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Article

Ayşe Betül Çelik

The growing number of civil wars in the post-Cold War era has been accompanied by a rising number of forcibly displaced people, who either stay within the borders of their own countries, becoming internally displaced persons (IDPs), or cross borders to become refugees. Although many studies have been conducted on the reasons of conflict-induced displacement, various questions remain of interest for the scholars of international relations, especially questions pertaining but not limited to the (a) gendered aspects of conflict, displacement, and peace processes, (b) predicting possible future displacement zones, and (c) best political and social designs for returnee communities in post-civil war contexts. Most studies still focus on the negative consequences of forced migration, undermining how refugees and IDPs can also contribute to the cultural and political environment of the receiving societies. Considering that there is a huge variation in types of conflict, motivations for violence, and the resulting patterns of displacement within the category of civil war, more research on the actors forcing displacement, their intentions, and subsequent effects on return dynamics can benefit research in this field. Similarly, research on return and reconciliation needs to treat displacement and return as a continuum. Paying attention to conflict parties in civil war bears the potential for new areas of exploration whose outcomes can also shed light on policies for post-civil war construction and intergroup reconciliation.

Article

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—FARC) was an insurgent group that emerged in the 1960s as a consequence of struggles between the Conservatives and the Liberals, as well as the consolidation of a Communist party that promoted an armed insurrection. A relative absence of state institutions in farther regions, the uneven distribution of land, and an impoverished peasant class were elements fueling rebellious movements. By the 1980s, however, FARC had become something more complex than an insurgent organization. After initially opposing the idea, the group accepted the generation of income through the taxation of activities in the cocaine-illicit economy. An unprecedented process of growth experienced by the insurgency, with this income, allowed a remarkable offensive against the security forces, in specific regions, by the end of the 1990s. Since then, an explanation of the organization as a “pure” political insurgency would be inaccurate; the motivation and purpose of some fighters within the group was profit. Although an explanation radically separating political and criminal (economic) agendas may be flawed, at least a concept which portrays the organization as something more than just an insurgency seems helpful. The concept of hybrid group, in which armed, political, and criminal dimensions coexist, invites exploring different types of motivations, purposes, and tasks that fighters might have. The observation of these dimensions also contributes to an understanding of the evolution of FARC after the Havana Agreement. A strong military offensive during the 2000s was one of the factors motivating the group to engage in peace negotiations with the Colombian government. With the Agreement, FARC as an armed insurgency ceased to exist, but the continuation of factors which motivated the existence of a hybrid group have triggered the emergence of a myriad of smaller groups, several of which claim to be the real successors of FARC, mixing in diverse ways the political and criminal agendas.

Article

Marie-Eve Desrosiers

In the context of nationalist and ethnic struggles, framing refers to strategic communication aimed at changing perceptions and behavior, such as persuading members of a group to unite and fight or their opponents to demobilize. The concept and theory behind framing stem from sociology, and in particular American social movements theory, where they have helped reconcile an interest in the construction of identities and “meaning work” with the study of structures that favor participation in collective endeavors. Framing not only unpacks the processes behind this form of strategic communication through notions such as alignment and resonance, but it has also produced extensive scholarship on types of frames that foster mobilization and the socio-psychological keys they play upon in so doing. Framing theory has also focused on some of the elements contributing to the success—or lack thereof—of communication aimed at persuasion. Considering that participation in crises and conflicts is an extreme form of mobilization, framing has, since the mid-2000s, made headway in conflict studies, where scholars have turned to framing processes to shed light on how people can be convinced to rally around the nationalist or ethnic flag and even take up arms in their group’s name. More recently, framing-centric approaches have been used to shed light on frames deployed in conflicts of a religious nature, as well as in the study of radicalization and the ideological or ideational framing behind it. The future of framing theory with regards to identity-based conflicts depends, however, on scholars’ ability to produce framing concepts and theoretical insights specific to conflict studies able to federate the community or researchers adopting the approach to study armed violence. As growing research on armed conflict turns to understanding the links between national and local realities, framing theorists may in addition benefit from greater attention to local frames and framing dynamics, and how they relate to the broader, elite-driven frames more commonly focused on in the study of armed violence. Finally, though so far little explored, framing proponents may stand to gain from engaging with literature using survey experiments or other promising quantitative approaches that have also sought to generate insights into ethnic relations or government representation and policy regarding crises and war.

