Discrimination in International Relations : Analyzing External Support for Ethnic Groups

Journal article

Saideman, Stephen M. (2002) Discrimination in International Relations : Analyzing External Support for Ethnic Groups, Journal of Peace Research 39 (1): 27–50.


Why do some ethnic groups in conflict (those that are mobilized or face discrimination) receive more external support than others do? This is an important question that has been overlooked despite the crucial role international support has played. Which characteristics of groups and their host states cause them to receive more support? I consider three explanations. First, separatist groups are less likely to receive support owing to their threat to regional stability and international norms. This argument is derived from accounts focusing on the inhibiting impact of vulnerability upon the foreign policies of African states. Second, groups in stronger states are more likely to receive support as states try to weaken their most threatening adversaries - an application of realist logic. Third, groups with ethnic ties to actors in positions of power elsewhere are more likely to receive external assistance. Using Minorities at Risk data, analyses focusing on the number of states supporting particular groups and the intensity of this support suggest that ethnic ties influence the international relations of ethnic conflict more than vulnerability and relative power. Further analyses contrast the international relations of peaceful ethnic disputes and violent ethnic conflicts. These analyses reveal that some factors (such as regime type, nearby separatism) increase breadth and/or intensity of support for groups that are not engaged in violence, while other variables (separatism of the group in question, relative power of host) influence the international relations of violent conflicts. The article concludes with implications for policy and future research.

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