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Research projects in Peace and Development

Below is a presentation of a few of our projects. To find out about all on-going projects at SGS, see list of all research projects.

Political Engineering – Can roads lead to peace?

This research project studies the role of infrastructure projects in Western statebuliding missions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), South Sudan and Somalia. A large part of current interventions, with state capacity and security as their core objectives, is invested in infrastructure construction. It seems that inherently political goals are to be reached by what are usually said to be technical means. In this research project, the researchers explore claims of an inherent link between infrastructure and improved security. Furthermore, they problematize the claim that infrastructure construction in fragile contexts is a mere technical matter.

During the project, the researchers will use tools and perspectives within science and technology studies and their inquiries into the social and political affordances of technology and infrastructure. Further inspiration will be drawn from the anthropology of infrastructure that explores the social imaginaries that evolve around infrastructures. Questions include: What is a road meant to be? What expectations do donors, officials, engineers or communities invest in a certain infrastructure project? The researchers contend that infrastructures may yield controversies in planning, design, communication, construction, and/or use. Infrastructure affects people and therefore facilitates the emergence of collectives.

In identifying some of the disagreements in relation to perceptions on infrastructure and security, in contexts of Western state-building missions, the project hopes to tease out the political within infrastructure in the context of statebuilding missions. By doing so, the study can contribute conceptually and empirically to the study of technology and infrastructure within international relations, geography, and peace research.

As part of the project we, together with the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), held a major policy workhops on infrastructure in fragile and conflict-affected states in February 2017.

For more information, please see: Roads to Peace - The future of infrastructures in fragile states
During 2018 we will be extending our collaboration with UNOPS and will embark on field research in the DRC and Somalia.

For more information about this project, contact Jan Bachmann.

Photo credit: UN Photo/Marie Frechon (first picture) & UN Photo/Tobin Jones (second picture)

Legitimacy in Global Governance 

LegGov is a six-year research programme carried out jointly by researchers from SGS and the Departments of Political Science at Lund and Stockholm University. The programme is funded by Riksbankens Jubileumsfond (The Bank of Sweden Tercentenary Foundation).

The purpose of this research programme is to offer the first systematic and comprehensive analysis of legitimacy in global governance. To what extent are global governance institutions (GGIs) regarded as legitimate? What explains that legitimacy? By what processes are GGIs legitimated and delegitimated? What are the consequences of legitimacy (or its absence) for the functioning of GGIs? How are these legitimacy dynamics in global governance similar to or different from the dynamics of legitimacy in the nation-state and other forms of governance?

While legitimacy in global governance has generated growing interest in recent years, it has not yet been researched methodically by a coordinated team of specialists. We address the overarching question of why, how, and with what consequences GGIs gain, sustain and lose legitimacy by exploring three principal themes: (1) sources of legitimacy, (2) legitimation and delegitimation strategies, and (3) consequences of legitimacy. In the broadest sense, the program considers what systematic attention to legitimacy can tell us about world politics, and what experiences from world politics suggest for understanding legitimacy in contemporary politics generally.

For more information, contact: Jan Aart Scholte or Fredrik Söderbaum

Read more about the programme>>

Read the LegGov Blog>>

International Courts and the Interpretation of International Criminal Law

What is the broader relevance of the decisions of international courts in global governance? And, more specifically, how and with which effects have the judgments of international criminal courts and tribunals contributed to the development of legal meaning in international criminal law? The number of international courts has grown rapidly since the end of the Cold War. At the same time, these courts have developed international legal rules and principles substantially, especially in international criminal law.

Drawing on International Relations theory and legal theory, the project examines how judges respond to the potential for innovation in the interpretation of international criminal law. More specifically, it asks, among other questions, which role academic writings have played within the interpretive process. Furthermore, to situate these processes within a broader political context, the project explores how a broader interpretive community including state officials and staff at non-governmental organisations engage with these judgments.

The project uses a combination of qualitative and quantitative forms of content analysis, semi- structured interviews, and legal interpretive methods. It builds on my doctoral research, which I conducted at the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford, and which was funded by the German National Academic Foundation and by Oxford’s Pembroke College.

For more information about this project, contact Nora Stappert.

Photo credits: Nora Stappert (the International Criminal Court building in The Hague)

Legitimating Global-Regional Security Cooperation

Kilian Spandler is a Guest Researcher at the School of Global Studies. His project “Legitimating Global-Regional Security Cooperation” analyzes the legitimation of the UN’s security cooperation with three different regional organizations: the EU, the African Union and ASEAN. This cooperation has undergone major changes in the last two decades. The conventional top-down delegation of tasks from the UN to regional bodies is increasingly supplemented by ‘hybrid’ missions, which are characterized by shared planning and resourcing as well as integrated command structures.

Many policy-makers and academics have argued that these missions can address serious legitimacy deficits of the traditional top-down approach. However, we don’t know how well the UN and its partners actually manage to make the case that closer cooperation is the right solution. The legitimation of hybrid missions is particularly complicated not just because the UN and regional organizations may hold different views about legitimate security governance, but also because they need to speak to a variety of global and regional audiences. Ongoing contestation of hybrid missions from governmental and civil society actors suggests that they have only partly succeeded.

