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Constituting Post-War Democracy

English title Constituting Post-War Democracy
Applicant Cederman Lars-Erik
Number 127367
Funding scheme ProDoc
Research institution Konfliktforschung ETH-Zentrum
Institution of higher education ETH Zurich - ETHZ
Main discipline Political science
Start/End 01.10.2009 - 30.09.2012
Approved amount 172'860.00
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All Disciplines (3)

Political science
Communication sciences
General history (without pre-and early history)

Keywords (5)

democratization; conflict; institutional design; identity formation; media

Lay Summary (English)

Lay summary
Lead: Societies emerging from civil wars face considerable challenges when rebuilding their political institutions and their civil society.
Short summary: After the end of ethnic civil wars, the challenge is to find institutional solutions that diffuse the societal tensions among ethnic groups. We assess the effect of often-discussed solutions like secession, federalism or centralized rule.
Summary: While secession, federalism or forced centralization are widely proposed institutional solutions for post-conflict societies, a detailed evaluation of their track-record in terms of providing peace and democratic stability is still largely missing. Our aim is to evaluate the effects of these political institutions while taking directly into account the way in which the voting population is constituted, both by the institutions and media. We focus on a set of specific conflict regions, including Africa, the Balkans and the Caucasus.
Aims: By offering a better understanding of how institutions and civil society interact, we explore how political and media institutions affect post-conflict reconstruction. This approach will also allow us to provide practical recommendations for policy makers.
Significance: The project will provide new scientific insights in the role that political institutions and media systems play in (re-)constituting stable democratic systems in post-conflict societies. Apart the scientific relevance the project also aims for practical relevance, especially by providing firmer knowledge for practitioners.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants



Escaping the Resource Curse: Ethnic Inclusion in Resource-Rich States in West Africa
Vogt Manuel (2012), Escaping the Resource Curse: Ethnic Inclusion in Resource-Rich States in West Africa.

Scientific events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Title of article or contribution Date Place Persons involved
Workshop “Inequality, Grievances, and Civil War” 10.11.2011 Zurich
Workshop “Elections and Representation in Divided Societies” 20.09.2011 Aarau
ECPR Joint Sessions, workshop on “Political Institutions and Political Violence” 12.04.2011 St. Gallen,

Knowledge transfer events

Active participation

Title Type of contribution Date Place Persons involved
NCCR/CIS Conference “Transformation of the Arab World: Where Is It Heading to?” 27.10.2011 Zurich

Communication with the public

Communication Title Media Place Year
Media relations: print media, online media Das System der weissen Eroberer Tages Anzeiger German-speaking Switzerland 29.09.2011
Media relations: print media, online media El Movimiento Winaq y la Democracia El Periódico (Guatemala) International 09.09.2011
Media relations: print media, online media Guatemala: Die Herrschenden haben Mayas im Griff Infosperber German-speaking Switzerland 24.09.2011
New media (web, blogs, podcasts, news feeds etc.) Kriegsverbrecher mit besten Siegeschancen 20 Minuten Online German-speaking Switzerland 05.11.2011
Media relations: print media, online media Afrikas nächste verpasste Chance? Tages Anzeiger German-speaking Switzerland 24.12.2010


Title Year
NCCR Knowledge Transfer Award 2011

Associated projects

Number Title Start Funding scheme
143213 Ethnic Inclusion and Power-Sharing Institutions 01.11.2012 Project funding (Div. I-III)
116795 Disaggregating civil Wars 01.08.2007 Project funding (special)
104884 NCCR Democarcy: Challenges to Democracy in the 21st Century (phase I) 01.10.2005 National Centres of Competence in Research (NCCRs)


This research project is designed to constitute a part of Module 1 in the Phase II of the NCCR on Challenges to Democracy in the 21st Century. As one of three projects in that module, the proposed project will be partly funded by the NCCR, but additional funds are sought for two PhD positions that constitute the heart of the project. This research module is designed for four years whereas the final year will be covered by the NCCR Democracy.This current project follows up NCCR-IP3, “Democratizing Divided Societies in Bad Neighborhoods,” which during the first phase explored the problems of democratization in four difficult regions, namely the Balkans, the Caucasus, the Middle East and the Great Lakes Region in Africa.While our first project focused on democratization as a possible trigger of conflict, the new project widens the focus from war onset to the entire conflict process centering on post-conflict situations. Such settings pose especially difficult problems during democratization processes because, as a rule, both the polity and the demos are deeply contested (Rustow 1970). It can be expected that a civil war has already undermined the state’s political institutions. Furthermore, this problem is often compounded by a lack of agreement as regards the demos, which is the popular unit forming the basis for democracy (Dahl 1989). Wherever the demos and its institutions are challenged, it will prove difficult to make majority decisions stick and the risk of recurrent conflict is likely to increase.Our main research question can thus be summarized:In post-conflict situations, what institutional designs and identity configurations are likely to produce democratic outcomes?Broadly speaking, there are three main institutional responses to the challenges mentioned above:1. Unitarism: The first option is to retain centralized political institutions and to make an effort to create a unified democratic system within which a sufficient measure of trust ensures that democratic decisions can be made and successfully implemented. This may entail power sharing but other democratic authority structures are also possible. It is also an open question whether reintegration of the demos is seen as necessary or whether more than one demos can coexist under a unified political roof.2. Autonomy: Instead of retaining full centralization, the polity can be partly separated by granting each sub-population autonomy within selected policy areas. Here we analyze territorial schemes of decentralization that may or may not follow ethnic lines. Ethnic federalism exemplifies an institutional arrangement where this applies. Whether this leads to, at least in part, a unified demos or separate demoi is depends on both institutional and societal parameters.3. Partition: Finally, conflict parties can be partitioned into their own polities governed by their own (hopefully) democratic institutions. In this case, the solution entails two or more demoi.Obviously, it is impossible to consider democratization isolated from the stability of the polity or polities in question. Indeed, recurrence of political violence can derail the democratization process, and may even be triggered by it. Therefore conflict and regime type outcomes have to be considered together.