Can external interventions restrain conflict intensity? Eight hundred estimates from 1996 – 2020 say “probably not”

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We investigate 833 reported estimates of the effect of external interventions on conflict intensity from 34 studies conducted in the period 1996 – 2020 inclusive. The average reported effect is negative and statistically significant. However, the findings in the empirical studies have generated substantially divergent results. We apply meta-regression analysis to examine the sources of this heterogeneity in the results and whether the policy efforts in international relations in promoting peaceful settlement of conflicts de-escalate conflict intensity. Our main results are threefold. First, heterogeneity in reported estimates is best explained by differences in data, the target of interventions, conflict intensity measures, and publication year of the primary studies. Second, there is no evidence of publication selection bias to satisfy prior beliefs, theoretical expectations, or statistical significance. Third, the overall underlying genuine effect implied by the best practice in the literature after accounting for the potential observed sources of heterogeneities is negative and statistically significant. This implies that external intervention efforts are statistically beneficial in restraining or de-escalating conflict intensity, but the effects are practically neither moderate nor large.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages35
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

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SeriesISS working papers. General series


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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