Category Archives: International

When Does Online Censorship Move Toward Real-World Repression?

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), the following work was presented at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).  The presentation, titled “When Does Online Censorship Move Toward Real-World Repression?” was a part of the Chinese Politics Mini-Conference on Thursday, August 30, 2018.

The Chinese government asserts power and control through strict management of online information. Often, this comes in the form of censorship of online content, which is handled by private internet content producers, large companies like Sina Weibo and Tencent. However, in certain cases these companies report users and content back to the government rather than simply censoring it.

What content, and which users, are being targeted for handling by the state? Researchers Mary Gallagher and Blake Miller analyzed leaked documents from Sina Weibo, a popular Twitter-like social networking site, to find out why certain cases were moved back to government handling.

Control dynamics over time
Throughout the 1990s, the Chinese government became more tolerant of people protesting the socio-economic effects of market reforms. The government became more selective about its tactics, focusing on preempting major challenges, while allowing reasonable grievances to be aired, especially those aimed at lower-level local officials.

Gallagher and Miller point out that this apparent rise in tolerance does not mean that repression has disappeared. Rather, the state has moved into a period of “responsive authoritarianism” in which repression is harder to detect, more pre-emptive, and more sophisticated.

An evolving approach to censorship
The rise of social media has been a game-changer for both the state and social movements. As technology makes it easier to share information and express grievances, the government is able to track and repress public opinion and outcry in a more precise way. Discussions of topics such as environmental degradation, food safety, or lapses in public safety can be shared more widely, building support for reforms.

As online groups gain popularity, there has been a shift in government behavior to shutting down these groups, not necessarily because they are expressing subversive ideas, but because they may develop the power to persuade. The state uses a “scalpel, not a hammer” to censor, targeting groups that may become influential. This gives the perception that speech is more free, while quashing groups before they can influence public opinion, potentially disrupting order.

Managing influencers and controversies
By analyzing a leaked dataset of internal censorship logs from Sina Weibo, Gallagher and Miller were able to explore patterns in the types of content and users reported back to the security bureaus.

They found that the party is primarily concerned with limiting alternative voices and influence, and they do that by inhabiting and dominating social media platforms. The government is intolerant of topics once they go viral. To prevent sensitive topics from going viral in the first place, the party looks closely at influential opinion leaders. As Gallagher and Miller note, “the content of the post is less important than who is posting it.” The state seeks to head off the threat of the “butterfly effect” by containing a small incident quickly before it can grow in influence over time.

Online opinion leaders are seen as a threat to the government that must be handled carefully. because they stand between the mass media and the public. Most often, the state response to these influencers is not to censor them immediately, but to report them back to the government. This way, the party cultivates opinion leaders to identify with the party, so that they may be able to shape public opinion favorably in the event of a “public opinion emergency.”

Censors allow a great deal of online discussion to take place, while at the same time targeting users who are believed to have enough influence to cause real damage. By allowing more speech, the state gains a window into public opinion. However, when discussions pick up momentum, or begin to criticize the government, censors will work to guide discussions and report users and content back to the state.

Top 10 Most-Viewed CPS Blog Posts in 2017

post developed by Catherine Allen-West

Since its establishment in 2013, a total of 137 posts have appeared on the Center for Political Studies (CPS) Blog. As we approach the new year, we look back at 2017’s most-viewed posts. Listed below are the posts that you, our dear readers, found most interesting on the blog this year. 


What makes a political issue a moral issue? by Katie Brown and Timothy Ryan (2014)

There are political issues and then there are moral political issues. Often cited examples of the latter include abortion and same sex marriage. But what makes a political issue moral?An extensive literature already asserts a moral vs. not moral issue distinction. Yet, there is no consensus in how to distinguish between moral and non-moral political issues. Further, trying to sort issues into these categories proves challenging.

 


 

The Spread of Mass Surveillance, 1995 to Present by Nadiya Kostyuk and Muzammil M. Hussain (2017)

By closely investigating all known cases of state-backed cross-sector surveillance collaborations, our findings demonstrate that the deployment of mass surveillance systems by states has been globally increasing throughout the last twenty years. More importantly, from 2006-2010 to present, states have uniformly doubled their surveillance investments compared with the previous decade. 

 


 

Why do Black Americans overwhelmingly vote Democrat? by Vincent Hutchings, Hakeem Jefferson and Katie Brown (2014)

In 2012, Barack Obama received 93% of the African American vote but just 39% of the White vote. This 55% disparity is bigger than vote gaps by education level (4%), gender (10%), age (16%), income (16%), and religion (28%). And this wasn’t about just the 2012 or 2008 elections, notable for the first appearance of a major ticket African American candidate, Barack Obama. Democratic candidates typically receive 85-95% of the Black vote in the United States. Why the near unanimity among Black voters?

