State-building, peace-building and service delivery in Fragile and Conflict-affected States

Susy Ndaruhutse

The research question examined in this one-year research project is: How does the fulfillment of people’s expectations for services relate to their perception of the legitimacy of the government?

This research question maps onto one of the five Peacebuilding and Statebuilding Goals (PSGs) in the New Deal: Revenues and Services: Manage revenue and build capacity for accountable and fair service delivery and one of the four pillars of DFID’s state-building and peace-building framework: Building Peaceful States and Societies: Respond to public expectations contained in DFID’s (2010) Practice Paper.
Research and analysis from fieldwork in Nepal, Rwanda and South Sudan provide the following headline findings:

  1. The context is critical: Expectations vary across different contexts, both between countries and within a country, and as a result the relative importance that service delivery plays in contributing to citizens’ perceptions of state legitimacy also varies.
  2. Expectations are dynamic: There is no single set of expectations. Citizens’ expectations change over time. As a result, building and maintaining legitimacy is likely to be a layered process as the state responds to these changing expectations.
  3. Who should deliver services? In situations of limited capacity to deliver, the state would do better to outsource quality service delivery than deliver poor quality services. Where the state has capacity to provide oversight, the role the state plays in coordinating and regulating service delivery is more important for state legitimacy than who delivers the services.
  4. How should services be delivered? The way in which services are delivered is critical for doing no harm to wider state-building processes and can contribute to building state legitimacy. The research identified four important areas for focus:
  • Equitable service delivery can make a positive contribution to state legitimacy. Inequitable delivery can undermine state legitimacy and therefore state-building efforts.
  • Good public financial management, monitoring of government services and investments, and anti-corruption measures can build confidence in the state.
  • Empowerment of citizens and their active involvement in accountability mechanisms that are not politicised can help to build social cohesion and contribute to state legitimacy.
  • Whilst access is a more immediate priority than quality where citizens have no access at all to services, as soon as citizens have some access (even if it is basic), their expectations rapidly change to include quality as well as access and cost. This implies that there may be a sequencing of expectations from access to quality. This happens rapidly and in the early stages of a country’s development path.