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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


The International Security and Sustainability group comprises two main research areas: Insecurity, Political Violence and Change and Security and Sustainability in the Middle East and North Africa.

Insecurity, Political Violence and Change

Scholars within this group engage in research covering a broad range of related issues including: terrorism, insurgency and civil wars; radicalisation and counter-radicalisation; regional foreign and security policy; democratisation and conflict resolution; and the politics of identity. The research unit is characterised by a strong interest in interpretive approaches to international relations, with a focus on the analysis of security issues using critical methods of social inquiry.

This part of the broader research group has strengths in the traditional areas of Strategic Studies, Security Studies and Terrorism Studies, as well as in the emerging fields of Critical Security Studies and Critical Terrorism Studies. There is a strong regional focus within the research unit, with scholars engaged in research that focuses on: the emerging role of the European Union (EU) as a security actor; actors in the post-Soviet space, as well as security issues in the Middle-East and North Africa.
Scholars in this group are concerned with examining the relationship between our understanding of insecurity (both in practice and theory), the manifestation of these insecurities as political violence (physical and structural, state and non-state), and of the impact of these forces in shaping and changing contemporary international politics.

Security and Sustainability in the Middle East and North Africa

This is an interdisciplinary group of scholars that aims to contribute to critical analyses of the politics, international relations and political economy of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Members’ research interests include traditional and critical security issues, the impact of globalisation on the region, energy and environmental resources, political revolutions, conflict resolution and crisis management, and development.

This unit’s research explores historical and contemporary events, issues and processes that inform the politics, international relations and political economy of the MENA. Its members draw upon an eclectic range of methodological and theoretical approaches to analyse the complexities of one of the most widely reported, yet perhaps least understood regions of the world. Our research benefits from expertise in different fields, with scholarly work in International Relations, Politics, History and Business coming together to form a heterodox research environment.


Work by the group has been published in a number of books with leading publishing houses, and international peer-reviewed journals including:

  • Journal of Developing Societies
  • British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies
  • Cambridge Review of International Affairs
  • Environmental Communication
  • Global Environmental Change
  • East European Politics
  • Public Understanding of Science
  • Critical Studies on Terrorism
  • Cooperation and Conflict
  • Journal of Contemporary European Research
  • India Quarterly
  • Third World Quarterly
  • Journal of European Integration History
  • Journal of Conflict Transformation and Security

Related projects

Economic Integration and Political Cooperation in the MENA

Regional economic integration has long been a policy objective of governments in the Middle East and North Africa and has led to the development of a number of bilateral, multilateral and region-wide projects. In particular, the creation of preferential trade agreements in the form of free trade agreements (FTAs) and economic unions have sought to facilitate intra-regional trade and promote economic productivity in member states (in other words trade creation and not trade diversion). Many existing studies have sought to analyse the effectiveness of these policies in terms of their impact on economic development (which has been widely seen as the driving force behind these agreements) by using various methodological approaches that have favoured quantitative methods and positivist analysis.

This project seeks to develop our understanding of the interests driving these policies, as well as their effectiveness in both economic and political terms. Using a mixed methodology and institutionalist theoretical assumptions this project explores the integrative impacts of various agreements, such as the Greater Arab Free Trade Area, on political and economic relationships.

Energy Security and Nuclear Technology Proliferation in the MENA

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 research project aims to;

  • critically analyse the nature of energy security for non-hydrocarbon producing states in the contemporary MENA
  • assess the importance of energy security for the governments of these states
  • investigate the policy responses to energy insecurity taken by the governments of these states
  • critically appraise the emerging nuclear energy programmes in non-hydrocarbon states and analyse their role in promoting energy security
  • assess the potential impact of these nuclear energy programmes on broader nuclear proliferation in the region

An Investigation of Power and Ideology in the Special Tribunal for Lebanon

This project looks at a familiar topic for studies on Lebanon, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon, but in a markedly different way. Specifically, it conceives of the STL as a mediating institution between world order and the idiosyncratic Lebanese state-society. Moreover, it conceives of this mediation as existing within a historical structure of world order(s), offering an explanation of their dialectical interaction through intensive critical discourse analysis (CDA) of contemporary court transcripts and a comparative historical analysis of the 1860 European Commission for Syria – a pseudo-legal, colonial intervention of the nineteenth century. This analysis of the long-term interactions of legal and political power is done with a view to understanding whether its exercise is emancipatory and legitimate or ideological and hegemonic.

Research from the International Security and Sustainability research group informs all of the Department’s courses, including the BA (Hon) Politics, the BA (Hon) International Relations, the BA (Hon) Politics and International Relations, the MA Politics and the MA International Relations. In addition, we have 11 PhD students connected to the research group who regularly publish with our academic staff and who each play a vital role in contributing to the development of our research culture.