The UVC produces and disseminates new research (books, journal articles, working papers) and analyzes the evolution of complex and persistent violent conflicts in Africa and the Middle East through seminars and workshops on the following themes:

Theme 1: Evolution of Multidimensional Conflict and Interventions to End Them

  • The dynamics of a turbulent and globally integrated political marketplace driving violence, creating war economies, and making populations mutable and vulnerable to moral populist agendas and extremism;
  • The role of humanitarian aid and military assistance in illicit economies;
  • How people attempt to construct public authority in such situations;
  • How these dynamics help to explain the success or failure of development and governance interventions;

This work is linked to grants the SSRC has received to participate in the Conflict Research Programme (CRP) and the Centre for Public Authority and International Development (CPAID).

Theme 2: Forced Displacement and the Politics of Return

  • Physical and symbolic processes of ‘return’
  • The impact of (3) common types of support aimed at facilitating return: resettlement and reintegration programs, cosmologies of belonging, and issues of justice.

Despite seeing record numbers of displaced worldwide, we know little about how viable ways of life are constituted post-return. This is a critical missing link in transitional justice debates—an understanding of who returns where, and what happens to them and to their communities once they return. Making sense of the local dynamics in these processes of return is key in post-conflict settings because it has implications for reintegration and reconciliation, and for the prevention of conflict relapse, as they touch on issues of social cohesion, livelihoods, land tenure, and long term competition for power.

This work is linked to grants the SSRC has received to participate in the Politics of Return (PoR) project.

Theme 3: Emerging Conflict Actors and New Technologies

While some argue war in the twenty-first century is on the decline, others point out that it merely has taken on new forms. Increasingly, conflict environments feature not only state armies but also non-state armed groups, criminal gangs, drug-traffickers, terrorists, and private contractors, where civilians may be both victim and perpetrator. These actors employ new communications and weapons technologies and frequently operate across national borders and regions, even when local allegiances are a critical dynamic of violence. The UVC is developing a stream of work on these emerging conflict actors and new technologies. A few initial sub-themes we are developing include:

  •  Shifting global power dynamics and digital technologies as tools of international influence;
  • The evolution and trajectories of UAV technology, including the drive to autonomous weapons systems, early warning systems and civilian protection tools, and the prospects for effective regulation;
  • The impact of new technologies on conflict-affected populations