Article

The influence and impact of non-state actors, particularly humanitarian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in conflict management and in contemporary proxy wars, has been at the core of several scholarly debates. Peace research scientists developed knowledge about actors and conditions influencing conflict management and peacebuilding at the global and regional level. They have demonstrated that proxy wars survived the Cold War and developed new features. In particular, non-state actors like NGOs, private foundations, and non-profit associations, slowly but firmly entered the conflict management system, providing expertise and new input. International relations scholars investigate the main drivers of global humanitarian phenomena and give empirical reflections suitable for adaptive policymaking. It is commonly agreed that conflicts should be solved, human rights violations stopped, and the most inhumane implications reduced, but questions remain about the effectiveness of intervention and the legitimacy of some actors and tools. The relevance of non-state actors and their roles in conflict management have found in the international relations and peace research an ideal place to develop theoretical and practical implications. Scholars emphasized the various types of actors involved (NGOs, local community representatives, diplomats), and the diverse techniques and approaches developed within and beyond the “traditional” track diplomacy, to conflict transformation. Starting from the assessment of the state of the literature in the current international relations and peace research theoretical debate on civil and proxy wars, those actors who manage conflicts and the methods and techniques they use are explained further. In particular, it is first sustained that nongovernmental actors are engaged in the management of proxy wars in shared agency with governmental ones. Second, conflict transformation is introduced as an interactive technique to manage proxies.

Article

Amanda M. Murdie and K. Anne Watson

Quantitative human rights scholarship is increasing. New data sets and methods have helped researchers examine a broad array of research questions concerning the many human rights laid out in the United Nations’ 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and related documents. These innovations have enabled quantitative human rights scholarship to better connect to existing qualitative and theoretical literatures and have improved advocacy efforts. Quantitative scholars have primarily operationalized the concept of human rights through the use of four kinds of data: events data (such as counts of abuses or attacks), standards-based data (such as coded scores), survey data, and socioeconomic statistics (such as maternal mortality or malnutrition rates). Each type of data poses particular challenges and weaknesses for analyses, including the biased undercounts of events data and the potential for human error or biases in survey or standards-based data. The human rights field has also seen a systematic overrepresentation of analyses of physical integrity rights, which have fewer component parts to measure. Furthermore, qualitative scholars have pointed out that it is difficult for quantitative data to capture the process of human rights improvement over time. The creation of new technologies and methodologies has allowed quantitative researchers to lessen the impact of these data weaknesses: Latent variables allow scholars to create aggregate measures from a variety of classes of quantitative data, as well as understandings from qualitative scholars, leading to the creation of new measures for rights other than physical integrity rights. New machine learning techniques and algorithms are giving scholars access to greater amounts of data than ever before, improving event counts. Expert surveys are pulling new voices into the data-generating process and incorporating practitioners into data processes that are too often restricted to academics. Experimental studies are furthering the field’s understanding of the processes underlying advocacy. Drawing on the lessons of past work, future scholars can use quantitative methods to improve the field’s theoretical and practical understandings of human rights.

Article

The academic study of religion and irregular warfare has expanded considerably since the turn of the 21st century—driven by both global events such as 9/11 and empirical studies that find armed rebellions with religious dimensions to be longer, bloodier, and more difficult to resolve than nonreligious conflicts. Most of this research focuses on the religious, usually radical, ideas and practices of insurgent groups. Of particular interest has been the way religion shapes the motivations and means of guerrilla fighters. Less attention has been paid to the role of counterinsurgent armies in irregular, religious wars. Following the U.S.-led invasions in Iraq and Afghanistan, a few initial studies explored how state forces misunderstand or ignore the religious dynamics of armed conflict. A growing body of research since the mid-2010s has pushed further, cataloguing a more varied set of ways counterinsurgent forces account for religion in combat and information operations. Moving forward, studies that look at both sides of the battlefield need to expand their empirical emphases, as well as more directly address a common set of challenges to the broader study of religious violence—how best to conceptualize, measure, and analyze the religious dynamics of war. Future scholarship should also consider research designs that test the causal processes purported to link religion with conflict outcomes and pay increased attention to the interaction between insurgent and counterinsurgent forces.

