How to Promote Order and Property Rights Under Weak Rule of Law? An Experiment in Changing Dispute Resolution Behavior Through Community Education
University of Chicago, Harris School of Public Policy; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
University College of London
Robert A. Blair
May 30, 2013
Forthcoming in American Political Science Review
Dispute resolution institutions help reach agreements and preserve the peace whenever property rights are imperfect. In weak states, strengthening formal institutions can take decades, and so state and aid interventions also try to shape informal practices and norms governing disputes. Their goal is to improve bargaining and commitment, thus limiting disputes and violence. Mass education campaigns that promote alternative dispute resolution (ADR) are common examples. We study short-term impacts of one such campaign in Liberia, where property disputes are endemic. From 246 towns, 86 randomly received training in ADR practices and norms, training 15% of adults. One year later, treated towns have higher resolution of land disputes and lower violence. Impacts spill over to untrained residents. We also see unintended consequences: more extrajudicial punishment and (weakly) more non-violent disagreements. Results imply mass education can change high-stakes behaviors, and improving informal bargaining and en-forcement behavior can promote order in weak states.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 57
Keywords: conflict, conflict resolution, property rights, state building, peace building, development, institutions, experiments
JEL Classification: D74, P14, C93, O43
Date posted: May 22, 2013 ; Last revised: November 14, 2013
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