Conflict and

Conflict and democratisation in the 21st century

How can one promote democratisation without also increasing the risk of violent conflicts? A group of researchers from Aarhus University will work together with international colleagues and practitioners to find the answer to this question. 

Two of the most important objectives in Danish and Western foreign policy is to promote democratisation and prevent violent conflict. Earlier research has shown that democratisation processes tend to trigger conflict – sometimes even civil wars. But how should this dilemma be tackled? Is it possible to establish both peace and freedom at the same time? And how can Western governments and NGOs contribute to preventing or resolving conflict without setting aside the democratic ideals?

Jørgen Møller, who is professor of political science, is head of the collective research project entitled Conflict and Democratization (CODE), which has just received DKK 16 million from the Innovation Fund to analyse these questions. The focus of the project is on non-military initiatives, and the researchers’ continuous collaboration with practitioners from international NGOs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Denmark will contribute to making the research results more applicable to specific activities and decisions.

On an interdisciplinary basis, the researchers seek to understand the correlation between democratisation and conflict and how it plays out on different levels – from an international level to the level of the individual. This is done by combining historical and contemporary case studies and global statistical analyses with various forms of experiments.

“CODE joins eight researchers from the Department of Political Science, and several elite international researchers are also affiliated with the project. The fact that the research project is anchored in the department will ease the ongoing coordination process and allow us to host international workshops and conferences in Aarhus with participation by within forces from the research field and representatives of international NGOs. It’s an incredibly exciting thing to be part of,” says Professor Jørgen Møller.

In collaboration with practitioners from NGOs and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Denmark, the researchers will focus primarily on factors that can be influenced by players (including international) in the short and medium term. For instance, how can we strengthen civil society groups without also activating latent conflicts between different population groups? Are some electoral systems less prone to conflict than others in e.g. ethnically or religiously fragmented societies? And how are we to curb and possibly resolve escalating conflicts without having to undermine the perspective for democratisation?

In other words, the main goal of CODE is to learn a lot more about how and the extent to which Western governments, NGOs and international organisations can affect political reform processes without throwing fuel to the fire.

Budget: 23 million DKK
Innovation Fund Grant: 16 million DKK
Duration: 4 years, commencing April 1, 2015

Access project description.