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Project Description

The project develops a mid-level theory on how world politics influence peacebuilding and thereby contributes to International Relations theories and peace research. By providing a macro-perspective on peacebuilding, it ultimately helps to render it more effective in addressing contemporary conflicts.

UN peacebuilding is at a watershed, sadly illustrated by its failure to adequately address contemporary conflicts, such as in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. In the years immediately following the end of the Cold War, there was a consensus within the international community that peace operations needed to address root causes of conflicts and thus have extensive mandates, including the rebuilding of a liberal state. In recent years, this consensus has waned and different approaches to peacebuilding compete.

This turning point in UN peacebuilding can be understood as part of broader changes in world politics. The increasing influence of Russia and China, as well as other rising powers, such as Brazil, India, and Turkey, challenge US domination in world politics. The proposed project inquires into how this shift from a unipolar to a multipolar world order influences UN peacebuilding. It establishes a dataset on UN peace missions since the end of the Cold War to analyze how they have changed. It then conducts an in-depth study of the link between world politics and UN peace missions. It does so through a content analysis of UN policy documents regarding peacebuilding and an in-depth study of six cases, namely the UN peacekeeping missions in Central African Republic and Mali, the UN peacemaking missions in Syria and Yemen, and the UN in-country political missions in Libya and Afghanistan.

The project’s findings will be disseminated in journal articles, one edited special issue, presentations at scientific conferences, and in a PhD dissertation. Moreover, a policy paper on each case study will be published and a workshop held to disseminate the findings amongst practitioners.



This project is funded through a PRIMA grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). This prestigious grant is aimed at excellent women researchers who show a high potential for obtaining a professorship.

Key Events of the Project

  • May 2020: Marie Lobjoy joined the project team as Student Researcher. Marie is pursuing a Master in International Affairs at the Graduate Institute. Her research interests include critical security studies and military interventionism in the MENA and Sahel regions.  

  • April 2020: We are recruiting a post-doctoral student to work on the project (application deadline: 12/06/2020). Link here

  • March 2020: Sara Hellmüller gave an interview to the German news channel ZDF on the Idlib ceasefire concluded between Russia and Turkey. Link here

  • March 2020: Rosalind Tan joined the project team as Student Researcher. Rosalind is pursuing a Master in International Affairs at the Graduate Institute. Her research interests include postcolonial critical theory, discourse analysis and illiberal peacebuilding. 

  • February 2020: Sara Hellmüller presented the research project at the Annual Congress of the Swiss Political Science Association. Link here.

  • January 2020: Sara Hellmüller received a SNSF Flexibility Grant for the entire duration of the project.

Advisory Board

  • Richard Caplan, Professor of International Relations, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford

  • Cedric de Coning, Senior Research Fellow, Research Group on Peace, Conflict and Development, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI)

  • Lise Morjé Howard, Associate Professor of Government and International Relations Field Chair, Georgetown University

  • Daniel Hyslop, Director of Policy, Learning and the International Peacebuilding Advisory Team (IPAT), Interpeace

  • Katia Papagianni, Director of Policy and Mediation Support, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue

  • Roland Paris, Professor of International Affairs, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa