2019 Keeping electoral Peace? How manpower and methods in peacekeeping operations affect election violence.

Abstract: How can United Nations peacekeeping operations (PKOs) mitigate election violence in war-torn countries? Elections can support the transition from war to peaceful politics. But they also give rise to new uncertainties and may trigger violence. Existing research shows that a higher number of PKO troops help reduce armed conflict risks. Yet, how PKOs and their troops impact election violence has not been systematically examined. I argue that we need to distinguish between PKOs with and without election-related activities to understand the impact of PKO troops on election violence. If a PKO actively assists with organizing and securing elections, a larger number of troops buttresses these efforts through increasing the capacity and credibility of election support provided by the PKO. If PKOs are not involved in the elections of their host country, however, troop numbers neither increase nor decrease election violence. Combining novel data on PKOs‘ election-related activities and existing data on PKO troops, and accounting for endogeneity in both PKO deployment and activities, the analyses of 445 elections in conflict-affected countries (1990-2012) confirm these expectations. The interactive effect between PKOs‘ manpower and their election-related methods holds for different control variable strategies, and when accounting for election assistance by other international organizations. The results imply that the design of peacekeeping is crucial to effectively manage political transitions from war.

2019 UN Peacekeeping Operations: From Mandate to Practice (with Robert Blair, Brown University, and Jessica Di Salvatore, Warwick University).

Abstract: Under what conditions do UN peacekeeping operations (PKOs) carry out the tasks written into their mandates? Faithful mandate implementation is the backbone of peacekeeping legitimacy among its various stakeholders, including UN Security Council members, troop-contributing countries, host governments and citizens in conflict-torn countries. Yet, PKOs are increasingly tasked with implementing complex mandates. At the same time, PKOs are increasingly deployed to active conflict zones, as in Mali or South Sudan. We argue that as conflict dynamics shift quickly and unpredictably and complex mandates strain resources and invite coordination problems among specialized UN agencies, these two trends—increasingly complex mandates, increasingly implemented in active conflict zones—hinder the implementation of mandated peacebuilding and security tasks. We test this argument using new data on both peacekeeping activities on the ground and UN Security Council mandates in Africa from 1995 to 2016. Using different instrumental variable approaches and fixed effects models, we find that mandate complexity and government violence indeed reduce PKOs’ “process performance” in peacebuilding tasks. Our findings imply that the trend towards increasingly complex operations in ongoing conflict likely results in a mismatch between what PKOs are mandated to do and what they actually do on the ground.

2019. Local peacebuilding in the Central African Republic: What, when, where and with whom? (with Allard Duursma)

Abstract: What, when, where and with whom do United Nations (UN) civilian peacekeepers engage in local peacebuilding activities in conflict-torn environments? Scholars have argued that UN-sponsored peacebuilding is a top-down process targeting elites at the national level. From this perspective, peacebuilding is rarely successful in creating sustainable peace at the local level. However, we lack systematic evidence to empirically evaluate these claims. Most research on UN’s local-level engagement has so far focused on military deployment. In this paper, we use fine-grained, geo-referenced information on various peacebuilding activities from UN Civil Affairs in the Central African Republic to systematically test to what extend UN civilian peacekeepers engage in local-level peacebuilding. We argue that the work of UN civilian peacekeepers is driven by both pragmatic motives and their mandate. On the one hand, civilian peacekeepers generally organize local activities in response to local conflict conditions on the ground. On the other hand, these activities may be concentrated in easily accessible areas and urban centers, and when the UN has sufficient personnel capacity. Our analyses with novel spatially and temporally disaggregated data from UN Civil Affairs in the Central African Republic provide a more nuanced picture of local UN engagement, partly contradicting the presumable failures in bottom-up peacebuilding. What civilian peacekeepers do matches their organizational mission, but unevenly so across the mission area.

[1] Equal authorship is implied.

2016 From a Perpetrator’s Perspective: International election observers and post-electoral violence, Journal of Peace Research 53(2): 226-241.

Abstract: Do international election observers deter or spur violence after election day? This article argues that only when conceptually and empirically distinguishing between violence by governments and opposition groups, can we assess the impact of international election observation. Disaggregating post-electoral violence uncovers that observers can deter governments from using force, but they have the opposite effect on opposition groups. When expecting criticism from observers, opposition leaders can easily deny their responsibility for violence by individual party militants, while weaponry and official insignia betray police and military involvement in violence and force the government to bear command responsibility. Governments also anticipate higher international costs for engaging in post-electoral violence than opposition groups, which are not usually targets of international punishment. On the other hand, international election observers unintentionally incite opposition groups to organize violence, as oppo- sition groups seek to benefit from international attention and support that come with the presence of observers. Observers’ exposure of fraud reverses this differential effect: because governments expect international costs for election rigging anyway, observers cannot deter repression after highly fraudulent elections. But their alertness to electoral malpractice alleviates opposition groups’ incentives for post-electoral violence. Using data on 230 state-wide elections in Africa from 1990 to 2009, the analysis supports the observable implications of this argument. The findings of this article imply that international election observation missions make the post-electoral environment more peaceful when it comes to government repression after non-fraudulent elections. But observers ought to develop greater local expertise to identify opposition grievances before these groups resort to violence and be attentive to the possibility of increased repression after exposing cheating.

