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International Security and Sustainability

Unit(s) of assessment: Politics and International Studies

Research theme: Safety and Security of Citizens and Society

School: School of Social Sciences


This group is concerned with the changing nature of insecurity as experienced by individuals, societies, states, corporations and other non-state actors, together with the policies taken to promote security. We seek to inform innovative sustainable security policies at the local, national, regional and global levels. Scholars in this group view traditional state-centric and militarised security practices and frameworks as obsolete given the globalised and increasingly complex world in which we live. Our current projects explore the relationship between various forms of insecurity (both in practice and theory), the manifestation of these insecurities, the causes of conflict between individuals and groups seeking to promote their own security, and the impact of these forces on contemporary politics, and local and international relations. Specifically, we research the following: terrorism, insurgency and civil wars; radicalisation and counter-radicalisation; regional foreign and security policy; democratisation; the politics of identity; energy and environmental scarcities; political revolutions; conflict resolution and crisis management; and development. The research group has a strong interest in critical methods of social enquiry to analyse security issues, as well as a strong regional focus, with scholars engaged in research on Central and Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and the post-Soviet space.


Our research aims to both inform academic debates and policy responses to contemporary and emerging challenges. We continue to develop partnerships with local, national and international organisations including:

  • British Council
  • Central European University (Hungary)
  • Comenius University (Slovakia)
  • Delft University of Technology (Netherlands)
  • Economics University in Bratislava (Slovakia)
  • Foreign and Commonwealth Office
  • Georgetown University
  • Kings College London
  • Lundt University (Sweden)
  • Masaryk University (Czech Republic)
  • Nottingham City Council
  • Nottinghamshire County Council
  • Open Society Foundations
  • Political Studies Association
  • Red Cross
  • Staff and Educational Development Agency (UK)
  • United Nations
  • University of Jordan (Jordan)
  • University of Tartu (Estonia)
  • World Health Organisation

Research Seminars

Social and Political Sciences International Research Seminar - Bernadette Jaworsky

Related staff


Work by the group has been published by leading publishing houses, and international peer-reviewed journals including:

  • British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
  • Cambridge Review of International Affairs
  • Cooperation and Conflict
  • Critical Studies on Terrorism
  • East European Politics
  • Environmental Communication
  • European Security
  • Foreign Policy Analysis
  • Global Environmental Change
  • India Quarterly
  • Infinity Journal
  • Journal of Conflict Transformation and Security
  • Journal of Contemporary European Research
  • Journal of Developing Societies
  • Journal of European Integration History
  • Journal of Global and Security Studies
  • Journal of Perpetrator Research
  • Manchester University Press
  • The Muslim World
  • Palgrave
  • Parameters, US Army War College Quarterly
  • Politics & Gender
  • Public Understanding of Science
  • Routledge
  • Third World Quarterly
  • West European Politics

Related projects

Comparing EU and US Approaches to Police Reform in Ukraine: Complementary Local Ownership?
Following the violent clashes between Euromaidan protesters and Ukraine police in February 2014, Yanukovych was removed from power, and eventually replaced by Petro Poroshenko after the May presidential elections. Poroshenko’s attention soon turned to internal reforms and asked western support to implement reform processes. Police reform was particularly high on the agenda, due to the lack of civil society trust in the Ukrainian police, resulting from longstanding high levels of corruption and the disproportionate violence used during the Euromaidan protests. This paper looks at international support to Ukraine reform efforts, and specifically compares the EU and US approaches to police reform in Ukraine in the year following the Maidan protests. It asks the question at which level and with which domestic stakeholders the EU and US engage in their police reform efforts, and it therefore contributes to broader debates around local ownership. It explores whether the EU and US are complementary or contradictory in their approach, and whether coordination enhances efficiency. Keywords: Police Reform, Ukraine, EU, US, Local Ownership.

