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Are public services the building blocks of state legitimacy? Researching livelihoods and services affected by conflict

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This is a background paper to the 2017 World Bank World Development Report. How do political actors gain the trust, confidence and consent of those they seek to rule? One prominent argument holds that the provision of public services is a key building block of state legitimacy – an argument that heavily influences development programming, particularly in countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence. This paper presents empirical evidence from survey and qualitative case study data on the relationship between people’s experiences of service delivery and their perceptions of government from eight conflict-affected countries. The evidence demonstrates that, contrary to the dominant discourse, there is no clear linear relationship between people’s access to services and their perceptions of state actors. Instead, legitimacy appears to be linked to both performance (what is being delivered) and process (how it is being done), as well as shifting norms, expectations and experiences of service delivery. This paper frames these findings in relation to the differing theoretical conceptions of legitimacy as a function of output, process or relational factors. These frameworks complement important aspects of the World Bank’s 2017 World Development Report 2017 on Governance and the Law.
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Are public services
the building blocks of
state legitimacy?
Input to the World Bank’s 2017
World Development Report
Working Paper 55
Hamish Nixon, Richard Mallett and Aoife McCullough
June 2017
Researching livelihoods and
services affected by conict
SLRC publications present information, analysis
and key policy recommendations on issues
relating to livelihoods, basic ser vices and social
protection in conict affected situations.
This and other SLRC publications are available
from www.securelivelihoods.org. Funded by UK
aid from the UK government, Irish Aid and the EC.
Disclaimer: The views presented in this
publication are those of the author(s) and do not
necessarily reect the UK government’s ofcial
policies or represent the views of Irish Aid, the EC,
SL RC or our part ners. ©SL RC 2017.
Readers are enc ouraged to quote or reproduce
material from SLRC for their own publications.
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acknowledgement.
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Cover photo: a woman ge ts a health check-up in
rural Afghanistan. Credit: Graham Crouch / World
Bank
B
Written by
Hamish Nixon, Richard Mallett and
Aoife McCullough
About us
The Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) aims to generate a
stronger evidence base on how people make a living, educate their children,
deal with illness and access other basic services in conict-affected situations
(CAS). Providing better access to basic services, social protection and support
to livelihoods matters for the human welfare of people affec ted by conict, the
achievement of development targets such as the Sustainable Development
Goals (SDGs) and international efforts at peace- and state-building.
At the centre of SLRC’s research are three core themes, developed over the
course of an intensive one-year inception phase:
State legitimacy: experiences, perceptions and expectations of the state
and local governance in conict-affected situations
St ate capacity: building effective states that deliver services and social
protection in conict-affected situations;
Livelihood trajectories and economic activity under conict
The Overseas Development Institute (ODI) is the lead organisation. SLRC
partners include the Centre for Poverty Analysis (CEPA) in Sri Lanka, Feinstein
International Center (FIC, Tufts University), the Afghanistan Research
and Evaluation Unit (AREU), the Sustainable Development Polic y Institu te
(SDPI) in Pakistan, Disaster Studies of Wageningen University (WUR) in the
Netherlands, the Nepal Centre for Contemporary Research (NCCR), and the
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
i
ii
How do political actors gain the trust, condence and
consent of those they seek to rule? One prominent
argument holds that the provision of public services is
a key building block of state legitimacy – an argument
that heavily inuences development programming,
particularly in countries affected by fragility, conict and
violence. This paper presents empirical evidence from
survey and qualitative case study data on the relationship
between people’s experiences of service delivery and
their perceptions of government from eight conict-
affected countries. The evidence demonstrates that,
contrary to the dominant discourse, there is no clear
linear relationship between people’s access to services
and their perceptions of state actors. Instead, legitimacy
appears to be linked to both performance (what is being
delivered) and process (how it is being done), as well as
shifting norms, expectations and experiences of service
delivery. This paper frames these ndings in relation to
the differing theoretical conceptions of legitimacy as a
function of output, process or relational factors. These
frameworks complement important aspects of the
World Bank’s 2017 World Development Report 2017 on
Governance and the Law.
Abstract
iii
Acknowledgements
The authors would rst and foremost like to t hank the
cross-country team of researchers and programme staff
at the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC)
– this paper would not have been possible without their
efforts and outputs. Particular thanks go to Paul Harvey
and Rachel Slater for their guidance throughout the
writing process, and to the rest of the SLRC team at the
Overseas Development Institute (ODI) for their support
and assistance.
For invaluable feedback on an earlier version of this
paper, the authors would like to thank Marco Larizza at
the World Bank, along with the rest of the Bank’s World
Development Report 2017 team, as well as Alan Whaites,
then of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and
Development (OECD).
Finally, many thanks to Nikki Lee for editing, Anil
Shamdasani for typesetting, and Claire Bracegirdle for
leading on the overall production process.
iv
Acronyms
DAC Development Assistance Committee
DFID Department for International
Development (United Kingdom)
DRC Democratic Republic of the Congo
FCAS Fragile and Conict-Affected Situations
GN Grama Niladhari (Sri Lanka)
ODA Overseas Development Assistance
ODI Overseas Development Institute
OECD Organisation for Economic Cooperation
and Development
SLRC Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium
VDC Village Development Committee (Nepal)
WDR World Development Report
Contents
v
Abstract ii
Acknowledgements iii
Acronyms iv
1 Introduction 1
2 Legitimacy and the state-building orthodoxy 3
2.1 The ‘capacity decit’ model of the fragile state 3
2.2 Understanding legitimacy in terms of ‘sources’ 4
2.3 State ‘penetration’ and legitimacy 4
3 Evidence from SLRC 6
3.1 Quantitative ndings 7
3.2 Qualitative ndings 11
4 Frameworks for better understanding services and legitimacy 15
4.1 Relational models of legitimacy 16
4.2 Unpacking relational aspects of service delivery 17
4.3 Services, legitimacy and the World Development Report 2017 18
References 20
Tables
1 Basic information on each SLRC country survey 8
2 Three dimensions of legitimacy 17
3 Towards a relational understanding of the links between
services and legitimacy – guidance from Mcloughlin (2015b) 18
Boxes
1 What is SLRC? 2
2 Selected research questions/hypotheses 7
Figures
1 The ‘capacity decit’ model of the fragile state 5
2 Levels of participation in community meetings about services
(Sri Lanka) 11
1
This paper explores relationships between service
delivery, public perceptions and state legitimacy in fragile
and conict-affected situations, analysing a substantial
body of empirical evidence gathered in recent years by
the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC).1
It was originally written in early 2016 as a background
paper for the World Bank’s 2017 World Development
Report (WDR), which was in turn published earlier this
year under the title Governance and the Law (World Bank,
2017a). This paper should also be considered a precursor
to a fuller synthesis of SLRC’s empirical material on this
issue by Nixon and Mallett (2017). The fuller synthesis
was carried out after the writing of this background paper,
and thus draws on a more complete catalogue of SLRC
evidence – not all of which is referenced here.
A prominent line of argument – heavily inuencing
development programming, particularly in countries
af fected by fragility, c onic t and violence – holds that
the provision of public services is an important building
block of state legitimacy. While there is limited evidence
for this orthodoxy, and considerable nuance regarding
the foundations of state legitimacy in the literature, the
positioning of service delivery as a gateway to greater
state legitimacy continues to occupy a central position in
the state-building policy agenda (Carpenter et al., 2012;
Mcloughlin, 2015a).
Legitimacy describes a situation where citizens ‘believe
in the state’s right to rule over them and are willing to
defer to it’ (Gilley, 2009 in Mcloughlin, 2015b). Beyond
its positive normative associations, this condition has
important practical implications. Policy-makers are
particularly concerned about legitimacy because it
is seen as a shortcut to more concrete outcomes of
concern, such as stability or compliance (for example, in
tax collection). The greater the legitimacy that institutions
and associated public actors enjoy, the less they must
rely on other means of securing given behaviours such
as coercion or co-optation. In the terms of the framework
of the 2017 WDR, legitimacy is considered the most
ef cient route for institut ions to play their e ssential and
‘primordial’ roles of generating commitment, coordination
and cooperation (World Bank, 2017a; 2017b).
