Get access

Why International Trusteeship Fails: The Politics of External Authority in Areas of Limited Statehood



International trusteeship is widely touted as a solution to the problem of failed states, an extreme form of limited statehood. Current theories of legitimacy and statebuilding suggest that trusteeships should produce more capable states. These theories, however, fail to take into account the self-interest and political strategies available to trustees and politicians within new states. We pose a more political model of statebuilding by the international community, the trustee, and national politicians that predicts that trusteeship will fail to produce states with greater capacity. We test for the effects of trusteeship on state capacity, measured by service provision, by creating a matched sample of countries. We find that there is no evidence that states under trusteeship develop greater capacity leading to better provision of public goods than comparable states not under trusteeship. Would-be statebuilders must be more aware of the political incentives of all parties involved in the process.