The Strategic Use of Violence for Political Goals

Led by Halvard Buhaug
Aug 2007 – Jul 2010

This project is part of a larger larger European Collaborative Research Programme (ECRP) on 'Disaggregating Civil Wars', with partners at the Center for International Studies at ETH Zurich and the Department of Government at the University of Essex. The overall project, informally labeled GROW-Net (Geographic Representations of War Network), is lead by Prof. Lars-Erik Cederman, ETH Zurich, and the project's main web page is hosted by ETHZ.


Project Description

The Norwegian node of the ECRP is a joint project between CSCW and NTNU. It studies the strategic use of violence for political goals with an emphasis on developing and employing disaggregated geographical data. Previous research on civil war has focused on the opportunities for organizing violent rebellion, and researchers such as Collier & Hoeffler and Fearon & Laitin have claimed that motivations are less important if opportunities are not present. Although this scholarship partly theorizes at the level of individual rebel groups, its empirical analyses are conducted at the country level.

This project addresses this shortcoming by disaggregating the nation-state and analyzing the political strategies of groups within countries, including the identifying conditions under which armed rebellion is perceived as a useful strategy. The project also examines how cross-border linkages such as bases in neighbouring countries and spillovers through refugee flows affect whether strategies include violence

The contribution is organized as three tasks. The first concentrates on how rebel groups organize, with a particular emphasis on geography. The second investigates the whys of using violence for political goals, emphasizing under what conditions and where this strategy is likely to be chosen. The third task focuses on the spillover effects of these issues through the displacement of populations.

To achieve a better match between theories on the sub-national level and empirical research on the nation-state level, the empirical component will employ newly gathered geographically disaggregated conflict data (ACLED). Larger conflict zones are represented as polygons or grids on digital maps, and specific battles and military headquarters are coded with accurate point coordinates.  

The project runs from 1 August 2007 to 31 July 2010.


Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Buhaug, Halvard (2010) Dude, Where's My Conflict? LSG, Relative Strength, and the Location of Civil War, Conflict Management and Peace Science 27(2): 107–128.
Østby, Gudrun; Håvard Hegre & Clionadh Raleigh (2009) Poverty and Civil War Events: A Disaggregated Study of Liberia, Journal of Conflict Resolution 53(4): 298–623.
Cederman, Lars-Erik; Halvard Buhaug & Jan Ketil Rød (2009) Ethno-Nationalist Dyads and Civil War: A GIS-Based Analysis, Journal of Conflict Resolution 53(4): 496–525.
Gates, Scott; Halvard Buhaug & Päivi Lujala (2009) Geography, Rebel Capability, and the Duration of Civil Conflict, Journal of Conflict Resolution 53(4): 544–569.
Nordås, Ragnhild; Gudrun Østby & Jan Ketil Rød (2009) Regional Inequalities and Civil Conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa, International Studies Quarterly 53(2): 301–324.
Rød, Jan Ketil; Halvard Buhaug & Lars-Erik Cederman (2008) Disaggregating Ethno-Nationalist Civil Wars: A Dyadic Test of Exclusion Theory, International Organization 62(3): 531–551.
Buhaug, Halvard (2006) Relative Capability and Rebel Objective in Civil War, Journal of Peace Research 43(6): 691–708.

Book Chapter

Gates, Scott & S. Mansoob Murshed (2006) Spatial Horizontal Inequality and the Maoist Insurgency in Nepal, in Spatial Disparities in Human Development. Tokyo: .

Popular Article

Buhaug, Halvard (2009) Konflikter i bevegelser [Conflicts in Transition], Forsvarets Forum, 1 July.

Conference Paper

Rød, Jan Ketil (2007) Civil Wars: Prospects and Problems with the Use of Local Indicators, presented at Jan Tinbergen Peace Science Conference, Tinbergen Institute, Amsterdam, 25–27 June.
Weidmann, Nils; Jan Ketil Rød & Lars-Erik Cederman (2006) Geo-Referencing of Ethnic Groups: Creating a New Dataset, presented at the Oslo GROW-net Workshop, Oslo, 10–11 February.
Dorussen, Han & Hugh Ward (2006) Inter Governmental Organizations and the Kantian Peace - A Network Perspective, presented at the Oslo GROW-net Workshop, Oslo, 10–11 February.
Mehlum, Halvor; Edward Miguel & Ragnar Torvik (2006) Poverty and Crime in 19th Century Germany, presented at the Oslo GROW-net Workshop, Oslo, 10–11 February.
Ormhaug, Christin Marsh (2006) Health Consequences of Civil War, presented at the Oslo GROW-net Workshop, Oslo, 10–11 February.
Ziemke, Jennifer (2006) How Violence in Civil War Can Sputter and then Surge: Understanding the Logic of Escalation in the Angolan War, presented at the Oslo GROW-net Workshop, Oslo, 10–11 February.
Hegre, Håvard & Clionadh Raleigh (2005) Population Size, Concentration, and Civil War. A Geographically Disaggregated Analysis, presented at the Summer Meeting of the Polarization and Conflict Project, Konstanz, Germany, 2–5 June.
Gates, Scott & Päivi Lujala (2005) Geography, Strategic Ambition, and the Duration of Civil Conflict, presented at International Conference on 'Mapping the Complexity of Civil Wars', Zürich, 15–17 September.

Report - Other

Gates, Scott; Halvard Buhaug; Håvard Hegre; & Håvard Strand (2007) Global Trends in Armed Conflict, Globale Norge - hva nå?. Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Past Events

Related pages