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Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States

Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States

Elgar original reference

Edited by Graham K. Brown and Arnim Langer

The Elgar Handbook of Civil War and Fragile States brings together contributions from a multidisciplinary group of internationally renowned scholars on such important issues as the causes of violent conflicts and state fragility, the challenges of conflict resolution and mediation, and the obstacles to post-conflict reconstruction and durable peace-building.

Chapter 25: Conflict resolution versus democratic governance: can elections bridge the divide?

Pauline H. Baker

Subjects: development studies, development studies, politics and public policy, international politics, international relations, terrorism and security


While considerable progress has been made since the end of the Cold War in ending internal wars, and it is clear that pro-democracy forces worldwide are growing, these dual processes do not always reinforce each other, as might be expected. Two distinct schools of thought exist on the best route to democratic peacebuilding in societies undergoing profound political transformation. ‘Conflict resolution managers’ emphasize the necessity for promoting peace; they seek to end or avoid bloodshed as soon as possible, even if that means including parties with unsavory histories, overlooking human rights abuses, and compromising on democratic principles. ‘Democratizers’, by contrast, while urging an end to violence, stress the critical importance of ensuring that democratic and human rights principles are upheld to have a durable peace, even if that means a longer and bloodier road to stability. A historical example of the diplomatic approach of the ‘conflict resolution managers’ is the Dayton Accords on Bosnia (Holbrooke 1998). An example of the ‘democratizers’ approach is the transition to majority rule in South Africa (see, for example, Waldmeir 1997). The debate over which of these approaches should be applied to societies in transition is sharpest when international policy makers and local parties face key questions on how and when to convene elections.

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