CPAID: The centre for Public Authority and International Development

Project: Research council

Project Details


CPAID will address critical questions that have bedevilled the outside world's engagement with governance of fragile, conflict affected, marginal and impoverished populations. In these places inclusive growth has proved elusive. We propose a different starting point. Rather than anticipating transitions to accountable and capable Western government familiar to policymakers, CPAID prioritises the everyday lived realities of ordinary people in conflict-affected and fragile situations. In these places, the foundations of such growth are far more widespread and pervasive than state institutions. Through the lens of public authority, CPAID researchers seek to understand how governance actually functions in such circumstances, what forms of growth does this accomplish, and can actually existing forms of inclusive growth be promoted by development practitioners. Only a historically-informed, contextual and interdisciplinary analysis of how political, economic and social factors interact can achieve a full understanding of 'real governance' in conflict affected in places. Understanding these dynamics is critical to inform new and improved models of international development which will actually provide or enhance firm foundations for future inclusive growth.
CPAID will explore how forms of public authority shape and are shaped by a set of interlocking global challenges that pose both risks and opportunities for international development and inclusive growth: namely, the provision of security and justice; migration, displacement and situations of endemic violence; global health threats; control and allocation of resources; and advances in media and information technologies. CPAID will fill a serious evidence gap about on the ground realities in large areas of Africa which currently affect other regions, including Europe. The CPAID team includes world- leading authorities on, Uganda, Kenya, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Central African Republic.
Our primary focus is on public authority as perceived, understood and experienced by populations in locations of research. Research over the last decade or so has challenged prevailing assumptions embodied in the 'failed states' discourse, namely that in the absence of western-style governance institutions, fragile and conflict affected societies collapse or flounder. CPAID will undertake research which can help us understand the various ways in which actual forms of public authority work. This approach is desperately needed in development policy. Conventional conflict and post-conflict state building processes, premised on Weberian notions of the state, are hugely expensive and too often unsuccessful or arguably even counter-productive. Moreover, with the rise of 'resilience thinking', donors are increasingly acknowledging that the world is a place of 'radical uncertainty', and determined, in the words of DFID to 'embrace uncertainty as an opportunity to... bounce back better'. This has underpinned a new, but under-researched agenda to find more cost-effective and culturally 'embedded' forms of governance that donors can support.
This research will also take place in the context of massive investments to provide internet connectivity. The next five years will witness unprecedented efforts to connect millions of people who do not currently have internet access in Africa, in remote and borderland areas. Examining the role of new technologies, including social media, in reshaping public authorities and governments will provide crucial entry points to develop policies to achieve new forms of inclusive growth.
Effective start/end date1/09/2131/01/22

Collaborative partners


  • Economic and Social Research Council


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