2019 United Nations peacekeeping locally: Enabling conflict resolution, reducing communal violence. Journal of Conflict Resolution Online First

Abstract: United Nations peacekeeping operations (UN PKOs) increasingly engage with local communities to support peace processes in war-torn countries. Yet, while existing research tends to focus on the coercive and state-building functions of UN PKOs, their concrete local activities with community leaders and populations remain, empirically and theoretically, understudied. Thus, this study investigates how peacekeepers’ community-based intergroup dialogue activities influence communal violence. It argues that facilitating dialogue between different communal identity-based groups locally can revive intergroup coordination and diminish negative biases against other groups, thereby reducing the risk of communal conflict escalation. This argument is tested using a novel data set of intergroup dialogue activities organized by the UN PKO in Côte d’Ivoire across 107 departments from October 2011 to May 2016. Bivariate probit and matching address the nonrandom assignment of these interventions. The analyses provide robust evidence that the UN PKO mitigated communal violence by organizing intergroup dialogues.

2019 Silencing Their Critics: How Effective Are Governments in Restricting Civil Society? (with Kristin M. Bakke, Neil Mitchell and Dominic Perera).

Abstract: International ‘naming and shaming’ campaigns rely on domestic civil society organizations for information on local human rights conditions. To stop this flow of information, some governments restrict civil society organizations, for example by limiting their access to funding. Do restrictions reduce international ‘naming and shaming’ campaigns that rely on information by domestic civil society organizations? We argue that on the one hand, restrictions may reduce civil society organizations’ ability and motives to monitor local abuses. On the other hand, these organizations may mobilize against restrictions and find new ways of delivering information on human rights violations to international publics. Using a cross-national dataset and in-depth evidence from Egypt, we find that low numbers of restrictions trigger shaming by international non-governmental organizations. Yet, once governments impose multiple types of restrictions, it becomes harder for civil society organizations to adapt, resulting in fewer international shaming campaigns.

2019 When States Crack Down on Human Rights Defenders (with Kristin M. Bakke and Neil Mitchell)

Abstract: Research suggests that civil society mobilization together with the ratification of human rights treaties put pressure on governments to improve their human rights practices. An unexplored theoretical implication is that pressure provokes counter-pressure. Instead of improving treaty compliance, some governments will have an interest in de-mobilizing civil society to silence their critics. Yet we do not know how and to what extent this incentive shapes governments’ policies and practices regarding civil society organizations. We argue and show—using a new global database of government-sponsored restrictions on civil society organizations—that when governments have committed to human rights treaties and, at the same time, continue to commit severe human rights abuses, they impose restrictions on civil society groups to avoid monitoring and mitigate the international costs of abuses.

The use of force in UN peacekeeping operations: Micro-level mechanisms of peacekeeping during the 2015 elections in Côte d’Ivoire

Abstract: How does the use of force in UN peacekeeping operations influence political leaders’ perceptions, attitudes and behavioural intentions regarding the use of election violence? While we know that UN peacekeepers help deter election violence across countries, individual-level mechanisms remain empirically under-studied. Using evidence from field research-based interviews during the 2015 electoral period in Côte d’Ivoire, UN documents and news reports, the present study fills this gap. Findings suggest that local political leaders were aware of UN peacekeepers’ efforts and felt more secure as a result. Government and moderate opposition leaders felt encouraged to peacefully engage in elections. However, a perceived lack of preventive measures and perceptions of partiality constrained UN peacekeepers’ ability to positively affect political leaders’ attitudes to violence and intentions to peacefully participate in elections.

2019 Making or breaking peace: How UN deployment and activities influence electoral violence.

Abstract: UN peacekeeping operations (PKOs) promote elections to support transitions from war to institutional politics. Yet, elections renew competition and sometimes reignite violence. Can PKOs mitigate election violence? Beyond the present research focus on PKO personnel numbers, this study argues that we need to consider peacekeepers’ activities on the ground to answer this question. Increasing troop numbers alone may not function as an effective means to reduce election violence. More PKO troops result in higher costs and, consequently, greater international pressure for PKO withdrawal. Therefore, PKOs may advocate earlier elections to hand-over responsibilities to an elected government. Yet, early elections are also associated with a higher risk of election violence. In addition, larger PKOs are more effective in preventing battlefield victory. By consequence, spoiler may target “unprotected” elections to undermine a peace deal. However, if PKOs are designed to secure and assist the organization of elections, more personnel may be associated with fewer events of election violence. Increasing personnel can strengthen PKOs’ activities to protect voters, candidates and election workers, optimise their material and logistical election support and signal greater international engagement for peaceful elections. Employing a novel dataset on PKOs’ activities during electoral periods and accounting for endogeneity in both deployment and policy choice, the statistical analysis of 445 elections in war-torn countries provides robust evidence that the impact of PKO personnel on electoral peace is conditional on PKO election-related activities.

What do the peacekeepers do, where and how? The determinants of UN peacebuilding activities during election times

Abstract: What do UN missions do on the ground for containing electoral violence in conflict-affected countries? While previous research has investigated where UN peace operations are deployed across and within countries and the type of UN conflict management efforts, including diplomacy and sanctions, a systematic analysis of the choice of UN peace-building activities during electoral periods is missing. This paper argues that the UN invests more resources in activities assisting electoral security when threats of electoral violence loom larger. Variation in UN peace operations’ electoral security assistance follows this instrumental logic because member states seek to minimize negative externalities, UN bureaucrats seek to uphold organizational legitimacy and elections maximize attention and pressure on the UN to adequately respond to electoral conflict threats. However, UN Security Council members and UN host state governments may also shape the choice of UN peace operations’ activities to in uence their interests. Using new disaggregated data on the activities of 44 UN peacekeeping and political missions in 119 electoral periods in 31 conflict-affected countries from 1990 to 2012, this study finds that election-related security threats positively influence UN investment in electoral security assistance but that historical and military ties between UN host countries and powerful UN member states also play a role. The results imply that the UN can live up to its humanitarian and security mission and that self-selection into the most violent elections needs to be taken into account to avoid under estimating the UN’s positive contribution to electoral peace.