Islands of Stability in Fragile Countries

Project duration: 2016-2018

Fragile states pose an enduring challenge to development and international security. They deprive their populations of socio-economic opportunities, slow growth in their neighborhoods and provide platforms for extremist groups.

This project is motivated by frequently overlooked subnational success stories within widely collapsed states. It advances the debate on state formation by investigating under what conditions "islands of stability" emerge — regions with high state capacity in countries with generally low government effectiveness.

To answer this question, we leverage three paired comparisons of regions within Afghanistan, Somalia and Iraq that have similar sizes, geographic positions and access to trade routes, but experienced different types of local rulers in the post-Cold War era. Our study is informed by extensive field research and analysis of province-level security and socio-economic data.

Preliminary findings suggest that the careful promotion of local solutions to insecurity and underdevelopment provides an avenue for more successful international engagement with fragile countries.

This project is made possible by a grant from NYUAD's Research Enhancement Fund.

Local Peacebuilding in Conflict-Affected Countries

The panel "Beating the Odds: Local Peacebuilding in Conflict-Affected Countries," organized by Professor Michael Harsch, has been accepted for the 60th ISA Annual Convention in Toronto, Canada from March 27th-30th, 2019.

The panel will include presentations by Séverine Autesserre, Michael Harsch, Roger Mac Ginty, Kenneth Menkhaus, and Megan Stewart. It will be chaired by Dipali Mukhopadhyay; Roland Paris will serve as discussant.

Statebuilding and Insurgency in Conflict Zones

A panel at the 114th Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association in Boston on August 31, 2018 featured a presentation by Professor Michael Harsch on subnational statebuilding in Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan. 

He was joined by Jay Lyall (Yale) and Jake Shapiro (Princeton). The session was chaired by Kenneth Schultz (Stanford); Saad Gulzar (Stanford) served as the discussant.

Resolving the Political Crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Professor Séverine Autesserre cited findings from the "Islands of Stability" project at a US Congressional hearing:

"Extensive scholarly and policy research proves that bottom-up peace approaches have increased peacebuilding effectiveness in various conflict zones. They have even contributed to prosperity and stability (including strong state institutions) in parts of Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq."

Photos from the field research

Photography by Maximilian M. Meduna © (Somaliland and Kurdistan) and Haseebullah Bakhtary (Balkh Province)

Somali Fishermen in Berbera
Hargeisa Street Market
School children in Somaliland
Peshmerga, 70s Division, Sulaymaniyah
Downtown Erbil
Kurdistan Independence Referendum
Game of Buzkashi, Afghanistan
Balkh Province of Afghanistan
Mazar-e Sharif, Balkh Province

Donor Strategies for Managing Risks in Conflict and Disaster-Prone Areas

Team: Muhammet Bas and Michael Harsch

Project duration: 2018-2020

Under what conditions are aid programs in conflict and disaster-prone areas successful? How do international donors adapt to such high-risk environments? And to what extent does international and local actors’ anticipation of extreme events and aid delivery shape their interactions over time?

This project will explore these questions by examining the effect of local violence and natural disasters on foreign aid. Building on a growing research program on the political economy of aid, we plan to leverage multiple methods including statistical analysis of microlevel event data, mechanism testing via qualitative interviews, and a lab experiment. As a result, the project will advance our understanding of the nexus between conflict, disasters and aid flows.

This project is made possible by a grant from NYUAD's Research Enhancement Fund.