Contact: Dr An Jacobs

Climate Change Discourse and Policy in Central Asia

The research project is designed to fill a substantial gap in academic and policy-orientated literature related to the state policy and public perception of climate change related problems Central Asia (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan). Whilst a great deal of research has been conducted by natural scientists on the exceptional vulnerability of the region to climate change, and also on the uneven trends of economic development, very little has been done in terms of understanding how this knowledge has been translated into the public awareness of these problems. The primary goal of the project is to explore how the emerging climate change risks have affected the development strategies promoted by international and regional stakeholders, and identify whether civil society has been aware and supportive of these initiatives. As part of the project, Alina Bychkova is working on her PhD thesis ‘Understanding climate change narratives in Central Asia: science, politics and media discussions’ funded by the Ros Hague scholarship. Outcomes to date: Poberezhskaya, M. & Danilova, N. (2021) ‘Reconciling climate change leadership with resource nationalism and regional vulnerabilities: a case-study of Kazakhstan’, Environmental Politics, DOI: 10.1080/09644016.2021.1920768; Poberezhskaya, M. & Bychkova, A. (forthcoming) ‘Kazakhstan’s climate change policy: reflecting national strength, green economy aspirations and international agenda’, Post-Communist Economies.

Contact: Dr Marianna Poberezhskaya

From Care to Security: Pandemic self-help and the limits of empowerment

This project explores the politics and practices of self-help as a health security rationality. Specifically, we focus on how the state-society relationship shapes the politics of health security applied during the COVD-19 pandemic. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Czech government, as one of the first countries in the world, made it obligatory for everyone to wear a face mask when leaving their home. However, masks were not available at that time; they could not be purchased and were not provided beyond ICUs. Instead of resisting the government, the Czech people resorted to the logic of self-reliance. In the effort to safeguard their health, citizens - predominantly women - started to organize to sew and distribute homemade masks for their families, medical professionals, elderly and vulnerable people and local communities. Drawing on discourse analysis of social media and political speeches and interviews with the mask-stitching volunteers, we find that rather than an opportunity for resisting the patriarchal system of unpaid care work and empowering women and minorities who took a lead in the collective self-help exercise, the performance of mask-stitching strengthened the feeling of nationalism and the neoliberal sentiment of self-reliance. This project is co-investigated with Dagmar Rychnovská, University of Sussex.

Contact: Dr Katerina Krulisova

Energy Security and Nuclear Technology Proliferation in the Middle East and North Africa

Research has shown that energy security is a central concern of many governments in the MENA. Policy responses have been diverse but two main common approaches have emerged: the development of domestic energy supplies through 1) renewable energy and 2) nuclear energy. The latter approach is the focus of this project as it has implications that extend far beyond national energy security. Nuclear energy proliferation in the MENA has implications for nuclear proliferation in the region and globally – this includes the use of nuclear technology for weapons programmes. The emerging nuclear energy programmes in the region have the potential to impact on economic development, poverty, regime stability, and climate change. But the potential is also there to impact regional and global nuclear arms races, instability and war. Understanding the political economy of these nuclear programmes is essential if we are to understand the impacts they will have in the future. The formulation of policy responses to the proliferation of nuclear energy programmes in the region will rely on our appreciating the rationale and directions of these programmes. This project aims to 1) critically analyse the nature of energy security for non-hydrocarbon producing states in the contemporary MENA; 2) assess the importance of energy security for the governments of these states; 3) investigate the policy responses to energy insecurity taken by the governments of these states; 4) critically appraise the emerging nuclear energy programmes in non-hydrocarbon states and analyse their role in promoting energy security; 5) assess the potential impact of these nuclear energy programmes on broader nuclear proliferation in the region.

Contact: Jan Nathrath

Understanding Climate Change Narratives in Central Asia: Science, politics and media discussions.

As to Oels (2005:161), ‘environmental discourse has material and power effects as well as being the effect of material practices and power relations’. The study views state ideology as an actor of knowledge production (Foucault 1972) and looks at the three countries of Central Asian region (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan) with their authoritarian modes of power (Rollberg 2015). Analysing the case studies via Critical Discourse Analysis (van Dijk 2013) and semi-structured expert interviews, it asks how knowledge about climate change is constructed in the region and what is the role of the state, media and science in this process.

Contact: Alina Bychkova

‘Imagined Conflicts’: The role of education in conflict resolution in the Caucasus.  

