Donors have used several different strategies to deal with indications that an intervention is likely to decrease state legitimacy, increase the legitimacy of an illegitimate actor, or suffer from weak legitimacy itself.
This strategy is often used in the humanitarian sector where the legitimacy of an intervention is understood in terms of the outcome. For example, many humanitarian organisations now accept that negotiation with terrorist groups is a feature of their work in fragile situations (Jackson & Aynte, 2013). They accept the risks of potentially legitimising terrorist groups by focusing on the outcomes – getting aid to those most in need. Indeed in Somalia, Al Shabaab has capitalised on this opportunity by establishing an Office for Supervising the Affairs of Foreign Agencies which approves NGOs’ applications to distribute food in the areas Al Shabaab controls.
Working with hybrid polities
The 2010 OECD-DAC report on legitimacy promotes the strategy of working with, and supporting, hybrid systems, where sources of legitimacy may be very different from rational-legal systems. As the report notes, the very diversity of legal and normative orders found in many fragile states poses a particular challenge for policy-makers. They cannot deal with this diversity merely by trying to integrate a codification of customary practice into formal state law; nor by trying to anchor new rules in ‘traditional’ practice. The report concludes that constructive interaction between different sources of legitimacy has to be negotiated ‘through a political process of bargaining between the state and different groups in society, through which institutions and norms can be reshaped’ and that external actors are likely, at best, to have a role in helping to create spaces for this interaction to take place (OECD-DAC, 2010, p. 32).
Clements (2008) describes how, in the autonomous region of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, a process of post-conflict state formation aims to combine traditional and legal-rational legitimacy. Direct democratic elements stemming from the customary sphere are incorporated into the formal processes of liberal democracy (such as voter-initiated legislation and plebiscites, or the recall of members of parliament), which enhances the legitimacy of these processes. The Councils of Elders, which provide the mainstay of political order, are legal institutions but allow for local variations in the election/selection of members, and include traditional chiefs and elders together with representatives of societal groups (women, young people, and the churches). They thus combine traditional and legal-rational authority. It should be noted that this process is being led by domestic actors with little participation by donors.
However, fostering hybrid solutions can have its own pitfalls. In Mozambique, it was found that efforts to integrate informal and formal governance systems resulted in decreased legitimacy for the chiefs, as the obligations placed on chiefs to collect taxes and to police rural communities were perceived as pitting them against the communities from which they derive their legitimacy (Buur & Kyed, 2006, p. 14).
Governance Delegation Agreements
Governance Delegation Agreements (GDAs) are contracts or treaties intended to address the challenges of working in fragile states while minimising the potentially delegitimising effects of direct intervention. They rely on host states to request and enact them through domestic institutions, rather than trusteeships that occur through coerced imposition (Matanock, 2014). Because the host country must ratify them, they are perceived as having more domestic legitimacy than trusteeships. An analysis of case studies of full and partial GDAs in the Solomon Islands, Papua New Guinea, and Guatemala found that full delegation can accomplish complex tasks, such as restoring the rule of law, while partial delegation can accomplish only simpler tasks, such as increasing criminal convictions (Matanock, 2014). In restoring the rule of law, it appears that Governance Delegation Agreements could contribute to output legitimacy. However Matanock did not specifically measure the impacts of the GDAs on perceptions of state legitimacy.
Public Private Partnerships
Another approach to reduce the delegitimising effects on direct donor intervention on states has been to use transnational public private partnerships (PPPs). Two different PPPs were analysed by Beisheim et al. (2014); the Water & Sanitation for the Urban Poor (WSUP), which provides solutions to water and sanitation deficits in eight low-income urban communities in Kenya, India, and Bangladesh; and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), which helps distribute fortified school meals in two states of India All of the projects operated in similar contexts but varied in their level of local legitimacy and in their institutional design. Beisheim et al. found that partnerships with high empirical legitimacy and an appropriate institutional design are best able to fulfil complex tasks in contexts of limited statehood. However, there is no measurement of the impact of these approaches on state legitimacy.
- Beisheim, M., Liese, A., Janetschek, H., & Sarre, J. (2014). Transnational partnerships: Conditions for successful service provision in areas of limited statehood. Governance, 27(4), 655–67. See document online
- Buur, L., & Kyed, H. (2006). State recognition of traditional authority in Mozambique: The legible space between state and community (DIIS Working Paper no 2006/36). See document online
- Clements, K. (2008). Traditional charismatic and grounded legitimacy. University of Queensland.
- Jackson, A., & Aynte, A. (2013). Talking to the other side: Humanitarian engagement with Al-Shabaab in Somalia (HPG Working Paper). London: ODI. See document online
- Matanock, A. M. (2014). Governance delegation agreements: Shared sovereignty as a substitute for limited statehood. Governance, 27(4), 589–612. See document online
- OECD-DAC. (2010). The state’s legitimacy in fragile situations: Unpacking complexity. London: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Development Assistance Committee. See document online