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Tribalism, Governance and Development

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Dininio, Phyllis; Murtazshvili, Jennifer; Carter, Lynn; Schwoebel, Mary Hope
Date: 2010
Agency: United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/7471
Sector: Social Organization
Region: Africa
Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): community participation
governance and politics
Abstract: "This paper argues that to reduce conflict and build effective governance, international engagement should be more acutely tuned to tribal dynamics. It identifies the competition between tribal and ‘legal-rational’ justice as a fundamental governance issue in each of the three countries. The paper makes a number of strategic and programmatic recommendations: External actors should work with traditional tribal structures, particularly in relation to local governance and dispute resolution. Customary law is recognisable and legitimate in tribal communities and external actors should be aware of the risk of eroding the authority of tribal elders. It may be more helpful to clarify the links between customary and formal state justice systems. Funding traditional conflict resolution mechanisms should be avoided, as this undermines the legitimacy of traditional leaders who are accountable to the community. Involve traditional authorities in programming and make more effective use of their depth understanding of local needs and political dynamics. This will help ensure that development assistance is conflict-sensitive, and does not affect the balance of power by favouring particular groups: support businesses and the private sector, who can help develop partnerships across clan or tribal lines; examine assumptions about the primacy of the formal state; it may be helpful to engage traditional authority at the national level as a transitional strategy; foster discussion of human rights among customary authorities, but do not seek to impose unfamiliar values from without."

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