Facing the challenging task of finding sustainable solutions to peacebuilding, conflict resolution applies a range of different tools. Among these tools, education has become increasingly prominent, as a way to engage with different conflict narratives and therefore a way to encourage dialogue between supposedly irreconcilable identities and claims. This paper contributes to the discussion about education as a conflict resolution tool by looking into the value of using fictitious case studies as a pedagogical tool in conflict-affected environments. We argue that ‘imagined conflicts’ can be a tool for both practicing and learning about conflict resolution, by creating temporary spaces of constructive interaction between the conflicting parties. These spaces challenge participants’ existing ideas about conflict in general, as well as the ‘other’ in conflict. The analysis focuses on the use of fictitious case studies in an international conflict management course in the Caucasus. The authors ran this one-week intensive course at the NATO Defence Institution Building School in Tbilisi, involving both military and civilian officials from Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia. Based on semi-structured interviews, open-ended participant feedback and autoethnographic research, we discuss the rationale for and assess the impact of structuring the course around an ‘imagined conflict’ in this specific context and assess to what extent this provides opportunities for future reconciliation. This project is co-investigated with Dr Norma Rossi, Royal Military Academy Sandhurst

Contact: Dr An Jacobs

Women, Peace and Security in Central and Eastern Europe

United Nation’s Women, Peace and Security (WPS) represents a global framework aimed at foregrounding gender security, equality and participation. This project maps the progress of implementing WPS in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE), investigates regional cultures of WPS, and analyses the challenges policymakers, civil society and academia face when championing the implementation of WPS in the region. This original research focuses on the CEE countries that have published their WPS National Action Plan (NAP) or are in the process of developing one. Utilising a mix of content analysis of NAP documentation and interviews, we study the key challenges that the WPS agenda faces in the region against other regional WPS cultures. The outcomes of this project will lead to further knowledge and understanding of the national and regional dynamics of WPS and enable policy-makers to advance the WPS agenda on both national and regional levels. This project is co-investigated with with Míla O’Sullivan, Institute of International Relations Prague, Czech Republic.

Contact: Dr Katerina Krulisova

The Limits of Selective Reformism: Economic neoliberalism and public dissent in Jordan

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, economic hardships in Jordan led to large-scale public dissent. This dissent was offset by limited political reforms that nominally moved the Kingdom towards democracy. Three decades later Jordan can at best be described as a neoliberalising autocracy that pursues selective reformism characterised by the vigorous implementation of neoliberal economic policies while ignoring meaningful political reforms. This approach is unpopular in many segments of Jordanian society and has led to calls for wide-ranging economic and political reforms. Faced with similar dilemmas in the past, the Hashemite regime has relied on East Bankers to insulate it from the domestic fallout. Yet, the East Banker community has also become disillusioned by the government’s economic policies and may no longer serve as an unwavering support base for the regime. This paper examines evidence of this process and explores the extent to which public dissent in Jordan is driven by economic neoliberalism and what this might mean for the regime’s future stability. We do this by conducting an event data analysis of public dissent in Jordan since the last round of significant political and economic reforms in 2016. We find that, unlike during the Arab Spring with its focus on political change, recent public dissent has focused more on economic conditions, and that continued selective reformism jeopardises the stability of the Hashemite regime by eroding its East Banker support base.

Contact: Dr Imad El-Anis

Mediation in the foreign policy arsenal of a small state: the Qatar case study, 1995-2021

This study discusses mediation as a central pillar of Qatar’s contemporary foreign policy making (mediation in foreign policy more broadly refers to the role that one or more actors play in resolving conflicts and preventing disputes from developing into violent or intense conflicts. This study explores Qatari mediation as well as other small states that resemble Qatar in terms of their population, currency value and other macro-characteristics. This project studies mediation in foreign policy as it offers small states an important role in international relations and can amplify their power/importance without relying on traditional aspects of power (for example, military capabilities) that they likely do not possess due to their smallness.  By using mediation to strengthen their importance and increase the roles they play in broader international relations, small states sustain themselves and increase their relative power vis-à-vis potential and real adversaries.

