Last time, we talked about meso level factors of restrain. Join us as today we discuss macro level factors!


Macro-level sources of restraint include systems. In terms of political economy, for example, genocide carries high costs. It invites international condemnation and carries significant costs to a state’s reputation, it triggers international arrest warrants, and the resources devoted to violence against civilians are unavailable for broader military campaigns against opposing military. Furthermore, it entails large scale human disruptions that cause significant population upheaval and might disrupt the economy. In terms of prediction and preventing genocides, this gives us information, as a low trade openness is a significant risk factor for genocide, because they are less sensitive to international condemnation. Class mechanisms also play a role, as where there is a large middle class there is a large incentive to seek stability because violence can threaten their wealth and property.

 In terms of political institutions, democratic states constrain executive power and restrain violence making them less likely to commit genocides. Ideologically, national political cultures that either promote multi-ethnic cooperation or eschew exclusionist conceptions of the national community, act as a check on violence. Lastly, at an international level, threatened judicial action of sanctions and peacekeeping acts as a deterrent (by threatening to punish defectors to an agreement), increasing benefits (by signaling to donors the good behaviour of belligerents); reducing uncertainty and retaliatory cycles (by monitoring and providing information) are all factors that restrain the escalation of violence leading to genocide.

 What does this mean for us at STAND Canada?

These macro factors tell us how we should draft the recommendations that we take to government and other international organizations. For example, that we could urge government to take economic action against genocide-perpetrating states by pressing sanctions against them. It also affirms the importance of condemning genocidal behaviour, and of urging the Canadian government to sign on to treaties and international legal treaties that punish perpetrators of genocide – which not only delivers needed justice, but may also act as a powerful deterrent for the potential of future crimes!


Scott Straus, “Retreating from the Brink: Theorizing Mass Violence and the Dynamics of Restraint,” Perspectives on Politics 10, no. 2 (June 2012): 343.

Neekoo Collett is a Master of Global Affairs students at the Munk School, University of Toronto. Her research focuses on “factors of restraint” and the situation of Baha’is in Iran, as well as the politics of genocide language and the proposed Crimes Against Humanity Convention. This post is adapted from previously published work. 

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“What Stops Genocide From Occurring?” by Neekoo Collett is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.