Papers & Publications
Christoph V. Steinert, Janina I. Steinert and Sabine C. Carey. Forthcoming. "Spoilers of peace: Pro-government militias as risk factors for conflict recurrence." Journal of Peace Research.
This study investigates how deployment of pro-government militias (PGMs) as counterinsurgents affects the risk of conflict recurrence. Militiamen derive material and non-material benefits from fighting in armed conflicts. Since these will likely have diminished after the conflict’s termination, militiamen develop a strong incentive to spoil post-conflict peace. Members of pro-government militias are particularly disadvantaged in post-conflict contexts compared to their role in the government’s counterinsurgency campaign. First, PGMs are usually not present in peace negotiations between rebels and governments. This reduces their commitment to peace agreements. Second, disarmament and reintegration programs tend to exclude PGMs, which lowers their expected and real benefits from peace. Third, PGMs might lose their advantage of pursuing personal interests while being protected by the government, as they become less essential during peace times. To empirically test whether conflicts with PGMs as counterinsurgents are more likely to break out again, we identify PGM counterinsurgent activities in conflict episodes between 1981 and 2007. We code whether the same PGM was active in a subsequent conflict between the same actors. Controlling for conflict types, which is associated with both the likelihood of deploying PGMs and the risk of conflict recurrence, we investigate our claims with propensity score matching, statistical simulation and logistic regression models. The results support our expectation that conflicts in which pro-government militias were used as counterinsurgents are more likely to recur. Our study contributes to an improved understanding of the long-term consequences of employing PGMs as counterinsurgents and highlights the importance of considering non-state actors when crafting peace and evaluating the risk of renewed violence.
Download the open access article here.
Anita R. Gohdes and Sabine C. Carey. 2017. "Canaries in a Coal Mine: What the killings of journalists tell us about future repression." Journal of Peace Research 54(2): 157-174.
Can the government's infringements of the rights of journalists tell us anything about its wider human rights agenda? The killing of a journalist is a sign for deteriorating respect for human rights. If a government orders the killing of a journalist, it is willing to use extreme measures to eliminate the threat posed by the uncontrolled flow of information. If non-state actors murder journalists, it reflects insecurity, which can lead to a backlash by the government, again triggering state-sponsored repression. We introduce a new global dataset on killings of journalists between 2002 and 2013, which uses three different sources that track such events across the world. The new data show that mostly local journalists are targeted and that in most cases the perpetrators remain unconfirmed. Particularly in countries with limited repression, human rights conditions are likely to deteriorate in the two years following the killing of a journalist. When journalists are killed, human rights conditions are unlikely to improve where standard models of human rights would expect an improvement.
Go to the ungated article, a related Monkey Cage post, a report by the European Commission or a podcast on Global Dispatches.
Sociologists, political scientists, and economists have long emphasized the benefits of monopolizing violence and the risks of failing to do so. Yet recent research on conflict, state failure, genocide, coups, and election violence suggests governments cannot or will not form a monopoly. Governments worldwide are more risk acceptant than anticipated. They give arms and authority to a variety of nonstate actors, militias, vigilantes, death squads, proxy forces, paramilitaries, and counterbalancing forces. We develop a typology based on the links of the militia to the government and to society as a device to capture variations among these groups. We use the typology to explore insights from this emerging literature on the causes, consequences, and puzzling survival of progovernment militias and their implications for security and human rights, as well as to generate open questions for further research.
Download the pre-proof version of the paper here or go to the ARPS site.
Sabine Carey and Neil Mitchell. 2016. "Pro-Government Militias and Conflict." Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Politics, October, DOI: 10.1093/acrefore/9780190228637.013.33.
We examine the demand for and supply of pro-government armed groups and the legacies that shape their role in civil wars. The enduring pattern of collaboration between governments and these armed non-state actors challenges conventional theory and the idea of an evolutionary process of the modern state consolidating the means of violence. Research on these groups and their consequences began with case studies, and these continue to yield valuable insights. More recently, survey work and cross-national quantitative research contribute to our knowledge. This mix of methods is opening new lines of inquiry for research on insurgencies and the delivery of the core public good of effective security. Click here for the article.
Sabine Carey and Neil Mitchell. 2016. "Pro-Government Militias, Human Rights Abuses and the Ambiguous Role of Foreign Aid." German Development Institute Briefing Paper 4/2016, DOI: 10.13140/RG.2.1.2119.0167; German version.
Many governments worldwide make use of unofficial armed groups. This practice substantially increases the risks for civilians, as the activities of such pro-government militias (PGMs) are usually accompanied by a higher level of human rights violations, including killings, torture and disappearances. This briefing paper shows that PGMs exist not only in failed states, poor countries or those engulfed in civil war and armed conflict. They can also be found in more or less democratic governments and are most common in semi-democracies. The risks that PGMs bring for peace, security and stability can only be reduced if the international community knows how governments delegate security tasks and holds governments responsible for the violence that their various state and non-state agents commit.
