Recent protests in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as protests a decade earlier in East Central Europe, have peaked public interest while raising concerns about the potential for democracy protests to catalyze major reforms in governance. Although the number of protests that occurred in these periods was remarkable, democracy protests are not a new phenomena, but rather have come and gone throughout history. In some cases, the potential of these protests has been realized and significant reforms have resulted, while in others, the protests have been repressed and hopes of a more democratic future have been crushed. To shed light on these issues, the five Ws of democracy protests—namely what are democracy protests, who organizes and participates in these protests, when and where are democracy protests more likely to emerge, and why do these protests matter—are discussed.
Erika Forsberg and Louise Olsson
Prior research has found robust support for a relationship between gender inequality and civil war. These results all point in the same direction; countries that display lower levels of gender equality are more likely to become involved in civil conflict, and violence is likely to be even more severe, than in countries where women have a higher status. But what does gender inequality mean in this area of research? And how does research explain why we see this effect on civil war? To explore this, we start with reviewing existing definitions and measurements of gender inequality, noting that the concept has several dimensions. We then proceed to outline several clusters of explanations of how gender inequality could be related to civil war while more equal societies are better able to prevent violent conflict, as described in previous research. It is clear that existing misconceptions that gender inequality primarily involves the role of women are clouding the fact that it clearly speaks to much broader societal developments which play central roles in civil war. We conclude by identifying some remaining lacunas and directions for future research.
Andrew M. Linke and Clionadh Raleigh
Attention to geography in the study of civil war has risen dramatically in recent years. Beginning with county-level data in the fields of classical political geography, international relations, and comparative politics, a vast body of conflict research is now dedicated to sub-national analysis. This later turn is itself geographical. Innovations in the geographical study of civil war have dramatically improved our collective understanding of violence and continue to call for modifications of conflict theory.
While a turn toward geography has therefore proved valuable for academic research that is most often dominated by political science, there remain fundamental differences within the research community about what constitutes geographical inquiry. An example of such a difference is the attention that physical geography (such as forest cover, mountainous terrain) has received in civil war research over investigations of the nuanced social composition of regions and localities, which tends to dominate for conflict research within the discipline of human geography.
The spatial dependencies among conflict locations and events need to be highlighted for their importance. These patterns can reveal important underlying social forces that are interesting to scholars in various disciplines, as well as to the study of key geographical processes and the shift toward spatial disaggregation. This localization of violence studies is necessary and concerns the notion of hierarchical scale, which is a conceptual foundation of human geography. In studying the geography of civil war, there are methodological tools that can outline some risks associated with geospatial analysis of violence.
Rebecca Katz, Erin Sorrell, and Claire Standley
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Please check back later for the full article.
The last 30 years has seen the global consequences of newly emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, starting with the global spread of HIV/AIDS, and including the emergence of Ebola and other hemorrhagic fevers, SARS, MERS, novel influenza viruses, and most recently, Zika. Academics have also come to better understand the impact on society of tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases, including how these diseases influence the social, economic, and political environment in a nation. The specter of intentional use of infectious disease remains present—despite international treaties and norms, particularly as technological barriers to access are reduced. The world has come to realize that infectious diseases not only impact population health, but have clear consequences for international security and foreign policy.
Foreign policy has been used to coordinate responses to infectious disease events and to advance population health around the world. Conversely, collaboration on infectious disease prevention, preparedness, and response has been used strategically by nations to advance diplomacy and improve foreign relations. Both approaches have become integral to foreign policy, and case studies help to elucidate how health and foreign policy have become intertwined and are used with different levels of effectiveness by governments around the world.
In 2014, U.S. President Barack Obama called upon global partners at the Global Health Security Agenda Summit to “change our mindsets and start thinking about biological threats as the security threats that they are—in addition to being humanitarian threats and economic threats. We have to bring the same level of commitment and focus to these challenges as we do when meeting around more traditional security issues.” With world leaders increasingly identifying disease as security threats, infectious diseases—like no other time in history—are becoming an integral component of foreign policy
Elizabeth Ann Stein
Considering incidents that make headline news internationally, given the modern information and communication technology revolution, the facility of citizens to rapidly mobilize represents a considerable threat to autocratic survival. While the speed with which popular movements emerge has increased exponentially, and the news of their existence spreads faster and farther, civil unrest has threatened the stability and survival of dictators for centuries. The paranoia and machinations of dictators depicted in films, such as the portrayal of Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, while sensationalized, capture the astounding array of threats with which unelected leaders must concern themselves. On the one hand, they must worry about insider threats to their standing, such as conspiratorial plots from people within the dictator’s own circle or mutiny among government soldiers. On the other hand, dictators also must monitor threats originating from non-regime actors, such as new alliances forming among once-fragmented opposition groups or the possibility of sustained insurgency or a popular revolution. From force to finesse, autocratic leaders have developed a broad and evolving range of tactics and tools to diminish both internal and external domestic threats to their reign. The success of dictators’ endeavors to insulate their regimes from forces that might challenge them depends on accurate and reliable information, a resource that can be as valuable to the leader as would a large armory and loyal soldiers. Dictators invest significant resources (monetary as well as human capital) to try to gather useful information about their existing and potential opponents, while also trying to control and shape information emitted by the regime before it reaches the public. New information and communication technologies (ICTs), which have drawn a great deal of scholarly attention since the beginning of the 21st century—present both risks and rewards for dictators; inversely they also create new opportunities and hazards for citizens who might utilize them to mobilize people opposed to the regime. While civil unrest could encompass the full range of domestic, nonmilitary actors, there also needs to be a specific focus on various forms of mass mobilization. Historically, more dictators have been forced from office by elite-initiated overthrows via coups d’état than have fallen to revolution or fled amid street protests. Civil unrest, in its many forms, can affect autocratic survival or precipitate regime breakdown. While mass-based revolutions have been a relatively rare phenomenon to date, the actions of many 21st-century dictators indicate that they increasingly concern themselves with the threats posed by popular protests and fear its potential for triggering broader antigovernment campaigns. The ease of access to information (or the lack thereof) help explain interactions between authoritarian regimes and citizens emphasizes. The role of information in popular antigovernment mobilization has evolved and changed how dictators gather and utilize information to prevent or counter civil unrest that might jeopardize their own survival as well as that of the regime.
