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Constitutional Reform for Conflict Management

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This course module addresses a longstanding debate, among both academics and practitioners, regarding two opposing strategies of constitutional design. The first, accommodation, provides guarantees to societal groups based on their distinct identity or geographic location, via institutions such as proportional representation, federalism, autonomy, quotas, economic redistribution, and veto power. The opposing strategy, integration, aims to erode the political salience of groups that are distinguished by identity or location, via centralized institutions that promote a single, unifying nationality. Between these two ideal-types lies a spectrum of constitutional design strategies, including centripetalism. Many experts recommend accommodative constitutional design on grounds that it directly appeases dissatisfied groups and therefore should reduce political conflict. But a growing minority of scholars warns that accommodative institutions are inefficient and may perpetuate societal divisions, thereby exacerbating conflict. Constitutional reform also is hampered by the stickiness of existing institutions, which may result in incomplete reform that actually increases the risk of conflict. Empirical studies reveal that both accommodative and integrative constitutional design can produce political stability, if properly institutionalized, but may lead to instability if improperly institutionalized. Constitutional reformers should first assess the benefits and risks of various paths, based on factors including the following a countrys existing political institutions, the prospects of successful reform, the dangers of incomplete reform, and the ability of various constitutional designs to promote democracy and political stability.

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  • Government and Political Science

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