Rebel groups have to make choices on their actions on and off the battlefield. In my dissertation, Competition and the Institutional Choices of Rebel Governance, I analyze such an non-violent choice. Specifically, I examine what determines rebel groups’ institutional choices when they decide to provide governance, i.e. healthcare or diplomacy. I argue that rebels’ competition affects their motivations to establish governance institutions in general while also providing different incentives for particular institutional choices. My dissertation is a book-style dissertation combining quantitative analysis of rebels’ governance decisions in different competition types with qualitative case studies that provide additional process tracing evidence as well as allow for in-depth analysis of rebel groups’ governance decisions.

For my dissertation, I first need to conceptualize competition. Competition or rebels’ competitive environment is the product of competition type , which is defined by rebels’ main opponents, the government (rebel-state competition) or other rebel groups (inter-rebel competition) and the level or degree of competition, meaning how severe the competition is. In a second step, I operationalize the type and degree of competition by exploiting existing data on inter-state conflicts and create a variable measuring the number of effective rebel groups that a given rebel group i competes against.

In my theory, I link the different competitive environments to varying pressures that force rebel groups to create particular governance institutions as an attempt to alleviate those pressures and ensure the rebel organizations’ short-term survival. Thus, I hypothesize that rebels in high inter-rebel competition have incentives to provide healthcare whereas rebels in high rebel-state competition are more likely to establish diplomatic missions abroad.