This tension within power-sharing has been ever present in both scholarly debate and real world application. The democratic shortcomings of consociational power-sharing have been the source of vehement debate since the model was first conceptualised by Arend Lijphart in 1969 (1969). More recently, the EAI problem has formed a core impetus for theoretical refinements to consociational theory, including the distinction between corporate and liberal power-sharing (McCulloch, 2014; McGarry & O’Leary 2006; 2009, 2007; Nagle, 2011; Wolff, 2010).
In practice, the EAI dilemma has been brought into sharp focus by a number of constitutional crises and controversies in power-sharing states. In 2009 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Bosnia and Herzegovina's state presidency election rules, by allowing only Bosniaks, Bosnian Croats and Bosnian Serbs to stand for election, discriminate against other minority groups. The so-called ‘Sejdic-Finci ruling’ marked a challenge to Bosnia’s power-sharing constitutional framework which is designed to accommodate the state’s three constituent peoples but not citizens who prefer not to identify in terms of the three ethnic groups or who identify with other ethnic groups.
The rules of Northern Ireland’s power-sharing institutions have also faced the charge of marginalising the rights of non-dominant groups, including women and the LGBTQ community. The petition of concern mechanism in the Northern Ireland Assembly - an effective veto designed to protect the interests of the dominant groups, nationalists and unionists – was used on a number of occasions, most recently in 2015, to block legislative proposals to legalise Same Sex Marriage.
While the EAI dilemma continues to plague power-sharing in theory and practice, we believe that solutions can be found. As a model of post-conflict democracy, power-sharing has proven highly effective in securing peace and stability in places riven by conflict. The system has much to offer and must be engaged with by scholars of democracy in divided societies.
We contend, however, that power-sharing can be refined and improved in ways that address the EAI problem.
This project addresses the central question: How can power-sharing arrangements be best implemented to account for the exclusion amid inclusion (EAI) problem? 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 post-conflict politics:
First, non-ethnic minorities, who do not identify with any of the principal ethnic groups in society and seek to participate in politics on a non-ethnic basis;
Second, re-aligned minorities, that define gender, sexuality and/or able-bodiedness as core identities that impact on their opportunities for engagement in the power-sharing institutions;
Third, micro-minorities, ethnic or national groups that make up a small proportion of the overall population.
The research design is three-fold, entailing:
- macro-political analysis of power-sharing institutions;
- structured, focussed comparison of four case studies where power-sharing has been implemented (Northern Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lebanon and Macedonia);
- semi-structured interviews with relevant political elites, community activists and representatives of international organisations engaged in post-conflict democratisation
Assessing the experiences of states engaged in power-sharing, we 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.
The post-conflict divided societies we study in this project are the sites of some of the most intractable conflicts in the world. This necessitates fresh ideas and proposals about building stable state institutions and economies. In producing such insights, this project seeks to make both an academic and practical contribution to the pursuit of peace and post-conflict democracy. In this way, it moves the debate about power-sharing forward, from identifying its problems of exclusion to uncovering inclusive solutions.
In the realm of scholarship, this research aims to advance knowledge and understanding of the EAI dilemma, both empirical and theoretical. It seeks to confront this persistent challenge to democracy in divided societies identified in the literature and, in so doing, build on and refine power-sharing theory. The conceptual framework we develop 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, also affecting the non-dominant groups.
In practical terms, our research works to benefit those making policy and working at community level to resolve the EAI dilemma. The project engages in a two-way exchange of knowledge with those at the heart of the EAI problem, in order to inform the research and, in turn, allow its findings to inform practice.
We engage in close communication with policymakers, political elites, community activists and NGO representatives at the international, European and domestic levels in the project’s four case studies. Through our research we promote better understanding of the EAI problem amongst these stakeholders and of the potential innovations and reforms that can address such exclusion.
We believe that the findings we produce can provide tools and resources for policymakers in post-conflict states engaged in institutional design to tackle the EAI problem. They also stand to inform the strategies of non-dominant groups in power-sharing settings for navigating the institutional structures and accessing political channels to best effect.
This research aims to support attempts at constitutional, political and policy reform in deeply divided societies, in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Lebanon and Northern Ireland and beyond. It will contribute to the broader goal of securing more just, inclusive democracy in post-conflict societies and more full and sustainable peace.