Dr Emily Scott

Dr Emily Karolina Mary Scott

International Development Department
Assistant Professor

Contact details

School of Government
Muirhead Tower
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Dr Scott’s research explores the governance of “need” amongst migrants and refugees in the Middle East, and the ways what goes on in “the field” shapes humanitarian care and control. Her work is focused on humanitarian health responses by international organizations (IOs) and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) in areas affected by violent conflict, and particularly amongst Syrian refugees. She is also interested in the ways global humanitarian organizations interact with sovereign and non-state actors in national and local spaces, and the implications of those interactions on where aid goes. Emily is Principal Investigator on a SSHRC Insight Development Grant-funded project titled, “Moving Aid: The Politics of Giving, Conflict, and Control in the Middle East” on this theme.

She is a Fulbright Scholar Alumna, Interim Head of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for the School of Government and Research Affiliate at CIPSS McGill.


  • PhD Political Science, University of Toronto 2019
  • MA Political Science, University of Toronto 2010
  • BA Middle East Studies and Political Science (Joint Honours), McGill University 2009


Dr Emily Scott joined IDD as an Assistant Professor in 2021. Her (SSHRC-funded) PhD focused on the ways humanitarian organizations working in Lebanon and Jordan navigated gaps between Syrian refugee health needs and response between 2011 and 2017. She studied what made organizations more responsive to the emerging needs of Syrian refugees and migrants, with only some experimenting with new service delivery and rulemaking. Her work has been supported by the Social Science and Humanities Research Council, Fulbright Canada, Canada C150 funds, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, amongst others.

Emily has worked with organizations like the Canadian International Development Agency’s Afghanistan Task Force, the United Nations, the Carter Center, and Doctors Without Borders and in areas of conflict, including East Jerusalem and the West Bank, South Sudan, and Syria. She has extensive experience conducting fieldwork in the Middle East.

Dr Scott is currently Principal Investigator of a SSHRC-funded project that explores global humanitarian governance below the state and in “local” spaces, and the ways domestic patterns of war, violent incidents, and state and non-state control shape global humanitarian decisions about where to act. Specifically, the project examines humanitarian governance, health response, and the movement of aid in the Middle East and amongst Syrian refugees living in Lebanon. She also leads (with Drs Jennifer Welsh and Adam Kochanski) a research project that explores localization in world politics and as a path to sustainable peace. It brings together leading scholars and practitioners from around the world who work in forced migration, the protection of civilians, humanitarianism, and transitional justice.

In 2020-21, Emily was Postdoctoral Researcher at McGill University in 2020-2021, joining C150 Research Chair in Global Governance and Security, Dr Jennifer Welsh. Emily was Postdoctoral Fellow at the Korbel School of International Studies in 2019-2020, where she was jointly seated with Oxfam America. In 2016, she was awarded the Traditional Fulbright Award and spent a year as Visiting Fellow at George Washington University’s Elliot School of International Affairs and Institute for Middle East Studies (IMES) working with scholar of humanitarianism, Dr Michael Barnett.


Dr Scott Convenes the Working in Development and Global Development II modules.

Previous Teaching

At the University of Toronto, Emily was Teaching Assistant and Head Teaching Assistant for introductory courses on politics, development, and international relations. She was co-Instructor of “Topics in International Relations: The Politics of Aid and Humanitarianism” in 2018.

Dr Scott co-led the 'Master Class: Qualitative Research in IR at McGill University in 2021 and in 2023 the 'To the field' colloquium for Postgraduate Researchers at the University of Birmingham.

Postgraduate supervision

Emily welcomes applications from PhD students interested in humanitarianism, health, and migration; international organisation (IOs) and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs); state-society relations, particularly in the Middle East; conflict and security; and the international politics of aid.


Research interests:

  • Humanitarianism, health, and migration
  • International organisation (IOs) and international non-governmental organisations (INGOs)
  • State-society relations, particularly in the Middle East
  • Conflict and security
  • Aid, aid localization, and civilian agency

Current projects

Dr Scott is currently leading a SSHRC and University of Birmingham, School of Government funded project called “Moving Aid: The Politics of Giving, Care, and Control.” She works with Drs Jennifer Welsh (McGill University) and Adam Kochanski (Swiss Peace) on collaborative knowledge creation and network building surrounding localization in world politics, and more specifically across the fields of forced migration, civilian protection, humanitarianism, and transitional justice. 

Dr Scott is also working on a book project titled, Disruptive by Design, which explores instances when humanitarian international non-governmental organizations transform their offers of care and their associated control over affected populations. The book focuses on responses to Syrian refugee needs in Lebanon and Jordan after 2012. This research was funded by Fulbright Canada, SSHRC Canada, and the Project on Middle East Political Science, amongst others.

Other activities

Dr Scott is Interim Head of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion for the School of Government, Research Affiliate at CIPSS McGill joining C150 Research Chair in Global Governance and Security, Dr Jennifer Welsh, and co-host of the podcast, Localization in World Politics. 

She has previously been Postdoctoral Researcher at McGill University in 2020-21, Postdoctoral Fellow at the Korbel School of International Studies in 2019-20, and was awarded the Traditional Fulbright Award in 2018.


Recent publications


Khoury, RB & Scott, E 2024, 'Going local without localization: Power and humanitarian response in the Syrian war', World Development, vol. 174, 106460. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.worlddev.2023.106460

Bagshaw, S & Scott, E 2023, 'Talk Is Cheap: Security Council Resolution 2286 & the Protection of Health Care in Armed Conflict', Daedalus, vol. 152, no. 2, pp. 142-156. https://doi.org/10.1162/daed_a_01997

Scott, EKM 2022, 'Compromising aid to protect international staff: the politics of humanitarian threat perception after the Arab uprisings', Journal of Global Security Studies, vol. 7, no. 1, ogab024. https://doi.org/10.1093/jogss/ogab024

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Scott, E 2022, The political economy of local aid: a new research agenda. in A Research Agenda for International Political Economy : New Directions and Promising Paths. Elgar Research Agendas, Edward Elgar, Cheltenham, UK, pp. 183. https://doi.org/10.4337/9781800884120.00021

Commissioned report

Scott, E 2010, Palestinian Women Organizing in Jerusalem: Marking the 10th Anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325. United Nations Development Programme (UNDP/PAPP). < https://www.academia.edu/7488654/Palestinian_Women_Organizing_in_Jerusalem_Marking_the_10th_Anniversary_of_UN_Security_Council_Resolution_1325?source=swp_share>

Scott, EKM 2010, Palestinian Women Organizing in Jerusalem: Marking the 10th Anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325.

Other contribution

Scott, EKM 2021, Using GIS to understand how humanitarian aid moves: response to Syrian refugee migration. American Political Science Association. <https://apsamena.org/mena-politics-newsletter-51-spring-2022/>

View all publications in research portal