Complex Power Sharing

The democratic governance of divided societies can pose particular challenges. Yet, while diversity is the predominant demographic rule in most countries today, violent ethnic conflict remains the exception. Thus, diversity need not inevitably result in either prolonged violent ethnic conflict or the break-up of existing states. Rather, existing literature on the subject offers both normative accounts of the desirability, and empirical evidence of the feasibility, of designing institutional frameworks within in which disputes between different conflict parties can be accommodated to such an extent that political compromise becomes preferable to violent struggle, at least for the majority of parties involved in the conflict in question. While there is agreement that institutions matter because they can provide the context in which differences can be accommodated and managed in a non-violent, political way, the existing literature on conflict settlement qua institutional design offers no consensus view about which the most suitable institutions are to achieve this. This debate about how to design institutions to achieve sustainable peace in divided societies has engulfed the theory and practice of ethnic conflict resolution for more than four decades, and has mainly been fought between advocates of consociationalism and their opponents. The disagreements between them have not subsided over the years and remain as divisive as ever.

This project starts with an empirical investigation into the institutional designs adopted in contemporary peace agreements and proceeds from there to reflections on contemporary theories of conflict management.