Contact By Mail

Susanna P. Campbell
Assistant Professor
School of International Service
American University
4400 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20016

Contact By Phone

(202) 885-1428

Research Agenda

Photo by Cynthia Hennebry

My research focuses on international security governance and the micro-dynamics of war-to-peace transitions. Following the subnational trend in the civil war and terrorism literature, I ask how global governors – International Organizations (IOs), International Non-governmental Organizations (INGOs), and bilateral aid agencies – respond to and influence the local dynamics of conflict and cooperation.

My book manuscript, Global Governance and Local Peace, and related article use the hard case of international peacebuilding to examine the decentralized behavior of the key actors in global governance. I argue that international peacebuilding success at the sub-national level is due in part to the agency of individual staff, not simply the institutional design, organizational culture, or the degree of hostility in the country, as the existing literature claims. IOs, INGOs, and bilateral donors are successful peacebuilders only when they have a) informal field-based accountability routines that provide feedback on the evolving local context, and b) formal peacebuilding accountability routines that incentivize these international organizations to act on this local information. Individual country-based staff create these informal accountability routines by circumventing formal practices, delegating informal power to local actors who are underrepresented by institutions of global governance. As a result, the legitimacy of IOs, INGOs, and bilateral donors in international security is dependent on the agency of individual staff who bypass their formal accountability systems. Bad behavior is necessary for good performance.

My research addresses several big gaps in the literature. The peacebuilding literature has treated all intervening actors as a monolith, largely failing to differentiate among them, examine longitudinal variation in their behavior, or distinguish between organizational and environmental factors. The global governance literature has focused on headquarter-level analyses, failing to theorize the behavior of these organizations’ decentralized offices. Instead, it has assumed that these offices simply implement the tasks delegated to them by their headquarters.

My research employs a wide range of methods. In my dissertation, I used a nested, fourteen-year longitudinal comparative case study design that employed diverse case selection and over 350 semi-structured interviews, participant observation, document analysis, and process tracing. In the recent evaluation that I led of the $44 million contribution of the UN Peacebuilding Fund to Burundi, we used a quasi-experimental design employing propensity score matching combined with a household-level survey, semi-structured interviews, and document analysis. My current collaborative research projects use all of these methods as well as survey experiments, multinomial regressions, and agent-based modeling.

Below, I discuss my three general areas of research and related publications and projects.

Areas of Research

War-to-Peace Transitions

To understand international security governance, we must also understand one of the largest sources of insecurity: civil war. Because most civil wars receive interventions from IGOs, INGOs, states, and other non-state actors, these actors are integral to many modern state formation processes. In this area of research, I use event-based analysis to identify the ebbs and flows in different countries’ transitions into and out of civil war, and assess the relationship of international security and development institutions to these oscillations. I employ this type of analysis in my PhD Dissertation, Organizational Barriers to Peace: Agency and Structure in International Peacebuilding as well as my two current research projects - Aiding Peace and Bad Behavior.

Performance of International Security Institutions

What explains the performance of Intergovernmental Organizations (IGOs),  International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs), and bilateral donors in International Security? How do these international bureaucracies behave at the centralized and decentralized levels? What are the consequences of delegation? In this area of research, I examine the factors that determine the performance and bureaucratic behavior of these key global governors in the international security arena.

Field Research and Mixed Method Research Designs

I aim to use mixed method research designs, and have received training at the Institute for Qualitative and Multi-Method Research (IQMR). In my PhD Dissertation, I used Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and Process Tracing to analyze data gathered from over 350 interviews, participant observation, and document review. The collaborative research project that I am current running, Aiding Peace: Donor Behavior in Conflict-Affected Countries, employs multi-nomial and ordered probit statistical models, econometrics, semi-structured interviews, archival document review, content analysis, and survey experiments. The recent evaluation that I led of the UN Peacebuilding Fund in Burundi used a quasi-experimental design and employed household-level surveys, semi-structured interviews, and document review. I am also writing a collaborative paper that uses agent-based modeling.

I have extensive experience doing field research in conflict-affected countries, including several years of field research experience in Burundi as well as experience in Timor-Leste, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, and Tanzania. My current research projects will take me to Nepal, Sudan, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Ongoing Research Grants

Strengthening the Unlikely Sources of Peacebuilding Success

Over the past two decades, international peacebuilding has become mainstream and is now part of the repertoire of most United Nations entities, OECD donors, and many INGOs. The liberal international order that is central to many of these peacebuilding efforts has also been the subject of much criticism. As a result, improved peacebuilding success is […]

funding raised: $79,948
study duration: October 2017 - July 2018
Aiding Peace?
Donor Behavior in Conflict Affected Countries

The objective of this research project is to understand the causes of donor behavior at the sub-national level during a peace process.Do donors respond to the ebbs and flows of a peace process or is their behavior motivated by other factors that are exogenous to events within the conflict-torn country?

