Studies on conflict prediction and prevention often investigate places that experience civil war and try to determine why they occurred, with the idea that knowing the answer can inform policymaking efforts. This approach has two weaknesses. First, it provides an incomplete understanding of conflict, as there are no comparisons between these observed cases and a set of systematically chosen and similar peers. Second, it does not answer the question of whether the international community can identify risk factors in time to do anything about them.
Following periods of violent conflict, states often dedicate significant energy, time, and funding to a variety of endeavors broadly aimed at improving the rule of law. These include pursuing prosecutions or legally enacted amnesties to address past human rights violations; revising constitutions to expand human rights protections; undertaking reparatory and truth-seeking processes; and creating national human rights institutions and ombuds offices to monitor future human rights violations. Existing research, however, has not fully assessed whether these endeavors have any payoff in terms of preventing further violent conflict.
It was around this time a year ago, when I gave away the keys of my newly renovated apartment back to its owner. After having lived in the U.S. for more than 12 years, I had decided to return home, to Jerusalem. I packed my belongings in a rush, afraid that the more I stay, the more time I would have to think about it and never leave.
Do political institutions matter when explaining why some post-conflict countries fall back into conflict? On the one hand, many believe inclusive political institutions to be key for conflict prevention. On the other hand, the academic literature so far, mostly focusing on the effect of regime type more generally, fails to find consistent effects – more democratic states do not clearly experience less conflict recurrence. This blog post summarizes a paper, which argues that rather than democracy more generally, very specific political institutions can very well have an influence on whether conflict recurs or not.
- Pathways for Peace
The history of humankind is filled with violence. People have been hurting and killing one another practically since they stood up and walked on two legs. And while each battle claims a unique call-to-arms, at the end of the day, the rallying cries are always strikingly similar. Human beings prefer to remain peaceful, except when their lives or livelihoods are threatened.