 


 

Measuring Political Polarization by Katie Brown and Shanto Iyengar (2014)

Both parties moving toward ideological poles has resulted in policy gridlock (see: government shutdowndebt ceiling negotiations). But does this polarization extend to the public in general? To answer this question, Iyengar measured individual resentment with both explicit and implicit measures.

 


 

Is policy driven by the rich, or does government respond to all? by Catherine Allen-West (2016)

The enthusiasm for both Trump and Sanders’ messages about the influence of money in politics brings up an important question: Is policy driven by the rich, or does government respond to all? Political scientists have long been interested in identifying to what degree wealth drives policy, but not all agree on it’s impact.

 

 


 

Exploring the Tone of the 2016 Election by U-M undergraduate students Megan Bayagich, Laura Cohen, Lauren Farfel, Andrew Krowitz, Emily Kuchman, Sarah Lindenberg, Natalie Sochacki, and Hannah Suh, and their professor Stuart Soroka (2017)

Political economists often theorize about relationships between politics and macroeconomics in the developing world; specifically, which political or social structures promote economic growth, or wealth, or economic openness, and conversely, how those economic outcomes affect politics. Answering these questions often requires some reference to macroeconomic statistics. However, recent work has questioned these data’s accuracy and objectivity. An under-explored aspect of these data’s limitations is their instability over time.

 


 

Crime in Sweden: What the Data Tell Us by Christopher Fariss and Kristine Eck (2017)

In a recent piece in the Washington Post, we addressed some common misconceptions about what the Swedish crime data can and cannot tell us. However, questions about the data persist. These questions are varied but are related to two core issues: (1) what kind of data policy makers need to inform their decisions and (2) what claims can be supported by the existing data.

 


 

Moral conviction stymies political compromise by Katie Brown and Timothy Ryan (2014)

Ryan’s overarching hypothesis boils non-compromise down to morals: a moral mindset orients citizens to oppose political compromises and punish compromising politicians. There are all kinds of issues for which some citizens seem resistant to compromises: tax reform, same-sex marriage, collective bargaining, etc. But who is resistant? Ryan shows that part of the answer has to do with who sees these issues through a moral lens.

 


 

Does the order of names on a ballot affect vote choice? by Katie Brown and Josh Pasek (2013)

Ballots list all candidates officially running for a given office so that voters can easily choose between them. But could the ordering of candidate names on a ballot change some voters’ choices? 

 

 

 


 

Inside the American Electorate: The 2016 ANES Time Series Study by Catherine Allen-West, Megan Bayagich and Ted Brader (2017)

Since 1948, the ANES- a collaborative project between the University of Michigan and Stanford University- has conducted benchmark election surveys on voting, public opinion, and political participation. This year’s polarizing election warranted especially interesting responses. 

 

The Spread of Mass Surveillance, 1995 to Present

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), the following work was presented at the 2017 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).  The presentation, titled “Big Data Innovation Transfer and Governance in Emerging High Technology States”  was a part of the session “The Role of Business in Information Technology and Politics” on Friday September 1, 2017. 

Post developed by Nadiya Kostyuk and Muzammil M. Hussain

On August 24, 2017, India’s highest court ruled that citizens have a fundamental right to privacy. Such a ruling may serve to slowdown the government’s deployment of the Aadhaar national ID program, a robust relational database connecting each of India’s 1.3+ billion citizens with their unique 12-digit identity aimed at centralize their physiological, demographic, and digital data shadows — minute pieces of data created when an individual sends an email, updates a social media profile, swipes a credit card, uses an ATM, etc. While the government has presented the Aadhaar system as an improved channel to provide social security benefits for its nationals, India’s civil society organizations have protested it as a means of furthering government surveillance. India’s trajectory in ambitiously modernizing its high-tech toolkit for governance represents a rapidly spreading trend in the contemporary world system of 190+ nations.

Take China as an other example.  China has recently mobilized its government bureaucracies to establish the worlds’ first ever, and largest, national Social Credit System covering nearly 1.4+ billion Chinese citizens. By 2020, China’s citizen management system will include each Chinese national’s financial history, online comments about government, and even traffic violations to rank their ‘trustworthiness.’ Like India’s, these unique ‘social credit’ ratings will reward and punish citizens for their behavioral allegiance with the regime’s goals by scientifically allowing the state to operationalize its vision of a “harmonious socialist society.”

