When rebels provide social services, do they have more leverage negotiating the terms of a peace deal? The literature suggests service-providing groups may, on average, have a wider base of support and a more centralized organizational structure. We argue that these features deter potential spoilers from breaking away from the organization during negotiation processes. This, in turn, makes governments more willing to enter negotiations since the threat from spoilers is smaller. Thus, compared to nonproviders, service-providing rebels are more likely to engage in negotiations and these processes are likely to be more stable. This article analyzes these propositions by gathering service provision data on nearly 400 rebel groups and their involvement in and behavior during peace talks. It also serves as an introduction to a larger project about the implications of rebel service provision on conflict outcomes.
This article demonstrates the power of group service provision on a state’s interaction with violent nonstate actors and on the prospects for peace. We find when violent nonstate actors act as pseudo governments by providing services to their constituents, they are much more likely to be involved in stable negotiation processes. Our results suggest service provision is in fact strongly tied to factors that discourage potential extremist factions from breaking away during negotiations. For policy makers, our findings suggest counterinsurgency strategy should take the structure and type of violent threat into account. Governance providing organizations may be much more attractive as credible partners to a political settlement than nonstate actors that use violence and do little to provide for their communities. However, this also suggests a note of caution. Governments engaging service-providing rebels may have a more formidable opponent on their hands. This analysis and argument suggests that these groups are less amenable to divide and conquer tactics. This, coupled with other research confirming that service-providing rebels are more lethal (Heger, Jung, and Wong 2012) and less prone to defection (Berman 2009), suggests government concessions may be necessary in order to avoid a protracted, costly, and violent conflict.