Identifying Potential Ethnic Conflict: Application of a Process Model


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The post—Cold War period has witnessed a number of ethnically-informed secessionist movements , predominantly within the former communist states. Conflicts have involved secessionist movements in the former Yugoslavia , Transnistria in Moldova , Armenians in Azerbaijan , Abkhaz and Ossetians in Georgia. However, some theorists contend that this does not represent a rise in the incidence of ethnic conflict, because many of the proxy wars fought during the Cold War as ethnic conflicts were actually hot spots of the Cold War. Research shows that the fall of Communism and the increase in the number of capitalist states were accompanied by a decline in total warfare, interstate wars, ethnic wars, revolutionary wars, and the number of refugees and displaced persons.

A key question facing scholars who attempt to adapt their theories of interstate violence to explain or predict large-scale ethnic violence is whether ethnic groups could be considered "rational" actors. If true, general explanations of ethnic violence would be impossible.

In the years since, however, scholarly consensus has shifted to consider that ethnic groups may in fact be counted as rational actors, and the puzzle of their apparently irrational actions for example, fighting over territory of little or no intrinsic worth must therefore be explained in some other way.

A major source of ethnic conflict in multi-ethnic democracies is over the access to state patronage. Conflicts over state resources between ethnic groups can increase the likelihood of ethnic violence. In ethnically divided societies, demand for public goods decreases as each ethnic group derives more utility from benefits targeted at their ethnic group in particular.

Targeted benefits are more appealing because ethnic groups can solidify or heighten their social and economic status relative to other ethnic groups whereas broad programmatic policies will not improve their relative worth.

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Politicians and political parties in turn, have an incentive to favor co-ethnics in their distribution of material benefits. Over the long run, ethnic conflict over access to state benefits is likely to lead to the ethnification of political parties and the party system as a whole where the political salience of ethnic identity increase leading to a self-fulfilling equilibrium: If politicians only distribute benefits on an ethnic basis, voters will see themselves primarily belonging to an ethnic group and view politicians the same way.

They will only vote for the politician belonging to the same ethnic group. In turn, politicians will refrain from providing public goods because it will not serve them well electorally to provide services to people not belonging to their ethnic group. In democratizing societies, this could lead to ethnic outbidding and lead to extreme politicians pushing out moderate co-ethnics. The existence of patronage networks between local politicians and ethnic groups make it easier for politicians to mobilize ethnic groups and instigate ethnic violence for electoral gain since the neighborhood or city is already polarized along ethnic lines.

The dependence of ethnic groups on their co-ethnic local politician for access to state resources is likely to make them more responsive to calls of violence against other ethnic groups.

While the link between ethnic heterogeneity and under provision of public goods is generally accepted, there is little consensus around the causal mechanism underlying this relationship. To identify possible causal stories, Humphreys and Habyarimana ran a series of behavioral games in Kampala, Uganda, that involved several local participants completing joint tasks and allocating money amongst them. It was only when anonymity was removed and everyone's ethnicity was known did co-ethnics decide to favor each other.

Humphreys and Habyarimana argue that cooperation among co-ethnics is primarily driven by reciprocity norms that tend to be stronger among co-ethnics. The authors find no evidence to suggest that co-ethnics display a greater degree of altruism towards each other or have the same preferences. Ethnic cooperation takes place because co-ethnics have common social networks and therefore can monitor each other and can threaten to socially sanction any transgressors.

A number of scholars have attempted to synthesize the methods available for the resolution , management or transformation of their ethnic conflict. John Coakley , for example, has developed a typology of the methods of conflict resolution that have been employed by states, which he lists as: indigenization , accommodation, assimilation , acculturation , population transfer , boundary alteration, genocide and ethnic suicide. With increasing interest in the field of ethnic conflict, many policy analysts and political scientists theorized potential resolutions and tracked the results of institutional policy implementation.

As such, theories often focus on which Institutions are the most appropriate for addressing ethnic conflict. Consociationalism is a power sharing agreement which coopts the leaders of ethnic groups into the central state's government. Each nation or ethnic group is represented in the government through a supposed spokesman for the group.

In the power sharing agreement, each group has veto powers to varying degrees, dependent on the particular state. Moreover, the norm of proportional representation is dominant: each group is represented in the government in a percentage that reflects the ethnicity's demographic presence in the state. In theory, this leads to self governance and protection for the ethnic group. Many scholars [14] [36] maintain that since ethnic tension erupts into ethnic violence when the ethnic group is threatened by a state, then veto powers should allow the ethnic group to avoid legislative threats.

Switzerland is often characterized as a successful consociationalist state. A recent example of a consociational government is the post-conflict Bosnian government that was agreed upon in the Dayton Accords in A tripartite presidency was chosen and must have a Croat, a Serb, and a Bosniak. The presidents take turns acting as the forefront executive in terms of 8 months for 4 years. In contrast to Lijphart, several political scientists and policy analysts have condemned consociationalism.