Yet, the implementation of state-sponsored and ‘big data’-enabled surveillance systems to address the operational demands of governance is not limited just to the world’s largest democratic and authoritarian states. This summer, at the annual meetings of the International Communication Association (May 2017, San Diego) and the American Political Science Association (August 2017, San Francisco), the project on Big Data Innovation & Governance (BigDIG) presented findings from the first event-catalogued case-history analysis of 306 cases of mass surveillance systems that currently exist across 139 nation-states in the world system (Kostyuk, Chen, Das, Liang and Hussain, 2017). After identifying the ‘known universe’ of these population-wide data infrastructures that now shape the evolving relationships between citizens and state powers, our investigation paid particular attention to how state-sponsored mass surveillance systems have spread through the world-system, since 1995.

By closely investigating all known cases of state-backed cross-sector surveillance collaborations, our findings demonstrate that the deployment of mass surveillance systems by states has been globally increasing throughout the last twenty years (Figure 1). More importantly, from 2006-2010 to present, states have uniformly doubled their surveillance investments compared with the previous decade.

In addition to unpacking the funding and diffusion of mass surveillance systems, we are also addressing the following questions: Which stakeholders have most prominently expressed support for, benefited from, or opposed these systems, and why? What have been the comparative societal responses to the normalization of these systems for the purposes of population management in recent decades?

The observed cases in our study differ in scope and impact.

Why do stable democracies and autocracies operate similarly, while developing and emerging democracies operate differently? Access to and organization of material, financial, and technocratic resources may provide some context.

While nations worldwide have spent at least $27.1 billion USD (or $7 per individual) to surveil 4.138 billion individuals (i.e., 73 percent of the world population), stable autocracies are the highest per-capita spenders on mass surveillance. In total, authoritarian regimes have spent $10.967 billion USD to surveil 81 percent of their populations (0.1 billion individuals), even though this sub-set of states tends to have the lowest levels of high-technology capabilities. Stable autocracies have also invested 11-fold more than any other regime-type, by spending $110 USD per individual surveilled, followed second-highest by advanced democracies who have invested $8.909 billion USD in total ($11 USD per individual) covering 0.812 billion individuals (74 percent of their population). In contrast to high-spending dictatorships and democracies, developing and emerging democracies have invested $4.784 billion USD (or $1-2 per individual) for tracking 2.875 billion people (72 percent of their population).

It is possible that in a hyper-globalizing environment increasingly characterized by non-state economic (e.g., multi-national corporations) and political (e.g., transnational terror organizations) activity, nation-states have both learned from and mimicked each other’s investments in mass surveillance as an increasingly central activity in exercising power over their polities and jurisdictions. It is also likely that the technological revolution in digitally-enabled big data and cloud computing capabilities as well as the ubiquitous digital wiring of global populations (through mobile telephony and digital communication) have technically enabled states to access and organize population-wide data on their citizens in ways not possible in previous eras. Regardless of the impetuses for increases in mass surveillance efforts, our research aims to provide empirical support to advance theory and guide policy on balancing security needs and privacy concerns at a time where many governments are ambitiously upgrading their governance systems with unbridled hi-tech capabilities.

 

Bureaucracy and Economic Markets: A Coevolutionary View of Development

by Catherine Allen-West

Political economists have long debated the causal relationship between good institutions—such as technocratic, Weberian bureaucracies—and economic development. Whereas some insist that good institutions must precede economic development, others assert that it is economic success that eventually leads to good institutions. So who’s right and who’s wrong?

Yuen Yuen Ang Faculty Associate at the University of Michigan’s Center for Political Studies answers this question using a novel, dynamic approach in a chapter entitled Do Weberian Bureacracies Lead to Markets or Vice Versa? A Coevolutionary Approach to Development. The chapter recently appeared in an edited volume, States in the Development World, that is the final product of a series of international workshops on state capacity hosted by Princeton University. The chapter is also included in the Working Paper Series of Stanford University’s Center for Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL).

Development as a Three-Step, Coevolutionary Sequence

Ang injects a novel perspective into this long-standing debate. She argues that development unfolds in a three-step coevolutionary sequence:

Harness weak institutions to build markets ➡️ emerging markets stimulate strong
institutions ➡️ strong institution preserve markets.

In this chapter, Ang demonstrates this argument using a historical comparison of three local states in China. She traces the mutual adaptation of state bureaucracies and industrial markets from 1978 (beginning of market reform) through 1993 (acceleration of market reform) to the present.

The political economies of all these locales have undergone radical transformation over the past four decades. According to the conventional view of development this process must have occurred by first establishing a fleet of new bureaucracies rather than relying on any existing systems. The process is depicted here:

Ang, however, reveals a surprisingly different—non-linear—story. She finds that Chinese locales built markets by first mobilizing the preexisting bureaucracy, left over from the Maoist era, to attract capitalist investments through distinctly non-Weberian modes of operation: non-specialized and non-impartial. Normally, features that violate Weberian best practices are dismissed as “weak” or “corrupt.” Yet weak institutions, Ang argues, are precisely the raw materials for building markets from the ground up.

