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

On Tuesday 7th 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. A number of researchers committed to doing research on the United Nations and global governance as a whole gathered to exchange ideas and build partnerships. Many of the attendants will become members of the core team which will support Professor O’Malley’s Chair.

Peace and Justice

The event opened with some words from Professor O’Malley and Liduine Bremer, Dean of the Faculty of Public Management, Law and Safety at THUAS. Throughout the evening, there were multiple guest speakers who presented their areas of research, thus highlighting the importance of the Peace Palace Library. Below is a summary of some of the main takeaways.

Jeroen Vervliet & Candice Alihusain, Peace Palace Library

Mr Vervliet outlined how important the Peace Palace Library has been throughout the twentieth century in creating and collating bibliographies. He had some of these to hand to show, including an old text from the impressive Grotius collection of the Peace Palace.

Ms Alihusain then provided an overview of the library’s online catalogue, demonstrating the collection of research guides which the librarians have compiled on subjects such as international public and private law, and this includes an impressive section on the United Nations. All of the subsections include bibliographies, librarian’s choice, databases, and links to further resources. She showed us the beginnings of special bibliographies created for the four legs of the Chair. Ms Alihusain certainly convinced all the attendants to visit the library and make use of their impressive resources.

Professor Giles Scott-Smith, Leiden University

As a historian, Professor Scott-Smith has published extensively on topics such as the UN and international diplomacy. He spoke about how his research looks at the various forms of diplomacy that can be uncovered throughout international history of the twentieth century. This is particularly pertinent to the research agenda of the Chair, which aims to uncover and draw attention to the lesser known actors of the UN, both past and present.

Dr Nicolas Blarel, Leiden University

Dr Blarel outlined his focus in political science on South Asian security studies, with particular attention to India. As an example, he mentioned how there have been misconceptions about India’s foreign policy that can be rebuked by paying closer attention to history, and particularly to diplomatic manoeuvring by India at the UN. 

Dr Zsuzsanna Deen-Racsmany, Leiden University

In her intervention, Dr Deen-Racsmany spoke about her research on UN diplomatic immunities, by recounting the recent case of Turkish Judge Akay, who was seated on the United Nations Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals. In this case, the UN’s diplomatic immunities failed to prevent Akay’s arrest in Turkey. By highlighting this case,  Zsuzsanna’s research calls  into question the mechanisms of diplomatic immunities, and also emphasises the extent to which General Assembly voting can be politicised. 

Dr Eamon Aloyo, Leiden University

On the subject of diplomacy beyond the Security Council, Dr Aloyo spoke about his research on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). His discussion of the moral and ethical components of R2P research made it abundantly clear how important this research is for the agenda of the Chair, particularly regarding the question of how to move forward with the R2P concept and its legitimacy.

Professor Joachim Koops, Leiden University

Also working on R2P, Professor Koops spoke about his recent appointment as Chair of Security Studies at Leiden’s Institute of Security and Global Affairs, and the research he is looking to collate under this. This includes looking at international organisations and their interrelations in peace and security, as well as R2P, peacekeeping and crisis management. Related to R2P are questions of peacekeeping and peacebuilding operations.

Dr Vanessa Newby, Leiden University

Dr Newby spoke about her area of research, women in the military, but she is interested in contributions to the broad range of areas from prevention, to peacekeeping and peacebuilding, to peacemaking. She is looking for research around specific questions, such as establishing whether there is a link between the presence of more women peacebuilders and the prospects for a more sustainable and lasting peace. For this endeavour she highlighted the importance of keeping the two ‘strands’ of feminist theory and empirical research together.

Rosa Groen, The Hague University of Applied Sciences

Ms Groen spoke about her current PhD project on cities and international organisations. It deals with the fascinating question of what makes a ‘UN city’? She is answering this by reference to successful and failed cases in four different ‘UN cities’: Geneva, The Hague, Vienna, and Copenhagen. This research is innovative and incredibly important to the Chair, given that one of the aims of the Chair is to increase the UN’s visibility in The Hague.

Dr Karen Smith, Leiden University

Dr. Smith, who is the current advisor to the UN Secretary-General on R2P, stated that the current R2P model is at an impasse, and therefore she was taking all and any ideas on how to move forward with R2P given its delegitimization in the eyes of many. This is yet another example of how important the work of the Chair will be, both for excellence in academic collaboration and for policy relevance.

The evening ended with a ‘semi-structured’ drinks reception, the structured part comprising of five stations representing the themes of the Chair. Attendees were encouraged to visit the themes they were interested in collaborating on. The reception was a testament to the extent of potential collaboration that could take place under this Chair, as many fruitful conversations took place. All in all, the event was very successful in bringing together this incredibly talented and diverse group of researchers and the potential avenues for collaboration are abundant!