This concern is especially salient in fragile and conict-
affected situations. Furthermore, where international
1 The evidence presented in this paper is based on research by members of
SLRC in Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nepal, Pakistan,
Sierra Leone, South Sudan, Sri Lanka and Uganda. This research can be
found at www.securelivelihoods.org.
1 Introduction
Are public services the building blocks of state legitimacy? Input to the World Bank’s
2017 World Development Report
2
intervention has been extensive or long-lasting – most
recently in Afghanistan and Iraq – interest in how to
secure legitimacy has spread beyond peacebuilding
and development communities to national foreign
ministries and militaries. Such attention – as embodied
in debates around counter-insurgency and stabilisation
– has given the issue of legitimacy increased political
prominence. Putatively positive examples (the National
Solidarity Program in Afghanistan being among the most
emblematic) are seized upon and spread to discussions
in other countries such as Syria and Libya, though
sometimes more in form than substance.
The 2011 WDR on Conict, Security and Violence
emphasised ‘delivering early results’ in building
condence among citizens in order to create space for
more sustained institutional transformation (World Bank,
2011: 128). The New Deal for Fragile States, also agreed
in 2011, outlines ve key Peace and Statebuilding Goals
to guide the mutual efforts of domestic governments
and their international partners; the rst and last of
these goals are ‘legitimate politics’ and ‘revenues and
services’ (International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and
Statebuilding, 2011: 2). Legitimacy has become central
to t hinking about how states can transition out of conict
and instability towards more sustainable development,
and is also seen as being linked to a state’s capacity to
deliver certain services.
The work covered in this paper was, in part, borne from
widespread interest in this issue, and introduces an
important empirical dimension to the discourse. There is
relatively little evidence systematically relating concrete
aspects of public service delivery and state performance
to the less tangible areas of public perceptions and
beliefs about state actors. This paper describes
ndings generated by SLRC – see Box 1 – that can aid
understanding of how aspects of service delivery shape
people’s perceptions of government, and begin to explain
why these relationships are far from straightforward.
The evidence has its limitations: it is not a comprehensive
test of all models and approaches to conceptualising and
measuring legitimacy, but rather focuses on perception-
based indicators. It is also not a rigorous comparison
of all kinds of services. Most importantly, at the time of
writing, only the results of a single round of the panel
survey described in the next subsection were available for
analysis. The quantitative data presented is thus cross-
sectional in nature, not longitudinal. A second round of
the survey has been conducted, the ndings of which are
described in Sturge et al. (2017).
In terms of structure, the next section of this paper
introduces the theoretical underpinnings of the policy
link tested here between the provision of public services
in conict-affected settings, people’s perceptions of
government, and legitimacy. Section 3 introduces the
evidence from the SLRC survey and associated qualitative
research. Section 4 reects on this work in relation to
a wider range of theoretical literature on legitimacy,
and connects it to the framework for understanding
institutional performance and governance featured in the
WDR 20 17.
Box 2: What is the Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC)?
SLRC is a six-year global research programme exploring livelihoods, basic services and social protection in conict-
affected situations, and funded by the UK Department for International Development (DFID), Irish Aid and European
Commission. It is led by the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) in London and comprises nine research partners
based in both developing and developed countries. The SLRC has three research themes:
State legitimacy: experiences, perceptions and expectations of the state and local governance in conict-
affected situations;
State capacity: building effective states that deliver services and social protection in conict-affected situations;
Livelihood trajectories and economic activity under conict.
The SLRC was, in part, motivated by a desire to generate more and better evidence on state-building processes in
conict-affected situations. To investigate these themes, a combination of qualitative and quantitative methods
have been applied. The centrepiece of the SLRC is a longitudinal panel survey across ve fragile and conict-affected
settings. This survey has two rounds, targeting the same respondents in each round, and therefore illuminating in
detail changes to livelihood, access and experience of services, and perceptions of government at local and national
levels. For a full description of the survey methodology and rst round results, see Mallett et al. (2015). For the panel
ndings, incorporating analysis of two rounds of data, see Sturge et al. (2017)
3
Over the last decade, the framing of service delivery
as a way to build state legitimacy in fragile and conict-
affected situations has become increasingly inuential,
arguably coming to dominate certain aspects of
development programming in these settings. Though
this perspective is not monolithic nor universally shared,
it is a point of view that is clearly embodied in the link
between service delivery and legitimacy adopted by
many development and stabilisation programmes. In
this section, we examine the basis of this orthodoxy and
identify the received wisdoms that underpin it.
2.1 The capacity decit’ model of the fragile
state
Dominant understandings of legitimacy have been heavily
inuenced by Max Weber’s theory of the state. Weber’s
ideal type of rational-legal bureaucracy has inuenced a
positive understanding of the state in terms of institutions
and service delivery. In this model, the ‘norm’ comprises
a system of functioning nation- states enjoying mutual
international legitimacy and internal legitimacy between
rulers and the ruled. The existence of variously named
‘collapsed’, ‘weak’, ‘failed’ and ‘fragile’ states is thus –
implicitly or explicitly – conceptualised as a departure
or pathology in relation to this normative model. These
categorisations became increasingly prominent in
the discourse around aid since the early 1990s,
particularly after the successive failures of UN and US-led
peacekeeping efforts in Somalia (Zartman, 1995).
Since 2001, the narrative that fragile states can be the
source of international security threats has combined
with arguments that poverty is increasingly concentrated
in s tates suffering from persistent conict and weak
institutions. This has created a strong push for increased
aid to places affected by violence, conict and fragility
(Collier, 2007). Many bilateral and multilateral aid
organisations have explicit targets for assistance to such
situations, although different denitions are applied
from place to place. For example, the latest UK overseas
development assistance strategy echoes previous
guidance by calling for 50% of aid to be targeted for fragile
and conict- af fected s tates and regions, and links this
allocation with crisis prevention, national security and the
concentration of poverty in these settings (HM Treasury
and DFID, 2015).
This emphasis on state fragility has also been echoed in
aggregate development assistance ows. Between 2000
and 2015, ofcial development assistance (ODA) from
Development Assistance Committee (DAC) countries to
2 Legitimacy
and the state-
building
orthodoxy
Are public services the building blocks of state legitimacy? Input to the World Bank’s
2017 World Development Report
4
‘fragile states’ almost doubled per capita. Since 2007,
the 50 countries on the 2015 Organisation for Economic
Cooperation and Development (OECD) ‘fragile states’
list account for more than half of all ODA (OECD, 2015:
22). However, the allocation of this assistance is highly
skewed: since 2002, 22% of ODA to countries affected
by fragility and conict has been directed to Afghanistan
and Iraq alone. This weighting is reected in the central
position that international experiences in these two
countries now play in shaping the narrative on how to
‘rebuild states’ in the twenty-rst century (OECD, 2015:
22–23). A large part of that narrative has focused on
how to harness development programming in order to
establish stability, particularly by connecting citizens and
state through service delivery (Herbert, 2014).
In short, ‘fragile states’ have been conceived as
st ates that fail to full a set of core functions, leaving a
‘sovereignty gap’ which needs to be ‘xed’ or ‘lled’ (Ghani
et al., 2005; Ghani and Lockhart, 2008). A lack of state
capacity is widely considered a key factor in their weak
legitimacy – while, conversely, redeveloping capacity is
considered a means of rebuilding legitimacy. Figure 1
below illustrates.
2.2 Understanding legitimacy in terms of
‘sources’
The ‘capacity decit’ approach to legitimacy is a
specic instance of a broader tendency in international
development theory and practice to categorise sources
of legitimacy (Bellina et al., 2009; Clements, 2008). The
OECD’s inuential report (Bellina et al., 2009) on how to
build legitimacy in places affected by fragility and conict
reects this tradition, conceptualising legitimacy in
terms of sources which reect some of Weber’s original
categorisation. These include the following:
Input or process legitimacy is the legitimacy tied to
agreed rules of procedure through which the state
takes decisions and organises people’s participation.
In the OECD typology, these rules may be formal (e.g.
enshrined in the constitution) or based on customary
law and practice, combining elements of Weber’s
rational-legal and traditional categories.