From there, Ang says, the process of development continued. Once local markets took off, the emergence of markets altered the preferences and resources of local state actors. These changes led local governments to replace earlier unorthodox practices with more Weberian practices that serve to preserve established markets. Ang’s three-step coevolutionary sequence is summarized in the figure below.

Market-Building ≠ Market-Preserving

Ang’s theory of development draws a sharp distinction between the institutions that bolster emerging as opposed to mature markets, which she calls “market-building” and “market-preserving” institutions respectively. Thus far, existing theories have focused exclusively on “market-preserving” institutions. Ang calls attention to the neglected variety of “market-building” institutions.

This chapter offers a preview of Ang’s broader work, contained in her book, How China Escaped the Poverty Trap. Her book further unpacks the three-step coevolutionary sequence of development, with evidence not only from China but also other national cases (Europe, the U.S., Nigeria). It also details the distinct fieldwork strategies and analytic methods that she developed to map coevolutionary sequences.

Reviews of How China Escaped the Poverty Trap recently appeared in the Straits Times, Foreign Affairs, and World Bank Development Blog. Yongmei Zhou, the Co-Director of the World Development Report 2017, writes in her review:

“The first takeaway of the book, that a poor country can harness the institutions they have and get development going is a liberating message. Nations don’t have to be stuck in the “poor economies and weak institutions” trap.  This provocative message challenges our prevailing practice of assessing a country’s institutions by their distance from the global best practice and ranking them on international league tables. Yuen Yuen’s work, in contrast, highlights the possibility of using existing institutions to generate inclusive growth and further impetus for institutional evolution.”

It is extremely promising that the development establishment questions its long-standing belief that conventionally good/strong institutions, benchmarked by Western practices, must be in place for markets to grow. Tremendous room for alternative methods of growth promotion opens up once academics and policymakers entertain the possibility that existing institutions in developing countries, even if they violate best practices, can be used to kick-start markets, as Professor Ang’s research reveals.

References

Ang, Y.Y. “Do Weberian Bureaucracies Lead to Markets or Vice Versa? A Coevolutionary Approach to DevelopmentM.” Chapter in Centeno, Kohli & Yashar (Eds.), States in the Developing World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017.

Ang, Y.Y. How China Escaped the Poverty Trap, Cornell University Press, Cornell Studies in Political Economy, scheduled for release on September 6, 2016.

Ang, Y.Y. “Beyond Weber: Conceptualizing an Alternative Ideal-Type of Bureaucracy in Developing Contexts,” Regulation & Governance, 2016.

Crime in Sweden: What the Data Tell Us

by Christopher Fariss and Kristine Eck

Christopher Fariss, University of Michigan and Kristine Eck, Uppsala University

Debate persists inside and outside of Sweden regarding the relationship between immigrants and crime in Sweden. But what can the data actually tell us? Shouldn’t it be able to identify the pattern between the number of crimes committed in Sweden and the proportion of those crimes committed by immigrants? The answer is complicated by the manner in which the information about crime is collected and catalogued. This is not just an issue for Sweden but any country interested in providing security to its citizens. Ultimately though, there is no information that supports the claim that Sweden is experiencing an “epidemic.”

In a recent piece in the Washington Post, we addressed some common misconceptions about what the Swedish crime data can and cannot tell us. However, questions about the data persist. These questions are varied but are related to two core issues: (1) what kind of data policy makers need to inform their decisions and (2) what claims can be supported by the existing data.

Who Commits the Most Crime?

Policymakers need accurate data and analytical strategies for using and understanding that data. This is because these tools form the basis for decision-making about crime and security.

When considering the reports about Swedish crime, certain demographic groups are unquestionably overrepresented. In Sweden, men, for example, are four times more likely than women to commit violent crimes. This statistical pattern however has not awoken the same type of media attention or political response as other demographic groups related to ethnicity or migrant status.

Secret Police Data: Conspiracy or Fact?

In the past, the Swedish government has collected data on ethnicity in its crime reports. The most recent of these data were analyzed by the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention’s (BRÅ) for the period 1997-2001. The Swedish police no longer collect data on the ethnicity, religion, or race of either perpetrators or victims of crime. There are accusations that these data exist but are being withheld. Such ideas are not entirely unfounded: in the past, the Swedish police have kept secret—and illegal—registers, for example about abused women or individuals with Roma background. Accusations about a police conspiracy to suppress immigrant crime numbers tend to center around the existence of a supposedly secret criminal code used to track this data. This code is not secret and, when considered, reveals no evidence for a crime epidemic.

