Exclusion amid Inclusion: Power-Sharing and Non-Dominant Minorities

Lead Research Organisation: Queen's University of Belfast
Department Name: Sch of Hist, Anthrop, Philos & Politics


In 2009 the European Court of Human Rights ruled 14-3 that Bosnia-Herzegovina's election rules for its tripartite presidency, which allow only Bosniaks, Bosnian Croats, and Bosnian Serbs to stand for election, were discriminatory against other minority groups, namely the Roma and Jewish communities. This is because Bosnia's constitutional framework, alongside the presidential arrangement, is designed to accommodate and include the three constituent peoples but not members who prefer not to identify in terms of three ethnic groups. While this was thought necessary to end the 1992-5 war (Weller and Wolff 2005), it has forestalled the consolidation of democracy and has marginalised individuals and groups who do not identify with the three dominant communities. As Jakob Finci, the leader of Bosnia's Jewish community who took the case to the ECHR, noted in response to the ruling, Bosnia's institutional rules are "a problem of injustice that divides Bosnian people into first and second class citizens" (Balkanist 2015).
Power-sharing, which entails the representation and participation of major societal (ethnic) actors in the process of governing, has been adopted in places as diverse as Burundi, Lebanon, Kosovo, Macedonia, Northern Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Iraq and has facilitated a war-to-peace transition in some of the world's most deeply divided places. However, while power-sharing is often heralded as a democratic and inclusive approach to managing ethnic difference, it faces a significant trade-off. For power-sharing to create stability and pacify the divided groups, it must marginalise those actors who were not directly involved in conflict, who we refer to as non-dominant groups. As part of this project, we identify three kinds of non-dominant groups who were neglected in the original design of power-sharing institutions and remain on the sidelines of postconflict politics: non-ethnic minorities, re-aligned minorities, and micro-minorities.
We refer to this institutional bias in favour of large groups as the "exclusion amid inclusion" (EAI) dilemma. We seek to answer the following research question: How can power-sharing arrangements best be implemented to account for the EAI problem? This research project is designed to confront the EAI dilemma and offer feasible and viable recommendations for its resolution.
We seek to answer the following research question: How can power-sharing arrangements best be implemented to account for the EAI problem? We answer this question through a threefold methodological approach. We shall conduct 1) a macro-political analysis of power-sharing institutions to assess their ability to redress the EAI dilemma, 2) four comparative case studies (Northern Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lebanon and Macedonia) investigating the relationship between the inclusion of dominant groups and the exclusion of non-dominant groups, employing a "structured, focused" method of comparison (George and Bennett 2005), and 3) semi-structured interviews with politicians from parties that participate in power-sharing and from parties that struggle for legislative representation, community activists from the three kinds of non-dominant groups identified, and representatives of international organisations engaged in democracy promotion and conflict resolution.
Overall, we assess the experiences of states engaged in power-sharing in order to develop a series of policy proposals for modifying the institutional framework to accommodate identity groups that have either been marginalised under the initial institutional design, or who have emerged during the period of peace. This is of timely relevance: our conceptual framework can be extended to societies beyond our comparative cases where peace is marred by episodic violence, frozen conflict, and/or active violent conflict between the dominant groups, but also affecting the non-dominant groups.

Planned Impact

The postconflict divided societies we study in the project house some of the most intractable conflicts in the world. This necessitates fresh ideas and proposals about building stable state institutions and economies. Our underpinning research will benefit those making policy and those striving to bring greater understanding between different factions involved in resolving the EAI dilemma. Integral to the proposed research is the ambition to work closely with policymakers at the research, writing up and dissemination phases of the project and to contribute directly to the effectiveness of public policy. This will be done by communication of the findings of the project directly to senior policymakers in Northern Ireland, Macedonia, Bosnia, and Lebanon, as well as at EU level and several other current and prospective member states, including the UK. Our project will provide underpinning research to grapple with these challenges, built on close dialogue we will maintain with:
a) the local and European policymaking community, advising them on tools to reassess policies and behaviour in key areas of postconflict institution building. Involving both the political and regional elites representing sectors of society and culture, we envisage that the influence of our research will aid in minimising the impact of power-sharing institutions on exclusion of non-dominant groups.
b) civil society activists and political elites, developing reports and policy briefings that will be used to strengthen inter-communal dialogue and reflection. This will allow social and political elites to maintain expertise to deliver penetrating and comprehensive analyses of opportunities for inclusion of non-dominant groups into power-sharing political process beyond the period of funding envisaged for the project.
c) NGOs and groups representing micro-minorities, non-ethnic groups, and realigned minorities will be able to assess opportunities for individuals to improve sustainably their input into process of institutional and policy change in the four polities we study. This will create momentum for self-sustaining work in countries we will have studied, procure additional diverse benefits to policymakers in the target countries and to a broad set of regional and international actors involved in postconflict state institution building.
The fundamental lessons from our project will include identification of gaps in provisions by state and established political actors and societal needs and will offer the definitive basis for changing actual practice at the communal level. We will identify strategies for policymakers and constitutional designers that can balance the need for the representation and participation of both dominant and non-dominant groups and we will work closely with community activists highlighting strategies that can facilitate their demands for greater inclusion in power-sharing processes. The enhancement of presentation of our three excluded groups will prove useful to those working to overcome inter-communal divisions and perceptions of the systemic exclusion from public life. Representatives of the three groups we study in detail will be involved in informing and formulating policy development in our case study countries under the aegis of our project, which will provide a neutral platform for discussion of sensitive issues of political exclusion in divided societies. This research aims to support attempts at constitutional, political and policy reform in deeply divided societies, including but not restricted to, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Lebanon and Northern Ireland.


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