It is often said that a country that has experienced civil war has nearly a 50 per cent risk of sliding back into war within five years. This has been widely cited in the academic literature and in policy debates, including in UN documents and preparatory work for the establishment of the UN Peacebuilding Commission. A closer examination of the origins, circulation and establishment of this figure gives a glimpse into the process whereby academic findings are converted into conventional wisdom and effectively inserted into the policy debate, even though the findings themselves are unstable. In this case, the authors of the original figure revised their initial 50 per cent estimate down to around 20 per cent only four years after their first study, but the change was barely noted. This article examines the process whereby the findings were made, and offers a note of caution about the wholesale adoption of such figures by policymakers and academics.
Author Posting. (c) Taylor & Francis, 2007. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Taylor & Francis for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in International Peacekeeping, Volume 14 Issue 2, April 2007. doi:10.1080/13533310601150776
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