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Research programme

Chair of UN Studies in Peace and Justice

From 1 August 2018, Alanna O'Malley was appointed as Chair of United Nations Studies in Peace and Justice, focusing on the ‘lesser-known actors’ of the UN: women, the youth, the agents of informal diplomatic networks within the UN and actors from the Global South. This Special Chair has been created by the Municipality of The Hague to honor the work of Jozias Van Aartsen, former Dutch Foreign Minister and Mayor of The Hague.

2018  -   2021
Alanna O'Malley
Municipality of The Hague Municipality of The Hague

The Hague University of Applied Sciences

This Chair aims to increase the visibility and relevance of the UN to the general public in The Hague and beyond, capitalizing on The Hague a strategic centre for UN Studies.

This Chair is positioned halfway within the Institute of Security and Global Affairs of Leiden University's Faculty of Governance and Global Affairs and the Faculty of Governance, Law and Safety of The Hague University of Applied Sciences. The Chair is being funded by the Municipality of The Hague for a period of three years as part of the ‘Van Aartsen honours program’ in the field of UN Studies.

Aim of the Chair

The aim of the UN Studies Chair is to ultimately change perceptions of the UN.

It will do so by establishing a UN Studies Research Network connecting expertise at The Hague University of Applied Sciences with that of Leiden University. The Chair provides a unique opportunity to bring together a diverse set of actors relating to the UN and its activities in order to improve public visibility of and engagement with the organization.

The Chair is designed to act as an umbrella to connect different dimensions of UN proficiency by bridging academic and civil society and acting as a focal point for activities relating to the UN and associated ideas of global governance in the area of peace and justice.

Timing of the programme

This is a very timely moment at which to think about the UN for three main reasons.

Firstly, as the 75th anniversary of the UN in 2020 draws closer, the time has come for more balanced, critical and representative views of the organization. The Chair will stimulate frontier research in a range of different areas.

Secondly, the historical legacy of international law in The Hague, its reputation in the area of peace and justice, alongside the wealth of researchers and experts here, make it the ideal place in which to develop contributions to current debates about UN reform and revitalization.

Thirdly, as The Netherlands has just completed a term as an elected member on the Security Council this is an opportunity for appraisal and reflection on a range of UN issues from the perspective of the Dutch experience which may be mined to develop broader action plans.

1. ‘Challenging the Liberal World Order from Within, The Invisible History of the United Nations and the Global South, 1945-1981.’ (INVISIHIST)

Of the 193 member states of the United Nations, over half belong to the grouping known as the Global South (also called the Developing World or Third World). Since its creation in 1945, Global South actors have sought to redefine political dynamics and change normative practices through the UN. Yet, histories of the organization are predominantly from the Western perspective. Challenging this view, this research will make a ground-breaking contribution to the field, providing a new genealogy of the UN within the contextual frame of global history in order to investigate how Global South actors shaped global order. It will bring together different perspectives of the UN from archives across the Global South, revealing currently invisible histories of the organization by examining how it was developed by Global South actors between 1945-1981.

The project’s innovative contribution is in explaining the ways in which the UN has changed over time by placing an emphasis on the dynamic role of Global South actors. The research will elucidate histories of the ordering role of institutions at a moment when global governance is in crisis and the liberal world order appears to be fragmenting. Its primary impact will be in decolonizing the historiography by highlighting the historical agency of Global South actors, and transposing the importance of the organization in the longer history of the latter half of the twentieth century to provide a truly global history of the UN.   

2. Women and Peacebuilding, A Multilevel Perspective

This program examines women’s involvement in three key areas of peace and conflict: conflict prevention, peacekeeping and the post-conflict/peace-making.  Drawing on the Secretary-General’s emphasis on the role of women in conflict prevention in his last report (2018) and Security Council Resolution 1325 the central research question asks; What is the role of women in building sustainable peace?

The project will identify and analyse the specific contribution of women to building sustainable peace from their role in conflict prevention, women as peacekeepers and post-conflict peace-making capacities. It will draw together military and civilian experiences in this field to reflect on women as actors, rather than merely agents in peace-building processes.

With Dr. Vanessa Newby (Leiden University), Prof. Madeleine Hosli (Leiden University), Mr. Diego Salama (Leiden University), Mr. Wietse Stam (Leiden University), Mr. Tom Buitelaar (European University Institute), Ms. Christine Tremblay (THUAS), Ms. Szilvia Csevar (THUAS), Dr. Mihela Anghel (THUAS), Ms. Willemijn Aerdts (Leiden University), Ms. Benita Hickson (Leiden University).

