Development Assistance, Institution Building, and Social Cohesion after Civil War: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Liberia

Center for Global Development Working Paper No. 194

40 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2009

See all articles by James D. Fearon

James D. Fearon

Stanford University

Macartan Humphreys

Columbia University

Jeremy M. Weinstein

Stanford University - Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies; Center for Global Development

Date Written: December 1, 2009

Abstract

Can brief, foreign-funded efforts to build local institutions have positive effects on local patterns of governance, cooperation, and well-being? Prior research suggests that such small-scale, externally driven interventions are unlikely to substantially alter patterns of social interaction in a community, and that the ability of a community to act collectively is the result of a slow and necessarily indigenous process. We address this question using a randomized field experiment to assess the effects of a community-driven reconstruction (CDR) project carried out by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in northern Liberia. The project attempted to build democratic, community-level institutions for making and implementing decisions about local public goods. We find powerful evidence that the program was successful in increasing social cohesion, some evidence that it reinforced democratic political attitudes and increased confidence in local decision-making procedures, but only weak evidence that material well-being was positively affected. There is essentially no evidence of adverse effects.

Keywords: Liberia, reconstruction, peacebuilding, post-conflict, institution building, democracy

Suggested Citation

Fearon, James D. and Humphreys, Macartan and Weinstein, Jeremy M., Development Assistance, Institution Building, and Social Cohesion after Civil War: Evidence from a Field Experiment in Liberia (December 1, 2009). Center for Global Development Working Paper No. 194. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1517941 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1517941

James D. Fearon (Contact Author)

Stanford University ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Macartan Humphreys

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

Jeremy M. Weinstein

Stanford University - Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies ( email )

Stanford, CA 94305
United States

Center for Global Development

2055 L St. NW
5th floor
Washington, DC 20036
United States

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