Research at IOB on Development Processes, Actors and Policies

In line with IOB’s vision of a just and sustainable world, we strive to help build such a world through multidisciplinary academic research in close connection with academic education and political engagement as well as by allying with different types of partners.

In our research, we have a strong preference for policy-oriented research as well as a desire to contribute to real (policy) change through the generation, dissemination and application of our knowledge.

We think that, as a development studies institute located in the Global North, we have a comparative advantage in situating development processes in a multi-level and multi-actor governance perspective.

Our research group positions itself in the field of development studies, which aims to cultivate a multi-disciplinary and mixed-methods approach to the research of particular societal or policy issues.

We propose to stimulate work in function of three research lines. Each of these lines clusters existing research activities carried out by different academic staff members of IOB, while also opening up space for new and innovative research that is at the forefront of major development challenges.

All three research lines give concrete shape to the multi-level governance perspective we want to cultivate at IOB, reaching from the global to the local and vice versa. And each of the research lines also combines empirical work with an explicit Central Africa focus with work carried out elsewhere.

For a more elaborate explanation of our research identity, see IOB’s research strategy.

Research lines


Global Governance and Inclusive Development

Facing the apparent limits to (hyper)globalisation, which are revealed in growing inequalities, social exclusion and adverse incorporation, the research aims to study processes of exclusive/inclusive development and the role of governance therein. The global economy is increasingly concentrated at the top and fragmented at the bottom, which justifies the IOB’s focus on the poorest countries as well as on people who are excluded from global development processes, or who are adversely incorporated in them. Rather than treating them as victims of globalisation, the research activities study small-scale producers and workers as agents navigating local-to-global dynamics. Special attention is paid to women, migrants, children and people with disabilities as the human faces of this globalisation paradox involving simultaneous inclusion and exclusion.

State Formation and Resilient Societies

Processes of state formation and the evolving role of states in the post-colony form the background against which this research line examines situations of state under-reach (as in fragile or failed states), state reach (as in developmental states) or state overreach (as in state crime or structural violence). The research activities aim to understand how state attributes such as government, territory, law, nation or power are articulated or not, and how state actions such as legitimation, economic accumulation or security and services take shape or not.

Environment and Sustainable Development

The increasing recognition of the negative social and ecological side effects of different types of ‘development’ has led to environmental/climate change and poverty/inequality concerns occupying an ever-more central position on the international policy agenda. The urgency of the challenges we face has also provoked heated debates on the appropriate (multi-level) governance structures to secure both poverty reduction and environmental sustainability. While a range of different state-led, community-led and market-led approaches have been proposed and tried over the past decades, we note how sustainable development is increasingly being framed in terms of a ‘green economy’, and a reliance on market-based conservation mechanisms and conditional finance instruments, such as (voluntary) carbon markets, Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES), biodiversity derivatives, and payments for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).