The political economy of conflict, peace-building and development

Where I do research and analytical work:

Eric Mvukiyehe - Economist, World Bank Research Department - Research Map

Research Overview

This research seeks to understand the micro-foundations of conflict and violence and to evaluate the effectiveness of peacebuilding and development interventions designed to address issues of fragility, conflict and violence. It investigates a wide range of issues, including information asymmetries between elites and masses, voter coordination, forced displacement and social dislocations as well as security, mobility and other constraints, which often prevent a rapid return to stable social and political equilibria. Some of these issues are root causes of fragility, conflict and violence in the first place or operate as their key drivers and sustainers. This work is also informed by a comprehensive global civil war datasets entitled “Making and Committing to Peace: Political Vulnerability and Civil War Termination”, which collected fined grained data (more than 300 variables) on all civil war fought between 1960 and 2011 and was funded by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). My work in this area is divided in three main research strands.

The focus of this strand of my research is twofold: First, I use experimental and quasi-experimental methods to investigate the micro-effects of United Nations peacekeeping operations on democracy promotion, political and social participation. In my paper published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution (2017), I show that UN peacekeeping has positive effects on these outcomes, though it is not possible to disentangle the underlying mechanisms. Thus in a follow-up project (with Cyrus Samii) published in World Development (2017), we use a field experiment with a factorial design to investigate whether positive effects of UN peacekeeping occur through security provision, information provision, or both. Our findings support the information-provision channel. Finally, in a related sole-authored article currently under journal review, I argue that information provision through UN Radio helps women voters in low-information settings participate in public life during and between elections.

Second, I study the socioeconomic reintegration of ex-combatants and forcibly displaced populations (e.g., Internally Displaced Persons, refugees, others) in the context of United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations. In an article co-authored by Michael Gilligan and Cyrus Samii and published in the Journal of Conflict Resolution (2013), we establish that a UN-WBG Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration program in Burundi resulted in a 20 to 35 percentage point reduction in poverty incidence among ex-combatants and moderate improvement in livelihoods. However, this program did not appear to have downstream social and political effects. In a second study (with Cyrus Samii) in the Journal of Peace Research (2020), we find no evidence linking the UN peacekeeping operation in Liberia to successful economic or social reintegration of former combatants.

My second research strand in this area focuses on community-driven development and/or Reconstruction (CDD/R)—a bottom up, participatory approach to service delivery and development that devolves control over the selection, implementation, and management of public goods to local communities for whom the decisions matter most. Over the years, I’ve embedded RCTs into several CDD/R programs across many sectors (e.g., Social Development, Social Protection, WASH, Forced Displacement, etc.) and in a variety of countries, including Azerbaijan and DRC. This research builds and expands on the state of evidence from a recent review by Casey (2018) of a dozen RCTs over the last 15 years, which concluded that CDD/R programs have been effective in delivering infrastructure, which is not a small feat, especially in FCV environments and low state capacity. However, there is little evidence that these programs improve governance structures, economic development or social cohesion.

This research focuses particularly on two questions that have not been adequately addressed in the current CDD/R literature. One issue concerns the long-term effects of CDD –something (to my knowledge) addressed by only one other paper (Casey et al., 2019) so far. In a recent co-authored working paper (with Peter van den Windt) that assesses the longer-term impacts of CDD programs in the DRC, which so far is only one of two empirical studies that investigate long-term effects of the Tuungane program in the DRC, which is perhaps one of the largest and long-running CDD programs. We found that in the long run, at least in the DRC context, CDD effects were remarkably similar to the effects found in previous studies that typically focused on short-term effects and summarized above.

A related issue concerns the more fundamental question of whether CDD programs perform better than alternative delivery mechanisms (e.g., state-led development) have not been put to test (most studies of CDD programs use counterfactual comparisons of no CDD program). Thus, I am conducting an evaluation of a government led CDD program in the DRC, which puts most emphasis on local capacity building and conflict resolution mechanisms, rather than on social transformation goals. While this study does not directly address the question of the relative performance directly, it will provide evidence on the efficacy of this alternative approach.

