Democratizing divided societies in bad neighborhoods

Democratizing divided societies in bad neighborhoods

Funded by the Swiss National Science foundation


Prof. Lars-Erik Cederman, ETH Zurich (project leader)
Prof. Andreas Wenger, ETH Zurich
Prof. Simon Hug, University of Geneva
Dr. Malcolm MacLaren, University of Zurich
Lutz Krebs, ETH Zurich
Judith Vorrath, ETH Zurich

Project duration



After centuries of warfare, the western world has come to constitute a security community of democratic states among which militarized conflict has become more or less inconceivable. However, there are less lucky regions of the contemporary world that are neither democratic nor peaceful. In these troubled neighborhoods, authoritarian rule and persistent conflict reinforce each other in a vicious circle.

This research project deals with the challenge of spreading democracy to troubled regions afflicted by ethnic conflict and civil war. Typically, these regions feature weak states, ethnically divided societies, and boundary conflicts that make conflict prevention and peace-making extremely difficult. Although efforts to achieve peace and stability are unlikely to succeed without concomitant democratization, this can trigger even more conflict and disorder and may even wind up requiring security measures that violate the most basic democratic principles.

This dilemma highlights the importance of studying transitions from non-democratic to democratic governance in war-torn areas. The project pursues two objectives:

  • The policy objective is to assist in the development of conflict prevention and peace-making strategies as a supplement to democratization efforts
  • The scientific objective is to develop theories of conflict and democratization that can be readily applied to specific conflict-ridden regions and hopefully generalized beyond them.

The project will focus on four troubled regions: the Balkans, the Middle East, the Caucasus and the Great Lakes Region in Africa.

Project home page:


Workshop “Democratization and Conflict” 2009


  • Cederman, L.-E., Hug, S. and Krebs, L. F. (2010). Democratization and Civil War - Empirical evidence. Journal of Peace Research 47 (4): 377-394.
  • Vorrath, J. and Krebs, L. F. (2009). Democratisation and Conflict in Ethnically Divided Societies. Living Reviews in Democracy. [www]  
  • Wimmer, A., Cederman, L.-E., and Min, B. (2009). Ethnic Politics and Armed Conflict: A Configurational Analysis. American Sociological Review 74(2): 316-337. [www]  
  • Krebs, L. F. (2009). How Influential are Political Leaders? Elites and Ethno-Nationalist Conflict during Democratization. Prepared for presentation at the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance Seminar Series, Maastricht (NL), June 4, 2009; the concluding workshop of the doctoral school 'NCCR Challenges to Democracy in the 21st Century', Grindelwald (CH), June 11-13, 2009; the 5th ECPR General Conference, Potsdam (DE), September 10-12, 2009; and at the workshop 'Democratization and Conflict', Zurich (CH), October 2, 2009. [www]  
  • Cederman, L.-E., Hug, S. and Wenger, A. (2008). Democratization and War in Political Science. Democratization 15(3): 509-524. [pdf]  
  • Krebs, L. (2007). Ethnicity, Political Leaders and Violence. Prepared for presentation at the 6th Pan-European International Relations Conference, Torino, Italy, September 12-15, 2007. [pdf]  
  • Krebs, L. (2007). Trust and Social Cohesion. Prepared for presentation at the 4th ECPR General Conference, Pisa, Italy, September 6-8, 2007. [pdf]  
  • Vorrath, J., Krebs, L. and Senn, D. (2007). Linking Ethnic Conflict & Democratization: An Assessment of Four Troubled Regions. [www]