Contact: Ali Al-Otaibi

Covid-19 and the collective securitisation of Schengen: An analysis of EU, national and societal level responses to border control

In 2015, during the so-called ‘Migration Crisis’, the EU collectively securitised its Schengen zone to manage the uncoordinated reintroduction of border controls in response to the major influx of migrants. Five years later, Covid-19 once again posed severe challenges to the Schengen zone, with the reintroduction of most internal border controls, calling the survival of borderless Europe into question. While in February 2020, the reintroduction of border controls seemed to be a disproportionate measure, in March of that same year, the introduction of internal border controls and travel bans was snowballing. The impact of Covid-19 on EU internal borders has several dimensions. This paper analyses the Covid-19 impact on borders on three levels. First, it discusses the EU’s response to the pandemic in terms of border control and how the EU has collectively securitised the Schengen zone. Secondly, it considers how the member states, in particular the Netherlands and Poland, have adjusted border controls because of Covid-19 and related EU-level policies. Thirdly, the paper analyses how the society in the Netherlands and Poland has responded to actions taken by the EU and the member states. With The Netherlands one of the 1985 signatory Schengen states and Poland joining Schengen with the 2004 enlargement, these two states make for a particularly interesting comparison. The paper explores whether this indicates different political and societal attitudes towards the Schengen Area.

Contact: Dr An Jacobs & Monika Kabata

Jordan’s climate change policy: understanding local vulnerabilities and political restrictions

Jordan is one of the world’s most resource poor, arid and freshwater stressed developing countries. It is also exceptionally vulnerable to the effects of climate change and has limited mitigation and adaptation capacities. Its environmental challenges have long been exacerbated by poor governance, mismanagement of natural resources (especially freshwater) and associated infrastructure, demographic pressures (driven by both domestic natural growth and the influx of refugees from Syria and Iraq), and the behaviour of neighbouring states. Over the two last decades anthropogenic climate change has aggravated these challenges further and has emerged as a leading threat in its own right. While the most immediate effect of climate change has been on freshwater security, there have been other important negative consequences in several spheres of human, political and economic security in Jordan. Even though Jordan is rarely mentioned in global climate change discussions and debates, we argue that due its climate change vulnerability and low levels of resilience, as well as its important role in Middle Eastern politics, it is necessary to examine how climate change mitigation and adaptation policies are approached in Jordan.

Contacts: Dr Imad El-Anis & Dr Marianna Poberezhskaya

Gender Mainstreaming in Peacebuilding

Gender mainstreaming is one of the key aims of the UN’s Women, Peace and Security Agenda. During more than 20 years of the existence of this agenda, a lot of progress has been made. At the same time, implementation has been mixed at best. This project analyses the processes of gender mainstreaming in peacebuilding missions. We focus on the ways that gender mainstreaming norms are translated into practice. The key objective of this project is to analyse how people who are deployed to peacekeeping operations are trained on gender issues, and how they implement their training during their deployment. We base our findings on document analysis and semi-structured interviews with professionals deployed in overseas UN, EU, NATO or AU missions. We firstly focus on the missions deployed to Mali and may include other missions at a later stage. The planned outcomes of this research project include both academic peer-reviewed publications as well as policy advice.

Contact: Dr An Jacobs & Dr Katerina Krulisova

What are the main concerns of both the supporters and the leaders of The For Britain Movement, the DFLA and PEGIDA UK? 

Far-right extremism has recently increased in the UK. It now poses a similar threat to Islamist extremism and terrorism. Despite this, little academic research has been conducted to understand why individuals join these groups. Focusing on three new far-right political parties and groups: The For Britain Movement, the Democratic Football Lads Alliance and PEGIDA UK, this research aims to answer the question “what are the main concerns of the supporters of these three groups?” using YouTube thematic analysis. Preliminary research finds that across all three groups, there are three main concerns: Concern about Islam generally and Islamic ideology, concern about the Government and politicians, and concern that the activists of these three groups are being victimized and persecuted. This research furthers understanding as to why some people join these three groups and therefore, how we can reduce community tensions.

Contact: Alice Sibley