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Economic sanctions, military interventions, and civil conflict outcomes


Journal of Peace Research

Published online on


Sanctions are designed to reduce the amount of resources available to the targeted actor and have the potential to be an effective tool for bringing disputing sides in a civil conflict to the bargaining table by altering incentives for continued fighting. Thus, there is reason to believe that sanctions can shorten the duration of civil conflicts. However, once sides in a conflict have moved to the use of violence to settle their dispute, it is hard for sanctions, in isolation, to impose enough cost to convince warring factions that settling a conflict has greater value than what could be expected from continued fighting. In this article, we argue that sanctions, in isolation, are unlikely to affect the duration of civil conflicts. However, when sanctions are combined with military interventions they can contribute to conflict management strategies resulting in shorter civil conflicts. We test our expectations empirically using data on civil conflicts from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program Armed Conflict Database and data on economic sanctions from the Threat and Imposition of Economic Sanctions Database. Our results suggest that the best hope for sanctions to shorten the duration of civil conflicts is if they are used as part of a comprehensive international response that includes institutional sanctions and military interventions.