Intellectual and Methodological Foundations

The ICTPR engages in both theoretical and empirically-grounded investigations into the concept, nature and experience of transition as it relates to conflict and peace. A key goal of the Institute is to understand the dynamics of transition, how it unfolds, how it is experienced by ordinary people, and what effects it might have for a range of societies, their institutions and natural resources. In order to systematically explore these issues the ICTPR focuses on four key areas of investigation:

1. Theories of Transition in the Context of Conflict and Peace

How we think about conflict, transition, and peace often has significant ‘real world’ consequences. Such theories directly affect international practices of intervention and peacebuilding on the part of individuals, states, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Thus, the Institute seeks to interrogate and develop theories of transition in terms of their application to the study of conflict and peace in order to better inform the practitioners of conflict resolution, transitional justice, and peacebuilding.

Working through both case studies and cross-case analyses, the Institute assesses the validity of these theories and evaluate how theories of transition developed through western intellectual eyes may, or may not, be useful in resolving conflicts and promoting peace in non-western settings.

2. Conflict to Peace Transitions

Drawing on new theoretical insights, the Institute analyses specific empirical cases of transition from conflict to peace at both the macro and micro level.

Questions being explored and empirically examined include:

What are the conditions that determine whether peace agreements stagnate or flourish?

Who are the winners and losers in these transitions from conflict to peace?

How do societies emerging from conflict deal with the violent legacy of their past? What kinds of people/organisations need to be involved in the transitional process to ensure its success?

What role can civil institutions – such as the political, economic, health and educational systems – play in this process?

How can the proposed settlement in terms of the distribution of natural resources, such as land, food, and water inhibit or contribute to its success?

What role should locally-based justice systems versus international justice institutions play in the transitional process?

3. Peace to Conflict Transitions

The ICTPR investigates emerging global, local and technological trends that lead to violent conflict.

Key to any work in this area is to identify ‘flash-points’ that mark out sites of ‘peace’ transitioning to/toward ‘conflict’.

Framing questions may include: how do ethnonational divides, population movements, radicalization and mobilization for example, foster conditions in which fear and resentment drives people to conflict?

What are the most fruitful ways to understand the ‘tipping points’ from peace to conflict?

4. Experiences of Transition

The ICTPR investigates and interrogates transitional processes themselves as both a site of conflict and of peace.

Questions investigated include: how do cultural beliefs about race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality, for example, impact on what counts as a significant transition?

Who matters politically in transitional times?

How are transitions differentially experienced and understood by individuals and states?

What happens to psychologies and physical states when experiencing or emerging from transition?

The latter question applies just as much to national and global institutions as to individual people (for example, when a person becomes a refugee or militant, or a state becomes a failed state, or when an institution, such as the legal or political system, becomes legitimate or, alternatively, discredited).

Current Projects

Dr. Luisa Gandolfo

Dr Gandolfo’s research currently focuses on the role of third-party religious actors in the promotion of peace and the fomentation of conflict in Palestine/Israel. In particular, the study explores the religio-political exchanges that are occurring within and across the region and the role of Christianity in the promotion of non-violence and inter-faith cohesion in the West Bank.

In doing so, it endeavours to understand the ways in which different approaches to interpretation of faith texts impact on the promotion and negation of peace and to expand the understanding of the Palestine-Israel conflict beyond the existing ethno-nationalist discourse – what role can third-party religious actors play in the promotion of peace? How do their actions affect local Palestinian communities? Moreover, can third-party religious actors assume a role in the promotion/negation of peace and cohesion?

Lastly, the project seeks to facilitate a wider discussion on the role of faith in society and in conflict resolution in Palestine/Israel, with a particular focus on the role of external international religious and human rights organizations.

Professor Bernadette Hayes

Professor Bernadette C. Hayes’s research focuses on societies emerging from conflict. An expert on Northern Ireland, her main areas of expertise include victims’ issues, religious and ethnonational identity, gender, as well as the role of socio-political institutions, such as the educational system, in ameliorating or exacerbating conflict.

In collaboration with Professor John Brewer (Queen’s University of Belfast), Professor Hayes is currently completing a Leverhulme Trust-funded project – Compromise After Conflict – which focuses on the role of compromise as a mechanism for conflict resolution in Northern Ireland, Sri Lanka and South Africa.

Dr. Joanne McEvoy

Much of Dr McEvoy’s research focuses on the institutional prescriptions for generating inter-group compromise and accommodation in post-conflict societies.

She has a particular interest in the operation of power-sharing democracy and has considerable fieldwork experience of power-sharing in Northern Ireland, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia.

She is also interested in the role of external actors (the UN, EU, and key states) in incentivising power-sharing as part of a peace settlement.

More broadly, Dr McEvoy has undertaken a Leverhulme Trust-funded project on the cooperation among international organisations (the EU, Council of Europe and the OSCE) in the promotion of minority rights in multi-ethnic states.

This focus on the role of international organisations in conflict resolution has led to a more recent project (funded by the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland) on the cooperation between the UN and the EU in liberal peacebuilding.

Finally, Dr McEvoy is presently researching the question of legitimacy in peacebuilding – how international organisations seek to legitimate their peace operations, and whether and how power-sharing arrangements might have enhanced legitimacy credentials.

Dr. Gearoid Millar

Dr. Millar is currently in the middle of a project studying the local experiences of a large European bio-ethanol project in the rural north of Sierra Leone.

This large FDI project has leased 40,000 hectares of land on which approximately 25,000 people live in 90 small villages.

The project has had significant effects on many of these villages and Dr. Millar’s work is primarily engaged in exploring if these effects are experienced positively or negatively by local individuals and communities and whether they will serve to stabilize peace or act to promote new conflicts.

The project started with six months of fieldwork in 2012 and will continue with additional shorter fieldwork trips in 2013 and 2014 to conduct additional interviews.

Dr. Millar is currently writing a number of articles based on the initial 2012 data collection and will complete a book manuscript from all three years of data when the project is completed in 2015.