Opening Meeting of the CSCW Working Group on Human Rights, Governance and Conflict, led by Sabine Carey.

Description of the CSCW WG 4 - Human Rights, Governance, and Conflict

Governance structures play a particularly significant role in determining the outbreak of armed conflict and civil war. Coherent democracies and harshly authoritarian states have few civil wars, and intermediate regimes (semi-democracies) are the most conflict-prone. Political change is also associated with armed violence, regardless as to whether that change is toward greater democracy or greater autocracy (Hegre et al., 2001). Gates et al. (2006) examine political stability and conclude that semi-democracies exhibiting inconsistent institutions are less stable than institutionally consistent autocracies and democracies.

Past research has also shown that conflict and human rights violations are closely intertwined. At times of civil war, torture, and political killings are particularly common (Poe and Tate, 1994). But also governing structures affect the respect of governments for the human rights of their citizens. The goal of this Working Group is to disentangle the triangular relationship between human rights, governance, and conflict. In particular, we intend to focus on the role of human rights and governing structures during the escalation of conflict, their contribution to the severity and duration of conflict, and their role in establishing a viable and secure peace after the resolution of conflict. Particular attention is also given to the role of transitional justice and reconciliation in post-conflict societies.

The Working Group analyses research questions such as: Can an increase in certain types of human rights violations be interpreted as an early-warning sign of an impending conflict or conflict escalation? What institutional arrangements are more prone to groups taking up arms in opposition to the state? What is the essence of conflict suspension, resolution, and termination? Which government structures are most conducive to the resolution of conflict, the institutionalisation of peace, and the protection of human rights? How can a post-conflict society deal with past atrocities to establish a viable foundation for the restoration of peace and justice?

To address these questions, we will draw on an extensive body of research, ranging from the analysis of democratisation and human rights, to studies of rebellion and political stability. Methodologically, qualitative approaches, game theoretic, and quantitative statistical analysis will be employed.

Particular attention is given to the disaggregation of the three concepts, human rights, governance, and conflict, in order to develop a better understanding of the mechanisms that link them together and to be able to devise more concrete and feasible policy recommendation to foster the respect for human rights and peace in conflict-torn societies.