For the period  of November 11, 2015 through January 21, 2016 the Swedish police attempted to gauge the scope of newly arrived refugees involvement in crime, as victims, perpetrators, or witnesses. It did so by introducing a new criminal code—291—into its database. Using this code, police officers could add to reports in which an asylum seeker was involved in an interaction leading to a police report. Approximately 1% of police reports filed during this period contained this code. It is important to note here that only a fraction of these police incident reports actually lead to criminal charges being filed.

The data from these reports are problematic because there are over 400 criminal codes in the police’s STORM database, which leads to miscoding or inconsistent coding. Coding errors occur because the police officers themselves are responsible for determining which codes to enter in the system. The police note that there was variation in how the instructions for using this code were interpreted. The data show that 60% of the 3,287 police reports filed took place at asylum-seeker accommodation facilities, and that the majority of the incidents contained in these reports took place between asylum seekers. Are these numbers evidence of a crime epidemic?

Is there any Evidence for Crime Epidemic in Sweden?

If asylum-seekers are particularly crime-prone, then we would expect to see crime rates in which they are overrepresented relative to how many are living in Sweden. Sweden hosted approximately 180,000 asylum-seekers during this period and the population of Sweden is approximately 10 million. Therefore, asylum-seekers make up approximately 1.8% of the people living in Sweden, while 1% of the police reports filed in STORM were attributed to asylum-seekers.

While the Code 291 data are problematic because of issues discussed above, the data actually suggests that asylum seekers appear to be committing crime in lower numbers than the general population and does not provide support for claims of excessive criminal culpability. There were four rapes registered with code 291 for the 2.5 month period, which we find difficult to interpret as indicative of a “surge” in refugee rape. We in no way want to minimize the impact that these incidents had on the individual victims, but considering wider patterns, we consider a rate of four reports of rape over 76 days for a asylum-seeking population of 180,000 as not convincing evidence of an “epidemic” perpetrated by its members.

There is no doubt that crime occurs in Sweden. This is a problem for Swedish society and an important challenge for the government to address. It is a problem shared by all other countries. There is also no doubt that refugees and immigrants have committed crimes in Sweden, just as there is no doubt that Swedish-born citizens have committed crimes in Sweden as well. But if policy initiatives are to focus on particular demographic groups who are overrepresented in crime statistics, then it is essential that the analysis of the crimes committed by members of these groups be based on careful data analysis rather than anecdotes used for supporting political causes.

The Government of Sweden’s Facts about Migration and Crime in Sweden: http://www.government.se/articles/2017/02/facts-about-migration-and-crime-in-sweden/

Christopher Fariss is an Assistant Professor of Political Science and Faculty Associate at the Center for Political Studies at the University of Michigan.  Kristine Eck is Associate Professor at the Department of Peace and Conflict Research at Uppsala University.

 

Income and Preferences for Centralization of Authority

Post developed by Catherine Allen-West in coordination with Diogo Ferrari

DiogoFerrari

Diogo Ferrari, PhD Candidate, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), the following work was presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).  The presentation, titled “The Indirect Effect of Income on Preferences for Centralization of Authority,” was a part of the session “Devolution, Fragmented Power, and Electoral Accountability” on Thursday September 1, 2016.

One of the primary activities of any elected government is to decide how to allocate public funds for policies like health care and education. In countries that adopted a federal system – like the United States, Canada, Australia, Germany, and others – the central government usually has some policies that promotes distribution of fiscal resources among different jurisdictions, like among states or cities. Take Australia for example. The federal government collects taxes that are funneled to local governments  in accordance with their needs. This diminishes the inequality between different Australian sub-national governments in their capacity to invest and provide public services. Brazil is another example. Brazil has a huge federal program that transfers resources from rich to poor states and whose goal is to reduce regional inequality. These federal governments can only continue to operate in this way, that is, promoting interregional redistribution, if the power to control fiscal resources is centralized.  Therefore, there is a connection between interregional redistribution and centralization of authority.

Now, voters have different preferences about how the government should spend the fiscal resources. They have different opinions, for instance, to which degree taxes collected in one region should be invested in another region. Do voters that support interregional redistribution also prefer that the fiscal authority is concentrated in the hands of the federal government as opposed to the sub-national ones? Which characteristics determine the preference of voters regarding interregional redistribution and centralization of authority? How those preferences are connected?

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Support for the Islamic State in the Arab World

Post developed by Catherine Allen-West in coordination with Michael Robbins.

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), the following work was presented at the 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association (APSA).  The presentation, titled “Passive Support for the Islamic State: Evidence from a Survey Experiment” was a part of the session “Survey and Laboratory Experiments in the Middle East and North Africa” on Thursday, September 1, 2016.

