Research clusters

The Conflict Research Groups has three main research clusters: Governance in Conflict, Humanitarian Aid and Conflict, and Resources and Conflict.

Governance in conflict

(Coordinator: Bert Suykens)

War and violent conflict are often presented as anarchic, with the most basic governance activities abolished and all services lacking. Yet CRG’s programme ‘governance in conflict’ wants to challenge this popular assumption and focus explicitly on the role of governance in and during conflict. Often this type of governance is highly hybrid, with multiple actors – rebel groups, state officials, politicians, businessmen, traditional leaders – levying taxes and providing protection, justice, social services etc for specific groups or individuals. The interactions between these different actors can result in confrontation, but also offer room for negotiation about and over these different modes of governance, also for the general population. Moreover, after formal peace agreements, modes of governance-in-conflict often persist. CRG’s micro-level approach to conflict analysis is especially suited to track and investigate these multiple and hybrid forms of governance in conflict and their impact on the population living with conflict situations.

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Humanitarian aid and conflict

(Coordinator: Bruno De Cordier)

With the changing nature of conflict and the increasing importance of humanitarian aid since the 1988-91 period, the humanitarian sector has often become not only a conflict factor but also an economy in its own right in several affected societies. The emergence of global news media and the presence of international forces in various conflict and post-conflict areas also added to the complexity of aid. Through case-based studies, field analysis and in interaction with the aid sector itself, the CRG programme ‘Humanitarian aid and conflict’ wants to examine the socio-economic impact and the evolution of aid, the blurring of lines between humanitarian aid and development, the emergence of alternative non-conventional forms of aid (faith-based aid, relief by non-state armed actors, non-OECD donor countries, … ) , the limits of universality of the mainstream humanitarian working methods and –principles, as well the changing security challenges for aid workers.

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Resources and conflict

(Coordinator: Jeroen Adam)

Resources have always played a pivotal role in conflict. This is especially the case since the fall of the Berlin Wall, as the decline in assistance to many governments and rebel groups in the Global South resulted in a renewed competition over private sources of support, including control over natural resources. Natural resources therefore influence both the onset of violent conflict and the duration of civil warfare since these greatly determine the capacity of these armed actors. Considering the central role played by these natural resources, this had spurred multiple debates. Yet, a majority of these studies depart from correlations based on highly questionable data sets, and in-depth, empirical data is still scarce. The CRG aims to tackle these lacunae by studying the role of natural resources through an ethnographic and empirically based approach. Questions include the role of natural resources in financing armed groups and the different shapes resource extraction can take in conflict settings. Secondly, the CRG also researches how these shifts in public authority over natural resources impact on the daily livelihoods of civil populations.

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