Two questions shape political agendas in violent and conflict affected societies: How can we stop the violence? And how can we prevent its recurrence? Comprehensive negotiated war terminations and external actors recommend and promote a set of institutional reforms (e.g., interim governments, power sharing, a substantial increase in political participation, and an accountable and democratically controlled security sector). This network project studies the success of particular institutional designs.
Leibniz Association, 2012-2017
- How can institutional engineering be effective and successful in post-conflict and, in particular, divided societies?
- Which institutions and which combination of institutions reduce the potential for violent conflicts and other types of violence?
- How do specific factors such as the character of divisions or the traumatic experience of violence impact the prospects for successful institutional engineering?
The project connects to the debates on institutional engineering (e.g. Lijphart, Horowitz, Reynolds) and systematically analyses the effects and success of different institutional designs. Research on institutional conditions for and determinants of peace is often geographically and – due to a focus on the field of post-conflict studies – thematically fragmented. The present project aims to overcome this fragmentation by initiating cooperation between several research institutions, with GIGA as the main partner. The project studies the success of particular institutional designs (decentralisation or federal systems, particular election systems, regulation of party systems, power-sharing) and undertakes integrative analyses of interactions among the entire set of institutions that influence the potential for violence.
The project furthermore identifies how societal divisions and/or post-conflict situations affect the prospects of particular institutional options: specific economic, cultural, political, and historical contexts are included in the analysis of institutions. Non-institutional factors such as ethnicity, religion or resources are also considered.
Using a comparative area studies approach, the project carries out a comparative investigation of those societies that display a specific risk of conflict escalation, such as post-conflict societies and "divided societies" (societies divided along ethnic, religious or other social lines). The project brings international experts from this field of research together in one collaborative project. Individual findings are exchanged in order to systematically correlate them within a new research approach. Research agendas are discussed and developed at conferences and workshops, then carried out in concrete research and publication projects. The networking process is institutionalised by an academic exchange programme and a substantive "research unit" at the GIGA. A further element of the project is the "Institutions for Sustainable Peace" database, which systematically links different findings from within the field and fills research gaps by including the complex set of institutional choices available as well as the exact character of divisions and conflict risks.
The network held four conferences: "Institutions for Sustainable Peace: From Research Gaps to New Frontiers" (Berlin, 7–8 September 2012), "Harmony or Cacophony? The ‘Concert of Institutions’ in Divided Societies" (Oslo, 13–14 June 2013), "Institutional Reforms in Post-war and Divided Societies" (Geneva, 27–28 May 2014), and "Why Institutions Matter: Linking Research and Practice on Institutions for Sustainable Peace" (Hamburg, 8–10 April 2015). GIGA staff published an annotated bibliography of datasets in the study of institutions and conflict in divided societies which is available at the GIGA website. Also the codebook for classifying the datasets included in the annotated bibliography and the datasets themselves are made available, following the principle of Open Access. Nadine Ansorg and Sabine Kurtenbach co-edited a book on “Institutional Reforms and Peacebuilding” (Routledge 2017) highlighting the importance of the interaction between societal divisions, prewar institutions and path-dependent reform processes.