State Fragility and Governance: Conflict Mitigation and Subnational Perspectives


  • An earlier version of this article was presented at the international workshop on ‘Global Effects and Local Dynamics of Intrastate Conflicts’, organised by the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Center for Advanced Study of International Development, Michigan State University, held in Jerusalem in May 2009. The author thanks the participants for helpful comments. The views expressed here are solely his, and the usual caveats apply.


Many drivers of intrastate conflict concern the relationship between the state and society, and thus are influenced by the quality of governance. Efforts to restore or create good governance, however, have adopted a relatively standardised democratising template. This article argues that conflict mitigation is a useful mechanism for adapting this template to conditions in fragile states. Furthermore, subnational reforms have important potential to mitigate the drivers identified in quantitative studies of conflict, as illustrated by selected experiences with decentralisation, citizen participation and local service delivery. The analysis confirms the important contributions both of quantitative research that has identified causal factors driving conflict and of qualitative study that has explored governance reforms that can address those factors.