Research lines

Research lines

Global Governance and Inclusive Development

Facing the apparent limits to (hyper)globalization, 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 globalization, 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 globalization paradox involving simultaneous inclusion and exclusion.

Global governance (both public and private) in such a context should – in theory – be able to solve part of the paradox. It should not only facilitate market transactions, but also regulate negative externalities and compensate for unequal outcomes. Failures to do so warrant a more critical study of the political processes and the normativity underlying the current global governance and aid architecture. Research activities will therefore focus on how policies and programs aimed at reducing poverty and inequalities, at promoting gender equality, equity and decent work, first of all reflect political struggles in the policy arenas they emanate from, and second, interact with socio-political dynamics at the local level.

Specific topics for research include the provision and financing of global public goods, the regulation of international trade and finance, Corporate Social Responsibility and Codes of Conduct, gendered labour and labour under natural resource regimes, inclusiveness and impact of evaluation processes, and migration dynamics and impact.

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.

The research activities avoid a unitary conception of the state by taking into account a wide spectrum of actors (formal and informal) and factors (ideational, institutional, structural) at different levels (local, national, international). Such a focus on the processes and dynamics of state formation – the changing patterns of tightening and loosening state reach across space and time – implies attention to societal resilience, namely the ability of societies to resist, adapt to or recover from (the consequences of) a lack of state presence and/or performance, sudden man-made or natural shocks or long term social exclusion and adverse incorporation. Particular attention is paid to these issues in connection with the cycle of violent conflict, peace-making and efforts to achieve state reconstruction and renegotiate the social contract.

Within this broader framework, topics for research include the examination of mechanisms of political and administrative accountability; processes and mechanisms of decentralization and the governance of public services; the evolution of power-sharing arrangements and their impacts on the nature and experience of political representation and decision-making; the evolution of relations of trust or feelings of security; the role of external actors and aid in strengthening or weakening state formation and regime transformation or consolidation.

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+).

This research cluster focuses on actors, policies, and instruments which aim to tackle climate change and ensure the provision of ‘global public goods’, and the kind of socio-political dynamics and interactions they trigger at and between multiple levels. At the global level it analyses the main trends, actors and factors in the evolving and evermore complex environment and climate governance landscape. At the national level it analyses the dynamics of the policy cycle (identification, formulation, implementation, monitoring and evaluation) surrounding the translation of global commitments into national policies. At the local level it analyses the (non‑)implementation of the environmental/climate change agenda and how it interrelates with local dynamics and struggles of (unequal) access to natural resources.

Within this broader framework, topics for research include the examination of climate aid funding; socio-political dynamics triggered by environment and climate change governance instruments, such as carbon and biodiversity markets, Payments for Ecosystem Services (PES) and green microfinance; community-based monitoring of natural resources and service delivery; climate change vulnerability and resilience from a gender/intersectionality perspective; ‘green criminology’ with a focus on ivory poaching and trade; and climate change as a push factor for migration.