Funded by the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS)

funding raised: $240,000
study duration: Jan 2014–June 2016

Past Research Funding

Crowdsourcing Peace: Closing the Feedback Loop in War-to-Peace Transitions

Funded by

Center on Conflict and Development, Texas A&M

duration: August 2014 – November 2014

Bad Behavior? Explaining the Performance of International Peacebuilding Organizations

Funded by

Funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF)

duration: Nov 2013–Oct 2015

International Organizations (IOs), International Non-Governmental Organizations (INGOs), and bilateral donors give an increasing amount of their time and money to build peace in countries recovering from civil war and other situations of armed conflict. A glance at international headlines points to the huge difficulties facing these interventions, which aim to transform a state where neighbor kills neighbor into one where former enemies govern and live together peacefully. International actors aim to do this through organizational structures that are designed to respond to the timeframes and priorities of their headquarters and funders outside of the country, not to the war-affected population that they aim to serve. In spite of the huge challenges facing international peacebuilding efforts, they sometimes succeed in building a modicum of peace.

IOs, INGOs, and bilateral donors have made important contributions to post-war transitions, not just by providing money to support negotiations or by deploying peacekeeping operations, but also by implementing targeted, nuanced and highly adaptable peacebuilding interventions. Countries like Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Burundi are no longer fraught with devastating civil war and are now run by democratically elected governments, allowing better representation of and improved responsiveness to the needs of at least some of the population. However minimal these changes may be, there are surely not insignificant, especially at the sub-national level. Of course, international actors are not solely responsible for these incremental successes, but empirics point to their instrumental role in some of them. How do we explain these instances of IO, INGO, and bilateral donor peacebuilding performance, in which they help a country advance along its war-to-peace transition?

The project has two concrete objectives. First, it will test and refine a theory developed by Dr. Susanna Campbell that explains IO, INGO and bilateral donor performance in war-to-peace transitions, with the ultimate aim of creating a generalizable theory. Second, it will expand on her work undertaken so far to cover different regional organizations engaged in peacebuilding. In order to achieve their research objectives, Dr. Susanna Campbell and Prof. Stephanie Hofmann will combine their extensive academic knowledge and field research experience, and jointly study various case study organizations over a ten to fifteen year period in two countries: Haiti and Liberia. The focal point of analysis will therefore be country-level offices of IOs, INGOs, and government aid agencies that have a clearly specified peacebuilding aims, within these two countries.

The findings from this project have significance for the theoretical debates within International Relations on the performance of IOs, INGOs, and donor aid agencies and the role of accountability, legitimacy, informal institutions, and institutional change therein. It will also shed light on the effectiveness of current policies and tools intended to improve peacebuilding performance, and provide a potentially important framework for peacebuilding organizations to assess and improve their positive contribution to post-war transitions.

Quasi-Experimental Evaluation of the UN Peacebuilding Fund in Burundi 2007-2013

Funded by

The UN Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO) and the PBF Joint Steering Committee (JSC) in Burundi

duration: Oct 2013–Jan 2014

Between 2007 and 2013, the UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) allocated US$ 44 million from their Peacebuilding and Recovery Facility (PRF) and US$ 5 million from their Immediate Response Facility (IRF) to help consolidate peace in Burundi. This makes Burundi the top recipient of PBF funds out of the 23 countries that the PBF has supported. Burundi was also one of the first two countries, along with Sierra Leone, to receive PBF funding and be included on the agenda of the UN Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). The duration and magnitude of the PBF’s support to Burundi make it an important case to study and understand.

This evaluation is different from the other evaluations that the PBF has commissioned because it assesses the contribution of the PBF support to Burundi’s post-war transition for the entire period of PBF support to Burundi (2007 – 2013), which included two tranches of PBF funding (PBF I and PBF II) and the preparation of a third one (PBF III), and draws lessons for the PBF based on its support over this entire period. The same lead evaluator that evaluated the first PBF tranche in 2010 also led this evaluation, enabling the evaluation team to conduct an in-depth comparison of PBF support in different sectors, with different staff, and to different configurations of the UN at the country level. To do this, the evaluation employed an innovative research design that is grounded in a household-level survey of over 250 households from randomly sampled towns with and without PBF involvement, and over 165 semi-structured interviews, 90 of which are drawn from the randomly sampled towns, as well as a detailed document review. This evaluation was conducted by a team of thirteen researchers and research assistants.

Evaluation of UN Peacebuilding Fund in Burundi (2007-2009)
Evaluation of first tranche from UN Peacebuilding Fund to Burundi

Funded by

United Nations Peacebuilding Support Office (PBSO)

duration: Oct 2009–Dec 2009

Independent external evaluation of the relevance, efficiency, and effectiveness of $35 million provided by the UN Peacebuilding Fund to the United Nations System in Burundi, between 2007 and 2009.

Global Review of World Bank’s Leadership Development Interventions

Funded by

World Bank State- and Peacebuilding Fund

duration: May 2008 – Feb 2009

Global Review of all eight Leadership Development Interventions funded by the Low Income Countries Under Stress (LICUS) Trust Fund and the Post-Conflict Unit (PCU). Review included field research in Timor-Leste and Burundi, and desk research on the Central African Republic and Tajikistan.

Evaluation of Burundi Leadership Training Program (BLTP)

Funded by

World Bank Post-Conflict Fund

duration: May–Aug 2004

Independent external evaluation of the Burundi Leadership Training Program (BLTP), a training and dialogue project run by Dr. Howard Wolpe of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (WWICS).