Africa: Post-Conflict Security in an Africa of Networked Multilevel Governance - Is the International Community Focused On the Wrong Things?

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This month we published a new IDS Bulletin (open access here) "Piecing It Together: Post-Conflict Security in an Africa of Networked Multilevel Governance".

Edited by David Leonard, and drawing on field research from 9 countries in Tropical Africa, the collection of 7 papers asks: what is the best approach to the rebuilding of shattered states and societies?


The programme of research (much of it funded by the ESRC) has several premises which are tested:

  • In conflict and post conflict situations, no single institution or set of institutions is in charge. (The institutions range from the police, the courts and the armed forces, through to local governance institutions, elections and international agencies.)
  • Globalisation has facilitated this erosion of sovereignty through its tendencies towards networked, multilevelled and fluid governance.  In the absence of strong nation states, their authority is further undermined.
  • In such a context, formal authority matters only modestly. Horizontal relationships matter more than hierarchical ones, and personal and social factors are strong shapers of authority
  • The papers in the Bulletin show that the networks are a vital shaper of the delivery of social services and of security although not a threat to the reality of the State
  • Institutions are marked by managing (or trying to manage) violent conflict--we don't understand this sufficiently well and yet we rely on these institutions to build back better
  • Not only do the institutional building blocks get changed by the conflict, but so too do the networks within which they are enmeshed

These premises are substantiated by the research and the bottom line message for outsiders is stark. As David Leonard concludes: "At the moment more of the energy and resources of the international community go to the mechanics of making post-conflict elections "free and fair" than go to the creation of and consolidation of the institutions of liberty--from the judiciary through local governments senates and independent commissions. The order of those priorities needs to be reversed".

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