The border regions of Mali, Niger, and Libya are far out of reach of these states’ central governments. Local governance is usually in the hands of traditional authorities, such as tribal chiefs and imams. Yet the ever-increasing presence of armed groups, as well as ensuing external interventions, are putting the delicate balances of power in these areas under pressure. Clingendael's Conflict Research Unit investigated how this has affected the relationship between traditional authorities, the state and local communities. Can traditional authorities maintain their position as legitimate governance providers? What can policy makers actually do to advance new approaches to stabilization and good governance in fragile and conflict affected settings, where state authority is weak or absent? And what role can traditional authorities play in these approaches?