Trade-offs Between State Building and Democracy Building: The Influence of International Actors on Peacebuilding in Kosovo


Location: Hesburgh Center, Room C103

Elton Skendaj, visiting research fellow, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies

Why don’t elected politicians in post-war societies choose to build impartial state institutions that provide public goods for everyone in the society? Patronage networks often dominate such post-war societies, and the moderate leaders are often killed or silenced by threats. Contrary to conventional wisdom, local ownership in such particularistic societies does not lead to impartial and effective state bureaucracies. International actors thus face short-term trade-offs between supporting state-building and democratization.

Based on a mixed-methods approach, including surveys, interviews, and focus groups conducted during 2008 and 2009 in Kosovo, Skendaj’s research shows that in order to build effective state bureaucracies, international actors need to insulate these bureaucracies from political and societal influences. Alternatively, international actors can support the development of democratic institutions by promoting citizen mobilization and contestation. This, in effect, encourages political and societal influences to shape, constrain, and inform democratic decision-makers.