Rethinking the role of non-state actors in war-to-peace transitions: The case of post-conflict Liberia

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Dr Christine Cheng studies the aftermath of the Liberian civil war and shows how extralegal groups emerged as a product of livelihood strategies and of the political economy of war. She analyses the trajectory of extralegal groups in three sectors of the Liberian economy (rubber, diamonds and timber), and argues that they should be viewed as accidental statebuilders driven to provide basic governance goods in order to create a stable commercial environment. Her research sheds new light on how to understand violent nonstate actors and their impact on governance where the state is weak, pointing to the importance of viewing these actors as part of an evolutionary process of state-making rather than simply as national security threats. Based on these findings, Dr Cheng will put forward key policy lessons for the European Union (EU) in its engagements in contexts transitioning from war to peace.

Dr Cheng is Senior Lecturer in War Studies at King’s College London. Previously, she was the Boskey Fellow in Politics at Exeter College, Oxford, and the Cadieux-Léger Fellow at Global Affairs Canada. She has worked for the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank. Dr Cheng holds a DPhil from the University of Oxford (Nuffield) and an MPA from Princeton University (Woodrow Wilson School).

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