3. What Does the UN Mean to the Youth?

A project in association with the Van Aartsen Honours Program (City of The Hague) and the PRE-program of Leiden University.

This project is focused on working with youth at two levels; in schools and in universities.

At the school level, it will work with youth in disadvantaged areas of The Hague. The main aim is to engage the youth in UN ideas and the concept of world citizenship by working with them in weekend workshops and class rooms on relevant topics of global governance, especially the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

At the university level, this project will connect with on-going initiatives among student associations, model UN groups and Dutch youth organizations. There is a wide range of dynamic activities organized by these groups which can be connected around a joint platform relating to Goal 4 or Goal 16 (Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions). By fostering and promoting these activities, a network of cooperation will be formed, which will then develop a series of initiatives aimed towards the 75th anniversary of the UN in 2020.

4. Beyond the Security Council: UN Diplomacy in Focus

Drawing on the lessons learned during the Dutch term as an elected member of the Security Council during 2018, this research project will focus on the role of elected members, and in particular, the political benefits of this position for small countries.

The project will  ask a series of core research questions: What is the advantage of elected membership of the Security Council and how do states negotiate their agendas during their tenure? What will be the impact of Brexit in the next round of elections? What are the similarities and the differences in the politics between and across the regional caucuses and what patterns or consistencies may be highlighted? What does this tell us about the changing value of UN membership over time and the informal networks and methods of diplomacy between the Security Council and the General Assembly?

The project will engage the experiences of a variety of member states and UN officials and experts in this process, with the aim of producing both academic and policy relevant outputs. It will link these questions to the historical performance of UN diplomacy and current debates about reform of the Security Council and General Assembly. 

With Prof. Jan Melissen, Mr. David van  den Dunnen, Mr. Diego Salama.

Dreaming Big Dreams of a Future UN

From 6-9 July, a group of young students from Edith Stein College, Rijswijk Lyceum and the Johan de Wit School travelled to New York City as part of the Van Aartsen Honours Program to present their visions of the UN to the Permanent Mission of The Netherlands. Read Alanna O'Malley's report of the trip.

Read more

Women, peace and security: Defending progress and responding to emerging challenges

This is the third year ASPI has run a series on The Strategist to coincide with International Women’s Day and examine Australia’s approach to women, peace and security (WPS).

The series offered a timely opportunity to assess progress and identify some of the challenges that need further examination as the international community prepares to mark twenty years since the adoption of the first UN Security Council resolution on women, peace and security, and as Australia approaches the release of its second National Action Plan on WPS.

Read more

International Day of UN Peacekeepers, a day of reflection

Since the introduction of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers in 2002, every year the United Nations honours the memory of those who have lost their lives in the cause of peace.  The 29th of May has been chosen because it was on this day, in 1948, that the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) was sent to monitor peace in the Middle East.
Read the blog by Wietse Stam, Leiden University

Partnering for Peace and Justice: Launch of the UN Studies Research Group

On Tuesday 7 May, Professor Alanna O’Malley, Chair of United Nations Studies in Peace and Justice at Leiden University and The Hague University of Applied Sciences (THUAS) hosted a networking event in the Peace Palace in The Hague.  Read the report

Thinking Globally, Acting Locally: UN Youth Impact’s project launch

UN Youth Impact is a project that aims to create a network of students around The Netherlands who are interested in engaging at a local level with the United Nations and its strategies for youth. UN Youth Impact held its project launch event on Thursday 2 May 2019. Read the blog

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Challenges for female peacekeepers can come from within UN militaries

Read the blog of Vanessa Newby on 4 April 2019 on the website of 'Australian Strategy Policy Institute: The Strategist' here.

Where are the women in global governance?

To commemorate International Women’s Day we gathered on 8 March at Humanity Hub in The Hague to hear a lecture by Professor Alanna O’Malley who is the combined Chair/Lector of UN Studies for Peace and Justice for both Leiden University and The Hague University of Applied Sciences. Read the report

Time for students to grab the microphone

On Wednesday 6 March 2019 Professor O’Malley presented the research agenda for the Lectoraat United Nations Studies in Peace and Justice and gave a talk entitled: ‘The United Nations, From Blue Helmets to Blue Skies'. Read the report

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