Governing After Political Transitions in the Global South

Hong Kong Protest

War, revolution, and decolonization are frequently the focus of media coverage and social scientists’ investigations, but the processes that follow these dramatic transitions—such as peacebuilding, democratization, economic reconstruction, and social service provision—tend to receive less attention.

In 2015, Social Science Matrix sponsored a prospecting seminar dedicated to studying the often neglected, but crucial processes that follow political transitions, particularly in the "global south" (i.e. developing nations in Africa, Asia, and Latin America). “We plan to examine several major themes in governance processes after political transitions in the global South,” the researchers explained in their proposal. “This seminar presents a unique opportunity to look across categories and identify insightful comparisons between countries undergoing different types of political transitions. Did democratization processes look dramatically different in post-evolutionary Bolivia and post-war Burundi? How did the International Labor Organization's role in setting labor policy in post-colonial Indonesia in the 1940s compare to the United Nations' role in setting tax policy in the Middle East today? We will examine these and other questions, with the goal of identifying productive areas for future interdisciplinary research on post-transition governance.”

Through a variety of readings and presentations from diverse disciplines, the seminar considered how states in the global South reconstruct their governance systems after war, revolution, and decolonization. Among the questions considered: whether programs designed to demobilize soldiers after the end of Burundi's civil war were successful in helping them transition back to civilian life; how the Pakistani government handled issues of state creation after Partition in 1947; how the Ugandan government forcibly displaced its own citizens during its civil war in an attempt to make rebellious provinces more easily governable after the war ended; how political parties developed after the 20th-century revolutions in Mexico and Bolivia; and how the UN Peacebuilding Commission's technical experts influence the development of economic policies in post-conflict countries in the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

"After major political transitions," the proposal explained, "countries are left with the challenges of creating or strengthening their governments, promoting economic growth, and providing social services to their populations, all while navigating the contentious politics that accompany these types of shifts in domestic political power…. The goal of this seminar is to review the state of the literature on these topics across different types of transitions, and from different disciplinary perspectives, in order to identify questions in need of future research."

Photo Credit: Pasu Au Yeung