Separatist Conflicts Persist, While Revolutions Just “Age Away”

Since the seminal research of Herbert Möller in the late 1960s and Jack Goldstone in the early 1990s, numerous political researchers have called attention to the tendency of countries with youthful populations—often called a “youth bulge”—to be more vulnerable to civil conflict than nearby states with a more mature population. Then a 2016 article upset political demography’s apple cart. When investigating countries with at least three consecutive years without an intra-state conflict, Omar Yair and Dan Miodownik found a fundamental difference between ethnic and non-ethnic warfare. The risk of a non-ethnic conflict was, indeed, higher under youth-bulge conditions. However, they found that youth bulges (measured at the country level, rather than at the ethnic level) were unrelated to the risk of an onset of an ethnic conflict.

La Différence Vit?

In research for a soon-to-be-published article, I set out to investigate a bit beyond Yair and Miodownik’s conclusions, asking two new questions:

  • Do the differences that Yair and Miodownik observed extend to countries with a history of recent of conflict?
  • How do these effects play out over the course of the age-structural transition—as populations age, shifting from a youthful population with a low median age, to a more mature population with a high median age?

For the rest of the article on New Security Beat … CLICK HERE.     Or download briefing: “Revolutions Just Age Away” in .pdf.

 

Fig. 1.  The patterns of 5-year risk of (a.) revolutionary conflict and (b.) separatist conflict  over the length of the age-structural transition. While the three types of conflict-history cases of revolutionary conflict (absent, intermittent, persistent) all respond to aging, the same classes of separatist conflict appear much less less responsive.

Conflict history classes: Absent: without conflict during the prior four years; Intermittent: 1 or 2 years of conflict during the prior 4 years; Persistent: 3 or 4 conflict years during the prior 4 years.

 

Age-structure and Intra-state Conflict: More or Less Than We Imagined?

Are younger countries at higher risk of civil conflict? The International Crisis Group’s 2018 list of 10 conflicts to watch suggests they might be: Like last year, intra-state conflicts (civil and ethnic conflicts within states, rather than wars between states) dominate the list, and among those, about 70 percent are within youthful countries, or states with a median age of 25.5 years or
younger. The only multi-state cluster mentioned in both 2017 and 2018 lists is the Sahel, the world’s most youthful region.

However, recent studies indicate that population youthfulness can be a less reliable and more unruly predictor than its proponents (including me) initially perceived. Three key factors complicate the relationship between age structure and intra-state conflict: conflict type (civil or territorial); conflict history; and conflict spillover (the cross-border spread of insurgencies among contiguous clusters of youthful countries).

Figure. The proportions of three age-structural groups (youthful, intermediate, mature) in intra-state conflict, 1972 to 2016.

 

 

To read the entire article, go to the New Security Beat version, or download from this site

Attachments

Putting Mali Back Together Again: An Age-Structural Perspective

Read “Putting Mali Back Together Again: An Age Structural Perspective” by Richard Cincotta, posted on the New Security Beat, May 9, 2013.

Once considered a model for Sahelian democracy, Mali’s liberal regime (assessed as “free” in Freedom House’s annual survey of democratic governance continuously from 2000 to 2011) virtually disintegrated in March 2012 when a group of junior army officers, frustrated by the central government’s half-hearted response to a rebellion in the state’s vast northern tier, found themselves – somewhat accidently – in control of the state. With renewed elections in Mali slated for July and French troops containing Tuareg and Islamist insurgents, the Sahelian state appears to be on track to start again where it left off just over a year ago. However, several African and Western political commentators contend that putting Mali’s laudably democratic, yet habitually fragile and chronically ineffectual regime, back together again is simply a bad idea.

Download Putting Mali Back Together Again 

Whither the Demographic Arc of Instability

Read “Whither the Demographic Arc of Instability?“, an essay by Richard Cincotta featured on the Stimson Center Spotlight, November 2011.

One map that quickly garnered the attention of strategists outlined the world’s weak and politically fractious states – a pattern that came to be known as the “arc of instability” (Map 1, for 2000). Inside the arc, authoritarian governments ruled with little regard for law, insurgencies undermined economic hopes, and militant organizations capable of international terror, some linked to Al Qaida, were equipped and trained. Outside the arc existed a world of modern industrial and service economies, globalized communications, and trade.

Download “Whither the Demographic Arc of Instability? ” here … 

Minority Youth Bulges and the Future of Intrastate Conflict

Read “Minority Youth Bulges and the Future of Intrastate Conflict,” by Richard Cincotta, posted in the New Security Beat on October 13, 2011. The sub-state demographic theory of the risk of ethnoreligious conflict described in this essay has been applied to several countries. See “The Refugee Crisis in the Levant” (Barnhart et al., 2015, American U.), and The Demography of the Rohingya Conflict (Blomquist & Cincotta, 2015), and the Ethno-demographic Dyanmics of the Rohingya Conflict.

From a demographic perspective, the global distribution of intrastate conflicts is not what it used to be. During the latter half of the 20th century, the states with the most youthful populations (median age of 25.0 years or less) were consistently the most at risk of being engaged in civil or ethnoreligious conflict (circumstances where either ethnic or religious factors, or both, come into play). However, this tight relationship has loosened over the past decade, with the propensity of conflict rising significantly for countries with intermediate age structures (median age 25.1 to 35.0 years) and actually dipping for those with youthful age structures (see Figure 1 below).

Why has this relationship changed? At least two underlying trends help explain the shift:

  1. Over the last two decades, the deployment of peace support operations to countries with youthful populations has surged (described in a previous post on New Security Beat); and
  2. Ethnoreligious conflicts have gradually, though noticeably, increased among a group of states with a median age greater than 25.0 years (including Thailand, Turkey, and Russia).

Read the rest at …