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Conflict, Security & Development Research Group

Research Projects

Through its focus on the linkages between conflict, security and development, the research activities of CSDRG touch upon a wide range of issues with far-reaching societal causes and implications. Areas of current and recent research include:


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Approaches to Understanding Atrocity

This project (under development) provides a detailed and comprehensive examination of the various forms, uses, and determining factors behind extreme violence in armed conflicts. It brings together leading experts in the study of violence – drawn from various academic disciplines - to conduct and publish original research on the problem of war-time atrocity. The principal outputs will be the publication of a collected volume of these studies, co-edited by Professor Mats Berdal and Dr Kieran Mitton, and a CSDRG-hosted conference to discuss findings, implications and areas for further research.

Outputs to date:
A public seminar series featuring guest speakers, focussed around thIs research agenda, was hosted by CSDRG in 2016-2017. Audio recordings and further details of the series and project can be found here


Enabling Authoritarianism? 
United Nations Peacebuilding and Authoritarian Rule

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Led by Dr Oisin Tansey this ESRC-funded project examines the relationship between peacebuilding and authoritarianism and the ways in which peacebuilding shapes authoritarianism at the local level. 

The project runs from June 2018 - May 2021 and will give timely focus to four case studies: the DRC, Haiti,Cambodia, and Liberia. Tansey (Principal Investigator) works alongside Co-Investigators Dr Sarah Von Billerbeck and Birte Gippert. 
Read more about the project rationale, aims and planned outputs here.


Elite Bargains and Political Deals

How can engaging in politics lead to sustainable pathways out of conflict? Our members helped tackle this question in new research for the UK’s Stabilisation Unit project 'Elite Bargains and Political Deals'. Stabilisation Unit Elite Bargains

The 18 month study sought to provide a more robust evidence base for the UK’s approach to stabilisation, to help policymakers provide more effective interventions in conflict contexts. Lessons from global conflicts, past and present, are identified in the report, which was co-authored by Dr Christine Cheng. Expert country case studies were contributed by Dr Kieran Mitton and Dr David Ucko.

Outputs to date:
The report was launched on 14 June by the Minister for the Middle East and for International Development, Alistair Burt. 
You can download the report and country case studies here.


Track II Mediation Unit

CSDRG logo 2018In 2013 CSDRG created a mediation unit to conduct track II diplomacy in civil war-torn and civil war-threatened states. This unit combines the research group's core scholarly strengths with diplomatic experience to contribute to international attempts to prevent and resolve intractable intrastate conflicts. While this diplomatic work is deliberately discreet, in its short existence the unit has enjoyed significant success in shaping international attempts to foster peace processes. Under the purview of the research group director, Professor Mats Berdal, the work is directed by Tom Hill (formerly special assistant to Kofi Annan). The unit's work is funded by the Peace and Reconciliation Section of the Royal Norwegian Foreign Ministry


The Politics of Repression

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This research strand concerns the causes, methods and consequences of violent state repression against citizens and protest groups. The Arab uprisings have brought the devastating effects of large-scale government repression into sharp relief, and have suggested a range of domestic and international causes and consequences of violent crackdowns. Incumbent leaders are influenced by both domestic threats and international diffusion processes in ways that inspire them to resort to violence, usually with the over-arching aim of surviving in power. Repression can in turn spur further protests and violence, and these cycles of conflict often have catastrophic implications for national security and development as well as regional stability and wider international relations. This research strand seeks to explore the wide range of motivations for and consequences of violent repression, and seeks to place recent developments in the Middle East within a wider, comparative context.

Outputs to date:

  • Steven heydemann and Reinoud Leenders (eds), Middle East Authoritarianisms: Governance, Contestation, and Regime Resilience in Syria and Iran, (Stanford University Press: 2013)
  • Reinoud Leenders, “Prosecuting Political Dissent: Courts and the Resilience of Authoritarianism in Baathist Syria,” in: Middle East Authoritarianisms: Governance, Contestation, and Regime Resilience in Syria and Iran. (Steven Heydemann and Reinoud Leenders, eds). (Stanford University Press: 2013).
  • Steven Heydemann and Reinoud Leenders, “Authoritarian Learning and Authoritarian Resilience: Regime Responses to the 'Arab Awakening'”, Globalizations, Vol. 8 (5), 2011, 647-653. 
  • Steven Heydemann and Reinoud Leenders, “Authoritarian Learning and Counter-Revolution,” in: Marc Lynch (ed), The Arab Uprisings in Comparative Perspective, (Columbia University Press: forthcoming).
  • Reinoud leenders, “How the Syrian Regime Outsmarted Its Enemies”, Current History, (December 2013).
  • Reinoud Leenders, “The Onset of the Syrian Uprising and the Origins of Violence,” in: Politics in the Developing World. (Vicky Randall and Lise Rakner, eds). (Oxford University Press, new edition: forthcoming)
  • Reinoud Leenders, “Strong States in A Troubled Region: Anatomies of a Middle Eastern Regional Conflict Formation,” Comparative Social Research, special issue on State Failure and Regional Security, Vol. 27, 2010, 171-196.

Completed Projects

For details of the below projects, please follow this link: Past Conflict, Security & Development Group Projects

  • Power after Peace: The Political Economy of Post-Conflict International Statebuilding
  • The Role of Aid Policies During Conflict and in War-to-Peace Transition
  • Women, Peace and Security
  • Conflict, Security and Development: Identifying Gaps in Policy & Research
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