Causes of and Solutions to Social Conflicts in Contexts of Weak Public Institutions or State Fragility

The thematic module Social Conflicts puts the emphasis on conflicts that result from particular types of deficiencies of public institutions, state fragility and the different variations of governance capabilities, as well as on ways and means for mitigating such deficiencies and reducing or avoiding conflicts.

   photo collage Social Conflicts

Inequality and Conflict - Beyond us and them

A research documentary from Guatemala, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Switzerland. FULL ONLINE VERSION


The research module focuses on three areas and the interactions between them: social conflicts; weak public institutions; and state fragility.

Conflicts, in the context of the r4d programme, can be violent or non-violent. They may range from inter- and intrastate wars to lower intensity violent conflicts, civil unrest and primarily non-violent social conflicts that undermine state capacities.

Weak public institutions involve settings in which political and/or social institutions are highly dysfunctional or have even collapsed. Such settings may range from failed states to war-torn societies in the process of rebuilding a political system to settings characterised by endemic corruption, strong inequality and a high degree of political instability.

State fragility involves a lack of institutional, organisational and financial capacity to perform basic state functions in governing population and territory. State capacity is achieved through political processes that foster and reinforce constructive relations within society and between the state and society. Enhanced state capacity, if achieved and exercised in democratic ways, strengthens state legitimacy and contributes to state resilience.

The three main research topics of the module are:

  • Political reconstruction and democratisation processes in fragile and conflict-prone states
  • Conflicts over scarce natural resources
  • Chronic causes and consequences of state fragility and weakness of public institutions



Review Panel

The Review Panel was active from 2013-2020 and was responsible for the evaluations and monitoring of the r4d projects in this module.

  • Professor Dr. Dirk Messner, President of the Federal Environment Agency, Germany (Panel President)
  • Dr. Ana Elisa Cascao, Center for International Studies - University Institute of Lisbon, Portugal
  • Professor Dr. Francisco Gutiérrez Sanín, Instituto de Estudios Políticos y Relaciones Internacionales, Universidad Nacional, Bogotá, Colombia
  • Professor Dr. Katharina Michaelowa, Department of Political Science, University of Zurich, Switzerland (SNSF Delegate)
  • Dr. Norbert Ropers, Peace Resource Collaborative, Chulalongkom University and Institute of Peace Studies, Prince of Songkla University, Bangkok, Thailand 
  • Nils Rosemann, Focal Point Conflict and Human Rights, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Berne, Switzerland (SDC Delegate)
  • Professor Dr. Gerald Schneider, University of Konstanz, Germany
  • Prof. Dr. Marjo de Theije, Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology, Vrije Universteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands 

Research Network



The 3 projects in the thematic module Social Conflicts started in 2014. They represent transnational research partnerships between 12 countries and Switzerland, involving 17 grantees.


 Ongoing projects



Further information on this content

Resarch documentary

Policy Briefs

French version r4d Policy Brief 1/2019




Registration for Workshops KFPE & SUDAC ConferenceRegistration for Workshops KFPE & SUDAC Conference 10:00:00 PM
r4d and SOR4D programme management: Handover to new teamr4d and SOR4D programme management: Handover to new team 10:00:00 PM
Call for proposals for SOR4D programme Call for proposals for SOR4D programme 11:00:00 PM
Seven new articles about initiatives awarded with r4d Transformation Accelerating GrantsSeven new articles about initiatives awarded with r4d Transformation Accelerating Grants 11:00:00 PM


Dr. Claudia Zingerli Swiss National Science Foundation Wildhainweg 3 CH-3001 Bern

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