Working Paper

IDS working papers;129

Strengthening Democratic Governance in Conflict Torn Societies: Civic Organisations, Democratic Effectiveness and Political Conflict

Published on 1 January 2001

What is the role of civil society organisations in helping to build more effective democracy in societies which have recently emerged from violent civil conflict? To some extent, the answers depend on how the terms ‘civil society’ and ‘democracy’ are defined. It is argued that comparative analysis is best facilitated by a sociological approach which sees civil society as all those self-consciously organised associational groups engaging in the public realm through their relations with the state, and contestation over societal or political norms.

Deeply embedded cultural, ethnic or religious associations cannot therefore be excluded even though their values may not in themselves be ‘democratic’. Whether their impact on democratic life is positive or negative depends on whether the minimal, procedural aspects of democracy have been constructed in such a way as to encourage coalition building, mediation of conflict and inclusion of diversity. These concepts are applied to the analysis of ethnic civil society organisations in Bosnia and Uganda, both states characterised by politically mobilised cultural nationalisms and institutional designs emphasising decentralisation.


Image of Richard Crook

Richard Crook

Emeritus Fellow

Publication details

published by
Crook, Richard C.
IDS Working Paper, issue 129
1 85864 357 0


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