Politics over evidence: questioning the link between service delivery and state legitimacy in Afghanistan

Ashley Jackson and Orzala Nemat

Type: Afghanistan, Briefing Paper

Organisation: AREU

Country: Afghanistan

Date: 28/08/2018

Full summary

This briefing highlights evidence and findings on the linkages between service delivery and state legitimacy. It builds on five years of AREU research (2012 to 2017) on the question of linkages between delivering services and state-building in the case of Afghanistan.


The study was part of a larger global study under Secure Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) led by ODI and funded by DFID and the EC. Additionally, a consultation was held with the Afghan government and civil society representatives and informal bilateral meetings with anonymous donor community representatives to better understand current programmatic and policy concerns with regards to delivery of services under the current government.


It begins with an overview of the literature on service delivery and legitimacy debate. It then examines Afghan experiences of service delivery and perceptions of government, and concludes with policy implications.


Key findings:

  • Relationship-based networks of access regulate who can receive basic services and how they are provided.
  • Access to services is heavily mediated by local dynamics and interests.
  • Unequal or ‘unfair’ access to services often undermines perceptions of legitimacy.