Ivory Brief

Ivory Brief: How (wo)men rebel: Exploring the effect of gender equality on nonviolent and armed conflict onset

Author: Susanne Schaftenaar

Published: November 2017, Journal of Peace Research 54, no. 6


Given the spillover impacts of violent conflict – refugee flows, ungoverned havens for drug traffickers and extremists, the spread of disease and the looting of resources –global actors are constantly attempting to predict, prevent, and/or mitigate such conflict.

This doesn’t imply a preference for international stasis – many actors are also eager to see democracies replace dictatorships wherever possible. However, they would generally prefer that this process take place through non-violent rather than violent campaigns. This is both to blunt the harms noted above, and because of convincing research suggesting that, when uprising against autocracy take place, non-violent movements are more likely than violent ones to lead to viable new democracies.

For those seeking tools to prevent violent conflict and encourage nonviolent campaigns against autocracy, Susanne Schaftenaar’s recent work is extremely valuable. Established research suggests that as country-level gender equality rises, the likelihood of violent conflict decreases. Schaftenaar’s large-scale quantitative test of the impact of country-level gender equality on conflict onset between 1961 and 2006 goes a step further. Employing country-year data from the UCDP and NAVCO datasets, her findings support the claim that such equality, all else being equal, also makes it more likely a nonviolent campaign will take place than either no campaign or a violent uprising.

Further, she proposes and defends mechanisms to explain this finding. These, if further confirmed, open up valuable new avenues for thinking about the factors that shape the strategic choice between violence and nonviolence.
Brief written by Sarah Detzner

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