Research page

Project Description

The project develops a mid-level theory on how world politics influence peacebuilding and thereby contributes to International Relations theories and peace research. By providing a macro-perspective on peacebuilding, it ultimately helps to render it more effective in addressing contemporary conflicts.

UN peacebuilding is at a watershed, sadly illustrated by its failure to adequately address contemporary conflicts, such as in Libya, Syria, and Yemen. In the years immediately following the end of the Cold War, there was a consensus within the international community that peace operations needed to address root causes of conflicts and thus have extensive mandates, including the rebuilding of a liberal state. In recent years, this consensus has waned and different approaches to peacebuilding compete.

This turning point in UN peacebuilding can be understood as part of broader changes in world politics. The increasing influence of Russia and China, as well as other rising powers, such as Brazil, India, and Turkey, challenge US domination in world politics. The proposed project inquires into how this shift from a unipolar to a multipolar world order influences UN peacebuilding. It establishes a dataset on UN peace missions since the end of the Cold War to analyze how they have changed. It then conducts an in-depth study of the link between world politics and UN peace missions. It does so through a content analysis of UN policy documents regarding peacebuilding and an in-depth study of six cases, namely the UN peacekeeping missions in Central African Republic and Mali, the UN peacemaking missions in Syria and Yemen, and the UN in-country political missions in Libya and Afghanistan.

The project’s findings will be disseminated in journal articles, one edited special issue, presentations at scientific conferences, and in a PhD dissertation. Moreover, a policy paper on each case study will be published and a workshop held to disseminate the findings amongst practitioners.



This project is funded through a PRIMA grant from the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF). This prestigious grant is aimed at excellent women researchers who show a high potential for obtaining a professorship.

Key Events of the Project



  • March: Sara Hellmüller participated in a Town Hall meeting on the War in Ukraine at the Graduate Institute, Link.

  • February: Sara Hellmüller published an entry in The Global entitled “Re-establishing congruence: UN peacebuilding in a shifting world order,” Link.

  • February: Fanny Badache was elected at-large member of the International Studies Association’s IO section Executive Committee.

  • February: Sara Hellmüller co-chaired the peace and security working group at the SPSA 2022 Conference.

  • February: Sara Hellmüller and Xiang-Yun Rosalind Tan (with Corinne Bara) presented their paper at SPSA 2022 Conference: What is in a Mandate? Introducing the Dataset on United Nations Peace Mission Mandates (UNPMM).

  • February: Bilal Salayme, Sara Hellmüller and Fanny Badache presented their paper at the 2022 SPSA Conference: Rising Powers and Re-Conceptualizing Sovereignty in Changing Global Politics.

  • January: Fanny Badache co-edited a special issue on « Time and Space in the Study of International Organizations » in Global Policy, Link.

  • January: Sara Hellmüller published a paper in Cooperation and Conflict entitled “A trans-scalar approach to peacebuilding and transitional justice: Insights from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Link.


  • December: Sara Hellmüller participated in a workshop on “Rethinking Inclusive Peace Processes in Times of Global Systemic Crisis and Social Change” organised by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP).

  • November: Sara Hellmüller spoke on “norms and norm change” at the event “Pizza, Philosophy and Science” organised by Reatch.

  • November: Sara Hellmüller participated in a conference on “Mediators as Gatekeepers” organized by the Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO).

  • November: Sara Hellmüller participated in a research-practitioner dialogue on “Effective Mediation” organized by Folke Bernadotte Academy.

  • November: Bilal Salayme participated in the Arab-Turkish Relations Conference and presented the paper "the Impact of the Turkish post-conflict stabilization model on the local Arab political order", at Qatar University - Ibn Khaldoun Center, Link.

  • September: Sara Hellmüller gave an interview for Geneva Solutions on the Syrian Peace Process, Link.

  • September: Bilal Salayme published an op-ed tackling the upcoming election in Libya and the possible candidacy of Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, link.

  • September: Bilal Salayme participated in EISA Annual Conference and presented the co-authored paper "Legitimation of the UN's Role in Peacebuilding in a Changing World Order." 

