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.