Ethnic Conflict Resolution in the 21st Century: A Functioning Model from Europe

Reuben W. Hills Conference Room
  • Roland Benedikter

The 21st century has been branded the century of the worldwide return of ethnonationalisms. Conflicts based on cultural differences are boiling up in many regions, leading to civil wars and to the breakup of states. Many of these conflicts are direct and indirect consequences of modernization and transnationalization; and they are usually as complex as they are enduring and difficult to settle, because rooted in the "deep“ dimensions of culture and religion. The result is in many cases a conflict pattern where political solutions are often only of temporary value, because the far deeper rooted ethnic and cultural dimensions sooner or later undermine them and spiral the conflict up again. As a consequence, there is a new debate today about the advantages of partition and separation, and an increasing number of scholars and politicians seems to believe that the still most humane lasting solution for ethno-cultural conflicts is to institutionally divide ethnic groups once and for all, accepting to a certain extent (non-recurring) ethnic cleansing and new flows of refugees. Answering such approaches (like the one of Jerry Z. Muller propagated paradigmatically in Foreign Affairs, March/April 2008), Roland Benedikter presents a functioning and long-term proven model from Central Europe, where different ethnic groups have managed it to find a unique institutional arrangement that permits them to live together without territorial and political partition. In presenting core features of the model of autonomy of the Autonomous Province of South Tyrol, a border region between Northern Italy and Austria where three ethnic groups coexist and have made the area formerly ridden by civil wars (until 1972) now one of the wealthiest regions of Europe, Roland Benedikter shows how cornerstones of this model may be successfully applied also to other ethnic conflict regions.

Roland Benedikter, Dott. Dr. Dr. Dr., is European Foundation Fellow 2009-2013, in residence at the Orfalea Center for Global and International Studies of the University of California at Santa Barbara, with duties as the European Foundations Research Professor of Political Sociology. His main field of interest is the multidimensional analysis of what he calls the current "Global Systemic Shift", which he tries to understand by bringing together the six typological discourses (and systemic order patterns) of Politics, Economy, Culture, Religion, Technology and Demography. Roland is currently working on two major book projects: One about the "Global Systemic Shift", and one about the "Contemporary Cultural Psychology of the West", the latter comparing culturo-political trends in the European and American hemispheres. With both projects he is also involved in European Policy Advice.