  • September: Sara Hellmüller published a review article on „Normen in der Mediation: Analyse und Ausblick” in the Zeitschrift für Friedens- und Konfliktforschung, Vol. 10 (1). Link here.

  • September: Sara Hellmüller participated in a conference on “Contested Norms of International Peace and Security Law” organised by the Max Planck Institute for Comparative Public Law and International Law in Heidelberg.

  • September: Fanny Badache was the co-chair of the section « 21st century International Organizations: Power, Politics and Global Policy-Making » at the 2021 ECPR General Conference.

  • August: Bilal Salayme was interviewed by Al-Jazeera Mubasher Channel on possible Turkish policies in Afghanistan, link.

  • August: Sara Hellmüller gave a guest lecture on “The Maintenance of Peace and Security” at the Graduate Institute’s Summer Programme on the United Nations in a Changing World.

  • July: Bilal Salayme published an op-ed about UN Security Council Resolution 2585 - in Arabic: Has Russia imposed its will on the humanitarian aids to Syria? Link here

  • June: Fanny Badache presented a paper at the Annual Congress of the Academic Council of the United Nations System (ACUNS).

  • June: Fanny Badache organised two panels on « Anchoring International Organizations in Organization Sociology » at the Annual Congress of the Swiss Sociological Association.

  • June: Fanny Badache is co-editing a special issue on « Anchoring International Organizations in the Study of Organization Sociology » in the Swiss Journal of Sociology. Deadline: 01.09.21. More information here.

  • June: Fanny Badache published a review of the book « Les langues du pouvoir. Le plurilinguisme au sein de l’administration fédérale » in the Swiss Political Science Review. Link here.

  • June: Marie Lobjoy participated in a panel discussion on R2P terminology across UN languages at 5th Responsibility to Protect in Theory and Practice Conference.

  • June: Sara Hellmüller participated in a conference on “Norms and Peace: Pathways out of Intrastate Violence” organised by the University of Kiel.

  • June: Bilal Salayme published an analysis on the latest developments in Palestinian politics and Palestinian/Israeli conflict - in Turkish: "Filistin’de Bloklaşma Ötesi Bir Ayaklanma" (Palestine, an Uprising Beyond Blocks). Link here

  • June: Bilal Salayme published an op-ed about Berlin-2 Conference on Libya - in Arabic: Why we shouldn't bet on Berlin-2 Conference to solve the Libyan crisis? Link here

  • June: Bilal Salayme published a Book Review "İki Darbe Arasında: Türkiye Suriye Politikası (1960-1980) [Between Two Coups: Turkey’s Syria Policy (1960-1980)]" in Insight Turkey Journal Vol. 23, No 2. Link here.

  • May: Sara Hellmüller gave a guest lecture on “Promotion de la paix entre le local et l’international” at the Global Studies Institute at the University of Geneva.

  • May: Fanny Badache presented a paper at the workshop « The Legitimation of International Organisations in Disruptive Times » during the ECPR Joint Sessions.

  • April: Bilal Salayme was interviewed live by Al-Jazeera Mubasher on a potential Egyptian-Turkish rapprochement.  

  • April: Marie Lobjoy participated in a panel discussion on humanitarian civil-military coordination (UN-CMCoord) analysis at the Human Networks & Partnerships Weeks. 

  • April: Bilal Salayme wrote an op-ed for TRT Arabi, on the establishment of the Qatari-Turkish-Russian mechanism on the Syrian track. Link here

  • April: Sara Hellmüller published a paper on consent to mediation in internationalized civil wars in International Negotiation. Link here.

  • April: Sara Hellmüller participated in a high-level panel on Syria at the EU Community of Practice on Peace Mediation 2021 event.

  • April: Sara Hellmüller and Bilal Salayme engaged in a conversation with UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir O. Pedersen, on Multilateralism in the 21st century on the occasion of the International Day of Multilateralism. Link here

  • April: Fanny Badache and Sara Hellmüller presented papers at the Annual Convention of the International Studies Association. Sara Hellmüller was co-chair of program for the Peace Studies Section.

  • April: Sara Hellmüller was interviewed by Swissinfo for an article on Swiss policy to promote women. Link here.

