From Civil War to Social Contract: State Services, Political Trust, and Political Violence

2014 - 2017
Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
KfW Development Bank

Collaborative Research Center 700, Governance in Areas of Limited Statehood, Free University of Berlin, Germany



Research Questions

  • Does the effective and equitable delivery of basic services affect levels of political trust in fragile situations?
  • How should external/international support for service provision be designed in order to contribute to improvements in trust levels?

Contribution to International Research
Development agencies claim that international support to service delivery can contribute to state-society relations and state-building. The rationale is that improved access to education, health care or drinking water increases output legitimacy and people’s trust in state institutions. Ensuring access to basic services for the population is considered an essential welfare function of the state. Even more importantly, service provision is interpreted as a form of direct interaction between the individual and the state’s institutions and actors. It may thus be understood as an “interface between citisens and the state”. The state’s ability or inability to deliver on this responsibility is directly felt by the population and will thus shape its attitudes and actions towards the state.

Academic debates on post-conflict state-building and conflict recurrence have largely been detached from research on political trust. The role of legitimacy and political trust is emphasised in peace and conflict studies; however, it is not adequately conceptualised and is seldom analysed empirically. Similarly, few studies on political trust explicitly consider how intrastate conflict might affect such trust. The research project aims to bring both areas of research together and to analyse the determinants of political trust in post-war societies by focusing on the role of basic service delivery.

Research Design and Methods
The project will combine quantitative and qualitative research methods. The first pillar will be based on household and village-level surveys from three different country contexts: Afghanistan, Burundi and Peru. Opinion surveys will target a minimum of 100 villages and 1.500 households per country and will be designed as so called "population based experiments". Questionnaires will focus on people’s perceptions of various state institutions and of current service provision (with respect to quality, quantity, providers, and responsiveness). Qualitative analyses at the subnational level will constitute the project’s second pillar. In addition to the quantitative techniques, in-depth comparative analysis will take place in selected subnational regions of the countries under investigation. Through focus group discussions and semi-structured interviews, the researchers will cross-check the correlations found in the quantitative analyses.

Preliminary Results
Preliminary analyses of quantitative and qualitative Data from Burundi and Afghanistan lend support to the general assumption that basic service provision is in fact related to people’s perception of state institutions. In both cases interviewees have proven to be significantly more confident in the state when they objectively and subjectively profited from service delivery improvements within a two-year period prior to the implementation of the survey. At the same time, however, initial analyses also underscore the conditional nature of this correlation: associations between service delivery and political trust depend on the local security context, providers of services (i.e. state or international actors) and local governance systems. Subsequent analysis, incorporating data from Peru, will aim at investigating these conditional effects.