Micro-Foundations of Conflict Escalation (MiCE)

Led by Håvard Mokleiv Nygård
Jan 2018 - Dec 2021

​Wars now being fought in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine, and Somalia are producing death tolls not seen since the Cold War. Yet existing instruments — from diplomacy to power politics — have proved inadequate to stop or reduce the violence.

​ Understanding the escalatory dynamics of war and contentious politics is a critically important task for the next decades. We lack answers to such critical questions as why do some civil wars remain low-intensity conflicts, whereas others escalate to claim the lives of hundreds of thousands? and why do some non-violent protest movements escalate into bloody civil wars whereas others remain peaceful? Understanding the dynamics of conflict escalation is critical both for advancing the study of political and social order, and for preventing the human suffering that escalation inflicts. Conflict research has only a rudimentary understanding of the determinants and dynamics of conflict escalation. Scholars have difficulty explaining why predominantly non-violent protests in Syria escalated into one of the bloodiest civil armed conflicts in the post-Cold War era, whereas similar initial mobilizations in Tunisia did not. Likewise, the scholarly literature offers no clear answers to the key questions of how, why, and when do low-intensity conflicts experience escalation in violence, as in the case of the conflict in Colombia between the government and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), which saw a ten-fold increase in battle deaths from 1993 to 1995, after thirty years of relatively low-intensity conflict. Micro-Foundations of Conflict Escalation (MiCE) will develop new theory and new tools that will improve our understanding of how and why conflicts escalate.

The MiCE project is funded by the Research Council of Norway’s Young Researcher Talent scheme.  The MiCE project team consists of Håvard Mokleiv Nygård (the Principle Investigator/”Young Talent”), Michael Weintraub (Project Manager at PRIO, and Associate Professor at Los Andes University), Laia Balcells (Assistant Professor at Georgetown University), Chris Fariss (Assistant Professor at University of Michigan), Gudmund Horn Hermansen (Senior Researcher at PRIO), Abbey Steele (Senior Researcher at PRIO), Chris Ghai (Research Assistant at PRIO), and Jens Kristoffer Haug (MA student at PRIO).

Research Groups


Peer-reviewed Journal Article

Nygård, Håvard Mokleiv; Gudmund Horn Hermansen & Carl Henrik Knutsen (2021) Characterizing and Assessing Temporal Heterogeneity: Introducing a Change Point Framework, with Applications on the Study of Democratization, Political Analysis 29(4): 485–504.
Hegre, Håvard; Håvard Mokleiv Nygård & Peder Landsverk (2021) Can We Predict Armed Conflict? How the First 9 Years of Published Forecasts Stand Up to Reality, International Studies Quarterly 65(3): 660–668.
Balcells, Laia & Francisco Villamil (2020) The Double Logic of Internal Purges: New Evidence from Francoist Spain, Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 26(3): 260–278.
Fjelde, Hanne; Carl Henrik Knutsen & Håvard Mokleiv Nygård (2020) Which institutions matter? Re-considering the democratic civil peace, International Studies Quarterly. DOI: 10.1093/isq/sqaa076.
Nygård, Håvard Mokleiv; Nils Lid Hjort & Celine Marie Løken Cunen (2020) Statistical sightings of better angels: Analysing the distribution of battle-deaths in interstate conflict over time, Journal of Peace Research 57(2): 221–234.
Hegre, Håvard; Marie Allansson; Matthias Basedau; Michael Colaresi; Mihai Croicu; Hanne Fjelde; Frederick Hoyles; Lisa Hultman; Stina Högbladh; Remco Jansen; Naima Mouhleb; Sayyed Auwn Muhammad; Desirée Nilsson; Håvard Mokleiv Nygård; Gudlaug Olafsdottir; Kristina Petrova; David Randahl; Espen Geelmuyden Rød; Gerald Schneider; Nina von Uexkull & Jonas Vestby (2019) ViEWS: A political Violence Early-Warning System, Journal of Peace Research 56(2): 155–174.
Hegre, Håvard; Lisa Hultman & Håvard Mokleiv Nygård (2019) Evaluating the conflict-reducing effect of UN peacekeeping operations, The Journal of Politics 81(1): 215–232.

Book Chapter

Nygård, Håvard Mokleiv & Håvard Strand (2020) Safety and Security, in Handbook on Governance Statistics. New York: United Nations (189–220).

Popular Article

Nygård, Håvard Mokleiv; Håvard Hegre & Peder Landsverk (2021) Kan vi forutse krig? Studier gir grunn til optimisme [Can we predict conflict? Studies give cause for optimism], Aftenposten, 26 January.
Hegre, Håvard; Lisa Hultman & Håvard Mokleiv Nygård (2020) Norge bør fronte fredsbevarende operasjoner [Norway should support peacekeeing operations], Dagens Næringsliv, 29 February.
Nygård, Håvard Mokleiv; Celine Marie Løken Cunen & Nils Lid Hjort (2019) Blir verden egentlig fredeligere? [Is the world getting more peaceful?], Aftenposten, 19 December.
Nygård, Håvard Mokleiv; Håvard Hegre & Lisa Hultman (2019) U.N. peacekeeping really can be effective. Here’s how we tabulated this, Washington Post, 7 August.
Binningsbø, Helga Malmin; Marianne Dahl; Håvard Mokleiv Nygård; Michael Weintraub & Abbey Steele (2019) Colombia’s historic peace agreement with the FARC is fraying. We talked to 1,700 Colombians to understand why, Washington Post, 7 August.

Master Thesis

Haug, Jens Kristoffer (2019) Focused Model Selection for Markov Chain Models: With an Application to Armed Conflict Data. MA thesis, Department of Mathematics, University of Oslo.

Conference Paper

Nygård, Håvard Mokleiv (2020) Timing Matters: The Impact of Regularity of Election Cycles on Autocratic Stability, presented at Working Paper, PRIO, Oslo, 22.04.2020.
Horn Hermansen, Gudmund; Håvard Mokleiv Nygård; Jonathan Williams; Siri Aas Rustad & Govinda Clayton (2020) The Dynamics of Civil Wars: A Bayesian hidden Markov model applied to the pattern of conflict and the role of ceasefires, presented at PolMeth XXXVII: the 2020 Annual Meeting of the Society for Political Methodology, Toronto (virtual), 14–17 July 2020.

Report - Other

Report - External Series

Nygård, Håvard Mokleiv; Carl Henrik Knutsen; & Gudmund Horn Hermansen (2019) Characterizing and Assessing Temporal Heterogeneity: Introducing a Change Point Framework, with Applications on the Study of Democratization, Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute Working Paper Series, 93. Gothenburg: Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute.


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