On Thursday morning at APSA 2016, Michael Robbins,  Amaney Jamal and Mark Tessler presented work which explores levels of support for the Islamic State among Arabs, using new data from the Arab Barometer. The slide set used in their presentation can be viewed here: slides from Robbins/Jamal/Tessler presentation

Their results show that among the five Arab countries studied (Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Palestine and Algeria) there is very little support for the tactics used by Islamic State.

Picture1

Furthermore, even among Islamic State’s key demographic –  younger, less-educated males – support remains low.

Picture2

For a more elaborate discussion of this work and the above figures, please see their recent post in the Washington Post’s Monkey Cage blog, “What do ordinary citizens in the Arab world really think about the Islamic State?

Mark Tessler is the Samuel J. Eldersveld Collegiate Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan. Michael Robbins is the director of the Arab Barometer. Amaney A. Jamal is the Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Politics at Princeton University and director of the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice.

 

The Future of Development Assistance – Creating Adaptive Aid Agencies

Post developed by Linda Kimmel in coordination with Yuen Yuen Ang.

GDN_400In June, Yuen Yuen Ang, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Center for Political Studies (CPS) Faculty Associate, spoke at a panel on “What Should Tomorrow’s Aid Agencies Look Like?” Jointly organized by the Global Development Network (GDN) and Center for Global Development, the event featured Professor Ang as a winning author of the GDN Essay Competition on “The Future of Development Assistance,” sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The contest invited “original and innovative thinking on development assistance.” An international jury of development experts selected thirteen winners out of 1,470 submissions worldwide.

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Transitional Injustice: Subverting Justice in Transition and Postconflict Societies

Post developed by Yioryos Nardis in coordination with Christian Davenport.

Department of Political Science Professor and Center for Political Studies faculty member Christian Davenport’s latest work examines transitional justice – judicial and non-judicial actions implemented by governments to deal with legacies of human rights abuses. These actions can typically include criminal prosecutions, truth commissions, reparations, and various kinds of institutional reforms.

In Transitional Injustice: Subverting Justice in Transition and Postconflict Societies, published in the Journal of Human Rights, Davenport and Cyanne Loyle, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, coin the term transitional injustice to describe governments that implement transitional justice without maintaining interest in truth, peace, or democracy. Instead, their intention is to promote denial and forgetting, violence, and legitimize authoritarianism.

The normative perspective of transitional justice assumes that legal processes following political conflict are implemented with the goal of reconciliation, peace, and democratization. It is assumed that “good” processes will lead to “good” outcomes. However, this assumption makes it possible for governments to hide behind transitional justice using similar legal institutions to advance detrimental aims. Davenport and Loyle argue that governments can use trials, truth commissions and amnesty without maintaining an interest in these goals, but rather to promote transitional injustice, i.e. denial, violence, and legitimizing state repression. Transitional injustice is particularly problematic for those interested in promoting justice processes because it reveals how institutions can be subverted for different purposes, often with international consent.

The article not only provides conceptual clarity on identifying differences but also provides indicators by which policy makers and scholars can determine if transitional injustice is taking place. In particular, policy makers can identify transitional injustice by relying on three key dimensions: (1) characteristics of the process, (2) levels of violence in the postconflict society, and (3) characteristics of the government (Table 1). These components allow government intentions and the potential for subversion of justice to be evaluated.

First, the degree of openness of the process is an indicator of the objectives of the government and the possibility for positive outcomes from the process. One could gauge the promotion or subversion of truth-telling by the degree to which distinct actors are integrated into the justice process, given an opportunity to participate, to draft,  review and edit relevant decisions, as well as veto aspects of the process. Transitional justice should have a broad mandate incorporating all types of violations experienced during the conflict. Transitional injustice, however, reveals itself as a more closed process with a limited mandate and exclusion of certain individuals and groups.

The second indicator is the level of violence surrounding the process and the country. While violent events often linger in postconflict societies, the presence of transitional justice should lead to reduced levels of violence in the society overall. Transitional injustice however, is accompanied by violence internationally, domestically, and surrounding the process itself.

Third, characteristics of the government can be assessed by the level of democracy and the country’s present trajectory. Breaking from a past autocratic regime does not ensure that the new regime will be more democratic. Rather, the intentions of the regime should be assessed through institutional and behavioral indicators of democracy. The degree to which a justice process legitimates a democracy through open and frequent elections, diverse and representative political parties, and autonomous institutions is a valuable metric for understanding the general intent of those involved. Transitional justice should be accompanied by growing levels of democracy, while transitional injustice will accompany autocracy.

