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Research for the Real World

International Interactions Policy Blog

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International Interactions is a peer-reviewed journal with direct relevance to a wide and interdisciplinary audience. Readers include political scientists, economists, historians, mathematicians, statisticians, anthropologists, sociologists, and other social science researchers with an interest in international relations, as well as informed professionals in business and government.

Launched in 2019, II's blog synthesizes scholarly findings for a practitioner audience. Each blog post describes the policy takeaways of a recent II article, in the authors' own words, for use by engaged policymakers who can apply this research to current issues and challenges. 

Read the most recent blog posts below. Previous posts are archived by topic: conflict, human rights, leadership, and political economy.


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State intervention, external spoilers, and the durability of peace agreements | May 2021

Sema Hande Ogutcu-Fu, State intervention, external spoilers, and the durability of peace agreements, International Interactions (2021). Free Access until July 31, 2021>>

How does state intervention in civil conflict affect post-agreement durability? Intervention in civil conflict is widely studied because it is such a common occurrence. According to Uppsala Conflict Data Program, at least one state intervener was involved in thirty-eight of the forty-four conflicts which ended between 1985 and 2004. However, the literature generally ignores how state interventions during conflict affect the durability of the peace agreements that follow. In this study, I argue that state interveners continue to influence their war-time allies even after peace agreements have been reached.

A peace agreement establishes a new status quo in the post-agreement state. State interveners can use their leverage to influence the fragile post-agreement order in one of two ways: to break it down or to build it up, depending on how satisfied they are with the new order. Therefore, the durability of a peace agreement depends on state interveners’ level of satisfaction with the post-agreement order. Information about interveners’ satisfaction or lack thereof can be garnered from the economic and political signals they send after the agreement is reached.

As sixty-seven percent of the post-agreement states analyzed experienced interventions from multiple states during conflict, I also explored how multiple interventions influence peace agreement durability. Complementing the previous argument, I find that whether intervener states converge or diverge in their levels of satisfaction with the new status quo is a crucial factor that influences peace agreement durability. An intervener state that is not satisfied with the new order can take actions to spoil other interveners’ implementation efforts.

To support these two arguments, I studied the durability of internal peace agreements signed between 1985 and 2004 and qualitatively examined Angola-UNITA negotiations and Mozambique-RENAMO negotiations. I find that improving economic and political interactions between state interveners and the post-agreement state improves agreement durability. I also find that, as the divergence between each state intervener’s economic and political interactions with the post-agreement state grows, the durability of the peace agreement decreases. Intervener states’ satisfaction with the post-agreement status quo is thus a primary determinant of durable peace. Full article >>


Constraints and military coordination: How ICTs shape the intensity of rebel violence | April 2021

Martín Macías-Medellín & Laura H Atuesta, Constraints and military coordination: How ICTs shape the intensity of rebel violence, International Interactions (2021). Free Access until June 30, 2021>>

The penetration of information and communication technologies (ICTs) across the world has dramatically and steadily increased in recent years. For instance, according to the World Bank, even low-income regions like Africa, saw a dramatic rise in internet and cell phone accessibility between 1995 and 2006. In 1995, less than 1 percent of Africa’s population had access to either.  By 2006, 2 percent had access to the former and 14 percent to the latter. These figures imply a change of more than 600 and 1200 percentage points, respectively. By 2011, ICTs accessibility in the region increased by another 200 percentage points. Conversely, armed civil conflicts in Africa seem to be declining in favor of non-violent uprisings. Although this correlation could suggest that technology contributes to a reduction of armed civil conflicts, countries in the region such as Nigeria, Libya, and the Central African Republic keep experiencing high levels of violence.

Recently, scholars have investigated the effects of ICTs on patterns of armed civil conflict, but the directionality of such effects remains elusive. Some studies find that ICTs can increase the likelihood of armed conflicts because they can give armed groups better tools to solve their collective action problems. Other studies, however, suggest ICTs can improve government surveillance, reducing the abilities of rebels to conduct armed attacks.

Building upon this recent literature, we studied the effect of ICTs on the intensity of rebel violence. We suggest that the effect of ICTs varies with the type of technology. Through basic tools such as telephone and SMS services, we argue, cell phone accessibility increases levels of violence by improving rebels’ military coordination to conduct armed attacks. Enhanced peer-to-peer communication provided by cell phones helps rebels solve their collective action problems and improve the logistic organization of military operations resulting from enhanced access to tactical information.

In contrast, greater access to the internet and its platforms, such as social media and websites, would be associated with less violence due to two distinct mechanisms: one related to rebels’ supporters and the other to rebels’ opponents. Through internet platforms, rebel groups have opportunities to expand their audiences and gain both domestic and international support via persuasion campaigns in which they emphasize their moderation in the use of violence. In addition, since the internet gives other actors–victims of violence, journalists, NGOs—tools to disseminate information, rebel groups are more likely to face naming and shaming pressures if they commit excessive acts of violence. Therefore, we argue, with higher internet access, rebels have more incentives to keep their levels of violence low to maximize the effectiveness of their persuasion campaigns and avoid being named and shamed. In other words, given that the internet allows rebels to be in the spotlight, they will try to limit their levels of violence to avoid alienating their supporters.

The other way the internet can contribute to reduced levels of violence is by granting rebels’ opponents, especially governments, better monitoring tools serving to curtail rebels’ attempts to produce violence. For instance, with greater internet access, governments gain the ability to surveil non-state groups and to impose internet outages to crush rebellion.

Using a panel dataset of countries from 1989 to 2007 and the Georeferenced Event Dataset from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program, we find a consistent, positive association between greater access to mobile phone services and rebel violence. In contrast, we find that greater internet access is associated with lower levels of violence, although the effect seems to be clustered in more recent years, after the creation of major contemporary social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

Although more research needs to be conducted, our study provides initial evidence of how disaggregating the type of technology is important in understanding the effects of ICTs on armed conflicts and how ICTs might affect conflict through mechanisms linked to combatants’ audiences. Moreover, our study suggests that policies focused on internet penetration across communities might be a helpful tool to mitigate the intensity and use of rebel violence. Full article >>

Looking for more? Explore previous International Interactions blog posts by topic:

Conflict   Human Rights   Leadership   Political Economy