Alexia Stainer, Grenoble, July 2010
The idea of the mediated state is a concept that applies to a particular kind of relationship between the state and areas where its presence is minimal or fragile.
The mediated state exists in zones where ideas of state sovereignty and control do not match up to the realities of governance on the ground. There are many states, notably in the Horn of Africa, which contain what could be termed ‘ungoverned space’ that does not come within the reach of central government. This is not only an African phenomenon, but also one that can be found to a greater or lesser degree in, for example, Afghanistan.
The mediated state is a way that the relationship between these areas and the state can be managed. “The key feature of a mediated state is that it lacks the capacity to project authority into peripheral areas of its realm, but possesses the desire to at least indirectly promote stability and rule of law (and, eventually, taxation) there.” (1)
Practically this is carried out where there is successful local level governance with which the central state can negotiate and use as a vector for its relations with the population. In mediating its authority through that of the local level the state ensures that local allegiances are not exclusive of loyalty to the state.
The main condition for the development of this kind of state strategy is a real desire of the state to govern its whole territory, but without having the means to carry this out. “The mediated state is… not based on an explicit choice of policy but can be understood as a political arrangement that grows out of necessity.” (2) This model allows a state to manage the realities within its borders using flexibility not usually associated with the Western state model.
However there are questions about whether this is an unmitigatedly positive development. One argument is that it can allow unelected actors to apply customary law, which can be seen as an erosion of human rights and civil liberties; small local groups cannot guarantee unbroken security (in a spatial and temporal sense) and if it we consider it to be a short term measure we can perceive it as an impediment to long term state formation.
An answer to this could be to train and support local forms of governance to function effectively. “Whether mediated governance develops into a more common interim strategy to cope with state failure or constitutes an enduring new alternative form of governance in parts of the developing world is yet to be seen.” (3)
The collapse of the Somali state in 1991 caused instability for Somali areas within other states. The result of this is that Somali populations have created their own forms of governance in order to provide for themselves at least a minimum of security: “The fragile, local, patchy, but nonetheless impressive level of security and public order that Somali communities have provided for themselves in contexts where the state is unable or unwilling to provide public order is the product of a number of very different sources of order, rule, deterrence, and authority.” (4)
In northern Kenya, an area more or less abandoned by Kenyan security forces in the 1990s, as a response to a particularly bad outbreak of violence in Wajir in 1995 a ‘peace committee’ was organised by local women. This was a coalition of local community actors including clergy, businesses and elders who together slowly brought in conflict management systems. As this was successful other communities created their own committees leading to network of civic coalitions. This form of organisation has now spread across the border to Somalia.
The Kenyan government noticed these organisations and has effectively given them state sanction by seeking to work with them in order to provide peace and stability in this region. “As part of the arrangement, the Kenyan state essentially cedes control to the coalition of civic groups many of the core functions associated with a sovereign state.” (5)
The mediated state can be considered to be a form of hybrid political order, as is a situation in which formal central government interacts with the population through the medium of informal forms of local governance.
The mediated state can also be seen to meet the definition of institutional multiplicity, as it is a situation where an actor other than the central state provides services normally associated with the state.
Clements, K., Boege, V., Brown, A., Foley, W., and A. Nolan (2007) ‘State Building Reconsidered: The Role of Hybridity in the formation of Political Order’ in Political Science 59:1 45-56 van der Haar, G. (2010) ‘State formation in dispute: Local governance as an arena in Chiapas, Mexico’ in Rethinking the state: Understanding the processes of post-crisis state transformation Bruylant: Brussels.
Menkhaus, K. (2010) ‘Local Security Arrangement in Somali-Inhabited Areas of the Horn of Africa’ in Rethinking the state: Understanding the processes of post-crisis state transformation Bruylant: Brussels.
Wuiff Moe (2010) ‘The role of Traditional Authorities in State and Governance Building in Somaliland’ in Rethinking the state: Understanding the processes of post-crisis state transformation Bruylant: Brussels.
(1) : Menkhaus (2010) Local Security Arrangement in Somali-Inhabited Areas of the Horn of Africa.
(2) : Wuiff Moe (2010) The role of Traditional Authorities in State and Governance Building in Somaliland.
(3) : Menkhaus (2010gement in Somali-Inhabited Areas of the Horn of Africa.
(4) : Menkhaus (2010) Local Security Arrangement in Somali-Inhabited Areas of the Horn of Africa.
(5) : Menkhaus (2010) Local Security Arrangement in Somali-Inhabited Areas of the Horn of Africa.
This concept definition was developed as a result of the work carried out in the international conference Post-crisis state transformation: Rethinking the foundations of the state in Linköping, Sweden held 1-5 May 2009. This conference was run by Modus Operandi in collaboration with the Université Pierre Mendès France (Grenoble, France) and the European Science Foundation.