Table. Identifying TJ and TI

To more specifically illustrate how to identify transitional injustice, the article examines post-genocide Rwanda. On the surface, it appears that Rwanda’s approach to justice supports the normative aims of transitional justice. The Rwandan approach combines international, national, and local justice processes with the stated goals of truth and reconciliation, peace, and democracy. However, critics have called into question the ability of this justice package to accomplish those goals. Instead, it is being revealed that elements of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, national courts, and local justice processes have been used by the Rwandan government to promote denial, renewed violence, and the legitimization of an autocratic regime.

Regarding the openness of the process, the first dimension of transitional injustice, the space for justice in post-genocide Rwanda has been constricted through the support of targeted remembering, state-sanctioned scripted truths, and restricted access to justice. Instead of addressing all forms of conflict in Rwanda, the current justice package concentrates only on violence committed during the genocide. This strategy aims to direct attention to the successes of the government, namely ending the genocide, and away from its failures, mainly human rights violations and civilian massacres during the civil war and following the 1994 political transition.

Turning to the level of violence surrounding the process, far from reducing violence, the Rwandan approach to justice allows the government to increase domestic violence and international conflict. Violence has been a persistent component of the post-1994 Rwandan state, as in the aftermath of the genocide, a number of people were accused, tried and executed in a short period of time. By 2000, 348 people convicted of genocide crimes through the national courts were sentenced to death (Schabas, 2009), while the procedural fairness of many of those trials is questioned (Amnesty International, 2007). There has also been violence surrounding the justice processes themselves. In 2007 alone, the US State Department recorded 324 incidents of violence related to local justice processes, including killings of genocide survivors (US Department of State, Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, 2008). While the government has officially denounced the violence, it has been reluctant or unable to stop it.

The final dimension of transitional injustice, characteristics of the government, provides an example of the Rwandan justice system working to consolidate an authoritarian regime and restrict political participation. The Rwandan government is a far cry from a functioning democracy. While elections have been held, their validity has been questioned and the lack of a viable opposition party has essentially made the country a single-party state (Reyntjens, 2004; Davenport, 2007). Freedom House (2007) has characterized elections as “marred by bias and intimidation which precluded any genuine challenge to the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)”.

Attempts to launch rival political parties have been met with intimidation and, in some instances, violence. The restriction of viable political alternatives to President Kagame’s RPF has limited the electoral power of individual citizens. In the 2010 presidential election, three opposition candidates were excluded from the ballot and Paul Kagame was reelected by 93% of the vote.

In conclusion, Rwanda claims to support domestic and international efforts to collect information about what happened, to communicate the findings, and capture and punish those who were involved in previous violent action. Through these efforts, the government has argued that it will advance truth and reconciliation, prevent violence and facilitate democratization. Unfortunately, by concealing political motivations in the obstruction of justice proceedings and engaging in violent activity, the Rwandan government is doing irreparable damage to the development of truth, reconciliation, rule-of-law, and democracy. In order to acknowledge and challenge this subversion, the international community must recognize the ability of justice institutions to be used for less democratic aims. This research therefore aims to provide skepticism regarding the goals associated with transitional justice as well as indicators to evaluate the potential subversion of relevant processes.

References:

Amnesty International. (2007). Truth, justice and reparation: Establishing an effective truth commission. AI Index: POL 30/009/2007. Available: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4678de4a2.html.

Davenport, Christian. (2007). State Repression and the Domestic Democratic Peace. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

Freedom House. (2007). Countries at a Crossroad: Rwanda. Available: https://freedomhouse.org/report/countries-crossroads/2007/rwanda.

Reyntjens, Filip. (2004). Rwanda, ten years on: From genocide to dictatorship. African Affairs,103, 177-210.

Schabas, William A. (2009). Post-genocide justice in Rwanda. In After Genocide: Transitional  Justice, Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Reconciliation in Rwanda and Beyond, Phil Clark and Zachary D. Kaufman (eds.). New York: Columbia University Press.

Trading hard hats for combat helmets: The economics of rebellion in eastern Ukraine

Post developed by Yioryos Nardis in coordination with Yuri Zhukov.

In March and April 2014, angry mobs and armed men stormed administrative buildings and police stations in eastern Ukraine. Waving Russian flags and condemning the post-revolutionary government in Kyiv as an illegal junta, the rebels proclaimed the establishment of ‘Peoples’ Republics’ of Donetsk and Luhansk, and organized a referendum on independence. Despite initial fears that the uprising might spread to other provinces, the rebellion remained surprisingly contained. While 61% of municipalities in Donetsk and Luhansk fell under rebel control during the first year of the conflict, just 20% experienced any rebel violence. What explains these local differences in rebellion across eastern Ukraine? Why have some towns remained under government control while others slipped away? Why might two municipalities in the same region experience different levels of separatist activity?

