"All relevant stakeholders need to be included in the settlement process"

Der "ethnische Föderalismus" wurde zu Beginn der 90er-Jahre als Lösung für Konflikte zwischen den äthiopischen Völkern in die äthiopische Verfassung geschrieben. Heute gilt er vielen als die Ursache für die Vertiefung der ethnischen Konflikte. Im Panel "Federalism in Ethiopia: Ethnicization, Politicization, and Traditions of Diversity" werden wir darüber bei unserem Online-Forum am 20.März mit Dr. Wolbert Smidt (Uni Jena, Uni Mekelle), Dr. Dereje Feyissa Dori (Life and Peace Institute / Uni Bayreuth) und Prof. Stefan Wolff (University of Birmingham) diskutieren. Prof. Stefan Wolff ist als Politikwissenschaftler unter anderem Spezialist für "subnational governace and conflict". Panel-Moderatorin Sophia Wellek hat ihn vorab schon für uns interviewt.

DÄV: We are experiencing an increase in intra-state conflicts around the world. In many places, for lack of alternatives, people are relying on subnational governance such as federalism to manage diversity and conflict domestically. Do you also continue to see the great potential of subnational governance to mitigate conflict, and why?

Wolff: Subnational governance—be it territorial autonomy, devolution, decentralisation, or federal structures—has very clear conflict-mitigating effects. It is, therefore, not just a second-best solution in the absence of other alternatives. The reason for this is that subnational governance has a variety of benefits: it brings government closer to the people, makes politicians more accountable and politics more transparent, and creates opportunities for more localised approaches to service delivery. That is at least the theory behind subnational governance. But we also see it in practice. In a recent study on "Territorial self-governance and proportional representation" (find link below) I conducted with two colleagues, we found that state structures with at least one territorial self-governance arrangement have a statistically significant reducing effect on the prevalence of territory-centred intrastate violence.

D: What factors are particularly crucial for subnational governance to mitigate conflict in a sustainable way?

W: There are two important issues here. First, subnational governance as an approach to conflict-mitigation is not a panacea. In other words, not all drivers of conflict are responsive to a ‘treatment’ with some form of subnational governance. So we have to be realistic about what kinds of conflict can be settled with subnational governance reforms. Second, because conflict drivers are often many, subnational governance needs to be combined with other conflict-mitigation techniques. Here we found in the same study that the most effective combination of institutions is a form of subnational governance combined with a national PR electoral system and a non-parliamentary form of government. This is most likely because this combination of institutions best enables the representation of societal diversity in national and subnational institutions, that is, as noted above, it brings government closer to the people and makes politicians more accountable and politics more transparent. This argument, however, presumes at least minimally democratic political institutions with regular, free, and fair elections.

D: What can Ethiopia learn from these and other federal systems?

W: Two types of lessons can be learned from broader comparisons. The first relates to the key institutions that work best in the mitigation of actual (or potential) conflict. The one lesson that I have already mentioned is that, all else being equal, some form of territorial self-governance combined with a national PR electoral system and a non-parliamentary form of government has the greatest likelihood in reducing the risk of violent conflict. In turn, the worst combination of institutions is one with no territorial self-governance arrangement but with a proportional electoral system for the national legislature and a parliamentary form of government. The contrast between these two combinations is stark: in the former case, we find a likelihood of violent conflict of 2.5%, in the latter case, the risk is more than five times as great with 13.3%.

The other lesson to be learned is more about the process of how a new system of institutions should be negotiated. Here, findings from a recent Worl Bank study "Subnational Governance and Conflict" (find link below) indicate that the issue is about the inclusiveness of negotiations. This means that all relevant stakeholders are included in the settlement process and have a voice and vote in deciding when it comes to defining future institutional arrangements that create and sustain resilient institutions and are responsive to citizens’ needs. This minimises the risk of future spoilers derailing a peace process, especially if international partners commit to the long-term support of the governance structures that emerge from these inclusive negotiations.

Neudorf, Natascha; Theuerkauf, Ulrike; Wolff, Stefan: "Territorial self-governance and proportional representation: reducing the risk of territory-centred intrastate violence"

Wolff, Stefan; Ross, Simona; Wee, Asbjorn "Subnational Governance and Conflict : The Merits of Subnational Governance as a Catalyst for Peace"