Complex political economy of diaspora return and investment in post-war states

New perspectives on state (dis)assembly and development politics

Hosted by LSE’s Centre for Public Authority and International Development

Researcher: Dr Claire Elder

How do diaspora returnees and business actors see their role as ‘social’ and ‘public’ actors in conflict-affected states?

Dr Claire Elder


This project looks at the complex political economy of diaspora return and investment in post-war states, and specifically Somalia. It develops original metrics and gathers rare data also bridging the comparative scholarship on post-conflict Africa, Middle East and Southeast Asia.

Drawing importantly on more critical post-conflict and political economy work, it analyses the opportunity structures and informal market mechanisms and networks that comprise the moral economies of return and investment.

New collaborative work with colleagues at the EU Diaspora Facility, the OECD and the World Bank is looking specifically at ‘diaspora finance’ as 1) a cornerstone of economic and political statecraft in developing economies in the modern era; and 2) the conditions under which it may work (or not) to build more inclusive and sustainable development outcomes.

Aims and objectives

  • The ultimate goal of this work is to enhance global understanding about the specific conditions whereby diaspora return and investment may (or are not) be conducive to the rise of sustainable development and democracy. Current understanding is hyper-optimistic about how diaspora contribute to development outcomes.  


  • Critical mixed methods (ethnographic work and collection of new data and application of quantitative methods). 


  • Research Associate at the University of Oxford's Martin School and the Netherland's Institute for International Relations. 
  • Advisor to the Crisis Fragility Reference Group at the Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development (OECD).
  • Member of the International Crisis Group’s Ambassador Council. 

Findings, reports and publications

    • Elder, Claire. 2023. When Diaspora Rule the Homeland: The Real Political Economy of the Global Somalia Agenda and State Failure (Accepted by Oxford University Press, end 2023). 
    • Elder, Claire. 2022. ‘Logistics Contracts: The Making of Intra-Elite Conflict and State Failure in Somalia’. African Affairs 121, 484 (July): 395–417. 
    • Elder, Claire. 2021. ‘Somaliland’s Authoritarian Turn: New Perspectives on Oligarchic-Corporate Power and the Political Economy of De Facto States’. International Affairs 97, no. 6 (November): 1749–1765.
    • Winner, International Affairs Early Career Prize 2022
    • Winner, SSPS Early Career Prize, 2023. 

Dr Claire Elder | CPAID Researcher

Claire Elder is a Lecturer in International Relations at the University of Melbourne, teaching and researching in the fields of global conflict, international political economy, development and comparative politics. Her research draws on over 10 years of fieldwork in the Middle East, Gulf and Sub-Saharan Africa, and focuses particularly on the internationalisation of states and conflicts. She is currently interested in how transnational elites and diaspora populations affect state capacity and legitimacy and the international politics of states.