Power sharing, peace and democracy: Any obvious relationships?

Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Binningsbø, Helga Malmin (2013) Power sharing, peace and democracy: Any obvious relationships?, International Area Studies Review 16(1): 89–112.

​Power sharing, mostly understood as including political opponents in a joint executive coalition government, is today a dominant approach to solving conflict. Almost as a panacea it has been introduced in numerous war-affected countries and is often recommended as a political solution to overcome deep divisions between groups. Researchers, mediators and policy-makers applaud such solutions as forward-looking, peace-strengthening and democratic. However, many have criticized power sharing and its failed ability to create peace and development in divided and conflict-ridden countries. The literature on power sharing can reach such divergent conclusions because there is no consensus on what power sharing is, what the aim of it is and how to study it. Apart from broad inclusion in joint government, the understanding of power sharing varies and recommendations to ‘share power’ give little guidance to policy-makers aiming to mitigate conflict. Therefore, this article reviews 40 years of research on power sharing by elaborating on four central aspects within the literature: (1) conceptualization; (2) domain; (3) causal mechanism; and (4) measurement. While there may be no ‘true’ power sharing or ‘truth’ about power sharing, the article concludes that it is crucial that researchers and policy-makers are clear about which type of power sharing they are discussing in specific situations. Given that power sharing is increasingly recommended and implemented in many fragile and post-conflict societies, it is important to understand what is meant by power sharing in these contexts.​

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