Output (sometimes described as ‘performance’)
legitimacy refers to the legitimacy conferred on an
authority through the goods and services that a state
delivers.
Beliefs refer to political ideologies, religion and
tradition that inuence how people perceive an
authority.
Finally, international legitimacy is legitimacy gained
from recognition of sovereignty by external actors.
The OECD report is clear that no state relies on a single
source of legitimacy. However, conceptualising legitimacy
in terms of its sources has contributed to the idea that
increasing one type of legitimacy could contribute to the
overall legitimacy of a state. Hence, increasing the output
legitimacy of a state through improving access to services
should theoretically contribute to the overall legitimacy of
a state.
Figure 1: The ‘capacity decit’ model of the fragile state
Weber’s ideal
type bureaucracy
based on rational-
legal principles
influenced an
understanding of
the state in terms
of institutions and
service delivery
Fragile state is
understood as a
state that does not
fulfill these core
functions
A fragile state
suffers from
weak legitimacy
The legitimacy of
a state could be
built through
supporting the
development of
institutions and
service delivery
Are public services the building blocks of state legitimacy? Input to the World Bank’s
2017 World Development Report
5
2.3 State ‘penetration’ and legitimacy
An important corollary of the approach to understanding
state legitimacy just described is that it implies that
service delivery may contribute to state legitimacy
through ‘penetration’, or the visible presence of state
institutions. There is a long tradition of analysis – much of
it critical – of public services as an important instrument
in the process by which states establish efcient
presence in and control of the national territory and
socialise its inhabitants (e.g. Duchacek, 1970; Newman,
2006; Paddison, 1983; Scott 1998). In simple terms,
public services are a way to make the state visible to its
citizens – they are citizens’ direct line to government (Van
de Walle and Scott, 2011).
In this view, through frequent interaction, people come to
an understanding of the nature and purpose of the state.
Where ser vices are provided equitably and ef ciently,
the state will come to be understood as a benevolent
authority which takes care of its citizens in exchange
for taxes and loyalty. Although such a ‘social contract’
is clearly somewhat of a caricature, the inuence of this
model is evident in the repeated mantras of ‘connecting
people with the state’ and ‘bringing government closer to
the people’.
In summary, the understanding of legitimacy presented
in this section underpins a great deal of development
and stabilisation programming in countries affected by
conict and fragility. It is based, in turn, on the assumption
that an important channel to establish or re-establish
state legitimacy in such settings is through the restoration
of state capacity to deliver certain core functions,
including services.
6
The overarching question driving SLRC’s research on
service delivery and the state is framed as follows:
How does the way services are delivered and
livelihoods are supported affect people’s views on the
legitimacy of the state?
From the outset, the intention of the research was to
test potential links and relationships, and to uncover the
nuances of these (should they exist in the rst place).
That is, under what conditions might we observe the sort
of positive experience put forward by the state -building
orthodoxy, and what might condition or change that
picture? The SLRC panel survey was designed to explore
several specic hypotheses concerning these potential
relationships, presented in Box 1.
As can be seen from these hypotheses, the SLRC study
does not measure legitimacy directly. In fact, there is
no agreed single way to take such a measurement.
In a careful exploration of this problem, McLoughlin
(2015b: 1) describes that since one ‘cannot observe
it directly’, legitimacy ‘reveals itself through thoughts
and behaviours. SLRC’s approach has primarily been
concerned with people’s thoughts: specically, on their
reported perceptions of government. The way in which
these perception s were specie d is explained further
below. What is crucial to emphasise here is that these
perceptions cannot and should not be considered
equivalent to legitimacy, a concept that is far more
contested and ambiguous.
3 Evidence from
SLRC
Box 1: Selected research hypotheses2
Respondents living in households that have better
access to basic services, social protection, social
protection or livelihood assistance have more
positive perceptions of the government.
Respondents who have a more positive experience
with basic services have more positive perceptions
of the government.
Respondents who have access to grievance
mechanisms within public services have more
positive perceptions of government.
Respondents with higher levels of civic participation
have more positive perceptions of government.
2 For the full set of hypotheses, see Mallett et al., 2015: 8-15.
Are public services the building blocks of state legitimacy? Input to the World Bank’s
2017 World Development Report
7
The hypotheses in Box 2, and the evidence presented
below, therefore present a picture of the relationships
between various factors – both objective and subjective
– and people’s reported perception of government at
national and local levels. To test these hypotheses,
SLRC has implemented packages of quantitative and
qualitative research in eight countries, all of which are
af fected by conict and/or fragility to some degree. At
the core of the approach is a ve-country longitudinal
panel survey, administered twice to exactly the same
respondents with a roughly three-year interval separating
the two waves.
In this section, we rst explore the ndings from the rs t
wave (baseline) survey.3 We then move onto a discussion
of SLRC’s qualitative research ndings on this theme.
This work generates a more sensitive analysis of the
(potential) relationship between service delivery and
legitimacy, paying closer attention to difcult-to-measure
concepts such as norms, expectations and trust. It serves
as a more contextualised complement to the large-N
analysis offered by the survey.
3.1 Quantitative ndings
Variations in sampling strategies, as well as contextual
differences between countries, mean that pooling all
data into a single dataset was not possible. Instead,
analysis was run at the country level using a standardised
analytical framework and method developed by the
SLRC core team (see Table 1). Synthesis work involved
researchers looking across the country-level ndings in
3 At the time of writing, analysis of data from the second round was underway but incomplete. However, it has now been done and can be found in Sturge et al.
2017).
4 In some countries – DRC, for example – respondents were also asked about a wider range of governance actors, including customary authorities such as local
kings and chiefs. However, we do not report on those ndings here.
5 Minor variations to phrasing and language were adopted by each country team with maximum standardisation as the agreed objective
order to identify notable patterns or stark differences (for
more information, see Mallett et al., 2015).
In this sub -section, we draw primarily on the results of
country-level regression analyses – where perception of
the government is selected as the dependent variable –
and, to a lesser extent, on descriptive statistics. Where
regression results are cited, in all cases these refer to
statistically signicant associations at either the 1%, 5%
or 10% level. Statistically insignicant results are not
mentioned.
As already described, the survey focused on relating
various factors to respondents’ perceptions of
government. These perceptions were measured through
a set of common questions across all ve countries:
To what extent do you feel that the decisions of those
in power in the government reect your own priorities?
[Respondents asked to rate on a scale of 1 to 5]
Do you agree with the following statement? ‘The
government cares about my opinions.
[Respondents asked to select either ‘no’ or ‘yes’]
In all countries, respondents were asked about their
perceptions of both local and central government. Thus,
each of the above questions was asked twice: once in
relation to local government, and once in relation to
central government.4 It is these questions that form the
basis of the dependent variables.5
Table 1: Basic information on each SLRC country survey
Country Sample size
(# of households)
Number of
villages
Level of representativeness Response
rate
Share of female
respondents
DRC 1,259 9Groupement and chefferie level 98.73 % 57%
Nepal 3,175 24 Ward level 99.94% 56%
Pakistan 2,114 22 Union council level 100% 34%
Sri Lanka 1,377 12 GN division and district level 100% 62%
Uganda 1,844 90 Village and sub-region level 99.94% 63%
Are public services the building blocks of state legitimacy? Input to the World Bank’s
2017 World Development Report
8
There is an important methodological issue here
that inuences the applicability of these questions to
the measurement of legitimacy. In theory, legitimacy
describes ‘approbation of the state’s rules of the game,
or the underlying system of rules and expectations from
which the actions of government derive, rather than the
specic actions of government (Mcloughlin, 2015b: 3).
However, there is a eld-based methodological problem
whereby surveys have been shown to have great difculty
adequately and consistently distinguishing the concepts
of state and government, particularly across contexts
as diverse as the SLRC study sites (Guerrero, 2011;
Mcloughlin, 2015b: 5). The survey items attempt to tackle
this question through the terminology of government, but
focus on general assessments of government functioning
rather than approval of specic actions.