This assumes a primordial stance that ethnic identities are permanent and not subject to change. In power sharing-systems that are based on pre-determined identities, there is a tendency to rigidly fix shares of representation on a permanent basis which will not reflect changing demographics over time. The inherent weaknesses in using pre-determined ethnic identities to form power sharing systems has led Ljiphart to argue that adopting a constructivist approach to consociationalism can increase its likelihood of success. Ljiphart claims that because ethnic identities are often "unclear, fluid and flexible," [6] self-determination is likely to be more successful than pre-determination of ethnic groups.

A constructivist approach to consociational theory can therefore strengthen its value as a method to resolve ethnic conflict. Another critique points to the privileging of ethnic identity over personal political choice. This might lead to the polarization of ethnic groups and the loss of non-ethnic ideological parties. Horowitz has argued that a single transferable vote system could prevent the ethnification of political parties because voters cast their ballots in order of preference.

The theory of implementing federalism in order to curtail ethnic conflict assumes that self-governance reduces "demands for sovereignty". In this sense, special privileges are granted to specific minority groups as concessions and incentives to end violence or mute conflict. The Soviet Union divided its structure into ethno-federal sub-states termed Union Republics. The sub-state was named after a titular minority who inhabited the area as a way to Sovietize nationalist sentiments during the s.


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Thus, federalism provides some self-governance for local matters in order to satisfy some of the grievances which might cause ethnic conflict among the masses. Moreover, federalism brings in the elites and ethnic entrepreneurs into the central power structure; this prevents a resurgence of top-down ethnic conflict. Nevertheless, after the fall of the USSR many critiques of federalism as an institution to resolve ethnic conflict emerged. The devolution of power away from the central state can weaken ties to the central state. Furthermore, some competing elite political players may not be in power; they would remain unincorporated into the central system.

These competing elites can gain access through federal structures and their resources to solidify their political power in the structure. Gagnon this was the case in the former Yugoslavia and its violent disintegration into its ethno-federal sub-states.

Ethnic entrepreneurs were able to take control of the institutionally allocated resources to wage war on other ethnic groups. A recent theory of ethnic tension resolution is non-territorial autonomy or NTA. NTA has emerged in recent years as an alternative solution to ethnic tensions and grievances in places that are likely to breed conflict. Their group rights and autonomy are not constrained to a particular territory within the state. This is done in order not to weaken the center state such as in the case of ethnofederalism.

In Europe, most notably in Belgium , NTA laws have been enacted and created parallel institutions and political parties in the same country. Other scholars, such as Clarke, argue that the successful implementation of NTA rests on the acknowledgement in a state of "universal" principles: true Rule of Law , established human rights , stated guarantees to minorities and their members to use their own quotidien language, religion, and food practices, and a framework of anti-discrimination legislation in order to enforce these rights.

Nonetheless, Clarke critiques the weaknesses of NTA in areas such as education, a balance between society wide norms and intracommunity values; policing, for criminal matters and public safety; and political representation, which limits the political choices of an individual if based solely on ethnicity. Institutionalist arguments for resolving ethnic conflict often focus on national-level institutions and do not account for regional and local variation in ethnic violence within a country.

Despite similar levels of ethnic diversity in a country, some towns and cities have often found to be especially prone to ethnic violence. For example, Ashutosh Varshney, in his study of ethnic violence in India , argues that strong inter-ethnic engagement in villages often disincentivizes politicians from stoking ethnic violence for electoral gain. However, in cities, where the population tends to be much higher, informal interactions between ethnic groups might not be sufficient to prevent violence. This is because many more links are needed to connect everyone, and therefore it is much more difficult to form and strengthen inter-ethnic ties.

For example, inter-ethnic business organizations serve to connect the business interests of different ethnic groups which would increase their desire to maintain ethnic harmony. Any ethnic tension or outbreak of violence will go against their economic interests and therefore, over time, the salience of ethnic identity diminishes. Interactions between ethnic groups in formal settings can also help countries torn apart by ethnic violence to recover and break down ethnic divisions.

Paula Pickering, a political scientist, who studies peace-building efforts in Bosnia, finds that formal workplaces are often the site where inter-ethnic ties are formed. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. For other kinds of conflict, see conflict disambiguation. New Haven: Yale University Press. Modern Hatreds: The Symbolic politics of ethnic war. Ithaca: Cornell University. Ethnic and Racial Studies.


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    Tables PDF. Acknowledgments PDF. Introduction PDF. Final Observations PDF. Appendix PDF. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces. The RAND Corporation is a nonprofit institution that helps improve policy and decisionmaking through research and analysis.

    Identifying Potential Ethnic Conflict: Application of a Process Model
    Identifying Potential Ethnic Conflict: Application of a Process Model
    Identifying Potential Ethnic Conflict: Application of a Process Model
    Identifying Potential Ethnic Conflict: Application of a Process Model
    Identifying Potential Ethnic Conflict: Application of a Process Model

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