November 15, 2011
Conference on Constitutional Design and Conflict Management
On November 15, 2011, CCAPS hosted the “Conference on Constitutional Design and Conflict Management in Africa” at the University of Texas at Austin. Over 100 policymakers, practitioners, academics, researchers, students, and members of the public attended the event.
The conference delved into new research by seven of the field’s leading scholars. Organized by the CCAPS program’s project on Constitutional Design and Conflict Management (CDCM), led by LBJ School of Public Affairs Associate Professor Alan J. Kuperman, each expert focused on a different African country to explore whether and how domestic political institutions affect whether climate shocks, and other disruptions, lead to political instability and violence.
Francis J. Gavin, Director of the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law, gave opening remarks, followed by Professor Kuperman’s overview of the project. The conference included four panel discussions and a keynote address.
The first panel examined African strategies of constitutional design, especially in divided societies. Eliezer Poupko, of the University of Texas at Austin, presented the first ever database classifying the political institutions in all African states on a spectrum of constitutional design.Eghosa E. Osaghae, of Igbinedion University in Nigeria, discussed how economic and environmental shocks from that country’s oil industry have interacted with political decentralization and revenue sharing. Filip Reyntjens, of the University of Antwerp in Belgium, discussed Burundi’s use of power-sharing and affirmative action to avert resurgence of genocide.
The second panel compared varying responses to, and outcomes of, African separatist movements. Stefan Wolff, of the University of Birmingham in the UK, examined how South Sudan’s 2011 secession vote affected conflict within and between the two resulting countries. I. William Zartman, of Johns Hopkins University, explored how Senegal’s political institutions have mitigated but not resolved conflict arising from both separatism and climate shocks.
The third panel explored when and why democratic elections may trigger instability, and how constitutional design can reduce that risk. Gilbert Khadiagala, of the University of Witwatersrand in South Africa, examined political violence surrounding Kenya’s elections, including in 2007. Justin O. Frosini, of The Bocconi University in Italy, explored how Ghana has averted violence despite contested elections and environmental shocks. Andrew Reynolds, of the University of North Carolina, illustrated how Zimbabwe’s repeated violation of the constitutional rights of ethnic and tribal groups has ironically forged a multi-ethnic opposition.
Alan Goulty, who served 40 years in the British Diplomatic Service, culminating as UK Ambassador to Tunisia (2004-2008) and Sudan (1995-1999), gave the keynote address titled “A Practitioner’s Perspective.”
The final panel assessed lessons learned from the multi-year CDCM project. It featured commentary by Mohamed Salih – the Nobel Peace Prize co-winner in 2007 for his work on climate change – and Bernard Grofman, Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Irvine.
Conference discussants included leading practitioners and academics: Catherine Boone, University of Texas at Austin; Herman Cohen, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State (ret.); Gordon Crawford, University of Leeds, UK; Zachary Elkins, University of Texas at Austin; Pierre Englebert, Pomona College; and Lahra Smith, Georgetown University.
The CDCM project’s findings, including the new database and case studies, are expected to be published as a book in 2013.
For the conference agenda, click here.
For panelist biographies, click here.
Video of the conference proceedings, including the panel discussions and keynote address, is available below.