Directed by Nicolas Lemay-Hébertand Edward Newman
The civil war, intervention and statebuilding cluster focuses on three main themes: the sources, causes and nature of intrastate armed conflict and civil war; international and internal processes of statebuilding and peacebuilding, particularly after armed conflict; and international intervention, broadly defined, aimed at preventing and addressing serious human rights abuses. Its strength lies in its multidisciplinary approach combining development studies, political science and international law.
Intrastate conflict and civil wars represent the principal form of organized violence since the end of the Second World War, and certainly in the contemporary era. The broad impact of intrastate conflicts – in terms of human destruction, political and economic consequences, insecurity across borders, and their impact upon international politics more broadly – suggest that these conflicts reflect and also drive major political change.
The work of the Institute in this area addresses a range of questions. What is the current knowledge regarding the causes and nature of intrastate conflicts, and the factors which help to explain their onset, duration, intensity, termination and recurrence? Is it possible to produce general, cross-national theories on the significance of these factors which have broad explanatory relevance? Is the concept of ‘civil wars’ empirically meaningful in an era of globalization and transnational war? Has intrastate conflict fundamentally changed in nature in recent years? Can the study of such conflicts be ‘scientific’? Is the era of large civil wars over? Or are apparent downward trends in the number and magnitude of civil wars a reflection of the definition and codification of such conflicts, and the historical timeframe used for analysis? What are the most interesting methodological trends and debates in the study of intrastate conflict? Are there historical patterns in the ‘types’ of intrastate conflict?
The Institute’s work in this area involves a number of projects. We are home to two journals: Civil Wars publishes original scholarship on all aspects of intrastate conflict, including its causes and nature, and the factors which help to explain its onset, duration, intensity, termination and recurrence. Ethnopolitics supports debates on a range of challenges related to the ethnopolitical dimensions of conflict, peacebuilding, power-sharing and conflict resolution.These journals also host a major international conference each year in Birmingham which brings together scholars and practitioners interested in these topics.
Intervention, peacebuilding and statebuilding
Except for a small number of analysts there is wide agreement that external assistance is necessary to help prevent and manage the effects of armed conflict, instability and humanitarian crises. However, the record, nature, legitimacy and legacy of this external assistance remain highly controversial. As a group of scholars we investigate the different forms and shapes of international intervention, analysing its impacts on local societies, with a specific focus on the agency of local actors in these settings. We take the OECD’s 2008 definition of statebuilding as the starting point for our research: ‘purposeful action to develop the capacity, institutions and legitimacy of the state in relation to an effective political process for negotiating the mutual demands between state and societal groups’. Our own approach, as this suggests, is both broad and inclusive, and we pay special attention in our research to five key cross-cutting themes: trust, legitimacy, governance, the social contract and human security. As a group of scholars, ‘critical engagement’ informs and enriches our research, teaching and policy advisory work.
We have worked in many countries around the world, including in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa, South Asia, East and South-east Asia, Eastern Europe and the Americas. The research group produces a range of publications related to these challenges, as well as running a blog and a policy brief series through the International Development Department (IDD).
Peacebuilding and statebuilding involve long-term processes which embrace a range of social, political, and developmental challenges. However, on occasions egregious abuses of human rights result in calls for more forceful international action – including sanctions and military force – to prevent or end suffering. In line with this, the Civil War, Intervention and Statebuilding research cluster aims to deepen understanding of the theoretical and practical challenges related to humanitarian intervention and the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ (R2P).The principle of R2P has won broad support around a clear definition that is relevant to a narrow and specific range of atrocities: genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.However,R2P remains controversial in the way that it is conceptualized, defined and invoked, and the Institute’s work in this area focusses upon a number of questions: How should international society collectively, or individual actors, respond to grave and widespread abuses of human rights? How should the norm of non-intervention be balanced against the human rights of individuals in peril? Should some form of force be used, across state borders, to prevent or stop widespread and terrible human suffering, without the consent (and against the wishes) of the state in which these human rights abuses are taking place? Under what circumstances? What form should this intervention take? Which actors should protect humans from egregious human rights abuse when their government is unwilling or unable to do so? And under what legal, political or moral authority?
Research in these areas is pursued by a number of staff associated with the Institute. Nicolas Lemay-Hébert is currently leading project PEACE, “local ownership and peace missions”, a project carried out under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. His research interests include peacebuilding and statebuilding, humanitarian interventions in post-conflict or post-disaster contexts, and local narratives of resistance to international interventions. He is publishing with Nicholas Onuf, Vojin Rakic, and Petar Bojanic The Semantics of Statebuilding: Language, Meanings and Sovereignty (Routledge, 2013). Nicolas is also editorial assistant – Europe for the Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding.
Edward Newman is currently co-directing a UN University-sponsored project entitled ‘Peacebuilding in Conflict-affected Societies: Comparative Experiences and Local Perspectives’. The project explores the record, effectiveness, legitimacy and prospects of international peacebuilding. In particular, the project draws upon local perspectives to deepen understanding of peacebuilding challenges, and generate new ideas aimed at improving UN and inter-governmental approaches to peacebuilding. Edward Newmanis currently working on a book project on the theme of Change and Continuity in Intrastate Conflict. This examines the ‘meaning’ and significance of intrastate armed conflict in historical perspective, and considers the implications of this for conflict and instability in the 21st century. In particular it explores the idea that a major point of continuity in civil war and intrastate conflict can be understood through the prism of the state: violent processes of statebuilding, crises of the state in particular in post-colonial societies, and state disintegration. In addition, Edward Newman is editing, with Professor Karl DeRouen (University of Alabama) the Routledge Handbook of Civil Wars, which will be a major collection of papers written by leading civil war scholars from around the world.