On June 5, 2018, UCL’s Global Governance Institute (GGI) and Conflict & Change members Kristin M. Bakke and Kit Rickard organized a workshop on “Conflict and Governance: Working with Informal Institutions during and after War.”
Central to the international community’s responses to conflict-ridden states are interventions and recommendations aimed at bolstering state capacity, improving public goods provision, and fostering inclusive institutions. Yet external states and international organizations’ “institutional engineering” does not happen in a governance vacuum. Wars and state fragility often do not destroy pre-existing informal institutions and authority structures. In fact, they frequently give rise to new ones that govern people’s lives and are considered legitimate by the local population. A policy concern for external states and international organizations is how to navigate between cooperating with formal or informal authorities. The workshop to brought together more than 25 scholars and practitioners to explore the politics of cooperation in areas of disputed control. The workshop addressed questions such as, what are ‘informal institutions’, ‘informal sources of authority’, ‘rebel governance’, and ‘wartime institutions’? How do these institutions develop? (How) do they gain legitimacy? What is their relationship to the formal institutions of the state? What are the costs of either including or excluding informal sources of authority from negotiation processes? How do external actors engage with informal sources of authority and de facto states in prolonged conflicts? What is the legacy of wartime institutions in the post-war period? And how do reforms of the formal institutions of the state shape the endurance and legitimacy of informal sources of authority?