilateral aid in response to shocks because international institutions typically produce policy concessions whose value does not outweigh the heightened costs of operations. We empirically test our theory by examining the effect of local violence on bilateral and multilateral aid projects in nine conflict-affected countries across Africa and Asia in the period from 1997—2014. We check the robustness of our analysis by examining donor behavior in response to clearly exogenous shocks—natural disasters. Overall, we find support for our theory, showing that bilateral donors are resilient to security risks in strategically important countries, yet respond highly risk-averse to conflict shocks in less strategic countries.

Project website: Donor Strategies for Managing Risks in Conflict and Disaster-Prone Areas

Do Incentives Matter? Resilience and Reliability of Force Deployments to UN Peacekeeping Operations (with Tyler Headley & Maximilian Meduna).

Abstract: UN peacekeeping operations with adequate resources can reduce the intensity and recurrence of armed conflict, yet many missions suffer from a shortfall of troops. We investigate whether incentives for troop contributors increase the resilience and reliability of force deployments to UN peacekeeping. We operationalize a country’s resilience via its level of casualty tolerance, and reliability by exploiting the gap between authorized and deployed personnel to UN operations. Building on theories of collective action, we argue that countries for which material and status incentives are salient will be more motivated to contribute. As a result, these countries will exhibit greater resilience and reliability than countries for which organizational rewards are largely irrelevant. To test our argument, we exploit stark variation in the composition of United Nations (UN) peacekeeping deployments in the post-Cold War era, specifically the shift from Western to non-Western nations as dominant troop contributors. This shift dramatically increased the number of contributors sensitive to UN incentives, namely training, financial compensation, and high-ranking command positions. We find that a higher share of non-Western contributors is associated with a higher casualty tolerance and a significantly smaller gap between authorized and deployed personnel. Our findings show that UN incentives for contributors are indeed effective, suggesting that material and status rewards could be applied more widely to strengthen the supply of peacekeepers as well as global public good provision in other domains.

This project has been generously supported by the NYU Center on International Cooperation.