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Vidi grant makes Anar Ahmadov feel free like a bird - for a moment

Anar Ahmadov is one of eleven Leiden University researchers that have been awarded a Vidi grant by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). The 800.000 euro grant enables Ahmadov to start his own research group on western institutions, finding answers to the question: do they promote or preclude democracy?

The associate professor in Poltical Economy at Leiden University College of the faculty of Governance and Global Affairs is honored to receive the grant. ‘This was only my first application. You are competing with a lot of highly capable researchers. This is a recognition of my previous contribution and of trust in my ability to do important and useful work. It means I can concentrate on one major line of research.'

Freedom and urgency at the same time

Ahmadov was in his office when he heard he was awarded the grant. It gave him a sense of freedom and urgency at the same time. ‘I looked out the window with a smile and I noticed a pigeon in the sky. For a moment, I felt as free as that bird. With this grant I will be free to do my research. But it immediately occurred to me that the bird immediately has to find its next meal after it has eaten. And that I will have to hunt for further grants to support my research in the future.’

Ahmadov also thought about his colleagues that didn’t get the grant. ‘Their work is just as admirable and important for various reasons, but does not get supported.’ Then he stopped being philosophical and started to call friends and family to share the good news.

Personal interest

His research subject, ‘western institutions, do they promote or preclude democracy?’ is fueled by personal interest, coming from personal experiences and observations. ‘I am a former international student in to western countries - the USA and the UK, from a developing non-western country, Azerbeidzjan. I teach at Leiden University College in The Hague, a highly international college that attracts lots of motivated young people, not only from Europe and North America, but also from developing countries. In addition, I have witnessed and contributed to various European and US-based international governmental and non-governmental programs for training policy executives, politicians, ngo leaders, activists, and academics. My main goal is to assess the role – intended and unintended – of ‘western’ training on promoting democracy in developing countries. Do these programs actually promote democracy or reproduce existing inequalities? When are they useful and when are they counterproductive for democracy?’

Tekst: Margriet van der Zee

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