University of Limerick
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The role played by 'power-sharing' in promoting and maintaining the principles of the Good Friday / Belfast Agreement

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conference contribution
posted on 2011-09-28, 10:33 authored by Matthew Cannon
Nationalist and ethnic conflicts are a continuing source of tension in the post–Cold War period. The underlying factors contributing to conflicts include threat perception, ethnic security dilemmas, lack of trust and a desire for regional autonomy between nationalist/ethnic groups. In order to resolve these conflicts the challenge is to find solutions which address the core factors which drive the conflict. Federalism and decentralisation have been highlighted as approaches that could ameliorate the conflict . At the heart of many ethnic conflicts is the concept that devolution of power to one ethnic group is unacceptable to the competing identity. In ethnic conflicts where territory is disputed between different political/cultural identities 'special autonomy' packages in the form of power-sharing can provide an alternative to devolution. Power sharing can establish trust and reduce the ethnic security dilemma by providing multiple forums of representation, promoting overlapping identities, and pooling sovereignty. An agreement between governments that highlights the need for a co-operative approach to the governance of a region leads to increased access to governmental policymaking, with each party having a stake in government, and leads to a reduction in political tension and conflict. In this scenario former antagonists are forced to work together and make decisions by consensus turning the former antagonists into partners. Power-sharing in the form of the British-Irish Peace Agreement (Good Friday/Belfast Agreement) of 1998 presents an opportunity to examine the role played by 'special autonomy' packages in dealing with conflict. The proposed paper will examine the underlying reasons for the emergence of power-sharing in Northern Ireland. The paper will then examine the overall impact of power-sharing in Northern Ireland and the role played by this arrangement in successfully containing ethnic conflict in the region. The paper will address some of the difficulties faced by efforts at power-sharing in Northern Ireland in order to determine whether 'special autonomy' packages could be a viable long-term solution for ethnic conflicts in developing countries.



CRISE :Decentralization, Federalism and Conflict at the Department of International Development, University of Oxford, October 5-7, 2006.;





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