Addressing Legitimacy Issues in Fragile Post-Conflict Situations

Grantee Information

Name: Volker Boege, Anne Brown, Louise Moe and Anna Nolan
Institution: University of Queensland
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Project duration: July 2010 – December 2012
Funding amount: 104.580,00 EUR

Project Description

This project analyses the different types and sources of legitimate authority in fragile post-conflict situations, taking Max Weber’s three ideal types – rational-legal, traditional, and charismatic – as a starting point, while in the analysis moving beyond these ‘pure’ types. Mainstream research and policymaking has so far either ignored or underestimated issues of legitimacy or has over-emphasised the rational-legal type of legitimacy. By contrast, this research explores the significance of the hybridisation of legitimacy in the context of multi-track processes of conflict transformation, peacebuilding and state formation.

Research is empirically-based, focusing on the post-conflict situations of East Timor, Bougainville and Somaliland, exploring the actors and institutions that enjoy domestic empirical legitimacy in different arenas of governance. The analysis comprises state, international and civil society actors as well as societal actors and institutions that are specific to the culture and society of the place, in particular, ‘traditional’ authorities like clan elders or village chiefs, and other actors who do not neatly fit into the spheres of ‘civil society’ or ‘state’, but nevertheless are legitimate authorities. In each of the cases legitimate authority in the community context, at the state level and in the international-local interface is analysed.

The project finds that post-conflict situations are characterised by the ongoing hybridisation of legitimacy of all actors at all levels, with local notions of legitimacy in constant flux - fluid and changeable in the context of fundamental social and political transformation.  In the course of the interactions a web of connected sources of legitimacy is constantly re-negotiated and re-arranged.

The project posits that external actors have to develop a more contextualized understanding of the complexity of legitimacy issues in post-conflict situations. It makes a case for external actors to more carefully examine their assumptions about legitimate authority, to reflect on the limits of their own legitimacy and to transcend the comfort zone of liberal understandings of rational-legal legitimacy and to constructively engage with hybridisation of legitimacy – without abandoning one’s own values and losing one’s own ethical and political orientation.