Final ISP conference links research and practice

The fourth and final ISP conference brought together scholars and practitioners to explore the topic "Why institutions matter"

The fourth and final ISP conference--held on 9 and 10 April 2015--brought together conflict scholars and practitioners in the field to discuss the role of institutions and institution building in conflict-affected and post-conflict societies.

Institutional reforms in post-war and divided societies aim to mitigate conflict risks that emerge from the misalignment between a society and its institutional designs. These reforms typically address problems such as the exclusion of minorities, the lack of accountability and legitimacy of political authorities, and the inefficiency of existing institutions in addressing social problems such as inequality and basic provision of services. Such institution building is often path dependent: pre-war institutions continue to function during conflict and post-war periods, while new political institutions are build in parallel to the old ones. This creates new tensions if, for instance, traditional chiefdom structures of authority are to be replaced by elections. The creation of institutional arrangements after war is also often influenced by the dynamics of armed conflict: war lords, to name only one example, are rewarded with a seat at the negotiation and often the government table. How can local and international actors design institutions that promote peace in post-war situations? What challenges do practitioners face when dealing with ongoing tensions between former warring parties or when facing the task to build up a new country after a long-lasting war? What are the ingredients of successful peace- and statebuilding?

Although the participants did not find concluding answers to all of these questions, the lively debate and the vivid exchange between practitioners and scholars indicated that both practice can benefit from academic findings, as well as researchers can benefit from the practitioners' experience.

A report that summarizes the key findings and topics of discussion will be published shortly.