Networks of Big Men become alternative governance structures in states where formal governance structures are weak. This is especially the case in post-war societies. With a specific focus on Liberia the outcome of this was discussed at a meeting organized by the Swedish Embassy and UNMIL in Monrovia. The SRSG to Liberia, Liberian ministers, UN staff and ambassadors where among the sixty participants of a two hour seminar on March 6, 2013. Gun Eriksson Skoog and Mats Utas from the institute together with Mariam Persson Swedish National Defence College/Kings College London gave a lecture that was followed by a lively discussion by an informed crowd.
More specifically we discussed what implications informal power structures of the war years have in current Liberia. What roles former commanders of the rebel movements have and what kind of integration of former combatants Liberia have seen as former rebel structures have continued to linger in the post-war. Utas and Persson pointed out how such structures have been amply used by political and economic elites and how former soldiers are up to this day, ten years after the end of the war, dependent on these networks for survival. They suggest that these structures ought not simply to be seen as dangerous and potentially destabilizing but also potentially benevolent for postwar reconstruction. As a final statement Utas pointed out how far Liberia has gone after the war, but also raised some concerns regarding the national reconciliation process, informal centralization of power and a renewed marginalization of south-eastern Liberia.
Gun Eriksson Skoog presented her planned research on how informal and formal economic and political institutions – the rules of the game – have contributed to shaping a dual economic structure within the agricultural sector and on the role and change of these institutional structures in promoting a process of inclusive development of agricultural markets in post-conflict Liberia.