States of Insurgency: Conflict Transformation in Civil Wars through Social Services

57 Pages Posted: 28 Feb 2010 Last revised: 5 Jan 2011

Date Written: November 6, 2009


Under what circumstances can the provision of social services, including that provided as humanitarian assistance, contribute to the management and transformation of civil wars? This dissertation addresses this question through a qualitative comparative analysis of social service provision during three civil wars - Northern Ireland (1969-1998), southern Sudan (1983-2005) and Tajikistan (1992-1997). Drawing from theoretical advances in the field of contentious politics, it identifies two forms of brokerage, namely opportunity hoarding and exploitation as key causal mechanisms related to social service provision during civil wars. Drawing on field research in each of the three cases considered, this dissertation argues that in situations where social services are provided in a relatively autonomous way from categorical groups engaged in conflict, social services can materially impact the incentive structure of insurgencies, resulting in organizational changes that in turn can increase prospects for peace. These changes arise because of brokerage opportunities between local populations and social service systems created by autonomous social service systems. Furthermore, in situations where social services are of a relatively high capacity, social service systems can, over time, also address social grievances, taking these issues off the table when peace talks actually take place.

Keywords: Sudan, Southern Sudan, Northern Ireland, Tajikistan, Civil War, Conflict Transformation, Insurgencies, Governance

JEL Classification: H56, I29, I19, I38, L39, N47, N44, N45, O19

Suggested Citation

Kevlihan, Rob, States of Insurgency: Conflict Transformation in Civil Wars through Social Services (November 6, 2009). Available at SSRN: or

Rob Kevlihan (Contact Author)

Shanahan Research Group ( email )

Kimmage Manor
Whitehall Road
Dublin, D12

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