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ECPR Summer School in Methods & Techniques 2020

The Effects of Asymmetrical Demobilisation on Post-Conflict Violence: Evidence from Guatemala and Northern Ireland

Conflict Resolution
Contentious Politics
Ethnic Conflict
Political Violence
Daniel Odin Shaw
University of Glasgow
Daniel Odin Shaw
University of Glasgow

This paper will seek to explore the effects of asymmetrical demobilisation on post-conflict security, with the goal of developing a theoretical framework around this issue. The key research question is; How, and to what extent, does the (a)symmetry of a demobilisation contribute to violence in post-conflict environments? Firstly, it will test whether asymmetrical demobilisation increases violence, both political and criminal, following civil wars. Secondly, potential causal mechanisms will also be identified and tested, drawing on both rationalist and contentious politics frameworks of violent conflict.

Asymmetrical demobilisation refers to peace agreements in which armed group(s) on one side of the conflict demobilise at a different rate or time to their opponents. This can be contrasted with a symmetrical demobilisation, in which groups on all sides demobilise under similar conditions. There has been very little theoretical work on the issue of asymmetrical demobilisation, despite some evidence that such a process can contribute to negative security outcomes such as one-sided violence, political repression and human rights abuses This paper will utilise comparative process-tracing to identify the causal mechanisms through which the asymmetrical demobilisation contributes to these outcomes.

Potential causal mechanisms will be developed from the rationalist and contentious politics literature. For example, this will include bargaining theories and opportunity structures respectively. These will then be tested in a congruence analysis using a paired case study of Guatemala and Northern Ireland, with the goal of synthesising these approaches into a focused explanations of post-conflict violence. The main theoretical argument is that asymmetrical demobilisations can open up new opportunities and incentives for violence by changing the balance of power, altering the internal political dynamics within various groups and by creating new information asymmetries. This means that moves towards peace can paradoxically create new dynamics of violence.

There is a growing recognition of the need for a better understanding of post-conflict environments, with much of the previous peace and conflict literature focusing on the cessation of direct conflict. In particular the post-conflict transformation of non-state armed groups (NSAGs) following peace processes and demobilisation remains understudied in comparison to more state-centric conflicts. This paper will focus on the role of both pro- and anti-state NSAGs in driving violence, most commonly through either their continuation of political conflict or their transformation towards organised crime. It will therefore seek to make both an empirical and theoretical contribution to the literature.
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