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Conflict & Democracy


Admission requirements

Required courses:

  • Introduction to Peace and Conflict Studies


This course explores the relationship between conflict and democracy in post-conflict and so-called divided societies. The challenges of building democratic institutions in “failed” states and facilitating transitions from autocracy to democracy have been at the forefront of the foreign policy and development agendas of many states, international organisations and NGOs. Democratic governance is argued by many to be a good in itself, a human right, but also to be instrumental in sustaining a healthy polity. Advocates claim that democracy encourages economic growth, promotes accountable political leadership responsible to the needs of the population, and makes it less likely that disputes within and between states will escalate into armed conflict.

However, the difficulties such societies are facing in the process of democratization tell us how complex the process of designing democratic institutions is in societies characterised by significant ideological, ethnic and religious difference. One challenge is how best to support the preconditions of a stable democratic culture, such as a functioning economy and robust civil society. This course, however, focuses on a second challenge: that of designing and establishing political institutions able to foster peaceful cooperation among ethnic and religious groups.

We begin by exploring the link between democratic governance and conflict – and ask some critical questions such as does democratisation increase the risk of instability in plural societies? The course then moves on to look at different conceptions and institutional forms of democracy, asking what kind of democratic institutions are most suitable for divided societies. Does power sharing aid the consolidation of democracy? What effect do electoral rules have on the representation of different groups within the system? Is parliamentary government more stable than presidential government? Will decentralising power encourage minority groups to secede from the state? After exploring the theoretical issues, we will examine case studies of democratic transition drawn from the Middle East, Africa, Central, South, and South East Asia, asking how, and to what extent, the design of political institutions contributed to the success or failure of those transitions.

Course Objectives

  • Identify challenges of democratisation and democratic governance in post-conflict and divided societies.

  • Critically assess major concepts and theories of democracy in divided societies, and their strengths and weaknesses.

  • Apply theoretical and conceptual tools in the analysis of empirical cases.

  • Demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skills

  • Develop the capacity for independent learning, critique major texts and approaches and lead class discussions.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2020-2021 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

The course is taught through two-hour seminars. Students will be expected to participate in both large and small group discussions, and present and defend their ideas within an academic setting. The instructor will facilitate and ensure the efficient running of the discussion. Each seminar has a required reading list that must be read in advance of each seminar. Students are advised to read some of the suggested readings.

Assessment Method

  • Course participation 10%;

  • Group presentation 15%;

  • Individual discussion paper 35%;

  • Individual research paper 40%

Reading list

Many of the seminars contain readings from this books, which you are strongly recommended to buy:

  • Norris, Pippa, Driving Democracy: Do Power Sharing Institutions Work? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008).

  • Roeder, Philip G. and Donald Rothchild (eds), Sustainable Peace: Power and Democracy after Civil Wars (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2005).


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Maja Vodopivec,