The Network Architecture of Rural Development Interventions: Exploring the Relational Dynamics of Aid-Impact in the Fragile and Conflict-Affected States of Pakistan and Afghanistan



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This dissertation analyzes development assistance from a relational lens to reveal power dynamics of externally-initiated interventions within Pakistan and Afghanistan. Integrating a conceptual and methodological framework of social capital theory, social network analysis (SNA), and qualitative narrative comparisons, the research explores stakeholder relationships among prominent rural development programs. The study incorporates a two-step, mixed methods data collection and data analysis design, applying qualitative fieldwork (178 field interviews between 2017-2019) and data collection (archival research from relevant stakeholders and institutions), alongside the SNA and qualitative comparisons. The primary programs were implemented in Pakistan’s Sindh Province and the Former Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), now the “newly merged tribal districts” of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), alongside a secondary comparison with Afghanistan. Comparisons of interventions, in a multiple case study research design, critically evaluate the conditions in which development policy networks successfully operate in fragile and crisis-affected areas. Diversity, fragility, and social capital alongside network properties of power, influence, centralization, and cohesion are examined as critical conditions toward sustainable success in programs. The research assesses whether inherent structural properties translated from global development networks create opportunities or challenges toward sustainable locally-owned development processes and outcomes. This dissertation has seven chapters. The first chapter introduces the objectives to the study and presents the puzzle in the context of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It then provides an overview of the results, contributions, and dissertation structure. Chapter two provides more detailed context on the two countries, as well as Afghanistan’s relevance to Pakistan in the aid and development policy context. It follows with a discussion on four areas of literature which justify the network evaluation in the development and aid-effectiveness debate, specifically in fragile and conflict-affected spaces. In chapter three, it explains the theoretical foundations, research questions and corresponding hypotheses. Chapter four details the mixed methods design, referencing the iterative process during fieldwork, the case study comparisons, content analysis and the SNA. Chapter five provides a comprehensive account of the qualitative fieldwork, with key insights from the field that explore challenges, successes, and outcomes. Chapter six compares network evaluations, resulting network metrics, indicators, and visualizations, of the four flagship World Bank programs, and presents a qualitative comparison to Pakistan’s Rural Support Programmes Network. Lastly, in chapter seven, the dissertation summarizes the hypotheses, and discusses the implications for international sustainable development, foreign policy, and policy recommendations for “network interventions” and potential modifications to future programs. The chapter concludes with opportunities for future research in Pakistan and Afghanistan and other Fragile and Conflict Affected States (FCAS), explaining the broader significance to the international development policy community and the prospective steps to advance the research.