Predicting the decline of ethnic civil war: Was Gurr right and for the right reasons?

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Cederman, Lars-Erik; Kristian Skrede Gleditsch & Julian Wucherpfennig (2017) Predicting the decline of ethnic civil war: Was Gurr right and for the right reasons?, Journal of Peace Research 54(2): 262–274.
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​Many scholars have detected a decrease of political violence, but the causes of this decline remain unclear. As a contribution to this debate, we revisit the controversy over trends in conflict after the end of the Cold War. While many made ominous predictions of surging ethnic warfare, Gurr presented evidence of a pacifying trend since the mid-1990s and predicted a further decline in ethnic conflict in an article on ‘the waning of ethnic war’. Leveraging more recent data on ethnic groups and their participation in ethnic civil wars, this study evaluates if Gurr was right about the decline of ethnic conflict, and if he was right for the right reasons. We assess whether an increase in governments’ accommodative policies toward ethnic groups can plausibly account for a decline in ethnic civil war. Our findings lend considerable support to an account of the pacifying trend that stresses the granting of group rights, regional autonomy, and inclusion in power-sharing, as well as democratization and peacekeeping.

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Authors

Lars-Erik Cederman

Lars-Erik Cederman

PRIO Global Fellow

Kristian Skrede Gleditsch

Kristian Skrede Gleditsch

Professor, Department of Government, University of Essex