From a new paper by Eric Mvukiyehe (World Bank) and Cyrus Samii (NYU) on the impact of interventions promoting democracy and participation in elections
A field experiment in rural Liberia is used to study democratic participation in fragile states. Fragile states are marked by political fragmentation, local patronage systems, and voter vulnerability. To understand the effects of such conditions on democratic expression through elections, the experiment introduced new forms of interaction between rural citizens and third-party actors: (i) civic education and town hall workshops directed by non-governmental organizations in communities over nine months and (ii) security committees that brought rural community representatives into monthly exchange with United Nations peacekeepers. Civic education workshops increased enthusiasm for electoral participation, produced a coordinated shift from parochial to national candidates, and increased willingness to report on manipulation. A program combining the two interactions had similar effects. The security committees had negligible effects. Barriers to political information and voter coordination appear to be important but resolvable problems for elections in fragile states.