Statebuilding in Difficult Environments research group

Statebuilding in Difficult Environments research group brings together staff and research students from across IDD who share an interest in the theory and practice of state-building in difficult, often fragile and conflict-affected, states.

Our members have conducted extensive field research in a range of states, including: Sierra Leone, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Nepal, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, Mozambique, Haiti, Kosovo and East Timor.

Key areas of our research include:

Security challenges and Security Sector Reform in fragile states

In states that have experienced violent conflict, a return to some degree of security is seen as vital for development and reconstruction to take place. IDD staff have worked at the interface of security and development, on both a theoretical and a practical level, in a range of projects. The department has particular expertise in Security Sector Reform (SSR) and the reconstruction of the security sector after conflict. Given that police, soldiers and irregular forces are amongst the key sources of violence and insecurity facing citizens in some developing states, this is an area which citizens, development agencies and civil society are keen to address.

SSR refers to the instigation of civilian control of armed and security forces with the aim of creating a structure that protects human security rather than threatens it. The core of SSR is the reform of security services and how they relate to the governance structures of a given country and also to the people on the ground. It encompasses everything from police reform, military governance and intelligence as well as involvement in reconstructing governance structures in the wake of conflicts and the reintegration of combatants into society. 

IDD also has expertise in the related area of justice, in particular the role of traditional authorities in delivering justice, and the role of transitional justice- which takes place after conflict-in securing long term peace and the rebuilding of fragile social relations. Other aspects of security which group members have worked on include the role of warlords in post-conflict statebuilding and the use of youth employment programmes to reduce involvement in armed violence.

Linkages between State Building, Security and Development

IDD researchers are working on a range of issues concerned with the challenges of statebuilding in fragile contexts. This is an area where the work of our two research groups overlap considerably, and other examples of relevant work can be found on the pages of the Governance and Development Management Group. Statebuilding involves technical issues such as building capacity of states to deliver basic service and manage their own budgets, and we have considerable expertise in both of these areas. IDD researchers associated with statebuilding research group have however directly researched the political aspects of these interventions, focusing in various ways on the politics of reconstruction, and the reconstruction of politics, in fragile and conflict affected states.

The international development community frequently becomes involved with recovering states in ways that directly affect their politics, for instance by promoting elections and seeking to reconstruct institutions which promote long term peace and stability, but are also responsive to their citizens and help to avoid future conflict. IDD researchers, working with the GSDRC, have also produced topic guides to help academics and policymakers alike navigate the complex field of statebuilding and development.


IDD has been involved for many years in research and knowledge transfer on corruption. This includes research on public management and accountability, anti-corruption policy-making, ethics in public service, attitudes towards corruption and critical analysis of the international anti-corruption community.

Current research is examining corruption within the context of state-building and aid policy, as well as integrity management and civic education to support anti-corruption.

Current projects

The Political Economy of Power-Sharing in Post-Conflict Situations Funding agency: German Research Foundation, (2016 -19) Principal Investigator: Martin Ottmann

PEACE - Local Ownership and Peace Missions (2011 - 13): EU Marie Curie Inter-European Fellowship: Nicolas Lemay-Hebert

Beyond ethnicity? Post-conflict identity policy in Rwanda and Sri Lanka (2011 - 12): British Academy Small Grant: Danielle Beswick

Role of donors in Uganda’s 2011 election (2011 - 12): ESCR Postdoctoral Fellowship: Dr Jonathan Fisher

Support for the ‘Special Committee on the Rehabilitation and Integration of the Maoist Combatants’ in Nepal: Paul Jackson


Our members have conducted extensive field research in a range of states, including: Sierra Leone, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Uganda, Nepal, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, Bosnia and Herzegovina, India, Mozambique, Haiti, Kosovo and East Timor.

Academic members

Jonathan Fisher, Senior Lecturer in African Politics. His research interests include the politics of knowledge construction in conflict and post-conflict settings and the regional and international security politics of East African states.

Nicolas Lemay-Hébert, Senior Lecturer at IDD. His recent interests include state building and state formation, narratives of resistance to international interventions, hybridity and political order, as well as the political economy of interventions. He has done fieldwork in Georgia, Timor-Leste and Kosovo, and his most recent fieldwork has been in post-earthquake Haiti.

Martin Ottmann, Birmingham Fellow at IDD, works on civil conflicts and post-conflict transformations. His recent research focuses on the relationship between power-sharing and political violence and the political economy of post-conflict situations. Martin’s research combines advanced statistical research methods with qualitative field research.

PhD doctoral researchers

Sumedh Rao, Research Associate at the GSDRC and Doctoral Researcher at the ICCS. His primary interests are psychology, conflict and governance. His recent work has been on intergroup relations in post-conflict societies, and institutional and public sector reform in Northern Ireland.

Siân Herbert, Doctoral Researcher at IDD. Her recent interests include: the determinants of conflict and state fragility and state-building responses; political settlements; the relationship between inequalities and conflict; and the politics of aid and development policy.

Philipp Lottholz, Doctoral Researcher at IDD, is doing research on the role of cicil society actors in police reform and security sector reform (SSR) in Kyrgyzstan. This is part of his broader inquiry into processes of post-liberal statebuilding in post-Soviet Central Asia. His research interests include political sociology, post-Soviet/post-Socialist studies and post-/decolonial International Relations.

More PhD doctoral researcher profiles across the School of Government and Society.

Highlighted news:

10th Anniversary Editors' Choice Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding
As the Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding celebrates its tenth anniversary this year, we can look back on a selection of nine of the most influential articles published in the journal. This collection, chosen by JISB's Editorial Team, features one article per volume, and is ordered starting from the volume 1 (2007) to volume 9 (2015).