Subsequently, regressions were run against four separate
dependent variables (one based on each of the four
questions). Part of the analysis, therefore, involved
reading across the four regression outputs in order to
establish patterns and consistencies, as well as to prise
out variations according to the level of government. In
the reporting below, where appropriate we clarify which
dependent variable we are referring to, referring to
them as the ‘reect priorities’ and ‘cares about opinion’
dependent variables.
3.1.1 Does access matter?
In order to estimate people’s access to services, the SLRC
survey adopted simple proxy measures. For education,
health and water, the survey asked respondents how
long (in minutes) it takes to reach the facility they use
most frequently. In the cases of livelihoods assistance
and social protection, respondents were simply asked
whether they had received a transfer in the past year.
While these have their limitations as proxy measures of
access, they are implementable in the context of a large
household survey and are useful indicators of service
presence. This approach reects the emphases in the
capacity-decit model on measures of state performance
and penetration.
Across the ve countries, we nd no consistent or linear
relationship between respondents’ access to services
and their perception of the government. In most cases –
that is, in most countries and for most services – there
is no statistically signicant relationship between these
variables. This also holds when we consider local and
central government separately.
Some exceptions do exist. For example, in Nepal (Upreti
et al., 2015) and Sri Lanka (Mayadunne et al., 2015),
respondents travelling longer to reach water sources
are less likely to feel local government cares about their
opinion. In Uganda, when respondents felt that journey
time and transport costs prevented them from accessing
health services, they were also less likely to agree that
both local and central government decisions reected
their priorities. And in three countries – DRC (De Milliano
et al., 2015), Nepal and Sri Lanka – we nd that where
social protection support was received in the past year
(e.g. disability allowance, child grant, other types of cash
transfer), respondents are more likely to agree that the
central government’s decisions reect their priorities
(although that association does not hold at the local
government level).
Broadly speaking, however, there is nothing compelling in
the results to suggest that ac ce ss in itself is a consistent
predictor of people’s perceptions. What this implies in the
rst instanc e is that a simple exp ansion of the presence
of services in fragile and conict-affected areas is unlikely
to change the way people think about government in a
consistent way.
3.1.2 Does satisfaction matter?
The SLRC survey asked respondents about their levels
of satisfaction with each of the services they used. This
was done in two ways. First, respondents were asked to
rate their level of satisfaction with particular aspects of
the service on a scale of 1 (ver y dissatised) to 5 (ver y
satised). With schooling, for example, this involved
asking respondents to rate their satisfaction with teacher
attendance and size of class. Second, respondents were
also asked to rate their level of satisfaction with the
performance of the facility in general (again, on a 1 to 5
scale). The data generated by asking these questions
constitute a proxy measure of organisational quality,
as perceived by the individual. That is, while they do
not promise an objective assessment of performance
and quality, they do reveal how people feel about the
organisation. From the perspective of wanting to know
how people’s experiences with services (may or may
not) shape their relationship with the state, these more
personalised, subjective markers of quality are arguably
more important.
Relative to the access variables, there is a stronger
picture here. In most countries, regression analyses
identify the occasional signicant association between
satisfaction with a service and perceptions of a particular
Are public services the building blocks of state legitimacy? Input to the World Bank’s
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9
level of government. For example, in Uganda (Mazurana
et al., 2015), health comes out as particularly important:
dissatisfac tion in both a general sense and with specic
aspects is associated with worse perceptions of both
local and central government. In other countries too,
certain aspects of the health service appear inuential:
in DRC, people who are satised with waiting times are
more likely to agree that local and central government
care about their opinions. A similarly positive relationship
is found in Pakistan (Shahbaz et al., 2015), but only
regarding the number of staff at the facility. The same
goes for Nepal, but this time only when we consider the
availability of equipment and medicine.
Within the variation described and the contextual
differences involved, it appears that where services are
provided, some aspects of perceived quality, particularly
around especially salient services such as health, may
impact on perceptions. However, there do not appear
to be any specic variables or aspects here which
consistently or uniformly shape people’s perceptions.
Moreover, some of the regression results run in opposing
directions across countries or levels of government,
suggesting other mediating factors are at work (Mallett
et al., 2015: 45). There is also no consistent evidence
to suggest that dis/satisfaction with services – either in
general or with specic aspects – is more likely to affect
people’s views of one level of government more than
another.
However, when the survey moves beyond relying on
reported satisfaction to asking specically if respondents
had experienced a problem with any of their services
over the past year there are more consistent results.
‘Problem’ was not dened in the survey, but left open to
interpretation by respondents.
Here, we see a far stronger pattern than when we
consider either access or reported satisfaction. In four
countries (Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Uganda),
regression results show that the higher the number of
service- related problems experienced, the less likely a
respondent is to feel that local government decisions
reect their priorities. The effects are not as strong
when we look at the equivalent regression for central
government, but maintains statistical signicance in
Nepal and Sri Lanka. When we switch the dependent
variable from ‘reects priorities’ to cares about opinion’,
we nd signicant associations in three countries (Nepal,
Sri Lanka and Uganda) and at both levels of government.
Although not uniform across all countries, this pattern
regarding problems appears relatively consistent.
3.1.3 Do grievance mechanisms matter?
Should a respondent have experienced any problems, the
SLRC survey asked a number of follow-on questions vis-à-
vis grievance mechanisms:
Is there an ofcial way to repor t a problem?
Did you report it?
Did you receive a response?
This group of questions allowed the study to isolate
whether the existence of a grievance mechanism was
important, independently of its use or effectiveness.
Country-level regression analyses tested for whether
knowledge of grievanc e mechanisms alone inuenced
perceptions of government by including ‘Is there an
ofcial way to report a problem?’ as an independent
variable. The results are, again, quite consistent. In three
countries (Nepal, Pakistan, Uganda), respondents who
knew about such procedures were more likely to agree
that both local and central government care about their
opinion. In Nepal and Pakistan, the same relationship
also holds when the dependent variable is switched to
‘reects priorities’.
Again, the result is not consistent across all ve countries,
but there is enough of a pattern for it to be of interest.
It is unclear why the pattern did not appear in DRC and
Sri Lanka. What’s more, regression analysis only tested
for knowledge of grievance mechanisms – not people’s
experience of using them. It is possible, therefore, that
so long as they know about them, the simple existence of
grievance mechanisms within services affects the way
people think about government, regardless of whether
they actually use them.
3.1.4 Does participation matter?
There are a number of dimensions to services that
theoretically shape both people’s judgements of service
quality as well as their perceptions of the government.
Access is one, although the SLRC survey data suggest
the effects are, at best, sparse and weak. Then there is
people’s tangible experience with a service, which might
include how well performing it is – levels of satisfaction
and problems experienced tell us something about that.
But we can also consider the way the service is run: is
the provider inclusive of user feedback? How ‘open’
or ‘closed’ are they to engaging a community? These
‘proc es s’ sourc es of legitimacy gure prominently in the
literature described in Section 2.
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To examine this dimension of services, the SLRC survey
asked about opportunities for citizen interaction in
the process of delivery. Respondents were rst asked
whether any community meetings had been held (by
anyone) in relation to public services in the past year. The
responses to that varied considerably from place to place
and, again, there is little value in reporting on them alone.
What is more relevant is the fact that, when meetings
were held – and people knew about them – they generally
attended.
In Sri Lanka, for example, the chances of a meeting
being held varied quite dramatically from one service
to the next. While as many as 56% of respondents
reported there being a community meeting on health in
the past year, the equivalent gures were much smaller
for education (23%), water (18%) and social protection
and livelihoods assistance (both 16%). However, where
meetings were held, the vast majority of those surveyed
attended (see Figure 2).
In a number of cases, the holding of such community
meetings appears to shape the way people think about
government. In three countries (Nepal, Sri Lanka and
Uganda), respondents who either knew about or attended
them were more likely to agree that local government
cares about their opinion. The relationship holds in
Sri Lanka and Uganda when the independent variable
switches to ‘reects priorities’. Evidence suggests the
pattern is weaker when we consider central government,
but it nonetheless remains apparent.
