What Works? How International Actors Build State Institutions


Dissertation Fellowships in East European Studies




This dissertation research examines how different strategies of international actors strengthen or weaken state capacity after civil wars. The main research site is Kosovo. After the NATO intervention in 1999, Kosovo became a de-facto international protectorate in which the United Nations led other international organizations and actors--E.U., OSCE, NATO, USAID, World Bank, US and West European embassies--in one of the most intrusive state-building efforts to date. The international actors have imported global best practices on how to build and run democratic state institutions in Kosovo. The international administration in Kosovo has had a positive effect on peacekeeping, reconstruction, and building institutions like the police force. However, preliminary research identifies that these efforts have only been partially effective; other institutions remain weak despite massive amounts of foreign financial investment. The initial hypothesis is that if international organizations fund specific state capacity projects after a) conducting a needs assessment with significant local participation; b) allowing for experimentation in their approach; and c) demonstrating willingness to fine-tune their activities and change their assumptions if necessary, then such funding contributes to higher institutional performance. This dissertation contributes to political science debates on state-building, international organizations, and peacebuilding. Such a study also has policy relevance for the various international organizations and the local actors engaged in statebuilding and democratization.