To better understand how the UN and its partners navigate this complex environment, “Legitimating Global-Regional Security Cooperation” studies the processes through which they construct, assert and negotiate different understandings of legitimate security cooperation. Using a comparative case study design, the project examines hybrid security missions in Kosovo (UN-EU), Darfur (UN-African Union) and Myanmar (UN-ASEAN). For this purpose, Kilian Spandler is conducting extensive field research at the involved organizations across the globe. In 2018, he will spend three months each at the UN Headquarters in New York and the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta. The project is funded by the German Research Council (DFG) and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD).

Contact Kilian Spandler for more information about this project.

Photo credit: UNAMID Photo (https://www.flickr.com/photos/unamid-photo/39379451525/)

Water infrastructure and (social) sustainability in South Africa  

The research project investigates the relationships between spatial planning, social sustainability and the formation of the post-apartheid South African state in the context of water service delivery. This research task involves a study both of how notions of social sustainability inform the development of water infrastructure and how existing infrastructure — or the lack of it — as well as other material conditions such as water availability and financial limitations influence the performances of water service delivery, water allocation and the way that post-apartheid South Africa can be thought and imagined.

Questions of how the South Africa shall manage its water resources in a future, when water is predicted to become scarcer due to urbanisation and industrialization processes, and when there will be a higher degree of unpredictability of rainfall patterns due to climate change, is central to the South African society. As South Africa has suffered a severe drought during the last years, questions about water scarcity and the allocation of water between different sectors (and populations) has come to play a prominent role in the research project.

Plans and approaches for attaining water security in the future have to include strategies for agriculture and irrigation, for industry as well as how to service an increasing urban population with water. Determining such strategies and trade-offs between different sectors include highly political decisions and choices for the South African society. The project examines these processes through semi-structured interviews with decision makers in the South African water sector. The project is funded by the Swedish research council FORMAS.

Contact Sofie Hellberg for more information about this project.

Photo credit: Sofie Hellberg.

A Study of Civic Resistance and its Impact on Democracy

This research project studies the role of aim to inquire and compare, empirically as well as theoretically, how and why different forms of 'civic resistance' have an impact on democratization. In recent years, organized civilian populations have increasingly used nonviolent resistance methods and strategies, including boycotts, strikes, protests and collective non-cooperation to achieve political concessions and to challenge entrenched authoritarian power. In some cases, civic resistance results in democratization, while in others it has no effect at all or, even worse, increases the repression that it sets out to challenge.

We expect to contribute to both a methodological research model, and make the first empirically robust theoretical framework for how and why certain civic resistance strategies work under certain conditions. The main overarching research question is: When, how, and why do different forms of civic resistance in societies with democracy deficits lead to increased democratization?

Contact Mona Lilja and Michael Schulz for more information about the project.

External Funding of Regional Organizations in Africa (EFRO)

EFRO is a four-year research project supported by the Swedish Research Council (2016-2019) that deals with why, how and with what consequences external actors shape regions and regional organizations in Africa. While there is a very comprehensive literature on regionalism in Africa more broadly, there is almost a complete neglect of the enormous amounts of foreign funding of regional organizations in Africa that have increased tremendously during the last 15 years. The research project focuses specifically on explaining the significant variation among different donors, why some regional organizations receive a great deal of external funding whereas others receive next to nothing, and on the development effects of ‘regional’ aid.

One of the methodological strengths of the project is its comparative design, which allows for both cross-case and within-case analyses across:

  • Different policy fields: trade, security, infrastructure, and water management
  • Different donors: especially Western donors, such the Canada, EU, Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom and USA
  • Different recipient organizations: such as AU, SADC, ECOWAS, EAC, IGAD, COMESA.

: External funding of regional projects and organizations in Africa, 2002-2016 (cumulated disbursement in USD million).

Contact Fredrik Söderbaum or Sören Stapel for more information about the project.

Regional Cooperation and the Transformation of National Sovereignty in the Global South (TRANSFORM)

TRANSFORM explores the effects of different understandings of national sovereignty on regional cooperation initiatives in Africa and Southeast Asia. Existing theories of regionalism have raised hopes that building regional institutions and strengthening global norms will push governments to cooperate in order to meet a range of development challenges. However, actual cooperation patterns in the Global South frequently contradict this expectation. In some areas, like transboundary water management, egoistic state behavior clearly undermines regional cooperation even though strong norms and regional institutions exist on paper. In other policy fields, such as communicable diseases, cooperation has quickly deepened and become relatively strong despite the absence of dedicated regional mechanisms and rather ambiguous norms.

The failure of existing theories to account for this puzzle risks perpetuating misguided aid policies by Western actors, who often base their promotion of regional cooperation around the world on the experience of European integration. TRANSFORM aims to recast our understanding of regionalism in the Global South by unpacking the connection between the national sovereignty understandings of political elites and their inclination to engage in meaningful regional cooperation. The key hypothesis is that meaningful collaboration requires that governments define the state’s purpose and responsibilities in a way that sees joint action as enhancing rather than constraining national autonomy. Applying an innovative comparative case study method straddling two regions and two policy fields, it looks at river management in the Mekong and Zambezi basins, as well as health cooperation by states fighting the Ebola and the H5N1 viruses.

The three-year project (2019–2022) is supported with a 4.5 million SEK research grant by the Swedish Research Council.

For more information, contact Fredrik Söderbaum or Kilian Spandler.

Page Manager: Deputy Head of Department Isabell Schierenbeck|Last update: 4/2/2019

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