The survey also asked respondents whether they had
been consulted in any other way (aside from community
meetings) about local services in the past year. This is
where we see perhaps the strongest pattern to emerge
from the regression analyses. In four countries (Nepal,
Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Uganda), those who reported being
consulted were more likely to agree that local government
cares about their opinion. When we consider central
government, Sri Lanka drops out but the pattern holds for
the remaining three. Switching the independent variable
to reec ts priorities’, the regression results reveal a very
similar pattern.
3.1.5 Do other characteristics matter?
Analysis of basic respondent characteristics did not
turn up broad or consistent patterns (Mallett et al.,
2015: 43–45). We nd no consistent evidence that
female respondents have systematically worse or
better perceptions of the government. We also nd
very little evidence that exposure to conict and shocks
or experience of displacement signicantly shape
attitudes towards the government, which is consistent
with the ndings in relation to livelihoods and wellbeing
outcomes. Similarly, neither education nor how well-off
a household is – in terms of wealth and food security –
appear to matter all that much; respondents’ perceptions
of the government do not seem to be dependent on
individual education level or material wellbeing at the
household level. If nothing else, this serves to emphasise
the importance of looking at intersectional aspects of
personal identity as opposed to simple, one-dimensional
characteristics. Treatment of the second wave data will
incorporate this intersectional analyses.
Figure 2: Percentage of Sri Lankan respondents who attended community meetings about service provision if aware
of them
Source: Mayadunne e t al., 2015.
91%
Health
94%
Education
91%
Water
93%
Social
protection
92%
Livelihoods
assistance
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3.1.6 Summary of quantitative ndings
Taking each of the hypotheses (see Box 1) in turn, there
are four ndings that emerge from SLRC’s (baseline)
survey work on service delivery and legitimacy.
First, when measured using a simple proxy, access
to services does not appear to be consistently
associated with people’s perceptions of government.
Regression analyses reveal only isolated cases of
statistical signicance, and no clear patterns emerge.
Second, although slightly more convincing than the
access variables, the relationship between reported
satisfaction with services – either in general or with
specic aspects and perceptions of government
is also largely inconsistent. Again, there are several
quite isolated instanc es of statistic al signi cance,
but no one sector or characteristic seems capable of
inuencing perceptions in a linear or uniform manner.
Third, stronger patterns emerge when we consider
a more tangible marker of performance – problems
experienced in the past year – and routes to
redress. Problematic services often seem capable of
damaging people’s perceptions of government, while
having grievance mechanisms in place, embedded
into the service, appears to have the reverse effect.
Fourth, the strongest results we see are when
people are involved, in some way, in the running
of a service. Opening up spaces and opportunities
for community members to engage in the process
of provision seems to consistently improve the way
they perceive government, particularly at the local
level. Thus, the strongest patterns emerge where the
process and participatory dimensions of services are
concerned: when people can air a grievance or feed
into the delivery process. Indeed, based on SLRC’s
quantitative evidence, these dimensions appear
more inuential than the mere presence of services in
shaping the way people think about government.
However, what is perhaps most striking across all these
results is the lack of consistency. While signicant
associations emerge, they do not do so across all
ve study countries – participation was the strongest
correlate, with positive perceptions appearing in four of
the countries. The presence and direction of effects on
perceptions of local versus national government is not
consistent either. More effects were felt locally, but these
translated to the national level in different ways. What
this variability suggests is the importance of other factors
in shaping the way presence, experience and processes
of service delivery relate to people’s perceptions of
government at different levels.
The qualitative research ndings of the SLRC partners
discussed in Section 3.2 – while not all dire ctly linked to
this set of research questions – provide general support
for the importance of these mediating factors, along with
examples of why and how they matter. These complex
interactions can be illuminated through a more nuanced
understanding of legitimacy in the academic and policy
literature, and the model of institutional functioning
explored in the WDR 2017 – both of which are examined
in Section 4.
3.2 Qualitative ndings
In addition to the cross-country panel survey – the
‘quantitative core’ of SLRC – the programme has
implemented packages of qualitative research across its
focus countries. These include the ve survey countries,
but also Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Afghanistan.
These studies were not all designed to explicitly
supplement or explore the survey results, as in most
cases the two were designed and conducted in parallel.
Relationships between services and legitimacy have been
explored most directly through SLRC’s qualitative work in
Nepal and Sri Lanka, but there are relevant pieces of work
elsewhere which we draw on here. For example, research
in Sierra Leone has examined how ideas about (state)
capacity building have been operationalised in the health
se ctor.
3.2.1 Experience and process of service delivery
The qualitative research reinforces and builds upon the
nding that certain aspects of the experience people have
with service provision and service providers can inuence
their perceptions of government. In particular, people’s
experience of specic problems c an have distinct effects,
and the existence of accountability or grievance handling
channels can be important.
The SLRC research in Sierra Leone demonstrates that
repeated experiences of poor quality service at health
clinics can undermine people’s trust in the capacity
of the government to provide decent care. Treatment
by government health staff deemed to be rude or
disrespectful can undermine people’s trust in the public
health system more broadly (Denney and Mallett, 2015).
In particular, when experiences like drug stock-outs
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or the unauthorised charging of fees are combined
with what is perceived to be poor treatment by health
staff (dismissive attitudes, indifference), it undermines
people’s willingness to use the formal service in the
future. Other (non-SLRC) research by Sacks and Larizza
(2012) found that decentralisation of service delivery
in Sierra Leone is in itself insufcient to build citizen
trust in local authorities. Instead, they conclude that
‘bureaucratic honesty combined with the quality of local
service provision is what really matters to citizens’ (ibid.:
23). And in a study in Medellín, Colombia, Guerrero (2011)
found that when it occurred quickly, the upgrading of
basic services (infrastructure, health, education) in the
city’s less favoured districts improved political support for
and trust in government.
In an SLRC study of water services in Rolpa, a remote
district in mid-western Nepal, Acharya et al. (2015)
revealed that many government-run water and sanitation
facilities were not working properly. In Liwang Village
Development Committee (VDC), a series of taps were
installed by a government organisation.6 There were
problems with these taps from the outset, and after
several months, community members opted to invest
in their own supply. Elsewhere, communities clubbed
together to nance and construct a new pipeline, or
agreed to come together once a month to clean the
community’s water pipes. In many of such cases, people
reported that they had attempted to communicate
their concerns to local government, only to be met with
inaction. What also seemed to frustrate interviewees
was the fact that nothing was done in response to
their complaints despite the fact they were paying
the government for water services: ‘There are some
irregularities, but we are compelled to pay the fees
regularly … If we delay paying the bill by one day, they ne
us. If we ask for repairs, they tell us to repair the damage
ourselves’. Thus, where government unresponsiveness
blocked maintenance through the public sector,
alternative forms of provision sometimes emerged via
collective action at the community level. These groups,
interviewees felt, are important because they provide
better chances of being able to inuence service
providers.
Similar instances of community autonomy in the face
of government inaction were also found by a separate
SLRC study of taxation in Nepal (Mallett et al., 2016).
This research used survey methods and semi-structured
6 A Village Development Committee is the local administrative arm of the government in Nepal.
interviews to examine how local tax systems work in
communities across two districts: Jhapa to the east of the
country and Sindhupalchok to the north. It found that the
while most households (within the sample population)
pay a marginal amount of tax – on average, formal taxes
absorb less than 1% of annual income – the low rates
people face are reected in the poor state of public
goods provision. Budget allocations from central to local
government have risen over recent years in Nepal, and
various formal Acts have theoretically devolved more
power to individual VDCs and municipalities. However,
a number of factors constrain the capacity of local
government to collect taxes and provide quality services.
These include poor resourcing, fragmented (yet still quite
centralised) policy-making processes, and the informal
nature of political relationships, which often override the
newly introduced formal sets of rules.
Local communities are, therefore, being forced to pay
extra just for adequate or necessary services, such as
education and irrigation. While weak state provision has
contributed to the emergence of both private provision as
well as bottom-up forms of community-based collective
action. This is evidenced by the fact that many individuals
surveyed made donations to religious-based and local
community organisations – in fact, nearly half of average
annual tax expenditure at the household level went to
non-government actors.