Sabine Carey, Michael Colaresi and Neil Mitchell. 2016. "Risk Mitigation, Regime Security, and Militias: Beyond Coup-proofing." International Studies Quarterly. 60(1): 59-72.
In Thailand, India, Libya and elsewhere, governments arm the populace or call up volunteers in irregular armed groups despite the risks this entails. The widespread presence of these militias, outside the context of state failure, challenges the expectation that governments uniformly consolidate the tools of violence. Drawing on the logic of delegation, we resolve this puzzle by arguing that governments have multiple incentives to form armed groups with a recognized link to the state but outside of the regular security forces. Such groups off-set coup risks as substitutes for unreliable regular forces. Similar to other public-private collaborations, they also complement the work of regular forces in providing efficiency and information gains. Finally, these groups distance the government from the controversial use of force. These traits suggest that militias are not simply a sign of failed states or a precursor to a national military, but an important component of security portfolios in many contexts. Using cross-national data (1981-2005), we find support for this mix of incentives. From the perspective of delegation, used to analyze organizational design, global accountability and policy choices, the domestic and international incentives for governments to choose militias raise explicit governance and accountability issues for the international community.
Download paper and appendix.
Sabine Carey, Michael Colaresi and Neil Mitchell. 2015. "Governments, Informal Links to Militias, and Accountability." Journal of Conflict Resolution. 59(5): 850-876.
From Syria to Sudan, governments have informal ties with militias that use violence against opposition groups and civilians. Building on research that suggests these groups offer governments logistical benefits in civil wars as well as political benefits in the form of reduced liability for violence, we provide the first systematic global analysis of the scale and patterns of these informal linkages. We find over 200 informal state-militia relationships across the globe, within but also outside of civil wars. We illustrate how informal delegation of violence to these groups can help some governments avoid accountability for violence and repression. Our empirical analysis finds that weak democracies as well as recipients of financial aid from democracies are particularly likely to form informal ties with militias. This relationship is strengthened as the monitoring costs of democratic donors increases. Out-of-sample predictions illustrate the usefulness of our approach that views informal ties to militias as deliberate government strategy to avoid accountability.
Download ungated article.
Neil Mitchell, Sabine Carey and Christopher Butler. 2014. "The Impact of Pro-Government Militias on Human Rights Violations." International Interactions: 40(5): 812-836.
New data show that between 1982-2007, in over 60 countries governments were linked to and cooperated with informal armed groups within their own borders. Given the prevalence of these linkages, we ask how such links between governments and informal armed groups influence the risk of repression. We draw on principal-agent arguments to explore how issues of monitoring and control help understanding of the impact of militias on human rights violations. We argue that such informal agents increase accountability problems for the governments, which is likely to worsen human rights conditions for two reasons. First, it is more difficult for governments to control and to train these militias and they may have private interests in the use of violence. Second, informal armed groups allow governments to shift responsibility and use repression for strategic benefits while evading accountability. Using a global dataset from 1982 to 2007, we show that pro-government militias increase the risk of repression and that the presence of militias also affects the type of violations that we observe.
Download ungated article.
Sabine Carey, Neil Mitchell and Will Lowe. 2013. "States, the Security Sector and the Monopoly of Violence: A New Database on Pro-Government Militias." The final version of this paper is published in the Journal of Peace Research Vol 50(2): 249-258, 2013.
This paper introduces the global Pro-Government Militias Database (PGMD). Despite the devastating record of some pro-government groups, there has been little research on why these forces form, under what conditions they are most likely to act, and how they affect the risk of internal conflict, repression, and state fragility. From events in the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria and the countries of the Arab Spring we know that pro-government militias operate in a variety of contexts. They are often linked with extreme violence and disregard for the laws of war. Yet research, notably quantitative research, lags behind events. In this article we give an overview of the PGMD, a new global dataset that identifies pro-government militias from 1981 to 2007. The information on pro-government militias (PGMs) is presented in a relational data structure, which allows researchers to browse and download different versions of the dataset and access over 3,500 sources that informed the coding. The database shows the wide proliferation and diffusion of these groups. We identify 332 PGMs and specify how they are linked to government, for example via the governing political party, individual leaders, or the military. It captures the proximity of the groups to the government by distinguishing between informal and semi-official militias. It identifies, among others, membership characteristics and the types of groups they target. These data are likely to be relevant to research on state strength and state failure, the dynamics of conflict, including security sector reform, demobilization and reintegration, as well as work on human rights and the interactions between different state and non-state actors. To illustrate uses of the data, we include the PGM data in a standard model of armed conflict and find that such groups increase the risk of civil war.
Download paper here.
Sabine Carey and Anita Gohdes. 2017. Institutional Determinants of the Killings of Journalists, Working Paper.
We develop an argument for why and when journalists are killed by different agents. We concentrate on the impact of security, political institutions, media freedom and the economy in helping us to understand why journalists are killed by different perpetrators. Using a global dataset that identifies the perpetrator and that integrates data from three different data collection projects, we analyze determinants of killings of journalists between 2002-2015.