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【JICA-RI Focus Vol.11】Interview with Visiting Fellow Yoichi Mine

January 14, 2011

Effective Aid Measures for Conflict Prevention:
An Interview with JICA-RI Visiting Fellow Yoichi Mine

Yoichi Mine Visiting Fellow at JICA-RI

JICA-RI Visiting Fellow (and Professor at Graduate School of Global Studies, Doshisha University), Yoichi Mine, currently heads the research project “Prevention of Violent Conflicts in Africa” which focuses on ten African countries as research targets. In this interview, he discusses the purpose and significance of the research, as well as the outcomes of the field surveys implemented so far.


Research Project Overview

Please tell us about the background and value of this research project.

After the demise of the Cold War, in the midst of the expectation of peace dividends in the 1990s, violent conflicts broke out in African countries as well as various regions throughout the world, creating innumerable refugees and displaced persons. Conflicts not only instantaneously make a wreck of the past achievements in development, but also breed a new state of poverty. At present, while violent conflicts still linger at some places in Africa, the overall situation has become relatively stable. However, it's doubtful whether peace would be consolidated.

"Violent conflicts must not be repeated."

With the international community's determination, an international policy workshop on "Conflict Prevention and Development in Africa" was held in Wilton Park, U.K., in November 2007. Some 70 people including academics, researchers, and representatives from African nations, donor countries, and international organizations, participated in the workshop co-hosted by JICA and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The Wilton Park workshop explored specific cases of African conflicts in such places as Rwanda, Burundi, and Sierra Leone, shedding light upon the structural factors leading up to each conflict. One of the major achievements of the workshop was that the participants shared the awareness of the significant role of development aid could play in conflict prevention. However, sufficient answers were not provided in terms of effective development aid measures for conflict prevention. Following the achievements and issues of the Wilton Park workshop, our present project aims to understand the mechanisms that lead to social stability and instability by examining how violent conflicts arise, with emphases on "structural factors" and "political processes."

For structural factors, we focus on the concept of horizontal inequalities (HIs) ー multi-dimensional inequalities between culturally-defined groups ー elaborated by the Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE),  Oxford University. Elements of the socio-economic dimension of HIs include income, assets, economic opportunities, education, and health care. When looking into political processes, we examine cases by considering the target countries' political institutions and how they could function to prevent violent conflicts.

Relationships between ethnic groups are not always equal, which makes the situation in ethnically-diverse African countries even more complicated. Some ethnic groups that were given privileges in the colonial past have succeeded to become the mainstay of current regimes, while other marginalized groups have often been deprived of sufficient benefit in the course of economic growth. Behind violent conflicts often lie horizontal inequalities between ethnic groups.

With such inequalities, the choice of political institutions may become a trigger of violent conflict. In the post-conflict stage, African countries have adopted various political institutions; some are typically power-dispersing (PD) and others are power-concentrating (PC). While in some countries, political institutions match well with ethnic configurations and serve to prevent conflict, they may exacerbate ethnic conflict in others. Also, the correlation between such institutional designs and the countries' performances in governance and poverty reduction is becoming clear in our analyses.

By examining how the interaction of structural factors, political processes, and people's perception of inequality influences the social stability and instability of a country, I believe we can crystallize meaningful implications in undertaking future measures of development aid for peace building and conflict prevention in Africa. 

Please tell us about the target countries and research approaches taken.

This research project focuses on 10 target countries. By categorizing the political systems of the 10 countries in the PD and PC spectrum, we hope to delineate institutional factors of political stability and instability. The survey will be conducted in four pairs of target cases (Burundi and Rwanda, Uganda and Tanzania, Ivory Coast and Ghana, Zimbabwe and South Africa) for comparison across countries, as well as single-country studies (Kenya and Nigeria) for comparison over time, combined with qualitative country case studies.

As for popular perceptions of group inequalities, we have already completed perception surveys in four countriesーGhana, Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Nigeria. Similarly, we are to conduct further surveys in Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya, so as to collect thousands of sample data in those countries for analysis. 

Interim Results and Future Schedules

What have you found from conducting the field survey?

Some questions we are asking in the perception survey are straightforward, such as  "Would you allow your daughter to marry someone from the so-and-so (the name of an ethnic group)?" By asking a wide range of  questions, we try to grasp citizens' real perceptions of group inequality, politics and the state of democracy.

These surveys cannot be conducted in every country selected for a case study. For instance, in Rwanda, where a massive genocide took place in 1994, asking about ethnic differences is understandably too sensitive. On the other hand, people of Zimbabwe who have experienced political turmoil in the past two decades were happy to answer all of our questions and talked openly about these issues, as I found out by overseeing the survey myself. Their reactions reflected different history and cultural traits of African countries.

By observing data obtained through the field survey, we have found that people who are worse off do not necessarily hold more hostile feelings towards other groups. In some cases,  people who are better off tend to show more bitterness. Further details must wait until the completion of the data analyses, but we are starting to see how various factors work complicatedly to form people's perceptions of group inequality. The project's aim is to derive lessons from the quantitative analysis of the complex perceptions and the synthesis of its outcome and the qualitative case study. This approach makes our research unique.

We are currently analyzing the data from four countries where we have completed the surveys. Surveys in the remaining target countries will be conducted soon, and, by March 2011, we plan to present the findings of the analysis of all countries. In the next fiscal year, we expect to produce working papers on each country and hope to publish a book in English on the overall findings of the research. 

How will the research collaborate with and provide input to JICA operations?

Since the inception of this research, we have sought collaboration by welcoming comments from JICA members and the people who attended the Wilton Park workshop. We believe this has been a very important process in terms of providing policy implications of the research output. The mission and strength of JICA-RI lie not in doing research for the sake of research, but in its ability to formulate projects from the perspective of providing feedback to aid practices and policy-making.

Upon the implementation of field surveys, we receive extensive support from JICA's representative offices in each country.  It is unlikely that researchers and research institutes alone would have been able to conduct these large-scale surveys with such effectiveness and efficiency. Data obtained through these perception surveys are valuable primary data that few other research institutes can have.

As shown in the case of the Wilton Park workshop, JICA has consistently wished to improve its operation by understanding how violent conflicts arise in Africa and investigating development aid measures to prevent them. "What are the most effective aid instruments for multi-ethnic African countries to attain peace?" This project is an effort for Japan to take an initiative in responding to such questions. Many development issues lie within Africa, as can be seen in the efforts in achieving the MDGs. When designing and implementing various development projects in Africa in such fields as infrastructure development, poverty reduction, health care and education, we may be able to provide aid that is more effective by applying the lessons learned through this research, paying due attention to ethnic configurations and social and political backgrounds against which each individual project operates.

To efficiently apply the findings of this research project, not only to JICA operations but to those of other donor countries and international organizations that widely engage in development issues in Africa, we intend to actively disseminate the research findings to members of the international community.


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