It is clear that various aspects of performance (which
are always subjectively interpreted and internalised) do
matter, such as availability of supplies, costs incurred
and staff behaviour. The evidence indicates that this
last one may be particularly important. Providers on
the frontline of service delivery are often seen as local
agents of the state. The nature of clients’ dealings with
them can shape the way they see the state, even if that is
restricted to perceptions of lower levels of government.
As the quantitative evidence shows, people’s perceptions
of government can improve for the better when they
have a line of communication with the service provider.
This might come in the form of a grievance mechanism
or a consultation about service delivery. A number of
the qualitative studies explored the avenues through
which citizens might engage with government or service
providers, and broadly demonstrate how relationships
can be undermined by poorly functioning processes
of consultation or grievance handling. Findings from
the range of qualitative research also suggest that
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experiences of poor quality formal state services can
push people towards alternative providers – and even into
forms of self-provision.
3.2.2 Norms and expectations
The qualitative research work for the SLRC also suggests
a further dimension shaping the connection between
services and people’s perceptions. This is the ‘relational’
dimension of people’s norms and expectations about
government and the services it provides. It is distinct from
both experience and process which focus on problems
and process es on the provider side; instead, it focuses on
the beliefs of the users and other citizens.
In Nepal, researchers found that even well-functioning
services – or, rather, perceived improvements – are
not necessarily linked to a change in attitudes towards
government. Drawing on 52 interviews, Tandukar et al.
(2015) examined two schools in Rolpa. At one of the
schools in the district capital, Liwang, parents described
the positive changes they had seen in schooling since a
new headmaster had been appointed. They were clearly
pleased with the quality of the service they were now
getting, yet they saw the state – at both the local and
central government level – as having little role in this
change. Instead, the importance of local leadership
emerged as a key factor: ‘Things have changed. We can
see it too. He [the headmaster] has taken responsibility
in shaping our children’s future … The credit goes to the
headmaster’. Although the school in Liwang was run
publicly, with cooperation from community management
committees, the headmaster was not seen as linked to
the state. It is possible, therefore, that this perceived
separation prevented any potential legitimacy gains from
being passed up the chain.
However, even where the state is more visible and
connected with the process of service delivery, other
factors can intervene in the generation of perceptions.
In Sri Lanka, one study drawing on 62 interviews about
social protection interventions across three districts
(Mannar, Trincomalee and Jaffna) found that the visibility
of government in the provision of various forms of social
protection is high (Godamunne, 2015). The Grama
Niladhari (GN) – local level public ofcials appointed
by the central state – is generally seen as the primary
provider of information about the programmes. People
also typically reported going to the GN whenever they
experienced a problem with an intervention. Yet, there
were strong perceptions among interviewees that the
continuation of patronage politics made it harder for
some and easier for others to receive social protection
transfers, regardless of formal eligibility. These people
saw an inequity in the process of transfer distribution; a
situation in which poorer, disconnected individuals lost
out as a result of bargains formed between wealthier,
more power ful members of society. This nding reects
an increasing emphasis found within the legitimacy
literature on the subjective or contextually specic notions
of fairness:
There is convincing evidence across different
contexts that the perceived fairness of the process
by which authorities and institutions make decisions
and exercise authority is a key aspect of people’s
willingness to comply with it
(McLoughlin, 2015b: 11).
A central feature of this expectation is that it is not
uniform. The relational aspects of legitimacy depend as
much on the ‘conferee’ (those granting the legitimacy) as
on the ‘referee’ (the state or government). A study of water
and sanitation services in Jaffna Town in Sri Lanka found
that members of a particularly poor neighbourhood would
tend to avoid the Public Health Inspector whenever they
had complaints (indeed, the Inspector himself admitted
this). Instead, they would go directly to political actors,
because patron-client mechanisms are considered
more effective than formal ones (Lall, 2015). In the Sri
Lanka social protection study, women in all research
sites across three districts felt reluctant to participate in
public meetings organi sed by state ofcials. Interviews
revealed that they would either send a male relative or
would simply not attend (Godamunne, 2015). Although
not implemented by SLRC, a recent study by the Overseas
Development Institute (ODI) for the Child Grant in Nepal
found a similar pattern vis-à-vis interactions with the
local formal state (Hagen-Zanker et al., 2015). According
to that study, ‘[a] culture of “not speaking out” seems to
prevent certain individuals from asking questions to and
of their government’ (ibid.: 54). That condition appears to
acutely affect Dalit women, who felt ‘helpless’ in the face
of a government formed of big people’ (ibid.: 37, 38).
These ndings demand that crude descriptors such as
gender – which are not good predictors of perceptions
in and of themselves – need to be nuanced. This can be
done possibly through forms of ‘intersectional’ analysis in
which the combination of factors such as gender, caste,
locale and others is considered.
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3.2.3 Summary of qualitative ndings
SLRC’s qualitative evidence discussed here builds on the
picture sketched out by the baseline survey. In particular,
the following key points can be drawn:
The research reinforces the idea that services can,
in some senses, act as a vehicle or channel for
the expression of state-society relations (as the
broader historical evidence indeed suggests – see
Van de Walle and Scott, 2011). The SLRC qualitative
work speaks to the potential of services to act
as an ‘everyday connector’ between citizens and
governments. Cutting across several of the qualitative
studies is the importance of interaction and
accountability. This, in turn, reinforces the idea that it
is the relations embodied in (and possibly developed
by) public services that really matters.
The ndings also suggest that the generation of
positive perceptions – or indeed negative ones – is
conditioned by people’s experience, expectations
and attribution of a given change. Where
expectations of local government performance do
not extend to education improvements – as in parts
of Nepal – those improvements do not translate to
altered perceptions of government. Similarly, where
performance in terms of social protection payments
(which we have seen can affect perceptions
positively) is seen to be compromised by patronage,
caste or ethnicity – as in parts of Sri Lanka – this will
alter perceptions.
And nally, the presence of mediating factors
becomes particularly important when we consider
the scalar variation in SLRC’s ndings across local
and national government. In the Sri Lanka case,
it seems that the disappointing or disempowering
everyday encounters people experience with state
ofcials generate a wider negative perception
towards the local state – but not the central. In
this light, it is impossible to be certain that de/
legitimation processes occurring at the very local
level ‘aggregate up’ to inform broader relationships
between the state and citizens. Instead, we need
models that can account for contex tually specic
norms and expectations vis-à-vis central and local
government separately, as well as understanding the
relationships between them. Section 4 discusses
possible frameworks for better understanding these
variations.
15
The quantitative and qualitative data gathered by SLRC
challenge the practical orthodoxy described in Section 2.
According to the ndings, the mere presence of the state
in the provision of services is not necessarily associated
with better perceptions of government. At a broader level,
the ndings indicate that the dominant understanding of
a ‘failed’ or ‘fragile’ state in terms of its capacity to deliver
services needs to be interrogated. If we understand that
an integral feature of a failed or fragile state is its lack
of legitimacy, then increasing access to services will not
necessarily increase state legitimacy.
The ndings indicate a stronger effec t on p erceptions of
government from the actual experience of a service. This
suggests that the success of penetration depends, not on
simple presence or visibility, but the process of delivery
and implementation. In Bellina et al. (2009) terminology,
service delivery is a component of output or performance
legitimacy, but the ndings here sug gest there is a strong
effect of the presence of grievance and accountability
mechanisms. This, in turn, indicates that process-based
aspects of service delivery are also important in shaping
the impact of service delivery.
The effect of other process -related dimensions of state
interactions on people’s perceptions has also been
shown elsewhere. Based on an in-depth study of how
gangs constructed legitimacy in ghettos in Colombia,
Lamb (2014) proposes that it is not the sources of
legitimacy that an authority relies on that matter but
rather the features that an authority displays. Lamb
identied ve features that an authority needs to display
in order to generate and accrue legitimacy: predictability;
equitability; justiability; accessibility (having a say in
processes for making decisions that affect one’s life);
and respectfulness. Lamb (2014) signals the importance
of a mutual understanding of these qualities between
conferee and referee in determining their impact on
legitimacy. However, the emphasis on their status as
qualities of authority arguably has these ‘features’ more
closely related to concepts of process legitimacy than
more constructivist interpretations outlined in the sub-
Section 4.1. The exception is justiability, which falls
squarely into the category of ‘shared beliefs’ discussed
next.
