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Researchers receive £50,000 grant to study one of the worst humanitarian crises

  • 15 December 2020
  • 6 min read

Dr Ed Stoddard, Dr Melita Lazell and Prof Tony Chafer of the Centre for European and International Studies Research have been awarded £50,000 by the British Academy for their research project, 'The Sahel Crisis in Historical Perspective: Supporting a Conflict-Sensitive Approach through Interdisciplinary Research', under the UK's Global Challenges Research Fund scheme.

This new project emerges out of a Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences-funded Strategic Research Project "Assessing the shifting character of contemporary intervention in West Africa", undertaken through the West Africa Peace and Security Network, which has generated over £400,000 in external funding to date.

Security in the Sahel is a growing priority for UK foreign policy

In the West African Sahel, the activities of armed groups, either described as 'jihadist' or themselves laying claim to 'jihad', have increased in recent years, severely limiting possibilities for economic development. The crisis has been causing violence, violations of human rights and displacement, affecting over 5 million people in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. In 2018 the British army deployed to Mali in support of the French counter-terrorist operation and, this month, it also deployed in support of the UN peacekeeping mission in the country. However, current responses lack conflict sensitivity, are overly militaristic and have worsened the situation for civilians. There is widespread recognition that alternative approaches are required, but cross-regional, historically nuanced understandings of the specific drivers of violence, on which new policy could be built, are underdeveloped.

Research insights

Members of the research group have been increasingly solicited by UK policymakers in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office and Ministry of Defence for their insights into the situation. Tony Chafer recently appeared before the House of Lords International Relations Committee with the report "The UK and Sub-Saharan Africa: prosperity, peace and development co-operation". This has also led to a series of events organised jointly with Chatham House in London on security in the Sahel.

The research group's work has also led to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding with the University of Ibadan, Nigeria's leading university. The partnership has already led to three conferences in collaboration with Ibadan; Tony Chafer and Ed Stoddard have been appointed Fellows of the Society for Peace Studies and Practice based at Ibadan, and further collaborative research projects are also planned.

Funding success

It is the latest in a series of funding successes for the research group. Dr Ed Stoddard recently completed a two-year Marie Curie Research Fellowship at the Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna in Pisa, where he conducted a project entitled "Non-Western Powers and the Changing Character of Warfare"(EUR 180,000).

Prof Tony Chafer, with Prof Gordon Cumming (Cardiff University), was a collaborator on a £74,000 Leverhulme major research project "Mobilising Support for Militaro-Humanitarian Intervention: Beyond Two-Level Games". He won £71,000 for a Leverhulme postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dr Elise Lopez Lucia, for a project on "Transforming Regionalism: Security Politics and the "Remaking" of West Africa" and has recently won £81,000 through the South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership for a postdoctoral Research Fellow to work on a project "English-speaking North Africa? English, security and postcolonial competition".

Find out more about the The Sahel Crisis in Historical Perspective: Supporting a Conflict-Sensitive Approach through Interdisciplinary Research.