  • March: Bilal Salayme was a discussant in the join event of CCDP and the University of Neuchâtel 'Borders in the Middle East: Past and Present'.

  • March: Bilal Salayme gave a lecture on 'Turkey in the Middle East', for a Masters course at the International University in Geneva

  • March: Sara Hellmüller gave a lecture on UN Peace Operations in a Changing World Order at the Aoyama Gakuin University in Tokyo.

  • March: Sara Hellmüller was interviewed on UN Peace Missions by the Swiss National Radio station (SRF) for their program Echo der Zeit. Link here.

  • February: Fanny Badache and Sara Hellmüller presented papers during the Annual Congress of the Swiss Political Science Association. Sara Hellmüller was co-chair of the Peace and Security Working Group.

  • February: Sara Hellmüller became a member of Swiss Women in Peace Processes (SWiPP), a network of 15 women working on peace processes created by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Link here.

  • January: Fanny Badache joined the project team as Postdoctoral Researcher. 


  • December: Sara Hellmüller, together with co-authors Jamie Pring and Oliver Richmond, published an article entitled "How Norms Matter in Mediation: An Introduction" in the Swiss Political Science Review. Link here.

  • November: Sara Hellmüller published a chapter entitled "Civil Society Inclusion in Peace Mediation," in The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Peace and Conflict Studies. Link here.

  • November: Sara Hellmüller published a chapter entitled "DR Congo: Local and International Peacebuilders’ Interaction," in The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Peace and Conflict Studies. Link here.

  • October: Sara Hellmüller gave a training on “Mediation: The Case of Syria” to Syrian Women mandated by swisspeace and NOREF.

  • October: Sara Hellmüller published an article entitled "Meaning‐Making in Peace‐Making: The Inclusion Norm at the Interplay between the United Nations and Civil Society in the Syrian Peace Process," in the Swiss Political Science Review. Link here.

  • October: Sara Hellmüller published a chapter entitled "Mediation," in The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Peace and Conflict StudiesLink here.

  • September: Bilal Salayme joined the project team as Research Assistant. Bilal is pursuing a PhD in International Relations/Political Science at the Graduate Institute. His research interests include authoritarianism, regime change, armed non-state actors, and armed conflict and peacebuilding.

  • September: Sara Hellmüller presented a paper on the research project at the annual workshop of the working group on empirical methods of the German Association for Peace and Conflict Studies. Link here.

  • September: Sara Hellmüller presented preliminary findings of the dataset on UN peace operations at the conference "Politics after War: Reexamining Dilemmas of Peacebuilding in the Era of Trump and COVID." Link here.

  • August: Sara Hellmüller published a chapter entitled "The Role of Civil Society Actors in Peacemaking and Peacebuilding," in The Routledge Handbook of Peace, Security and Development. Link here.

  • May: Marie Lobjoy joined the project team as Student Researcher. Marie is pursuing a Master in International Affairs at the Graduate Institute. Her research interests include critical security studies and military interventionism in the MENA and Sahel regions.  

  • April: We are recruiting a post-doctoral student to work on the project (application deadline: 12/06/2020). Link here

  • March: Sara Hellmüller gave an interview to the German news channel ZDF on the Idlib ceasefire concluded between Russia and Turkey. Link here

  • March: Rosalind Tan joined the project team as Student Researcher. Rosalind is pursuing a Master in International Affairs at the Graduate Institute. Her research interests include postcolonial critical theory, discourse analysis and illiberal peacebuilding. 

  • February: Sara Hellmüller presented the research project at the Annual Congress of the Swiss Political Science Association. Link here.

  • January: Sara Hellmüller received a SNSF Flexibility Grant for the entire duration of the project.

Advisory Board

  • Richard Caplan, Professor of International Relations, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Oxford

  • Cedric de Coning, Senior Research Fellow, Research Group on Peace, Conflict and Development, Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI)

  • Lise Morjé Howard, Associate Professor of Government and International Relations Field Chair, Georgetown University

  • Daniel Hyslop, Director of Policy, Learning and the International Peacebuilding Advisory Team (IPAT), Interpeace

  • Katia Papagianni, Director of Policy and Mediation Support, Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue

  • Roland Paris, Professor of International Affairs, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa