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, Grenoble, July 2010

Parallel Governance

Parallel governance is closely related to the concept of institutional multiplicity, as both refer to situations where non-state actors perform state functions. These are associated with conflict situations and have an impact on the processes of state formation.

Parallel governance comes within the definition of institutional multiplicity where institutional multiplicity is defined as: “situations of multiple claims to governance whereby other actors than the state engage with the provision of basic services, the provision of security and dispute settlement, etc.” [1] However parallel governance differs from basic institutional multiplicity in that it has a political dimension, it “refers to rebel groups or political movements performing state functions in competition with the state and sometimes displacing it.” (1) This can happen where there is an institutional vacuum; in areas where the state is absent; in an attempt to gain and sustain local support; in order to exercise control over people and resources of a certain area; or to delegitimize the state. The use of the term ‘parallel’ suggests the view that governance belongs to the state, but whether the parallel structure also lays claim to an exclusive form of governance is not something which can be generalised upon. Parallel structures will vary according to the context that they exist in, for example they may be funded by diaspora, foreign NGOs or a foreign power and this will affect both what they represent to people and how they function. Parallel and multiple structures are more often found at the fringes of the state: “At the fringes, the institutionalisation of the state is incomplete and the state is tentative, a project amongst competing projects for governance and order”. (2) Parallel institutions will interact with the state: the presence of multiple institutions will affect how people see and experience the state, and in the post-conflict context there is the question of the place of these structures in state formation.


The example used for the concept of institutional multiplicity can also be applied to parallel governance, showing how interlinked these two concepts are.

Related Concepts

As already mentioned above, the concept of institutional multiplicity is very close to that of parallel governance. Parallel governance does not share the similarity with the heterogeneous state, or hybrid political order that institutional multiplicity does. Parallel governance refers to systems in competition with and isolation from each other rather than operating side-by-side as with the other three concepts mentioned above.


  • Clements, K., Boege, V., Brown, A., Foley, W., and A. Nolan (2007) ‘State Building Reconsidered: The Role of Hybridity in the formation of Political Order’ in Political Science 59:1 45-56.

  • Di John, J. (2008) Conceptualising the Causes and Consequences of Failed States: A Critical Review of the Literature Working paper no.25, London: Crisis States Research Centre.

  • Van der Haar, G. (2010) ‘State formation in dispute: Local governance as an arena in Chiapas, Mexico’ in Rethinking the state: Understanding the processes of post-crisis state transformation Bruylant: Brussels.

  • Santos, B. (2006) ‘The Heterogeneous State and Legal Pluralism in Mozambique’ in Law and Society Review 40:1.


  • (1) : Van der Haar, (2009) State formation in dispute: Local governance as an arena in Chiapas, Mexico in.

  • (2) : Van der Haar, (2009) State formation in dispute: Local governance as an arena in Chiapas, Mexico in.

  • This concept definition was developed as a result of the work carried out in the international conference Post-crisis state transformation: Rethinking the foundations of the state in Linköping, Sweden held 1-5 May 2009. This conference was run by Modus Operandi in collaboration with the Université Pierre Mendès France (Grenoble, France) and the European Science Foundation.