Yuri Zhukov

Yuri Zhukov

The latest research by Yuri Zhukov, faculty member in the Center for Political Studies and Assistant Professor of Political Science, uses new micro-level data on violence and economic activity in eastern Ukraine to examine these questions. In the paper “Trading hard hats for combat helmets: The economics of rebellion in eastern Ukraine” (forthcoming in the Journal of Comparative Economics) Zhukov evaluates two prominent explanations on the causes and dynamics of civil conflict in eastern Ukraine: ethnicity and economics.

Identity-based explanations expect conflict to be more likely and more intense in areas where ethnic groups are geographically concentrated. According to this view, the geographic concentration of an ethnolinguistic minority – in this case, Russians or Russian speaking Ukrainians – helps local rebels overcome collective action problems, while attracting an influx of fighters, weapons and economic aid from co-ethnics in neighboring states.

According to economic explanations, as real income from less risky legal activities declines relative to income from rebellious behavior, participation in the rebellion is expected to rise. This framework maintains that violence should be most pervasive in areas potentially harmed by trade openness with the EU, austerity and trade barriers with Russia.

Zhukov finds that local economic factors are much stronger predictors of rebel violence and territorial control than Russian ethnicity or language. Pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine are “pro-Russian” not because they speak Russian, but because their economic livelihood depends on trade with Russia.

The study uses new micro-level data on violence, ethnicity and economic activity in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, to understand how these two explanations are related to rebel violence and territorial control. The spatial units are 3037 municipalities (i.e. cities, towns, villages) in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces. For each municipality, Zhukov estimated the proportion of the local labor force employed in three industries: machine-building (which is heavily dependent on exports to Russia), metals (less dependent on Russia, and a potential beneficiary of increased trade with the European Union), and mining (vulnerable to International Monetary Fund-imposed austerity and cuts in state-subsidies). He also calculated the proportion of Russian speakers in each locality.

Rebel violence data are based on human-assisted machine coding of incident reports from multiple sources, including Ukrainian and Russian news agencies, government and rebel press releases, daily ‘conflict maps’ released by both sides, and social media news feeds. This yielded 10,567 unique violent events in the Donbas, at the municipality level, recorded between the departure of President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014 and the second Minsk ceasefire agreement of February 2015. To determine territorial control, particularly whether a populated place was under rebel or government control on a given day, Zhukov used three sources: official daily situation maps publicly released by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council (RNBO), daily maps assembled by the pro-rebel bloggers ‘dragon_first_1’ and ‘kot_ivanov’, and Facebook posts on rebel checkpoint location.

zhukov_allTo evaluate the relative explanatory power of ethnic and economic explanations of violence in the Donbas, the study uses Bayesian Model Averaging. It finds that a municipality’s prewar employment mix is a better predictor of rebel activity than local ethnolinguistic composition. Municipalities more exposed to trade shocks with Russia experienced a higher intensity of rebel violence throughout the conflict. Municipalities where machine-building represented a small share of local employment (2%, the lowest in the data) were 38% less likely to experience violence than municipalities where the industry was more dominant — and the local population more vulnerable to trade disruptions with Russia. Such localities also fell under rebel control earlier – and took longer for the government to liberate – than municipalities where the labor force was less dependent on exports to Russia. On any given day, a municipality with higher-than-average employment in the beleaguered machine-building industry (26%) was about twice as likely to fall under rebel control as a municipality with below-average employment in the industry (4%).

By contrast, ethnicity and language had no discernible impact on rebel violence. Municipalities with large Russian-speaking populations were more likely to fall under rebel control, but only where economic dependence on Russia was relatively low. In other words, ethnicity only had an effect where economic incentives for rebellion were weak.

The seemingly rational economic self-interest at the heart of the conflict stands in sharp contrast with the staggering costs of war. In the twelve months since armed men began storming government buildings in the Donbas, over 6000 people have lost their lives, and over a million have been displaced. Regional industrial production fell by 49.9% in 2014, with machinery exports to Russia down by 82%.Suffering heavy damage from shelling, many factories have closed. With airports destroyed, railroad links severed and roads heavily mined, a previously export-oriented economy has found itself isolated from the outside world.

References:

2001 Ukrainian Census (State Committee on Statistics of Ukraine, 2001).

Bureau van Dijk’s Orbis database (Bureau van Dijk Electronic Publishing, 2015).

Segodnya, 2015. Ekonomika donetskoy oblasti v upadke iz-za voyny – gubernator kikhtenko. [Donetsk region’s economy in stagnation because of the war – Governor Kikhtenko]. Segodnya.

Stasenko, M., 2014. Novaya ekonomika ukrainy budet stroit’sya bez rossii i donbassa [Ukraine’s new economy will be built without Russia or the Donbas]. Delo.ua.