In societies that are emerging from violent conflict between different national, ethnic, religious or linguistic groups, peace is often maintained through an agreement that these groups will share power. One of the main ways in which agreement on such power sharing (also known as consociationalism) is reached is through the proportional allocation of roles in government, the civil service, the military and the police to members of the groups that have been in conflict. In order to assess what such proportionality looks like, though, an accurate census is required. The process of conducting a census in this context can be particularly challenging, especially when group leaders know that their share of political power is partly dependent on the results. This can result in intense debates about how census questions are worded, and the conduct of the census itself may be affected by campaigns to get respondents to answer questions in particular ways, in the belief that this will influence their political representation.
This project explores the relationship between the design of political institutions and the likelihood of the census becoming the subject of contentious political debates – a relationship that has thus far received little attention from scholars. The project involves conducting primary research in four case-study countries: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kenya, Lebanon and Northern Ireland.