Conflict and the evolution of institutions: Unbundling institutions at the local level in Burundi
Political institutions & governance
The impact of armed conflict may persist long after the end of war, and may include a lasting institutional legacy. We use a novel dataset from rural Burundi to examine the impact of local exposure to conflict on institutional quality, and try to ‘unbundle’ institutions by distinguishing between three dimensions of the institutional framework: property rights security, local political institutions, and social capital. We find that conflict exposure affects institutional quality, and document that the impact of conflict on institutional quality may be positive or negative, depending on the institutional measure. Specifically, exposure to violence strengthens in-group social capital and promotes tenure security. However, the appreciation for state institutions is negatively affected by exposure to violence. We find no evidence consistent with design-based theories of institutional quality, or the idea that institutional quality is enhanced by interventions of (non)state external actors. Instead our findings provide some support for the theory of parochial altruism. Our results emphasize the importance for policymakers to consider autonomous responses to conflict when designing development programs. They further imply some caution for actors seeking to reform local institutions through top-down interventions.