Ekim Arbatli and Cemal Eren Arbatli
Why do coups d’état happen? Although many studies have investigated this question, they pay relatively little attention to the international causes and ramifications of coups. Especially, empirical studies on the external determinants of coup risk and outcomes still remain limited. There are two current lines of research in this direction. The first line studies international linkages and coup risk, looking at the external determinants of coups: regional spillover effects, foreign linkage, and foreign leverage. A promising angle on this front is focusing on the role of post-coup reactions from international actors to illuminate how coup plotters shape their incentives under outside pressure. The second line of research investigates interstate conflict and coup risk, considering diversionary behavior and external threats as potential coup-proofing strategies. In this effort, studying the relationship between external threat environment and coup risk can be fruitful, whereas empirical tests of the classical diversionary war theory will yield relatively marginal contributions.
Currently, three issues stand out in the empirical coup literature that should be further addressed by scholars. First is the need for more extensive and systematic data collection efforts to obtain detailed information about the identities, targets, and motives of coup perpetrators. Second, the external sources of leader insecurity beyond interstate conflicts remain an underexplored area. Third, although many studies have tried to determine when coup attempts happen, scholarly knowledge of when and how they succeed remains very limited. More work is needed to uncover the determinants of coup success across different regimes and leader survival scenarios.
Reed M. Wood
Contemporary civil conflicts frequently impose disproportionate costs of civilian populations. By some estimates, roughly 90% of conflict causalities were combatants in the wars of the early 20th century, but by the end of the century nearly 90% of causalities were civilians. While scholars have spent decades examining phenomena such as genocide and terrorism, they have only recently begun to systematically examine the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to the more general occurrence of civilian victimization during intra-state armed conflict. What is civilian victimization, and how does it differ from other forms of political violence? Is it possible to differentiate between “collateral damage” and intentional civilian targeting during civil conflicts? While virtually all conflicts impose significant costs on civilians, those costs vary tremendously across armed conflicts. Moreover, while collateral damage is an unfortunately common feature of warfare, violence perpetrated against civilians often includes massacres, bombings of civilian targets with negligible military value, summary executions, ethnic cleansing, and other forms of intentional attacks on noncombatants. Yet, these practices are comparatively more common during some wars, in some areas, or by some groups. This variation suggests that while all internal conflicts are violent, certain characteristics of actors, the conflict spaces, and/or the patterns of interactions between rebels, the government they challenge, and civilians within the conflict zone explain why some conflicts produce greater levels of abuse against civilians than do others. Do similar factors explain both government-sponsored civilian victimization and violence committed by non-state actors during civil conflict? A cursory review of available data clearly demonstrates that both state and non-state forces often engage in high levels of civilian victimization. In general, the existing evidences suggest that the motives for state and non-state actor violence are similar. However, key differences in the nature of institutional and organizational arrangements suggest that rebels and governments experience different types of constraints on their ability to act on their motives. How can the international community effectively respond in order to reduce the severity of civilian victimization in ongoing conflicts? This important policy question has produced a range of conflicting answers; however, the most recent scholarship on the topic suggests that both United Nations peacekeeping operations—particularly when they include a strong mandate for civilian protection and a robust military force—and international condemnation (“naming and shaming”) can effectively reduce the magnitude of intentional violence against civilians.
Erin K. Jenne and Milos Popovic
This is an advance summary of a forthcoming article in the Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics. Please check back later for the full article.