Some of the quantitative and qualit ative ndings
from SLRC support a more ‘process-oriented’
conceptualisation of legitimacy. For example, in Sri Lanka,
it was clear that exclusionary practices were damaging
people’s perceptions of local government. Other literature
seems to support the idea that exclusionary practices in
4 Frameworks
for better
understanding
services and
legitimacy
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2017 World Development Report
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the delivery of services can be damaging to perceptions
of state legitimacy. Qualitative research in Liberia, Nepal,
and Colombia found that unequal or exclusionary access
to public goods was detrimental to citizens’ views of the
state’s right to rule (Dix et al., 2012). In his widely cited
research, Rothstein (2009) empirically demonstrates that
in developed states, greater impartiality in the exercise
of state power – including through service delivery –
is positively associated with higher levels of trust in
government. Cross-country case study research looking
specically at multi-stakeholder processes concluded it
was mainly the relationships formed through them that
were signi c ant for citizens’ perceptions of the state
(Stel et al., 2012). In particular, these processes created
space for civil society organisations to articulate citizens’
demands, and to directly engage with government
agencies (ibid). Tsai (2011) has also found that local state
bureaucrats viewed collaboration with non-governmental
organisations and local communities to implement local
infrastructure services as a means of gaining citizens’
trust. Moreover, some ofcials believed collaboration
would enhance their capacity to elicit greater levels of
citizen compliance with state policies.
Overall, however, the evidence lends some support to an
approach to legitimacy that considers both performance
and process dimensions. At the same time, the dening
feature of the evidence from SLRC is that none of these
effects work consistently. As noted in Section 3.1.6,
the sur vey nds a number of statistic ally signicant
associations but not across all ve study countries. The
most relevant qualitative evidence nds that negative
and positive experiences of services are mediated by
expectations and norms in ways that produce seemingly
contradictory effects in different circumstances.
Furthermore, the evidence suggests this variation exists
between levels of government as well, suggesting that
there are multi-level aspects to understanding the
dynamics of services and public perceptions.
As noted in Section 2, the policy orthodoxy does not
reect the broader literature on legitimacy, which displays
much more sophistication. What conceptual tools are
available to help better understand this, and more
importantly, guide future empirical inquiry?
4.1 Relational models of legitimacy
Most conceptualisations of legitimacy – including those
introduced in Section 2 – do acknowledge the importance
of norms, expectations and beliefs. For example, the
2010 OECD report that has informed much policy in this
area emphasises beliefs about authority as an important
source of legitimacy (Bellina et al., 2009). However,
such approaches do not consider the more complex
question of how norms and expectations interact with
other foundations of legitimacy, such as how services
contribute to the mutual construction of legitimacy
between conferee and referee.
Beetham (2013), in the second edition of his s eminal
1991 work, advances a conceptualisation of legitimacy
that incorporates how norms, expectations and beliefs
contribute to the mutual construction of legitimacy. In this
view, legitimacy has three dimensions. The rst dimension
of legitimate power is its conformity to established rules;
the second is that the rules can be justied by reference
to beliefs shared by both dominant and subordinate
group s; and the third is expression of consent by the
subordinate to the particular power relation (Table 2).
Table 2: Three dimensions of legitimacy
Criteria of legitimacy Forms of non-legitimate power
Conformity to rules
(formal and informal)
Breach of rules
Justiability of rules in terms
of shared beliefs
Discrepancy between rules and
supporting beliefs, absence of
shared beliefs
Legitimation through
expressed consent
Withdrawal of consent
So urc e: Be etha m 201 3, 20 .
This second dimension of justiability in terms of shared
beliefs describes the relational aspect of legitimacy – it
is generated by the alignment or lack thereof between
the beliefs held by specic individuals or groups and
the normative content of the rules, both formal and
informal, in governing the power relation in question.
This is very different from the simple – and tautological
– formulation that the belief that a given form of rule
is legitimate is itself a source of legitimacy. Instead,
norms and beliefs have an independent status: ‘a given
power relationship is not legitimate because people
believe in its leg itimacy, but b ec ause it can be justied
in terms of their beliefs’ (Beetham, 1991: 11). From this
perspective, the justiability of power derives from shared
beliefs, either about the qualities of the power holder,
or the degree to which the power arrangement serves a
recognisable general interest. De-legitimation happens
when institutions or individuals exercising authority
fundamentally breach social norms, or when those norms
change sufciently in relation to governing rules and
Are public services the building blocks of state legitimacy? Input to the World Bank’s
2017 World Development Report
17
practices. Legitimacy is therefore built on justiable rules,
and likewise begins to unravel if power is used in ways
that are not jus tied (Mcloughlin, 2015b: 5).
This approach must also be distinguished from more
purely process-focused approaches in which the
normative elements of legitimacy relate to more externally
dened qualities, such as participation, inclusiveness or
equity. In reality, even desirable qualities such as these
are ltere d in contex tuall y specic ways. For example, the
process-based approach does not completely account
for the inuence of norms in how much or what kinds of
predictability, equitability, justiability and accessibility
are necessary to achieve legitimacy in different locations
or among different groups. Citing the case of Iraq,
Brinkerhoff et al. (2012) note that the redistribution of
services to previously excluded group s in the post-war
period diminished the state’s overall legitimacy gains
by running against the interests of previously dominant
(primarily Sunni) groups. As McLoughlin (following
Zaum) argues, ‘[p]articularly in divided societies,
perceived favouritism towards one group may support
the legitimacy of the state in the eyes of that group,
whilst simultaneously undermining it amongst others’
(Mcloughlin, 2015b: 5).
Is Beetham’s conceptualisation of legitimacy useful to
explain SLRC ndings? The emphasis on shared norms
and expectations in the construction of legitimacy
explains why the household survey found so much
variance in its results. Even where there were stronger
associations between presence of grievance and
accountability mechanisms, there was still variation
between countries. Similarly, the ndings from SLRC’s
qualitative research show that there are many factors
which condition or lter the inuence that various
process- related features can have on legitimacy. This is in
line with Beetham’s conceptualisation – citizens will not
perceive an authority as legitimate unless the authority
conforms to formal/informal rules that are justiable in
terms of shared beliefs, which subsequently inuence
perceptions. However, this general nding nee ds to be
broken down further in order to produce a more concrete
set of hypotheses for understanding and explaining the
ndings in detail.
4.2 Unpacking relational aspects of service
delivery
Recent work by McLoughlin (2015b), again building
on a substantial record of research into the question,
provides a framework for more detailed analysis of how
these relational aspects of service delivery inuence the
construction of legitimacy. Her approach disaggregates
inuences into three broad groups: aspects of the service
itself; structures of political relations among governors
and the governed; and aspects of political agency to
create or undermine legitimation. The framework is
illustrated in Table 3.
Here we see an expansion and disaggregation of ‘shared
norms and belief’ into a more diverse set of analytical
categories. These categories relate to different levels
of mutual understandings around the importance and
nature of the service in question, broad understandings
of how the state should function, and the dynamic sense
Table 3: Towards a relational understanding of the links between services and legitimacy – guidance from
Mcloughlin (2015b)
Possible focus of analysis
Service Justiability of service delivery Norms
Procedures
Outcomes
Service characteristics Historical and social signicance
Visibility and attributability
Structure Social contract Expectations of rights and entitlements
Legitimacy context State’s legitimacy reservoir/starting points
Nature of political settlement Inclusion/exclusion of different groups
Agency The (de-)legitimisation process Public discourse around service delivery
Politicisation of procedures/norms/outcomes
Source: McLoughlin, 2015b: 9.
Are public services the building blocks of state legitimacy? Input to the World Bank’s
2017 World Development Report
18
of how these change, and are changed, over time by the
actions of individuals and organisations. These categories
open up possibilities for more grounded empirical
inquiry into the intervening factors that can explain the
kind of diversity seen in SLRC’s research, in particular
by ‘not about making assumptions about what sorts of
institutions should be legitimate, but instead discovering
the underlying moral principles that make them legitimate
in any given setting’ (Mcloughlin, 2015b: 4). Such an
approach can guide further analysis of existing data,
and more importantly, shape future research agendas
(indeed, McLoughlin suggests potential ‘testable
hypotheses’ arising from the framework [ibid.: 13]).
