Conflict Management in Divided Societies: The Many Uses of Territorial Self-Governance

In: International Journal on Minority and Group Rights
Stefan Wolff Professor of International Security, University of Birmingham, UK

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Conflict over territorial control in divided societies is widespread, frequently violent and difficult to resolve, and thus merits systematic analytical and empirical engagement. Extending the discussion of territorial approaches to conflict management in divided societies beyond the usually narrower focus on federation and autonomy, this article develops the concept of territorial self-governance as a form of state construction and conflict management, arguing that it encompasses five distinct arrangements from confederation and federation to federacy, devolution and decentralisation and illustrates their manifestations with examples from 12 countries across three continents. The article establishes and tests a framework to explain their emergence, examines the conditions under which they are combined with other conflict management strategies, such as power sharing, and reflects on their track record of providing stability in divided societies, finding it more promising than its critics allow.

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