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.
Pathways for Peace
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.
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.
Political violence, conflict, and inequality are closely related, but not necessarily in the ways that people think. Countries in which there is great inequality between rich and poor do not experience more violent conflict than countries with less economic inequality. In contrast, inequalities between groups defined by religion, ethnicity, or regional identities are linked to a significantly higher risk of armed conflict. The good news is that while income inequality between individuals is increasing, identity group-based inequality seems to be decreasing. This could lead to less conflict in the future.
The simple answer is yes. Now, let’s discuss in more depth why gender equality is a key ally in the prevention of violent conflict.
Gender equality is an essential factor in a country’s security and stability. Excluding women from actively participating in society can increase the risk of instability. Gender equality is not only about doing what is right or about social justice; it is also an important element in economic development and a critical predictor of stability and security, which can inform and improve work on conflict prevention.
Risk management is a topic that conjures up mind-numbing images of log frames, badly rendered PowerPoint process diagrams, and “handbooks” that often run many hundreds of pages. Cast in this light, many tend to see risk management in narrow terms—as a box-checking exercise, a mere process to avoid a loss, or lowering the probability of a bad thing from occurring. A key takeaway from the recommendations of the UN-World Bank jointly published report, Pathways for Peace, is the urgent need to jettison this narrow managerial and technocratic view of risk management toward a more dynamic, sophisticated, and ambitious view of risk that ought to place it at the very core of how humanitarian and development practice can achieve better outcomes.
At least since Aristotle, theorists have believed that political discontent and its consequences—protests, instability, violence, revolution—depend not only on a society’s absolute level of economic well-being, but also on its distribution of wealth. However, many societies also experience low levels of conflict that continue to simmer without tipping over into the kind of outright violence that takes a heavy toll on lives, livelihoods, economic output, and stability for multiple generations.
Why pathways toward violence are hard to shift, and what we can do to help
Have you ever left your house in the morning for an early appointment—a doctor’s visit, say—and found yourself, 20 minutes later, outside your office building instead? You’ve made that commute so many times, your body just took you there without your brain really noticing.
We do this on a collective level, too. We develop rituals and continue doing them, sometimes long after they cease to make sense or bring us benefit.
When the report Pathways for Peace: Inclusive Approaches to Preventing Violent Conflict was released, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated, “Preventing violent conflict is a universal concern. It is not only for those in a specific region or income bracket. We are all affected, and we must work together to end this scourge.” However, achieving the worthy goal of preventing violent conflict seems far away. In fact, recent years have experienced an increase in the number of ongoing conflicts.