Good Fences: The Importance of Setting Boundaries for Peaceful Coexistence

14 Pages Posted: 13 Oct 2011  

Alex Rutherford

New England Complex Systems Institute

Dion Harmon

New England Complex Systems Institute

Justin Werfel

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Shlomiya Bar-Yam

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Alexander Sayer Gard-Murray

University of Oxford - Nuffield College; University of Oxford - Department of Politics and International Relations

Andreas Gros

New England Complex Systems Institute

Yaneer Bar-Yam

New England Complex Systems Institute

Date Written: October 6, 2011

Abstract

We consider the conditions of peace and violence among ethnic groups, testing a theory designed to predict the locations of violence and interventions that can promote peace. Characterizing the model’s success in predicting peace requires examples where peace prevails despite diversity. Switzerland is recognized as a country of peace, stability and prosperity. This is surprising because of its linguistic and religious diversity that in other parts of the world lead to conflict and violence. Here we analyze how peaceful stability is maintained. Our analysis shows that peace does not depend on integrated coexistence, but rather on well defined topographical and political boundaries separating groups. Mountains and lakes are an important part of the boundaries between sharply defined linguistic areas. Political canton and circle (sub-canton) boundaries often separate religious groups. Where such boundaries do not appear to be sufficient, we find that specific aspects of the population distribution either guarantee sufficient separation or sufficient mixing to inhibit intergroup violence according to the quantitative theory of conflict. In exactly one region, a porous mountain range does not adequately separate linguistic groups and violent conflict has led to the recent creation of the canton of Jura. Our analysis supports the hypothesis that violence between groups can be inhibited by physical and political boundaries. A similar analysis of the area of the former Yugoslavia shows that during widespread ethnic violence existing political boundaries did not coincide with the boundaries of distinct groups, but peace prevailed in specific areas where they did coincide. The success of peace in Switzerland may serve as a model to resolve conflict in other ethnically diverse countries and regions of the world.

Keywords: Ethnic Conflict, Ethnic Violence, Ethnicity, Boundaries, Peace, Coexistence, Complexity, Complex Systems, Wavelet Filter

Suggested Citation

Rutherford, Alex and Harmon, Dion and Werfel, Justin and Bar-Yam, Shlomiya and Gard-Murray, Alexander Sayer and Gros, Andreas and Bar-Yam, Yaneer, Good Fences: The Importance of Setting Boundaries for Peaceful Coexistence (October 6, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1942515 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1942515

Alex Rutherford

New England Complex Systems Institute ( email )

24 Mt. Auburn St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Dion Harmon

New England Complex Systems Institute ( email )

24 Mt. Auburn St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Justin Werfel

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Shlomiya Bar-Yam

affiliation not provided to SSRN ( email )

Alexander Sayer Gard-Murray

University of Oxford - Nuffield College ( email )

New Road
Oxford, OX1 1NF
United Kingdom

University of Oxford - Department of Politics and International Relations ( email )

Manor Road
Oxford, OX1 3UQ
United Kingdom

Andreas Gros

New England Complex Systems Institute ( email )

24 Mt. Auburn St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Yaneer Bar-Yam (Contact Author)

New England Complex Systems Institute ( email )

24 Mt. Auburn St.
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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