Category Archives: Research


Posted by Julie Litchfield

Julie Litchfield

This year’s World Development Report on conflict, to which some of MICROCON’s researchers have contributed, promises to place a renewed emphasis of the role of “grievances” in conflict, and not just in the extreme conflict scenarios of civil wars. One of the background papers, by John-Andrew McNeish of CMI Norway, stresses this in the context of natural resources, discussing the importance of the involvement of civil society, and of bargaining, which may be confrontational, in order to secure robust agreements about how resources should be managed and how resource rents should be fairly distributed. McNeish draws largely on lessons from the experience of managing non-renewable natural resources, but also highlights lessons we can learn from, for example, community forests and participatory water management.

Fairness is a principle that seems to underlie many of our everyday social and economic interactions.  An understanding of risk-aversion, information asymmetries  and costly monitoring of waged labour help us understand why share-cropping exists and persists as a common land tenancy arrangement in many parts of the developing world[1],  but it doesn’t help us understand why so many of these arrangements are based on roughly equal sharing of output and input costs. Indeed if the terms of these arrangements were based solely on these economic factors, we would expect to see variations in the sharing rule by such factors as land quality or the length of time that the tenant and landlord have worked together. Instead, the equality of sharing seems to be implicit in all these arrangements.  Another example is the Ultimatum game, often used in Economics class-rooms, that illustrates that fairness, or at least our desire to be seen as behaving fairly, is a commonly held value.

Some of us in MICROCON are working on understanding perceptions of fairness around land reform in Kyrgyzstan[2].  Secure access to land is widely regarded as being a crucial ingredient in contributing to economic growth and stability, as well as peace, and even land reforms with progressive aims can be highly contentious. Kyrgyzstan was one of the first former Soviet Union countries to embark on a land reform process, and remains the only one of the central Asian Economics to do so. Beginning in 1991 and over a period of more than a decade, land that had until then been farmed by state farms and by peasant collectives, was re-distributed to households. The very early stages of the land reform seems to be characterised by ad hoc  agreements involving local land commissions and land shares were often not well documented, but by 1994 the government enshrined a principle of fairness in the land reform policy, stating that every person had an equal right to an equal share. Even that though seems to have been open to interpretation, with farm workers taking precedence over other workers, and women reporting that they received smaller shares than men.

In 2006, a survey conducted by our partner, Roman Mogilevsky, asked households about their experiences of the land reform, and in particular whether or not they thought the reform was fair, and in 2010 we re-surveyed these households with a follow-up questionnaire. The data allows us to explore hypotheses around the features of the land reform that positively or negatively influence fairness. For example, are perceptions of fairness higher among those who received more land, or in villages and communities where land was indeed distributed more equally? Are perceptions of fairness influenced by the specific institutional arrangements that were applied at the time the household received their land share? Does receipt of the full set of formal documentation influence fairness perceptions? Are there gender differences in perceptions of fairness, and if so, are these related to, for example, the economic status of women at the time of the land share allocation? These are just some of the ideas we are currently exploring.

So far, we have observed variations in perceptions of fairness across regions of Kyrgyzstan, and also by the date on which households received their land share. Surprisingly, perceptions of fairness do not seem to be related to how much land a household received, in either an absolute sense or a relative sense. This might not yet tell us what does explain perceptions of fairness, but greed doesn’t seem to be a factor here. 

[1] See Stiglitz, J (1986) “The New Development EconomicsWorld Development, 14(2): 257-65 for a seminal contribution to the literature on share-cropping.

[2] This work involves Elodie Douarin, Julie Litchfield (both from the Department of Economics at the University of Sussex), Rachel Sabates-Wheeler  (Institute of Development Studies) and Roman Mogilevsky (CASE-Kyrgyzstan).

Education Does Not Save Lives So Why Should We Care?

Posted by Patricia Justino

Education is one of the hidden costs of conflict and violence. Almost 750,000 people die as a result of armed conflict each year, and there are more than 20 million displaced people in the world. Violent conflict kills and injures people, destroys capital and infrastructure, damages the social fabric, endangers civil liberties, and creates health and famine crises.

What is less known or talked about is how violent conflict denies million of children across the world their right to education. The reasons are multiple. Armed violence often targets schools and teachers as symbols of community leadership or bastions of the type of social order that some armed factions want to see destroyed. Children are useful in armies as soldiers, as well as to perform a myriad of daily tasks from cooking and cleaning to sexual favours. Children need to work when members of their family die or are unable to make a living, and families remove children from school fearing for their lives and security.

Should we care about this loss of education? Several studies report that aid and reconstruction efforts are quick to re-establish basic education structures. What is missing in this argument is an adequate understanding of the profound long-term effects of educational losses amongst those exposed to conflict.

In particular, relatively minor shocks to educational access – even as small as achieving one less year of schooling – can cause long-lasting detrimental effects on the children that are out of school, as well as on the human capital stock of whole generations. These effects persist well after the conflict has ended, with long-term intergenerational consequences in terms of school achievement, health outcomes and future earnings.

