Centre of Expertise Global Governance

Research group United Nations Studies in Peace and Justice

From 1st of September 2018, Alanna O'Malley was appointed as Professor 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. The new appointed professor Alanna ‘O Malley will set up and lead the research group UN Studies: Peace and Justice. The Research group 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.

Call for Papers: Where are the Women after Resolution 1325? Understanding Women in the Process of Peace | 18-19 December 2019, Leiden University
About the research group

The research group 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 research group 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 research group

The aim of the UN Studies research group 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 research group 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 research group 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.

See also: Leiden University

About the professor

Alanna O'Malley


Research themes

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.   


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), Ms. Willemijn Aerdts (Leiden University).

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.

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.