Point Sud Workshop in Stellenbosch

The ISP network and researchers from the University of Stellenbosch organized a Point Sud workshop on constitutional design in divided societies

From 16 to 17 November the ISP network together with Nicola de Jager and Pierre du Toit from the University of Stellenbosch and Christof Hartman (University of Duisburg-Essen) organized a workshop on the topic "Peace through institutions? Constitutional choices for divided societies." It was funded through the German Research Foundations' Point Sud program and held at the STIAS (University of Stellenbosch) in Stellenbosch, South Africa. It brought together 16 scholars from Malawi, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Austria, and Germany. The participants examined the topic from a wide variety of theoretical, empirical, methodological, and disciplinary perspectives

The workshop succeeded in achieving its goals in three respects worth noting: First, there was an agreement that political institutions—and their formal regulation through constitution and informal constitutional practice—are important prerequisites for the prevention of violence in divided societies. Although the specific impact of institutions varies by area and country, the participants identified generalizable patterns. Power-sharing, for instance, was found to be short-term solution to many conflicts. Yet it also does not seem to bring about longer peace on average and provides a breeding ground for renewed conflict in Zimbabwe and Kenya. And even though it might nudge post-conflict countries towards democracy in the immediate aftermath of civil conflict, a closer inspection reveals that this short-term democratization is only superficial and largely donor-driven. A further finding was that formal constitutional rules are often undermined by informal (extra-) constitutional practices; examples for this practice were presented with case studies of different interpretations of the rule of law within South Africa .

Second, the workshop provided an excellent opportunity for younger scholars to engage with more senior counterparts including across disciplinary boundaries. Six participants were either in their pursuit of their doctorate or Post-docs and even though most participants had a background in political science, perspectives from law and ethnology complemented the political science approaches very well.

Third, the workshop laid the ground for a future collaboration and networking among African and European scholars on the topic of institutions for sustainable peace. This offers the chance to extent the already existing ISP network to the African continent and to include insights and perspectives from African scholars. The participants discussed future opportunities for collaboration.

You can find more detailed information about the workshop here.