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IP 3 (Phase I): Democratizing divided societies in bad neighborhoods

After centuries of warfare, the western world has come to constitute a security community of democratic states among which militarized conflict has become more or less inconceivable. However, there are less lucky regions of the contemporary world that are neither democratic nor peaceful. In these troubled neighborhoods, authoritarian rule and persistent conflict reinforce each other in a vicious circle.

This research project dealt with the challenge of spreading democracy to troubled regions afflicted by ethnic conflict and civil war. Typically, these regions feature weak states, ethnically divided societies, and boundary conflicts that make conflict prevention and peace-making extremely difficult. Although efforts to achieve peace and stability are unlikely to succeed without concomitant democratization, this can trigger even more conflict and disorder and may even wind up requiring security measures that violate the most basic democratic principles.

This dilemma highlights the importance of studying transitions from non-democratic to democratic governance in war-torn areas. The project pursued two objectives:

  • A policy objective in order to assist in the development of conflict prevention and peace-making strategies as a supplement to democratization efforts
  • A scientific objective of developing theories of conflict and democratization that can be readily applied to specific conflict-ridden regions and hopefully generalized beyond them.

The project will focus on four troubled regions: the Balkans, the Middle East, the Caucasus and the Great Lakes Region in Africa.

More information on the project:

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Project leader:
Prof. Lars-Erik Cederman, ETH Zurich

Project members
Prof. Simon Hug, University of Geneva
Prof. Andreas Wenger, ETH Zurich
Dr. Malcolm MacLaren, University of Zurich
Dr. Arman Grigoryan, ETH Zurich

Doctoral students
Lutz Krebs, ETH Zurich
Judith Vorrath, ETH Zurich