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IR210: International Politics: Building Democracies from Conflict

International Relations

Course Content

How can we design, build and sustain 'democracies' in less than ideal circumstances? We will explore societies torn apart by political violence and ethnic conflict.  The main purpose is to diagnose the central problems, and examine what political responses are most appropriate.  Informed responses might include: intervention, mediation and peace agreements; power-sharing and constitutional design; territorial management of conflict; elections, party systems and institutions for governing divided societies.

The first week of the course mostly looks at the problems, in particular political violence. We begin with Case Study 1: Iraq.  We consider the benefits and risks of intervention to build democracies, and the multiple difficulties in doing so. We consider the likely futures for Iraq, Kurdistan and Islamic State.  What are the justifications for political violence?  How much political violence is there and  what are the main types and trends?  We shall examine insurgencies and counter-insurgency strategies, as well as suicide terrorism and ethnic cleansing.  Week 1 ends with the important topic of the politics of civil wars.  Since the end of the cold war, almost all wars are ‘civil wars’ and we will consider what causes civil wars, what sustains them (why do some last much longer than others?), and how do they end?  This will include Case Study 2: Multiple Civil Wars in Sudan.

Week 2 shifts the focus of attention to ‘solutions’ and policy responses to divided societies and failing states.   We begin by examining the political economy of conflict (greed versus grievances), and natural resources.  There will be a sustained focus on constitutional design and systems of power-sharing, illustrated with:  Case Study 3: Northern Ireland. We examine national self-determination, secession, partition and ethno-federalism as territorial attempts to manage conflict.  Week 2 ends with one important and controversial aspect of attempting to make the transition from war to democracy: how states deal with ‘past political crimes’. We examine this in our Case Study 4: Transitional justice in South Africa and East Timor.

Week 3 turns to elections and party systems. We look at which are the most appropriate electoral systems for divided places (and which should be avoided).  The timing of ‘first elections’ after civil war might also be important because they are risky: should they be held early to legitimize the peace, or delayed until state institutions have been rebuilt?

We also examine the growth in electoral and competitive authoritarianism: more and more regimes hold semi-competitive elections that are not truly democratic. Why do they do this?  This leads into Case Study 5: Elections in Kenya.  The course ends by returning to where we began: the politics of intervention.  We examine the failures and successes of United Nations peace-keeping missions, and analyze the negotiation and implementation of peace agreements.


Texts*

There is no set text for this course. Course materials will be distributed in the first lecture.

*A more detailed reading list will be supplied prior to the start of the programme

**Course content, faculty and dates may be subject to change without prior notice

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KEY FACTS

Session: Two

Dates: 27th July – 14th August 2015

Lecturer: Dr Paul Mitchell|


 

Level: 200 level |

Fees: Click here| for information

Prerequisites: At least one introductory course in either social science (e.g. political science, international relations, sociology, economics), history or law

Lectures: 36 hours 

Classes: 18 hours

Assessment*: One essay and one written examination

Typical credit**: 3 credits (US) 7.5 ECTS points (EU)

 


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*assessment is optional – see FAQ’s|

**You will need to check with your home institution. Read more about credit transfer here|.