UN Photo_Isaac Billy

The state and statebuilding in the Global South – international and local interactions

This project considers how international actors and states in low-income countries interact across diverse contexts, and how and why state authority, capacity, and legitimacy may change through such interaction.

More than 80 percent of the world’s poorest people live in fragile states. International assistance has an important role to play in such contexts, with the aim of leaving no one behind. At the same time, a large literature underscores the particular challenges of aid effectiveness in weak institutional contexts. Contributing effectively to ‘locally-owned’ initiatives is one of the multiple challenges.

Understanding how states become more ‘resilient’, and the role of international assistance therein, is a core and continuing challenge for both scholars and practitioners.

Drawing on case studies of aid-supported institution-building across diverse countries from the Second World War to the present, this project considers the mechanisms through which aid works and the conditions under which it has been most and least effective. 

One component of the project focuses in on COVID-19 response in low income countries, with attention to the relationship between national policies and implementation, state capability, and international policy influence. Research considers how and why such policy measures and their implementation have varied across countries, and why some countries have been more effective than others in responding to the global pandemic.

This project builds from previous UNU-WIDER work on institution-building in fragile contexts to explore processes of statebuilding in weak institutional environments, with particular attention to the interaction between international and local institutions.

Key questions
  • How have states become more ‘resilient’ and escaped fragility traps? What has been the role of international assistance therein?
  • How does external intervention interact with local institutions and endogenous processes to influence change in state institutions?
  • What can international development actors do to better support legitimate and effective states in fragile contexts and weak institutional environments? What are the conditions under which international assistance has been most and least effective?
  • Given standard international public health guidance, how and why have countries adopted similar and different Covid-response strategies?
  • Why have some countries been more effective than others in responding to the global pandemic? Does variation in state authority, capacity, and legitimacy help us to understand variation in response?
Watch this space

All papers, events, briefs, blog posts, and opportunities to engage relating to the project will be available on this webpage.

UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

The enhancement of state capability in fragile countries matters in itself in the achievement of SDG 16, Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions.