Power-Sharing in Post-Conflict Situations: On the Institutional Prerequisites for Lasting Peace

Prof. Dr. Andreas Mehler
2012 - 2015
German Research Foundation (DFG)



Research Questions
While the majority of civil wars during the Cold War culminated in the military victory of one conflict party, the 1990s saw the rise of negotiated solutions to internal strife. Provisions for power-sharing between former adversaries figure prominently in almost all of these settlements, and consequently underlie both the constitutional arrangements in many recent peace agreements and political settlements in countries that have not experienced full-blown civil war. The problem with post-conflict power-sharing is that it has a very mixed track record. While there are some examples of apparent success, there are also many cases of outright failure – as well as some in-between cases where power-sharing remains fragile but nonetheless offers grounds for (cautious) optimism.

These differences give rise to a number of research questions:

  • Are specific post-conflict power-sharing institutions associated with lasting peace?
  • What are the institutional prerequisites for successful post-conflict power-sharing? Which powers need to be shared and to what extent? And which actors need to be included?
  • Which contextual factors are important in explaining the resolution of violent conflict? And how do these contextual factors interact with the effects of power-sharing institutions?

Contribution to International Research
Controversy has surrounded the impact of power-sharing on post-conflict peace for almost forty years. Theoretically, consociationalism has been challenged by the so-called "integrative approach" to powersharing (Horowitz 1985; Sisk 1996; Bogaards 2003; Wimmer 2003). While the former addresses the problem of post-conflict peace by proposing strategies to make democracy work in plural societies, the latter explores how power-sharing institutions might best be designed to stabilise the transition to lasting peace. The present project undertakes a detailed and disaggregated analysis of the different mechanisms and institutions of power-sharing to assess both approaches. The project also addresses a limitation of the existing empirical studies on post-conflict power-sharing. So far, there is still surprisinglylittle systematic empirical evidence on the prospects of post-conflict power-sharing. Most large-N studies have confined themselves to analysing the effects of power-sharing promises on the duration of peace and have disregarded the actual implementation of these promises (Hartzell & Hoddie 2003, 2007; Mukherjee 2006; Pearson et al. 2006; Derouen et al. 2009). The qualitative literature on the other hand primarily focuses on the in-depth study of single cases and fails to systematically compare the successes and failures of post-conflict power-sharing. The present project attempts to address these shortcomings by analysing both the promises of and the implementation of power-sharing agreements using quantitative and qualitative methods.

Research Design and Methods
To allow for generalisation and particularisation, the study employs a mixed-method research design that combines econometric techniques with qualitative case studies. It will begin with a statistical study covering all instances of post-conflict power-sharing since the end of the Cold War (1989–2011). Using event history analysis, this statistical study will explore the impact of promises of power-sharing, as well as their eventual implementation, on civil war recurrence. The necessary data for this analysis will be taken from a newly constructed database on power-sharing institutions in post-conflict countries. The project’s researchers will then conduct comparative case studies of post-conflict power-sharing in four selected countries to explore in more detail the causal mechanisms linking power-sharing institutions and peace. The final selection of cases for this qualitative part will be informed by the statistical results.

Preliminary Results
At present, the project team has completed two data collections on post-conflict power-sharing. The first one is the Promises of Power-Sharing Dataset (PROMPS) which collects detailed data on the powersharing arrangements contained in all peace agreements concluded between government and rebel representatives from 1989 to 2006. The second data collection is the Power-Sharing Event Dataset (PSED) which includes information on when particular power-sharing arrangements between government and rebels have been introduced or abolished during a five-year post-conflict period. This dataset has a global coverage and spans from 1989 to 2011. A preliminary analysis of both datasets allowed the project team to identify certain patterns of post-conflict power-sharing. It appears, for example, that political power-sharing is especially frequent in the first six months of a post-conflict period whereas military, economic and territorial power-sharing arrangements take place at later stages. The project team is currently further exploring these patterns and dynamics of post-conflict power-sharing in a series of statistical analyses and fieldwork stays in four selected countries.

Research Programme