“Lacking genuine political competition, public administration in newly pacified nations is often a mess.”

The Economist has an interesting article about civil conflicts. It doesn’t mention NI, but one paragraph in particular caught my eye:

One reason for backsliding is that peace often fails to bring the prosperity that might give it lasting value to all sides. Power-sharing creates weak governments; nobody trusts anyone else enough to grant them real power. Poor administration hobbles business. Ethnic mafias become entrenched. Integration is postponed indefinitely. Lacking genuine political competition, with no possibility of decisive electoral victories, public administration in newly pacified nations is often a mess.

The great and good have been flocking to our shores to learn How It Should Be Done. That is justified up to a point, but the really hard work comes after the immediate conflict is over and the threat of violence recedes. How well do we compare against other post-conflict societies in draining the swamp?

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  • @Andrew,

    That sounds more like a description of Bosnia. In Bosnia you have a case of a very weak federal structure between the Serb Republic (Republica Srpska) and a Bosniak-Croat federation. When Bosnia seceded from Yugoslavia in 1992 the Serb leadership refused to recognize this and made war on them with the backing of Serbia. When peace occurred in 1995 the West refused to let the Serbs have their own independent entity, and so this federal structure was created with most governance actually taking place within the separate ethnic structures. It would be as if West of the Bann, South Down, South Armagh and West Belfast were governed by one structure and most of the remaining two counties governed by another with debate at a federal level at Stormont. But since NI is not a sovereign entity, there is not even the need for that.

    Bosnia and NI are the first instances in which consociationalism has been appled as a solution to an actual violent shooting conflict in which there has not been a complete failure. Consociationalism failed in Cyprus in the 1960s and in Lebanon. If Bosnia and NI were located in the Third World, they would not be receiving all the European funding that they have received. In Bosnia Europe funds a failed experiment because it is cheaper than funding another major peacekeeping operation at a time when NATO still has a major stake in Afghanistan. In NI the present situation is seen as better than any likely alternative by both Dublin and London.

    Lack of an economic peace dividend was a major reason for the failure of the Oslo peace process in the Middle East in the late 1990s. A major problem with applying consociationalism to conflict situations is that it was developed from a postwar Western European group of models at a time when Europe was prosperous. And the only instances of ethnic divisions were in Belgium and Switzerland, which solved them through ethnic federal structures–a solution that is not applicable to NI because of residential patterns.

  • aquifer

    This is a cold house for anyone not in the British Unionist or Irish Separatist camps, and accommodating this sectarian split risks further outbreaks of violence. Without an effective opposition economic issues are not getting a hearing.

    With the DUP against a corporation tax cut and Sinn Fein sticking close to them, it looks like time for the SDLP to get out of government.

    Parties that are moderates in terms of the sectarian split need to create a zone of political conflict between themselves around economic personal and sexual issues, to get people off the political line between British Loyalist and Irish Separatist.

    The extremists do death well, who will do sex?

  • FuturePhysicist

    Any analysis of post-war Britain or Ireland on this?

    Britian maintained a “consociationalist” war coalition into peace time, and indeed the Republic’s government evolved from a consociationalist (in Treaty terms) Sinn Féin

  • FP,

    Consociationalism is not the same thing as a grand coalition. Lebanon’s consociationalism does not require everyone to be in government, just that certain ethno-religious quotas be met. On the other hand, Churchill’s wartime coalition had nothing to to with overcoming community divides.