Research seminar: Dominic Rohner (University of Lausanne)

Title: "Hidden hostility: Donor attention and political violence"

  • Date: 06 June 2023 from 12:30 to 13:30

  • Event location: Seminar Room - Piazza Scaravilli, 2 + Microsoft Teams Meeting


Political violence is a worldwide problem that has been on the rise over the past decade. The international dimension of domestic repression and dissent is a particularly relevant factor yet surprisingly understudied. In particular, governments that heavily depend on foreign aid may crack down on political opponents when donors are distracted by major domestic events. In reaction, the opposition may have incentives to reduce agitations to incite such crackdowns. We study this interaction in a simple strategic model and empirically test the predictions using fine-grained data for Africa. The theory surmises that oppositions will reduce agitations when shocks are anticipated (elections). In contrast, when unanticipated shocks (natural disasters) hit, and when agitations are already underway, the theory surmises that the opposition will substitute visible forms of unrest (riots) for more covert operations on soft targets (civilian-targeted violence). This pattern is precisely reflected in the data. International inattention hurts political oppositions through the out of equilibrium threat of increased repression, and observed political crackdowns may only represent the ‘tip of the iceberg’. Enhancing international scrutiny would help safeguard public demonstrations of dissent and reduce violence against civilians.

The paper is joint with Siwan Anderson, Patrick Francois and Rogerio Santarrosa.

Invited by: Tommaso Sonno

Local Organizer: Niko Jaakkola