Microfoundations of Civil Conflict Reconciliation: Ethnicity and Context

Comparative work on reconstruction and peace building in war-torn countries is dominated by a macro-oriented approach, focusing on structural political reforms, legal issues, disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of (rebel) soldiers, and repatriation of the displaced. This article offers a different perspective, examining micro-level determinants of reconciliation. Earlier research indicates that political attitudes in post–ethnic conflict societies are shaped by ethnic affinity. A large literature on the importance of contextual conditions for human behavior would suggest that ethnic composition of the local population and physical proximity to the conflict zone also should affect individual support for peace and reconciliation. To test these propositions, we draw on a geo-referenced survey of the Macedonian population that measures respondents’ perception of the 2001 civil conflict. Contrary to expectations, the spatial and demographic setting exerts only feeble impacts on individuals’ support for the Framework Agreement. Several years after the conflict was settled, the survey data reveal a strongly divided Macedonian society where ethnicity trumps all other individual and contextual factors in explaining the respondents’ preferences.

It’s the Local Economy, Stupid! Geographic Wealth Dispersion and Conflict Outbreak Location

Income varies considerably within countries and the locations where conflicts emerge are rarely typical or representative for states at large. Yet, most research on conflict has only examined national income averages and neglected spatial variation. The authors argue that civil conflicts are more likely to erupt in areas with low absolute income, even if a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita is not necessarily low, and in areas with large deviations from national averages. The authors test these hypotheses empirically using spatially disaggregated data on the location of conflict outbreaks and per capita income estimates. The authors find that areas with absolute poverty indeed see more outbreaks of conflict, and they find some evidence that inequality increases the risk of conflict. Subnational information can improve on conventional country-based measures and help our understanding of how local features and variation can give rise to mobilization and violence.

Dude, Where’s My Conflict? LSG, Relative Strength, and the Location of Civil War

Kenneth Boulding’s (1962) notion of a loss-of-strength gradient (LSG) has been successfully applied to explain the military reach of states. The capability of a country (a.k.a. its national strength) is largest at its home base and declines as the nation moves away. Capable states are relatively less impeded by distance and can therefore influence more distant regions. Given armed conflict, battles are expected to occur in areas where the projected powers of the antagonists are comparable. When the aggressor’s projected power is greater than the national strength of the defender, the latter side should give in without violence. This paper is a first attempt to apply Boulding’s theory of international power projection to the study of civil war. Using new data on the point location of conflict onset and a variety of measures of state and rebel strength, this paper tests empirically one corollary of the LSG model: that civil wars in general locate further away from the capital in more powerful regimes.

All Conflict is Local: Modeling Sub-National Variation in Civil Conflict Risk

Most quantitative assessments of civil conflict draw on annual country-level data to determine a baseline hazard of conflict onset. The first problem with such analyses is that they ignore factors associated with the precipitation of violence, such as elections and natural disasters and other trigger mechanisms. Given that baseline hazards are relatively static, most of the temporal variation in risk is associated with such precipitating factors. The second problem with most quantitative analyses of conflict is that they assume that civil conflicts are distributed uniformly throughout the country. This is rarely the case; most intrastate armed conflicts take place in the periphery of the country, well away from the capital and often along international borders. Analysts fail to disaggregate temporally as well as spatially. While other contributions to this issue focus on the temporal aspect of conflict, this article addresses the second issue: the spatial resolution of analysis. To adequately assess the baseline risk of armed conflict, this article develops a unified prediction model that combines a quantitative assessment of conflict risk at the country level with country-specific sub-national analyses at first-order administrative regions. Geo-referenced data on aspects of social, economic, and political exclusion, as well as endemic poverty and physical geography, are featured as the principal local indicators of latent conflict. Using Asia as a test case, this article demonstrates the unique contribution of applying a localized approach to conflict prediction that explicitly captures sub-national variation in civil conflict risk.