Healing the Wounds: Learning from Sierra Leone's Post-war Institutional Reforms

Katherine Casey, Rachel Glennerster, Edward Miguel

NBER Working Paper No. 18368
Issued in September 2012
NBER Program(s):   POL

While its recent history of civil war, chronic poverty and corrupt governance would cause many to dismiss Sierra Leone as a hopeless case, the country's economic and political performance over the last decade has defied expectations. We examine how several factors--including the legacy of war, ethnic diversity, decentralization and community-driven development (CDD)--have shaped local institutions and national political dynamics. The story that emerges is a nuanced one: war does not necessarily destroy the capacity for local collective action; ethnicity affects residential choice, but does not impede local public goods provision; while politics remain heavily ethnic, voters are willing to cross ethnic boundaries when they have better information about candidates; decentralization can work even where capacity is limited, although the results are mixed; and for all of its promise, CDD does not appear to transform local institutions nor social norms. All of these findings are somewhat "unexpected," but they are quite positive in signaling that even one of the world's poorest, most violent and ethnically diverse societies can overcome major challenges and progress towards meaningful economic and political development.

download in pdf format
   (270 K)

email paper

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w18368

Forthcoming: Healing the Wounds: Learning from Sierra Leone's Post-war Institutional Reforms, Katherine Casey, Rachel Glennerster, Edward Miguel. in African Successes: Government and Institutions, Volume 1, Edwards, Johnson, and Weil. 2016

Users who downloaded this paper also downloaded these:
Davies and Dessy w18539 The Political Economy of Government Revenues in Post-Conflict Resource-Rich Africa: Liberia and Sierra Leone
Acemoglu, Reed, and Robinson w18691 Chiefs: Elite Control of Civil Society and Economic Development in Sierra Leone
Casey, Glennerster, and Miguel w17012 Reshaping Institutions: Evidence on Aid Impacts Using a Pre-Analysis Plan
Lavy w18369 Expanding School Resources and Increasing Time on Task: Effects of a Policy Experiment in Israel on Student Academic Achievement and Behavior
Nunn and Qian w17794 Aiding Conflict: The Impact of U.S. Food Aid on Civil War
NBER Videos

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email:

Contact Us