The civilian dimension of peacekeeping operations and human rights promotion

(Funding: Swedish Research Council; Project Team: Sabine Otto (Uppsala University, Project Leader), Constantin Ruhe (Goethe University Frankfurt), Hannah Smidt (University of Zurich), Lisa Hultman (Uppsala University), Jair van der Lijn (SIPRI))

United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations have become one of the most prominent responses to civil wars around the world. The role of civilian personnel and their activities have proliferated during the last two decades and become increasingly central, whereby the promotion of human rights is one of the core function of UN peacekeeping operations. Our knowledge, however, about the impact of civilian staff and activities on protecting human rights standards is inconclusive and the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. We explore whether and how the civilian components of UN peacekeeping operations improve human rights standards. To achieve this goal, we disaggregate the civilian dimension of peacekeeping operations into civilian personnel and their activities. Empirically, we collect and analyze novel data that disaggregates peacekeeping operations along these key dimensions. By using statistical methods that exploit between- and within- country variation, we examine whether and how the different civilian components affect peacekeeping operations’ ability to improve human rights practices. The results from the project will generate valuable insights into how to design more effective peacekeeping operations.


Reducing root causes of forced displacement and managing migration

(Associated researcher at the German Development Institute)

This project addresses the multidimensional (multivariate) causes and explanatory factors of forced migration, and investigates the sustainability of different strategies for managing forced migration and flight. It also uses examples of two African sub-regions (East Africa, West Africa) to examine the potential for regional, national and sub-national policies to support a development-oriented approach to managing regular migration.

Project papers:

  • Digitalisation in the lives of urban migrants: Evidence from Bogota (with Charles Martin-Shields, Sonia Camacho and Rodrigo Taborda) – DIE Discussion Paper 12/2019
  • The Asylum Hump: Unpacking why country income level predicts asylum seeking, but not new refugee numbers (with Charles Martin-Shields and Lisa Groß) – accepted (Journal of Refugee Studies)
  • How migration intentions change during periods of political instability and violence: Panel survey evidence from Kenya – under review


Measuring violence and emergent hostility in ongoing civil wars using reimbursed mobile phone surveys

(joined work with Sebastian Schutte and Andrew Linke)

The project aims at measuring and monitoring inter-group hostilities in ongoing civil conflicts to investigate how individual attitudes towards out-groups covary with experienced violence. The research is based on a social-psychological framework and the recent turn in the civil conflict literature toward grievance-based explanations for mobilization. To test observable implications of the theory, we employ a new computer system for conducting reimbursed electronic surveys in low-intensity conflicts in both Kenya and India.


Visualizing and interpreting time-varying effects from duration models (2016-2019)

The most commonly used duration models assume that covariate effects remain constant over time. This assumption is often violated in political science analyses with long observation times. While modeling such time-varying effects is easy to implement, the interpretation is not intuitive and prone to severe inferential errors. I study the merits and limitation of existing interpretation and visualization techniques and develop methods and software tools that help applied researchers to interpret estimation results correctly.

Project papers:

  • Estimating survival functions after stcox with time-varying coefficient – published by the Stata Journal
  • Quantifying change over time: Interpreting time-varying effects in duration analyses – published by Political Analysis
  • Bootstrap pointwise confidence intervals for covariate-adjusted survivor functions in the Cox model – published by the Stata Journal


Disaggregating the relationship between mediation and conflict intensity

Conflict management attempts tend to be initiated when conflicts escalate. The project looks into this endogenous process of violence and conflict management and analyzes the relationship between the short-term dynamics of intrastate conflicts and third party mediation attempts. It ties together the literature on conflict management and disaggregated conflict research. On a larger scale, the project tests the central role of information asymmetries postulated by the bargaining theory of war. Using a combination of empirical work and computational modelling I am able to show that, first, short-term conflict events strongly predict the decisions to initiate and accept mediation onset. Second, these association undermine our ability to estimate mediation effects in existing country-year or conflict-level data. Third, once mediation is initiated and addresses the main conflict incompatibility, mediation is associated with a strong reduction in conflict intensity. Overall, the empirically observed pattern of conflict reduction is substantively similar to the theoretical prediction of the computational model.

Project papers:

  • Anticipating mediated talks: Predicting the timing of mediation with disaggregated conflict dynamics – published by the Journal of Peace Research
  • Impeding fatal violence through third party diplomacy: The effect of mediation on conflict intensity – accepted  (Journal of Peace Research)
  • Simulating the unknown: Illuminating unobserved selection biases in temporally aggregated studies of mediation


Temporal dynamics of one-sided violence (2009-2012)

During my BA and MA studies, I worked as a research assistant with the Konstanz One-Sided Violence Event Data (KOSVED) Project and assisted with coding and data  management. The project motivated both my bachelor’s and master’s thesis. The BA thesis examined the effect of various external interventions on the level of violence against civilians using an interrupted time series design. A related paper was eventually published (joint work with Gerald Schneider and  Margit Bussmann). My master’s thesis examined our ability to predict one-sided violence. The resulting paper demonstrates that both the number of acts and the intensity  correlate with other conflict events and enable fairly accurate predictions.

Project papers:

  • The Dynamics of Mass Killings: Testing Time-Series Models of One-Sided Violence in Bosnia (with Gerald Schneider and Margit Bussmann) – published by International Interactions
  • Predicting atrocities. Statistically modeling violence against civilians during civil war – NEPS Working Paper