Children that lose out on school earn less, have worse job opportunities and poorer health than those that stay in school. This not only affects their living standards, but also the opportunities available to their own children, creating cycles of hardship and deprivation that persist for decades after the end of the conflict. We observe these effects still amongst those that were at school age during WWII, as well as in children that have lived through modern conflicts in Africa, Asia and Latin America.

These long-term effects are difficult to measure and therefore easy to dismiss in post-conflict planning traditionally concerned with the immediate recovery from war. But human capital is the backbone of successful economic and social recovery. Ignoring these long-term consequences will endanger any attempts to rebuild peace, social justice and stability.    

Results mentioned in the blog are analysed and discussed in Justino, Patricia. 2010. “How Does Violent Conflict Impact on Individual Educational Outcomes? The Evidence so Far”, background paper to the Global Monitoring Report on Education for All 2011, UNESCO.  

This blog post originally appeared on the Education for All World Education Blog.

The Art of Clinging to Power: Laurent Gbagbo and the Post-election Crisis in Côte d’Ivoire

Posted by Morten Bøås and Anne Hatløy


After a few relatively quiet years in West Africa, the region has once again returned to international headlines due to conflict and political violence. This time it is Côte d’Ivoire, and the turmoil started when the opposition candidate Alassane Ouattara won the presidential election on November 29 last year. This election was supposed to contribute to peace and reconciliation, but it clearly did not. There is no doubt that Ouattara won the election, and Gbagbo must know that he lost it, but he also unfortunately seems to believe that if he just clings to power long enough, sooner or later ECOWAS, the United Nations and the international community at large will rest its case and allow him to remain in power: as the ‘rightful’ president or in the worst case, in Gbagbo’s eyes, forcing on him a national unity government solution of the same type as the one negotiated in the aftermath of the Kenyan post-election violence in 2007.

This would be a bad solution as it will set the democratic agenda in Africa several decades back, and therefore attempting to ‘master the art of clinging to power’ should not be rewarded. What is the point of an election if a losing incumbent president only needs to be as stubborn as possible to be allowed to continue to rule? It is possible that the ‘national unity government’ option was the correct solution in Kenya in 2007, but Côte d’Ivoire is not Kenya and the Kenyan solution should not in any case be seen as the leading principle for how such situations should be solved on the African continent. In that regard, it is gratifying that both the ECOWAS and the AU so far has been quite firm in their support for Ouattara. This stand should be encouraged and supported by all parties in the international community more broadly that want a more democratic African continent. However, it is also obvious that Gbagbo’s strategy is to wait for splits among African countries. He already seems to have some tactical support from Angola, not only in diplomatic terms, but also resource-wise. The South African support for the ECOWAS/AU line is reluctant, and even if Ghana has stated that it will stand by any sanctions imposed by ECOWAS, it has also made it clear that it will not contribute to any ECOWAS-led military intervention against Gbagbo. It is therefore of primary importance that the international community at large gives its unconditional support to the hard line against the Gbagbo regime that Nigeria and its president Goodluck Jonathan has taken. In this regard, important donor countries and foreign investors should make it clear that any attempt to break the international line against Gbagbo will have consequences for the country that undertake such actions. So far, the international community has not communicated this clearly enough to African countries such as Angola, Ghana and South Africa and they should do so.

It should also be noted that the crisis in Côte d’Ivoire also shows that the conduct of multi-party elections is not a prerequisite for peace and reconciliation. Elections alone do not create anything but winners and losers, and in a polarised society such as Côte d’Ivoire elections may be as equally conflict-enhancing as conflict-reducing. This is not an argument against democratic elections per se, but elections in a place such as Côte d’Ivoire should only be one of several measures adopted to ensure peace and reconciliation. Well in advance of such elections, substantial investments must be made to ensure civil society organisations that can reach across well entrenched political cleavages. Investments must be made in the institutionalisation of the political rules of engagement so that they or those that lose forthcoming election knows that such a loss will not dramatically alter their basic political and economic rights. In addition, the international community must have a backup plan when things go wrong. Unfortunately none of this seems to have been the case in Côte d’Ivoire. This is not only embarrassing, but tragic. Events as they unfold on the ground are no surprise. Rather, it was a high probability that exactly what we now see would happen if Gbagbo should lose and Ouattara win and the international community should have been aware of this.

It is therefore important both for the people of Côte d’Ivoire and the African continent that confrontation with the kind of destructive political forces that Gbagbo represents continues, insisting that the actual winner of the election also is allowed to assume power. If we let Gbagbo succeed, we will most likely see this kind of stubborn clinging to power in a number of other places on the continent in the near future, as there are a series of crucial elections forthcoming in Africa this year as well as in 2012.

This is the blog of the MICROCON research programme, featuring the reflections and opinions of MICROCON’s 60-strong team of researchers. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinion of MICROCON as a whole.