Department of International Relations

Impact and outreach

Challenging UK arms export policy

Professor Anna Stavrianakis’ research has been actively challenging UK arms policy. Her analysis of UK arms export policy towards Saudi Arabia, for example, demonstrates that the UK government is failing to implement its publicly-stated policy and legal obligations that restrict arms exports where there is a clear risk that they might be used in a violation of international humanitarian law. She managed to secure the release of new information into the public domain in May 2019 that revealed that the Foreign Secretary was issuing licences for arms exports to Saudi Arabia despite ongoing attacks on civilians. Through collaboration with Campaign Against Arms Trade, she secured media coverage to publicise the findings and document the unlawful operation of UK arms export policy. This led to new stories in The Guardian and The Independent. Professor Stavrianakis was also invited to give oral evidence at the Inquiry into the use of UK-manufactured weapons in Yemen based on her written submission, one of just two from academics.

A fossil fuel treaty?

Based on an article co-written by Professor Peter Newell in The Guardian back in 2018 and a subsequent letter of support from activists such as Naomi Klein, Bill McKibben, the M.P Caroline Lucas and the heads of Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, a global campaign for a Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty has been launched. Key cities such as Vancouver and Barcelona have endorsed the Treaty and it has received the backing of over 100 Nobel laureates including his holiness the Dalai Lama. Former Irish President Mary Robinson also proposed the idea at the UN security council and UK MP Caroline Lucas has put forward a bill to support the treaty.

Interreligious engagement and freedom of religion or belief

In 2018-19 Dr Fabio Petito ran a multi-stakeholder consultation process, led by his FoRB & Foreign Policy Initiative based at the University of Sussex, to co-produce innovative knowledge on interreligious engagement (dialogue and collaboration) as a policy tool to advance Freedom of Religion or Belief (FoRB) for all and combat intolerance based on religion or belief. The consultation was developed in partnership with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Policy Planning Unit) and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (Freedom of Religion or Belief Programme) under the 2018 Italian OSCE Chairmanship. Through engagement with relevant policy initiatives, policy-makers and other stakeholders and by developing concrete strategies and policy recommendations, the project impacted the dominant policy approach adopted by governments and international organisations in response to the global crisis of FoRB, resulting in the adoption of interreligious engagement strategies and their support and facilitation in foreign policy at both international and domestic levels (see the final report here). Read our most recent Report on Interreligious Engagement Strategies and FoRB.

Safeguarding children and adults in humanitarian and development contexts

In addition to her work on gender, conflict and militarism, Synne Dyvik has undertaken research with, and funded by, Save the Children UK on child safeguarding in humanitarian contexts. This work resulted in an internal report and contributed to a toolkit for Save the Children International on Safeguarding in Emergency Contexts. She has advised a number of peacebuilding and conflict prevention NGOs on safeguarding practices and ethical research in conflict settings; and has co-authored a UK Collaborative on Development Research evidence review and briefing paper on safeguarding and development. She is currently contributing to the ICAI Review of the UK’s approach to Safeguarding in the Humanitarian and Development sector, due to be completed in spring 2022.

Rethinking Middle Eastern politics

Dr Kamran Matin’s research explores the international dimension of socio-political transformation focusing on nationalism, post-nationalism, revolution and state-formation in Iran, Kurdistan and the Middle East more generally. Matin consistently shares his research in policy spaces, with the public, activists and via the media appearing regularly on Iran International TV commenting on Middle Eastern politics. In February 2021 he delivered a talk at the Lewes U3A titled ‘‘The Kurds: A Century of Repression and Resistance’’, and talked to London Tuesday Club on ‘The Origins and Evolution of the Kurdish National Movement’. In October 2020, Matin was interviewed by BBC Newson conditions in Iranian Kurdistan and in June 2021 The Sunday Times interviewed him on the situation. In July 2021 he contributed to the Online Summer Institute seminar series The Syrian Revolution: A History from Below.

Shaping International Policy towards North Korea

Kevin Gray has undertaken extensive impact work on international policy towards North Korea, including the provision of a day-long training course at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, multiple private briefing for diplomats, including for UK ambassador-designates to both North and South Korea, to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and to the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in North Korea. He has also written opinion pieces in high-profile outlets such as Fortune and News-week and has given multiple international media interviews on Northeast Asian affairs.

Advancing public understanding of colonialism, migration, and empire

Bhambra’s research analyses the ways in which global inequalities in the present are shaped by the historical processes of colonialism and how we can more effectively – intellectually and in public policy – intervene in an effort to address them. She has made wide-ranging contributions to public understanding on Brexit, migration, and the ongoing legacies of empire. Her Tedx talk on Brexit has been viewed over 130K times and she has contributed on the topic on BBC Radio 4’s Thinking Allowed programme. She has spoken on migration and empire at art galleries, museums, and literary festivals, including at Tate Britain, the Showroom, and the Cheltenham Literature Festival in the UK as well as at the Jewish Museum in Berlin, the Frankfurt Museum of Modern Art, and POLIN museum in Warsaw. She facilitated an internal seminar of the Overseas Development Institute on the significance of colonialism to development and participated in a webinar for the European Parliament, organised by the Greens/EFA group, on the colonial histories of structural racism. She was invited onto Ed Miliband and Geoff Lloyd’s podcast series, Reasons to be Cheerful, discussing the teaching of British history as inclusive of its colonial past and has set up the Connected Sociologies Curriculum Project as a free resource for students and colleagues interested in including colonial histories in their teaching.

Changing our ways?

Professor Peter Newell was lead author on a key report of the Cambridge Sustainability commission on scaling behaviour change to address the climate crisis which launched in April 2021. The report attracted considerable media attention across all media outlets from BBC News at One, the BBC4 Today programme, Sky news, CBC in Canada, Euronews, Swiss national radio and newspapers including The Guardian, Daily Mail and Independent, as well as Vogue magazine!

Contesting corporate violence

Lara Montesinos Coleman has provided expert input for lawsuits relating to corporate complicity in forced disappearances and extrajudicial executions in Colombia and, with ESRC IAA support, in collaboration with the Aury Sará Foundation and Universidad Libre in Colombia War on want in the UK and has brought together activists and public interest lawyers internationally to discuss new strategies for contesting corporate violence.  She was lead author on the book, Writing Corporate Wrongs? Extractivism, Corporate Impunity and Strategic Use of Law (London: War on Want, 2019), republished in Spanish as Cómo reparar las injusticias cometidas por los empresarios: extractivismo, impunidad empresarial y uso estratégico del derecho (Bogotá: Palma Arismendi Colección Académica, 2021). She publishes media articles on related themes in publications such as Le Monde Diplomatique and Alborada Magazine.