Article

Nicolás Terradas

Latin America is often hailed as “the most peaceful region in the world.” In both academic and policy circles, this view has taken root under the common perception of the region as a “zone of peace” where war and interstate armed conflict have largely disappeared and are now unthinkable. The region, however, continues to showcase high levels of intra-state violence despite the absence of war among states. In the IR academic debate of the long peace in Latin America, as well, several areas of discord and intense disagreement among the multiple works continue to challenge any encompassing explanations for this rather paradoxical regional phenomenon. In this context, for those interested in conducting further research in this area, there still is plenty of space for making meaningful contributions to both the theoretical study of regional peace dynamics as well as the unravelling of Latin America’s paradoxical coexistence of intra-state violence amid enduring inter-state peace.

Article

Bethany Leap and Joseph Young

What is radicalization, and what drives individuals to become radicalized? Many individuals who hold radical beliefs will never become violent, yet others are compelled to enforce their ideology through violence. Drawing from existing literature, radicalization is defined as a transformation rooted in grievances, networks, enabling environments, and ideology that brings an individual to hold radical beliefs and support the use of violence. Conversely, deradicalization is defined as both a cognitive departure from radical ideology and a behavioral shift away from radical activities and group membership. Competing theories of radicalization and deradicalization have created a debate about whether or not these phenomena must be experienced in a linear fashion, and several scholars posit that strains caused by society can lead to both cognitive and behavioral forms of radicalization. The evidence supporting these theories is demonstrated in the counter-radicalization policies of several Western countries, which use localized policing and community members to address the social and political issues that breed radicalization. Moreover, radicalization and deradicalization are not “one size fits all” phenomena; instead, they are experiences that can differ between ideologies as well as within ideologies. For example, sociopolitical factors specific to one’s nationality can impact the radicalization and deradicalization of individuals and organizations belonging to the same ideology. Despite all this, there are still significant gaps in the study of radicalization and deradicalization that need to be addressed. In academia, two debates must be settled: how should radicalization be defined, and should radicalization be understood as occurring in a linear or nonlinear fashion? In the policy realm, professionals must understand and address the grievances that increase the risk for radicalization to occur through social programs and education initiatives. Finally, policymakers and academics must communicate with each other regarding the research needs for enacting sound policies that will reduce the occurrence of radicalization.

Article

Max Abrahms and Joseph Mroszczyk

Terrorist groups exhibit wide variation in their targeting strategies, particularly the extent to which they engage in indiscriminate violence against civilian targets as opposed to more selective violence against military and other government targets. Differences in target selection are evident not only between militant groups but also within them over time. The academic literature on conflict primarily uses three lenses—the Strategic, Ideological, and Organizational Models—to explain terrorist targeting behavior. The Strategic Model views terrorist groups as rational actors that select targeting strategies based on their perceived ability to achieve desired political outcomes. The Ideological Model explains terrorist targeting strategies by examining a group’s political or religious foundation as the source of target selection decision-making. The Organizational Model attributes variation in targeting strategies to intra-organizational dynamics, namely the principal–agent problem, where terrorist operatives often engage targets in defiance of leadership preferences. Each approach has various benefits and drawbacks both theoretically and empirically. These three lenses of explaining terrorist targeting behavior suggest different counterterrorism approaches. The study of terrorist targeting strategies is complicated by multiple methodological limitations such as the availability of data, selection bias, and definitional challenges, all of which are common in the study of militant group dynamics more broadly.

Article

Joseph M. Brown

State terrorism is a contentious topic in the field of terrorism studies. Some scholars argue that the concept of terrorism should only be applied to the behavior of nonstate actors. Others argue that certain government behaviors may be understood as terrorism if the intent of state violence and threats is to stoke fear and influence the behavior of a wider audience. Three possible conceptualizations of state terrorism are worth exploring: government sponsorship of nonstate actors’ terrorism, terrorism perpetrated by government agents outside a legal framework, and “inherent” state terrorism—acts perpetrated by the state in the everyday enforcement of law and order that, if perpetrated by nonstate actors, would clearly qualify as terrorism. Each of these conceptualizations yields insight about state behavior, highlighting particular uses of violence and threats as instruments of state policy. Depending on one’s conceptualization of state terrorism, common policies and functions of government possess an underlying terroristic logic. Analytical tools developed in the field of terrorism studies may be useful in helping us understand state behavior, when violence and threats appear to have a broader communicative function in influencing an audience beyond the immediate target.