Doctoral Dissertation Research: Accountability in Rebel Regimes


V. Page Fortna
Harold Brown Professor of U.S. Foreign and Security Policy
Michael Rubin
PhD Student


The project investigates local governance and the establishment of law-like systems of order in territory controlled by rebel organizations during civil war. In particular, the project explains variation in rebel organizations' provision of public goods and services as well as their use of coercive violence against civilians to control territory. Departing from existing research, the argument examines civilian political mobilization and collective action to constrain rebel organizations, advancing a political accountability theory of rebel governance. Civilian communities with greater coordination capacity, the ability to achieve collective action to serve common interests despite distributional conflict, may well be more successful in controlling rebel behavior. The political accountability framework identifies the conditions conducive to rebel accountability and the tools of political participation available to civilians under rebel control. The result provides policymakers with a clear roadmap for how to strengthen and engage with war-affected communities. This theory is tested on a combination of qualitative and quantitative community-level evidence from insurgent-influenced areas in Mindanao, Philippines. The qualitative case comparison selects municipalities for variation in coordination capacity, the independent variable, and uses semi-structured interviews to "process trace" the link between community collective action and rebel behavior. The quantitative analysis examines an original survey of insurgent-influenced municipalities to be implemented in Northern and Central Mindanao. The findings will carry implications for academic and policy debates regarding the conduct of insurgency and the efficacy of counterinsurgency and peacebuilding strategies. Investigating the formation of law and order under the temporary breakdown of state sovereignty during civil war provides clear and consistent criteria for diagnosing strategic and tactical counterinsurgency challenges and an understanding how these conditions vary across locations within a given war zone.