Beyond root causes: understanding risk and resilience in the prevention of mass atrocities

McLoughlin, Stephen (2012). Beyond root causes: understanding risk and resilience in the prevention of mass atrocities PhD Thesis, School of Political Science and International Studies, The University of Queensland.

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Author McLoughlin, Stephen
Thesis Title Beyond root causes: understanding risk and resilience in the prevention of mass atrocities
School, Centre or Institute School of Political Science and International Studies
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2012
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Alex Bellamy
Sara Davies
Deborah Mayersen
Total pages 262
Total black and white pages 262
Language eng
Subjects 1606 Political Science
Formatted abstract
This thesis proposes a different approach to the structural prevention of mass atrocities. It investigates the conditions that enable vulnerable countries to prevent the commission of such violence. Structural prevention is commonly framed as the identifying and ameliorating of the ‘root causes’ of violent conflict. This is a process which typically involves international actors determining what these root causes are, and what the best courses of action are to deal with them. What is overlooked in this process is an understanding of why mass atrocities do not occur in countries that contain the presence of root causes. In fact, very little research has been conducted on what the causes of peace and stability are, particularly in relatively countries located in regions marred by civil war and mass atrocities. The concept of structural prevention itself appears blind to such cases, as there is an assumption that the presence of root causes indicates a linear inevitability toward mass violence. However, scholarly research into the root causes of genocide and other mass atrocities overwhelmingly argues to the contrary – while the long term, structural causes are present in the years prior to an outbreak of mass violence, they do not have a direct causal link with such episodes. Moreover, these root causes exist in many countries that have not experienced such violence. This assumption of causal inevitability has steered the concept of structural prevention away from questioning why it is that some countries experience mass atrocities and others do not, despite the presence of conditions that are commonly identified as root causes. To better understand how such vulnerable countries prevent the commission of mass atrocities, I construct an analytical framework which enables not only an understanding of risk which arises from the presence of root causes, but also of the factors that build resilience in countries, and consequently mitigate and manage such risk. Using this framework, I then provide an analysis of three countries – Botswana, Zambia and Tanzania, to account for their long term stability despite their location in Southern and East Africa, regions characterised by decades of civil war, ethnic repression and mass atrocities. These cases all highlight the contextually contingent nature of risk mitigation, yet all three countries benefitted from strong inaugural leaders who fostered a strong sense of national unity, provided equitable services, and avoided political competition based on ethnic or religious difference. Such findings are important for structural prevention, because understanding what goes right in vulnerable countries enables a 3 facilitative role for international prevention actors, when needed, rather than a prescriptive one.
Keyword Prevention
Structural prevention
Mass atrocities

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Created: Fri, 10 Aug 2012, 10:43:23 EST by Stephen Mcloughlin on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service