The ways in which States, NGOs and individuals respond to conflict has become a particularly salient issue since the end of the Cold War. The global aid industry has experienced the dual pressures of rapid growth, accompanied by a significant expansion in the roles it is expected to fulfil and range of tasks it has tried to perform. This, combined with a considerable rise in the number of nation-states (and thus bilateral actors), governmental organisations and NGOs, has resulted in a fragmented geopolitical system in which there is little policy coherence and even less clarity of action. Decision-makers are therefore no longer able to interact exclusively with the diplomats, senior civil servants and international leaders who constituted the contours of global governance of yesteryear, but must instead entertain inputs from a diverse set of stakeholders.
Educational programmes looking at the ways in which these actors respond to conflict-affected contexts are still comparatively scarce. Unlike the better established fields of peace studies, conflict theory and war strategy, important work is required before governments, policy makers and citizens involved in organising humanitarian and other responses to conflict-affected contexts, are able to discern and incorporate academic research into functional outcomes. Without such inputs, there is, in an increasingly interdependent and information-rich world, an imminent danger that those seeking to intervene in conflict-affected contexts will merely replicate the errors of previous generations.
This structured PhD is inspired by the need to conduct rigorous, in-depth research and analysis on the impact and outcomes of contemporary and historical crises. It is driven by a desire to inform and support policy and decision makers (inc. WHO, FO) and to optimise joint working between partner organisations, and to foster increased accountability within a knowledge-gathering framework. We will offer a flexible approach to the provision of teaching, to cater for the current needs of the aid industry and prepare the next generation of crisis response researchers and practitioners; the programme will seek to engage directly with people affected by situations of ongoing conflicts and crises. This PhD therefore reflects the need for structured forms of professional development and dynamic knowledge practices that function effectively across multiple academic and non-academic contexts. Action research and reflective practice-inspired pedagogy can respond to and influence the complex, unpredictable and shifting social, political and cultural contexts within which professional practitioners operate. The PhD will introduce students to a range of dynamic and challenging concepts and methods with which to reflect critically and constructively on their current professional experience/context. This pedagogical approach enables students’ professional context to become a primary research resource.