Particularly in light of the Consortium’s work on the
second wave panel results (see Sturge et al., 2017),
SLRC’s research and evidence provides one jumping-
off point for such an agenda. Already, it suggests some
areas for elaboration. For example, evidence of variation
between perceptions of local and national governments
suggests that these categories may be further expanded
to encompass territorial aspects of services, structures
and agency. Just as there are variations in the identity and
characteristics of the conferees ‘granting’ legitimacy, so
too should the referee – the state – be disaggregated:
‘[i]n effect, the “state” is not one but several objects of
legitimation’, and one cannot draw conclusions directly
or summarily about the effects of the legitimation of one
on t he others (Mcloughlin, 2015b; 4). This disag gregation
has thus far tended to focus on different manifestations
(organisational, ideological, identity) of the national state.
From this position, it is a short step to begin to consider
what shared understandings of multi-level governance
shape the complex interactions between perceptions
of different levels of government found in the SLRC
research.
Certainly, political settlements analysis seems to have
the potential to play a role in better understanding this
dimension. While models vary, and are continuously in
development, political settlements analysis revolves
around consideration of ‘the formal and informal
processes, agreements, and practices that help
consolidate politics, rather than violence, as a means for
dealing with disagreements about interests, ideas and
the distribution and use of power’ (Laws and Leftwich,
2014: 1). McLoughlin identies a link between this eld
and services, asserting that ‘[p]olitical settlements are
of particular interest to the study of service delivery
because they have a deterministic inuence over the ow
of resources between states and different social groups’
(Mcloughlin, 2015b: 12).
Going beyond this connection, recent work on elaborating
types of political settlements has increasingly focused
on the ‘vertical’ dimension of legitimation between
elites and their followers (Booth, 2015; Rocha Menocal,
2015). However, to-date this work has been relatively
silent on how political settlements inform shared
understandings of the roles and relationships between
levels of government or territorial administration. It
stands to reason that these understandings will condition
the way differential perceptions of local and national
organisations and institutions emerge.
It follows that a consideration of the nature of a political
settlement – and particularly its ‘vertical’ dimensions
– among the other categories introduced above, could
help us better understand when, where and how public
services generate state legitimacy across the different
levels or elements of the state. Taking a wider lens,
programming that aims to both provide services and link
‘citizens to the state’ therefore needs to take account of
a range of local factors, as well as aspects of the vertical
relationship between the local and national levels.
4.3 Services, legitimacy and the World
Development Report 2017
The evidence and theory outlined above aligns well
with the proposed understanding of governance and
institutional performance for WDR 2017. As Section
1 suggested, legitimacy can be understood as a key
determinant of the ability of institutions to perform their
functions effec tively and efciently through the abilit y
to enable consent and compliance without excessive
resources, coercion or co- optation. If so, then the
generation of legitimacy is a crucial parallel concern for
the WDR’s efforts in illuminating how external support to
institutional performance can be reframed.
The WDR analytical framework expands consideration
of constraints on institutional performance beyond the
focus on state capacity that has tended to dominate
development efforts (see also Teskey et al., 2017).
This can be taken as further evidence of the need to
challenge the ‘capacity decit’ model of ‘fragile states’,
as discussed earlier (and supported by SLRC’s evidence).
In the WDR framework, the ‘capacity constraint’ is
supplemented by elaboration of putative ‘power’ and
‘social compatibility’ constraints. These are aimed to
help assess the alignment of institutions, both formal
and informal, with existing power relations, and social
norms and values. What the evidence and frameworks
presented in this paper provide, are some additional
Are public services the building blocks of state legitimacy? Input to the World Bank’s
2017 World Development Report
19
avenues to explore the specic nature of those
constraints. If service delivery – as locally understood
– constitutes a key arena for institutions to apply their
‘primordial’ functions of coordination, cooperation and
collective action, then understanding the mediating
factors that shape legitimacy from services is a key
window into better understanding these constraints. In
particular, the models discussed suggest that ‘power’
and ‘social compatibility’ constraints may in fact be
intertwined, as shared understandings of political
structures as well as other norms and beliefs both shape
the complex interaction between legitimacy and services.
The WDR emphasises a ‘functional’ approach, by which
‘governance should be assessed in terms of its capacity
to deliver on goals that society values’, (World Bank,
2017b: para. 37). One limitation of the approaches
to legitimacy that have informed much development
programming in fragile, conicted-affected set tings
is the focus primarily on the performance or capacity
dimension of the state to deliver a given service. Other
approaches to legitimacy – particularly those focusing
on aspects of process – emphasise features that have
universal normative content, such as participation or
inclusion. However, the more nuanced approaches to
legitimacy, developed by Beetham and outlined earlier
in this section, acknowledge that ‘shared’ and mutually
constituted understandings of services and political
structures are crucial to understanding how services
do or do not contribute to changes in perceptions of
government and state institutions. In a sense, asking
about the ‘justiability’ of services in the framework
above is an example of the WDR’s consideration of the
‘functions’ of governance. Therefore, this framework
complements the WDR’s own functional approach to
institutional performance by foregrounding contextually
specic values, norms and expectations over capacity
or imported forms of governance. In doing so, legitimacy
– often considered a primarily normative concern – can
be made compatible with a functional understanding of
governance.
20Researching livelihoods and services affected by conict
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Conference Paper
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Comparative analysis of 'political settlements' has emerged as an attractive alternative to earlier institutions-and-development thinking, especially single-track conceptions of institutional advance. But political settlements theory remains under-specified and can be hard to apply in practice. Existing typologies are conceptually narrower than they need to be and suffer from internal consistencies. Comparing experience in four African countries, this paper argues that some of the salient factors are singled out by the analytical frameworks of Khan and Levy, but others are missed or insufficiently captured. An amended two-dimensional classification matrix that reflects more consistently the premises and aspirations of political settlements theory is proposed as a basis for future hypothesis formation and testing.
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Public-goods provision, equitable growth and rights-based development are at their most challenging in places affected by fragility, conflict and violence – which is why donors and agencies maintain a particular focus on such areas. However, while it is essential that such investments are based on solid evidence, understanding of how post-conflict recovery and state-building processes happen is limited. The Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) works to address this lack of evidence. As a key component of its work, SLRC has established longitudinal panels with individuals as the unit of analysis in five countries: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Uganda. This report summarises the main findings from both waves of the survey, which collected data on people’s livelihoods; their access to or experience with basic services, and their relationship with governance processes and practices.
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Data
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In 2012/13, SLRC implemented the first round of an original cross-country panel survey in Nepal designed to produce information on: ■ people’s livelihoods (income-generating activities, asset portfolios, food security, constraining and enabling factors within the broader institutional and geographical context) ■ their access to basic services (education, health, water), social protection and livelihood assistance, and ■ their relationships with governance processes and practices (participation in public meetings, experience with grievance mechanisms, perceptions of major political actors). This paper reports on the baseline findings emerging from statistical analysis of the Nepal first-round data. We collected survey data from a sample of 3,176 households in September to November 2012. Although the sample was drawn from three districts – Rolpa, Bardiya and Ilam (purposively selected in order to capture geographic variation in conflict, physical accessibility and access to services) – our data are not representative at the district level. They are representative, however, at the village level, and are statistically significant at the study, district and village level.
Technical Report
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This paper shows findings from a cross-country panel survey which took place in five conflict-affected countries: DRC, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Uganda. The aim of the survey was to explore people’s experiences, perceptions and expectations of the state and local governance actors with regards to basic service delivery, social protection and livelihoods in fragile and conflict-affected situations. The first round of the survey was conducted in 2012-13. We will be returning to the same households to conduct the second round of our panel survey later this year and in 2015.
Technical Report
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This is a reviews evidence from the literature regarding poverty, livelihoods, food insecurity, access to basic services, social protection and aid and governance in conflict-affected areas of Pakistan’s KP province and FATA.