UN peacekeeping and protection of civilians (dissertation)

My dissertation is motivated by the observation that UN missions with mandates to protect civilians and monitor human rights do not seem to discourage the use of violence against civilians by rebels. I propose two explanations for this. First, missions with these mandates are deployed to conflict zones that are more dangerous for civilians. Second, missions with these mandates prompt desperate rebels to increase their use of violence against civilians in order to undermine the government and subvert the UN effort in their country.

I test this theory using mixed methods, presenting case-level evidence from Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and empirical evidence from an instrumental variable analysis of an original dataset on UN peacekeeping mandates and existing data on one-sided and sexual violence. I find that, as rebels become increasingly desperate—that is, as the length of the conflict or number of rebel battle deaths increase—UN missions with these mandates prompt them to increase their use of violence against civilians. However, when conflicts are young and battle deaths low, these missions can deter rebel violence against civilians. 

As part of this dissertation project, I produced an original dataset on UN peacekeeping mandates. This dataset, Tasks Assigned to Missions in their Mandates (TAMM), identifies all tasks assigned to UN missions in their mandates, providing fine-grained data on mission mandates that has previously been unavailable to scholars. For a more information on TAMM, including definitions, sources, variables, and coding rules, click here. 

In a related book project on UN peacekeeping mandates and human security, I explore the impact of mission mandates on human security during and after armed conflict. In it, I emphasize the important interaction between the characteristics of missions and the conditions of the conflicts to which they are sent. As part of this project, I have produced an article-length paper in which I explore the impact of UN missions with protection of civilians mandates on the use of violence against civilians by rebel groups.

UN peacekeeping and security sector reform

  • Status: Ongoing

In this book project, I study the impact of UN missions on security sector reform in host countries. I rely on archives that I have already collected from several international organizations and machine learning methods to bring new quantitative evidence to the question of whether UN missions successfully reform security-sector institutions in the countries that host them.

Explaining attacks on UN peacekeepers

In this paper with Irfan Nooruddin (Georgetown) and Benjamin T. Jones (University of Mississippi), I study the factors impacting the security of UN peacekeepers, exploring why peacekeepers come under attack in some missions but not others. We argue that, when missions are constructed in ways that indicate the international community’s commitment to the peacekeeping mission, peacekeepers are at a lesser risk of malicious attacks. Likewise, when missions are constructed in ways that indicate only a small commitment on behalf of the international community, peacekeepers face greater danger from hostile belligerents. As a co-author on this project, I have been involved both in the design of the theory and in leading the collection of original data on attacks against UN peacekeepers using LexisNexis.

UN peacekeeping and education in post-conflict environments

In this paper with Jessica Braithwaite and Kelly Gordell (University of Arizona), I analyze impact of UN peacekeeping missions on educational outcomes in host countries. We find that, while missions with humanitarian components are associated with better educational outcomes, security-oriented missions often fail to produce better educational outcomes in the countries that host them. As a co-author on this project, my primary roles have been in theory-building, data collection, and analysis. To theory-building, I have brought specialized knowledge of existing research on conflict and peacekeeping. To data collection, I have brought original data on UN peacekeeping missions developed as part of my dissertation project. To analysis, I have brought knowledge of advanced quantitative techniques for analyzing complex observational data, including methods for addressing the selection problems inherent in data on interventions. 

The technocratic advantage and new data on global leadership

In this book project with Irfan Nooruddin and Thomas Flores (George Mason University), I explore the implications of the ‘technocratic advantage’ for decisions made by international financial actors, including credit rating agencies, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank. In it, we argue that the presence of a leader with technocratic credentials in office impacts the decisions of international financial actors, which take the educational and professional backgrounds of leaders as clues to future creditworthiness. As a co-author on this project, I have had the opportunity to contribute during all stages, from development of the theory to data collection and analysis.

One of my largest roles was in leading the collection of our new dataset on global leadership. In this dataset, we collect detailed biographical data on over 1,400 heads of government in 201 countries between 1946 and 2008. While developing this dataset, I gained considerable experience producing high-quality original data. This included conducting regular intercoder reliability checks between myself and our several graduate and undergraduate research assistants, and developing robust methods of collecting accurate and precise—and often difficult-to-find—original data. I have also had the opportunity to present our findings in several conferences, including the DC-International Relations Conference, Midwest Political Science Association Annual Conference, and the International Studies Association Annual Convention.

Electoral rules and ideological congruence

  • Title: Re-evaluating the Relationship between Electoral Rules and Ideological Congruence
  • with Matt Golder
  • Status: Published (2014) European Journal of Political Research, 53(1): 200-212 

In an article published in the European Journal of Political Research, Matt Golder (Pennsylvania State University) and I re-evaluate the received wisdom that proportional representation (PR) systems produce greater ideological congruence between governments and their citizens than majoritarian ones. As a co-author on this project, my primary role was in data analysis, which involved the use of a number of advanced regression techniques to analyze data from the Comparative Manifesto Project on the ideological distance between governmental parties and median voters. Using these data, we demonstrate that, while PR systems produce better and more consistent representation in the legislature, majoritarian systems hold the advantage in terms of governmental representation, promoting more congruent, identifiable, and accountable governments than PR systems.