Newswise — A University of Arkansas at Little Rock professor is part of an international research network that has been awarded more than £15 million pounds, or $19.6 million, to address gendered dimensions of injustice and insecurity around the world. 

Over the past two years, Eric Wiebelhaus-Brahm, associate professor in the UA Little Rock School of Public Affairs, has traveled to war-affected countries across the world as part of the Justice, Conflict and Development Network. The international research team investigated how peace can be achieved in societies emerging from conflict.

That project was funded by a 2016 grant worth approximately £150,000 British pounds by the United Kingdom’s Global Challenges Research Fund, which supports cutting edge research and innovation that addresses the global issues faced by developing countries. Through the team’s study of justice initiatives and economic development challenges in Colombia, Sri Lanka, Syria, and Uganda, the researchers developed new research questions and applied for additional funding to continue their research.

The London School of Economics (LSE) Centre for Women, Peace, and Security, which will lead the new coalition of research institutions, was awarded a £15.2 million, five-year grant from the Global Challenges Research Fund to create the Gender, Justice, and Security Hub.  

The new Hub is part of the UK Research and Innovation, a pioneering new approach to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges through investment across 12 global research hubs. Over the next five years, these Interdisciplinary Research Hubs will work across 85 countries with governments, international agencies, partners, and nongovernmental organizations on the ground in developing countries and around the globe to develop creative and sustainable solutions which help make the world, and the UK, safer, healthier, and more prosperous.

“This is building upon our previous research of the Justice, Conflict and Development Network that was trying to accomplish two things. The first was to identify important research questions about the interplay of three issues: economic development issues and challenge, justice issues, and conflict dynamics,” Wiebelhaus-Brahm said. “We are trying to establish policies that might help to ensure peace in the long run, even in conflict-affected countries where the people might never see justice. The second thing we are trying to do is facilitate collaboration among academics, activists, nonprofits, and policy makers across the world.”

The LSE-led Hub seeks to advance sustainable peace by developing an evidence base around gender, justice, and inclusive security in conflict-affected societies. With 44 partners across 17 countries, it will expand research capacity and interdisciplinary research. The Hub will also connect with leading ambassadors for gender justice to turn research insights into ongoing actions that will improve lives.

“When you have had periods of mass violence, there are often massive human rights violations. People who are victims want to see justice, but different people have different views of what a just response is,” Wiebelhaus-Brahm said. “We are also looking at the drivers of the conflicts, the simmering tensions that continue in these areas, and how those issues prevent peace building in societies that have been deeply affected by conflict and civil war. A new focus of the project will be gender, how conflict affects individuals differently depending on their gender, and how justice and development are experienced differently according to one’s gender.”

As an example of the type of research the hub will investigate, Wiebelhaus-Brahm said one of the biggest research areas emerging from post-conflict Sri Lanka is the promotion of gender equality stemming from women who fought in the civil war.

“One of my colleagues has done research investigating female Tamil Tiger fighters,” Wiebelhaus-Brahm said. “She has looked at how women have adapted to the end of the war. Women decided to join the rebellion for lots of different reasons. The rebels did sometimes pressure people to support the rebellion. Some said they volunteered to protect a younger brother from joining. Finally, some women saw it as empowering, that joining the rebels gave them more independence. In interviews, a lot of women talked about the equality they experienced as part of the rebellion. After the war, a lot of these women have been shunted back into traditional women’s work.”

Wiebelhaus-Brahm will be investigating issues related to the funding for peace and justice initiatives and reconstruction projects in countries emerging from conflict and civil war. His share of the grant, which is approximately £100,000 pounds (around $130,000), will be used to fund research tools, travel expenses, and graduate research assistants.

“I will be collecting data on how much funding is being devoted to justice initiatives and where that funding is coming from,” he said. “I will also look at attempts to come up with comparable cross-national measures related to gender and development and justice issues. This research will look at existing data from the United Nations, such as that relating to women’s access to justice. The goal will be to identify existing measures or to come up with measures that can compare a variety of relevant issues across countries to determine how specific countries are doing in terms of successful justice initiatives and the promotion of gender equality.”

Professor Christine Chinkin, founding director of the LSE Center for Women, Peace, and Security, will serve as the principal investigator for the Gender, Justice, and Security Hub.

“The Hub provides an amazing opportunity to work with our partners overseas to explore, through research and exchanges, the potential of the Women, Peace, and Security agenda to help deliver on the global challenges of the Sustainable Development Goals,” Chinkin said.