This research strand is relatively nascent and seek to understand the causes, dynamics and consequences of forced migration/displacement, with the view to helping policy makers develop more adequate policy responses. My research, much of it in very initial stages, has three core objectives. The first is to leverage existing data and social science research to better understand the causes and corelates of forced displacements, particularly in FCV situations. Why do some people decide to leave bind their communities and livelihoods, while others decide to stay behind and try to “ride through” conflict and violence? I am in the process of writing up a ‘white paper’ while will summarize the findings and policy implications.

The second objective of this research strand is to understand the direct and indirect economic and social impact of forced displacement on (i) displaced populations themselves; and (ii) on host communities. I am interested in understanding, for example, why some displaced populations manage to successfully integrate in their host communities, both socially and from a labor market perspective, while others don’t? For instance, together with co-authors, we are investigating geographical determinants of resettlement patterns of refugees from African countries in the United States (e.g., settling in rural vs. urban areas). In another research with IDPs in Azerbaijan, my co-authors and I investigate the impact of displacement caused during different phases of early childhood development (in utero, first year, first two years, first three years and first five years) on employment, earnings, assets as well as socioemotional traits such as Big Five personality, grit, and appetite for risk taking. The findings will capture the long-lasting effects of early-life displacement (if any), where strong negative impacts on economic outcomes will suggest lower self-reliance among the displaced population in Azerbaijan.

The third objective of my research investigates what explains variation in the effects of forced displacement on standards of living (e.g., consumption levels, employment, wages and prices, etc.) in host communities. Finally, I investigate the effectiveness of development interventions and the role of determinants—such as the degree of substitution or complementarity of production factors or kinship relationships between the refugees/IDPs and host communities and regulatory environment (e.g., work permit, mobility, access to land, etc.) in explaining variation the social and economic outcomes of displaced populations and host communities. Some of the questions I investigate include, how to target effectively and create jobs for the forcibly displaced and equally vulnerable local populations? For example, one of my projects in the DRC is testing different targeting mechanisms (e.g., community selection, chief selection and random selection) of ensuring refugees and IDPs are effectively included in anti-poverty programs, in addition to ascertaining the effects of a public works programs on socioeconomic and mental wellbeing of these groups.

Reducing poverty and promoting welfare and wellbeing for the poor and youth

Eric Mvukiyehe - Economist, World Bank Research Department - Reducing PovertyThis research seeks to understand the sources of poverty and vulnerability for the poor and youth in fragile contexts and investigates the effectiveness of strategies to unlocking their labor market potential and breaking poverty traps in a sustainable manner.

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The political economy of conflict, peace-building and development in fragile states

Eric Mvukiyehe - Economist, World Bank Research Department - The Political EconomyThis research focuses on understanding the causes, drivers and consequences of conflict in order to build more stable peace and prosperous societies. It covers information asymmetries, social dislocations, collective action and political participation, among other issues.

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Strengthening state capacity in fragile states through reforming the civil service and traditional institutions

Eric Mvukiyehe - Economist, World Bank Research Department - Strengthening State CapacityThis research focuses on understanding state incapacity in fragile states and on strategies to improve public sector governance. It covers wide-ranging issues, including recruitment and deployment strategies, breaking patronage networks, etc.

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Women’s empowerment and social, economic and political inclusion

Eric Mvukiyehe - Economist, World Bank Research Department - Women's EmpowermentThis research focuses on understanding constraints women face in the labor market and public life. It investigates strategies to promote women’s entrepreneurship, social and political participation as well as norms-shifting interventions to address IPV and GBV. Read More

Leveraging existing studies for COVID-19 research to inform policy responses

Eric Mvukiyehe - Economist, World Bank Research Department - Women's EmpowermentThis research leverages and builds on existing RCT studies in different countries to: (i) collect rapid, just in time information on exposure and impact of COVID-19 (and government response measures) on businesses and people’s livelihoods; and (ii) investigate the extent to which the original interventions may have helped mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic.

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