Containing Fear: The Origins and Management of Ethnic Conflict
Author: D Lake and D Rothchild
Size: 34 pages (3.8 MB)
Three key factors contribute to the development of ethnic conflict: Information failure, when individuals or groups misrepresent or misinterpret information about other groups; Problems of credible commitment, when one group cannot credibly reassure another that it will not renege on or exploit a mutual agreement; and Security dilemmas, when one or more disputing parties has an incentive to use pre-emptive force. When these factors take hold, groups become apprehensive, the state weakens, and conflict becomes more likely. Ethnic activists and political entrepreneurs build on fears and insecurity and polarise society. Political memories and emotions magnify these anxieties, driving groups further apart. A dangerous atmosphere of distrust and suspicion is created which can explode into violence.
Confidence-building measures can promote the rights and positions of minority groups, reassuring them about their physical and cultural security. These measures include demonstrations of respect such as power-sharing. Elections can produce group interdependence, and regional autonomy and federalism can promote confidence amongst local leaders. Measures can be undertaken by local governments or promoted by the international community.
If states cannot prevent conflict, then external interventions by concerned states or organisations often take place. These can be noncoercive intervention, such as protests or sanctions, coercive intervention, or third party mediation.
Information failures, problems of credible commitment and security dilemmas exist in all ethnically divided nations, and conflict always remains a possibility. International interventions should focus on three key areas: information management, support for failing states, and investment in the implementation of peace agreements.
Lake, D. A. and Rothchild, D., 1996, 'Containing Fear: The Origins and Management of Ethnic Conflict', International Security, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 41-75
Author: David Lake , firstname.lastname@example.org