In their seminal study Resort to Arms, Small and Singer defined a civil war as “any armed conflict that involves (a) military action internal to the metropole, (b) the active participation of the national government, and (c) effective resistance by both sides.” Internationalized civil war is a newer classification, denoting a conflict involving organized violence on two or more sides within a sovereign state, in which foreign elements play a role in instigating, prolonging, or exacerbating the struggle. Under Small and Singer’s concept of civil wars, an internationalized civil war is one in which a “system member” intervenes in a sub-state conflict involving organized violence. Although Singer and Small conceived system members narrowly, as external sovereign states engaged in military intervention in the civil war in question, the definition has since been expanded by the Peace Research Institute Oslo and Uppsala Conflict Data Program to include other foreign actors—such as non-state or private actors, diasporas, IOs, corporations, or cross-border kin groups—and systemic influences, such as the diffusion of ideas, transnational social networks, diasporas, personnel, or other outside conflict processes—any of which can intervene to intensify a domestic civil conflict. From superpower interventions during the Cold War to more recent conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, internationalized civil wars have garnered increasing scholarly attention, primarily because they tend to be far bloodier and more protracted than non-internationalized civil wars.
How to end such wars has long bedeviled the international community. Civil wars are already more difficult to end than interstate wars partly because there are more players to satisfy in civil war settings, with multiple conflict parties co-existing on a single territory, and multiple factions within each conflict party—each constituting a “veto player” that might plausibly spoil a peace agreement should the agreement not satisfy their needs. This problem is exacerbated by an order of magnitude when a civil war becomes internationalized. When outside actors get involved in a civil war, the number of veto players rises correspondingly to include not only domestic players and internal factions, but also the involved external players, which may include foreign governments, diaspora groups, foreign fighters, and/or transnational social networks.
Managing or ending internationalized civil wars is thus a highly complicated balancing act requiring attention not just to internal, but also to external veto players represented by all involved parties, both inside and outside the conflict state. The traditional methods of conflict management involve electoral engineering, power-sharing arrangements, or other peace deals that seek to satisfy the aspirations of involved internal parties, while ensuring that the peace deal is self-enforcing. This means that it will hold up even in the absence of outside pressure. In internationalized civil wars, however, conflict managers must also satisfy involved outside actors or otherwise neutralize external conflict processes. There are multiple methods for doing this, ranging from effective border control in cases of conflict spillover to decomposing internationalized conflicts into civil and international conflicts, which are solved separately, to outright peace enforcement involving international security guarantees.
Mark Gibney, Linda Cornett, Peter Haschke, Reed M. Wood, and Daniel Arnon
Although every violation of international human rights law standards is both deplorable and illegal, one of the major advances in the social sciences has been the development of measures of comparative state practice. The oldest of these is the Political Terror Scale (PTS), which provides an ordinal measure of physical integrity violations carried out by governments or those associated with the state. Providing data from the mid-1970s to the present, the PTS scores the human rights practices of more than 190 countries on a scale of 1–5, with 1 representing “best practices” and 5 indicating gross and systematic violations. There are two different sources for these scores: U.S. State Department Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the Amnesty International Annual Report.
Although human rights have traditionally been associated only with the state, individuals can also be denied human rights protection by non-state actors. To measure this, the Societal Violence Scale (SVS) has been created to analyze three sources of physical integrity violations: the individual; corporate or criminal gang activity; and armed groups.
As globalization proceeds apace, states have an increased influence on human rights protection in other countries. Unfortunately, human rights data, such as the PTS, analyze only the domestic practices of states. In an effort to better understand the full extent of a state’s human rights performance, the Extraterritorial Obligations (ETO) Report is currently being constructed. The ETO Report will provide an important analysis of state human rights performance when acting outside its own territorial borders.
Risa A. Brooks
The protests that began in Tunisia in December 2010, and quickly spread across the Arab world, have drawn significant attention to the impact of militaries and coercive institutions on protests and revolutionary movements. The actions of the militaries were a central determinant of the outcomes of the uprisings of 2010–2011. In Tunisia and Egypt the decision by military leaders to abstain from using force on mass protests to suppress them led to the downfall of the countries’ autocrats. In Syria and Bahrain, militaries defended political leaders with brutal force. In Yemen and Libya, militaries fractured, with some units remaining allied to the leader and using force on his behalf and others defecting. In still other states, leaders and militaries were able to forestall the emergence of large, regime-threatening protests.
To explain these divergent outcomes, scholars and analysts have looked to a variety of explanatory factors. These focus on the attributes of the militaries involved, their civil-military relations, the size and social composition of the protests, the nature of the regime’s institutions, and the impact of monarchical traditions. These explanations offer many useful insights, but several issues remain under-studied. These include the impact of authoritarian learning and diffusion on protest trajectory. They also include the endogeneity of the protests to the nature of a country’s civil-military relations (i.e., how preexisting patterns of civil-military relations affected the possibility that incipient demonstrations would escalate to mass protests). Scholars also have been understandably captivated by the aforementioned pattern of military defection-loyalty, focusing on explaining that observed difference at the expense of studying other dependent variables. The next generation of scholarship on the uprisings therefore would benefit from efforts to conceptualize and investigate different aspects of variation in military behavior.
Overall, the first-generation literature has proved enormously useful and laid the foundation for a much richer understanding of military behavior and reactions to popular uprisings in the Arab world and beyond.