13 March 2016

CCAPS Scholars' Essays Published from Constitutions and Conflict Management Symposium

This week, scholars who had participated in a Strauss Center symposium on Constitutions and Conflict Management in Africa: Preventing Civil War Through Institutional Design saw their essays published as a special section of the journal Ethnopolitics titled “Can Constitutional Design Avert Ethnopolitical Violence?”

The symposium, hosted on October 16, 2015, focused on new research in a book edited by Strauss Center Distinguished Scholar Dr. Alan Kuperman. Dr. Kuperman’s project brought together scholars of conflict management, African politics, and constitutional design to answer the question, “can constitutional reform help avert violence in multi-ethnic countries?” (Kuperman, 2016) The book grew out of the Strauss Center’s Constitutional Design and Conflict Management Project (CDCM), funded by the Department of Defense’s Minerva Initiative.

In Can Constitutional Design Avert Ethnopolitical Violence?, Dr. Kuperman first summarizes the book, then five leading scholars and practitioners comment on it, after which Dr. Kuperman responds to the commentators’ critiques. Dr. Kuperman proposes that there are two main types of constitutional design: “accommodation”, which seeks to reduce conflict by guaranteeing rewards to groups based on identity or region, and “integration”, which seeks to create a single national identity. Dr. Kuperman concludes that accommodative constitutions can buffer shocks and prevent conflict in best-case scenarios, but are usually implemented incompletely, inequitably, or too quickly, which increases risk of conflict. Contrary to the prevailing scholarly belief, integrative constitutions can also promote stability, especially when complemented with liberal institutions such as term limits, independent electoral commissions, and the separation of powers. Dr. Kuperman emphasizes that foreign advisors must tailor solutions to each specific country and its history.

The articles in Can Constitutional Design Avert Ethnopolitical Violence? provide a thorough overview of the symposium for those who were unable to attend, and serve as serious contributions to the fields of constitutional design and conflict management. The articles are already available in electronic format behind Ethnopolitics’ paywall below, and will be published in print this fall.

Symposium – Published online: February 25, 2016 Can Constitutional Design Avert Ethnopolitical Violence?

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