Governance of Peacebuilding

Policy Field Research

Research on the global governance of peacebuilding has a long tradition at the Centre, both in terms of academic agendas and knowledge transfer at the science-policy interface. In the Centre’s second funding phase research focused on the ambiguities and dilemmas that represent major challenges for sustainable peacebuilding. In peacebuilding, like in other policy fields, an exponential increase in the number of actors, the proliferation of complex governance assemblages, and the spread of multi-party conflicts have made peacebuilding missions increasingly more complex.

Research at the Centre also explored the gendered nature of conflict dynamics, peacebuilding and the dissemination of security practices to address cross-border threats, and dilemmas that intervening actors face in their decision to oppose or collaborate with potentially corrupt and violent local power elites. The geographical reach of this research stretched from peacebuilding missions in Mali and Afghanistan to conflicts in Palestine and Kashmir as well as post-conflict developments in Sierra Leone and the new role of China in Africa.

One key focus of the Centre’s peacebuilding research was the justification and legitimation of interventions and sources of resistance against them. It took stock of new discursive trends, included conceptual reflections, and contributed case studies, such as Afghanistan and Mali. A major issue concerns the extent to which robust and multidimensional peace operations can take account of local structures adequately and what goals they can pursue realistically. One key result identifies that intervening actors are faced with a dilemma. Either they fight local powerholders and the accompanying structures of economic violence or they involve themselves in the situation to reshape the conditions but threaten to exacerbate them. In any event, international missions have a tendency to become a part of the problem rather than the solution.

To the degree that liberal peacebuilding interventions have lost importance in the last decade, our research finds intervention practice to have shifted towards a stabilization of ‘post-conflict’ situations, which is reflected in a discursive shift and focus on the ‘resilience’ of societies. At the same time, a new focus on resistance to international intervention has emerged, including the analysis of competing claims to authority. As a consequence, global cooperation in the area of intervention and peacebuilding can no longer build on a stable normative consensus but has to contend with the permanent contestation of legitimatory practices.

Another key aspect our research addressed was the question of how the COVID-19 pandemic affected peacebuilding initiatives. This included research on how global health governance cannot only support privileged but also war- and conflict-ridden societies and how humanitarian protection for endangered groups can be enhanced. Additionally, we also questioned how ‘shrinking spaces’ for civil society can be protected against the worldwide proliferation of autocratic tendencies.

The Centre provided a variety of platforms to discuss the threat that the Russian war on Ukraine poses to the European and global peace order. Research and transfer activities highlighted far-reaching consequences of the war, extending beyond Europe. This specifically concerned the disruption of trade relations which, especially in countries of the Global South, contributed to food and fuel crises and exacerbated security issues and other conflicts around the world.

Key publications:

  • Debiel, Tobias, Saalfeld, Jannis, Vüllers, Johannes, Weipert-Fenner, Irene, Wolff, Jonas (2020). ‘Nachhaltiger Frieden: Protestbewegungen, politische Umbrüche und Gewaltrisiken’, in: Bonn International Center for Conversion (BICC) / Leibniz-Institut Hessische Stiftung Friedens- und Konfliktforschung (HSFK) / Institut für Friedensforschung und Sicherheitspolitik an der Universität Hamburg (IFSH) / Institut für Entwicklung und Frieden (INEF) (eds), Friedensgutachten 2020. Im Schatten der Pandemie: Letzte Chance für Europa, Bielefeld: Transcript, 73–91.
  • Rinck, Patricia and Debiel, Tobias (2022) (eds). ‘Perspectives on the War in Ukraine’, Special Issue: Global Cooperation Research – A Quarterly Magazine 1(2022), available at: 


Crucial publications in the field ‘Global Governance of Peacebuilding':

  • Agarwal, Amya (2022). Contesting Masculinities and Women’s Agency in Kashmir, London: Rowman and Littlefield.
  • Boege, Volker and Rinck, Patricia (2019). ‘The Local/International Interface in Peacebuilding: Experiences from Bougainville and Sierra Leone’, International Peacekeeping, 26(2): 216–239.
  • Debiel, Tobias and Dombrowski, Stephan (2023). ‘Hybrid Political Orders in Fragile Contexts’, in David Carment and Yiagadeesen Samy (eds), Handbook of Fragile States, Cheltenham/Northampton, MA: Edward Elgar, 137–151.
  • Geis, Anna and Schröder, Ursula (2023). ‘Global Conse-quences of the War in Ukraine: The Last Straw for (Liberal) Interventionism?’, Zeitschrift für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung, 12(1): 295–307. Open Access: 
  • Kühn, Florian (2020). ‘Statebuilding in Afghanistan – Inertia and Ambiguity’, in Oliver Richmond and Gëzim Visoka (eds), The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Peace and Conflict Studies, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Sandor, Adam (2020). ‘The Power of Rumour(s) in International Interventions: MINUSMA’s Management of Mali’s Rumour Mill’, International Affairs, 96(4): 913–934.