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Research Globalisation Studies Groningen (GSG) Research Groups NOHA Groningen Research

Research Projects

Comprehensive Security Handbook (to be published by Routledge)

Zwitter, A., Heyse, L., Wittek, R., & Herman. J. (eds.) (forthcoming 2013). Humanitarian Crisis, Intervention and Security: Towards evidence-based programming.

The handbook aims to elaborate on what comprehensive security (CS) nowadays encompasses and how it can be of use for research in the area of humanitarian studies. It will introduce an analytical framework to understand settings of comprehensive security on different levels (from the assessment of international and regional security threats to the individual security). On the one hand, the analytical tool developed herein can guide researchers, practitioners and students when facing the constraints of analysing complex emergencies. On the other hand, it can guide the analysis of interventions in complex emergencies by comprehensively understanding the setting of relevant factors.

Our framework of comprehensive security serves three objectives:

  1. To provide a tool for diagnosing and understanding complex emergencies building on the concepts of state security and human security and by going beyond these concepts;
  2. To provide a tool for analysing the interventions of different kind of agents on the project or programme level in the areas of relief and/or development in terms of determinants of success and failure in achieving comprehensive security;
  3. To provide a basic framework for teaching in the second semester of the NOHA masters to enhance students’ understanding of the interconnectedness and applicability of various concepts in this field.

The Humanitarian Lessons-learned Genome Project 1.0 –
Facilitating the full use of evaluative processes in the humanitarian sector

The project aims to develop an open-source technology in which evaluation data will be more easily and widely accessible for the humanitarian community. The overall goal will be the more efficient use of knowledge in present day, highly complex, humanitarian practice. Chamutal Eitam (Humanitarian Action Program NOHA / ICOG PhD student) and Dr. Liesbet Heyse (Assistant Professor in Sociology/Faculty of Behavioural and Social Sciences) aim to develop an instrument to ‘decipher’ the hereditary ‘DNA’ patterns of humanitarian aid (i.e. the Genome) so as to provide humanitarian organisations with access to an effective learning device for their day-to-day activities in headquarters and the field. Eitam together with Heyse have been awarded a subsidy from the Humanitarian Innovation Fund of € 160,000 for the project.

  • Challenge(s) addressed: Humanitarian sector criticised for a deficiency in learning and for inappropriately using evaluations. Need for improving ability to analyse and distil lessons from evaluative processes and documentation by practitioners.
  • Innovation Factor: developing and implementing a prototype of a lessons-learned web based application that captures the wealth of evaluative data available in the humanitarian sector.
  • Added Value: taking the possibility to learn from evaluative activities a step further by facilitating easily accessible, rapid, focused and constructive evaluation knowledge that is generated from information extracted from years of experience of humanitarian actors.
  • Key Deliverables / Impact:
  1. Availability of the prototype of the Humanitarian Genome 1.0, associated expert database, aggregated sector-wide patterns and related search engine to the humanitarian sector to enhance the utilisation of lessons (at the least)
  2. Delivery of the contours of an automatic coding device, which would provide insight into future possibilities to automatically upload and code all existing and future evaluative information onto the Genome meaning a first step towards a tremendous efficiency gain for the sector (best-case scenario)
  3. Creating opportunities for learning that can facilitate the development of new or related ICT innovations in the humanitarian sector and beyond.

EUPRHA: European Universities on Professionalization on Humanitarian Action

The European Universities on Professionalization on Humanitarian Action (EUPRHA) Project is a European effort to give a common response to the new trends on the Humanitarian sector. EUPRHA is a NOHA initiative, led and managed by the University of Deusto. This project is a result of the efforts put since 1992 for the professionalization of the humanitarian sector. Since the creation of ECHO in 1992 and with the support of the DG Education in 1993, 5 European Universities took the challenge to develop a Master Programme which could provide a set of competences, skills and knowledge to the professionals of the humanitarian sector. Behind laid the commitment for the professionalization of the sector. The NOHA Network grew over the years delivering new courses and expanding to other countries with the aim of being a truly European initiative.

However, there is still a need to articulate the role of the Higher Education in response to a professional body with constant changing demands by using new structures such as the Qualifications Framework, and to include in this debate the voices of the humanitarian organizations, agencies and universities from all European countries.

Therefore, the EUPRHA project seeks to create an area for debate among all stakeholders, laying the foundations for the articulation of a Qualifications Framework for the Humanitarian Action taking stock of the new global humanitarian trends, and the existing capacities and potentialities of the sector across Europe.

EUPRHA brings together 30 European Universities, 2 Global Humanitarian Associations and NOHA Alumni. EUPRHA is financed from the European Commission’s Lifelong Learning Programme.

Bastiaan Aardema from the University of Groningen is co-leading together with Prof.dr. J. González (Universidad de Deusto / Tuning Academy) the third work package ‘Structure of Professions and the Qualifications Framework for HA’, which aim is to develop a Qualifications Framework for the field of Humanitarian Action. It follows the European Qualifications Framework which is a common European reference framework linking countries’ qualifications systems together, acting as a translation device to make qualifications more readable and understandable across different countries and systems in Europe. At a later stage of the project, consultation with a large number of representatives from the humanitarian workfield will take place.

The main deliverable for WP3 is a Qualifications Framework expressed in the form of a table described by a number of indicators for the field of Humanitarian Action. Other deliverables include a map of qualifications for the field and a publication explaining context, criteria and process of the work done.

Gendered Careers and Human Resource Practices in Humanitarian Organizations

The Executive Board of Groningen University and the Groningen Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences granted a so-called EEVA grant to sociologists Rafael Wittek, Melinda Mills and Liesbet Heyse for their research proposal Gendered careers and human resources practices: The case of humanitarian organizations. The EEVA grant is aimed to promote the study of gender issues. The grant of over 40.000 euro will be spent to study the career patterns of humanitarian aid workers and the impact of human resource practices on these career patterns. This is an understudied issue within humanitarian organizations while at the same time believed to be of crucial importance for achieving good performance in humanitarian work. The aim is to conduct a web-based survey among NOHA alumni in order to collect data on their careers and their perception of the human resource practices of the organizations they (used to) work for. The results of the study will amount in evidence-based policy recommendations.

Research team: Mellinda Mills (assistant professor in sociology, Groningen University), Rafael Wittek (full professor in sociology, Groningen University), Liesbet Heyse (post doctoral researcher, Groningen University), Valeska Korff (ICS PhD student, Groningen University), Marleen Damman (student assistant)

Explaining Success and Failure in Humanitarian Crises

The Groningen Faculty of Behavioral and Social Sciences have granted a strategic fund grant of over 27.000 euro to Liesbet Heyse (assistant professor in Organization Sociology) to analyze the link between the management of humanitarian aid efforts and the performance in humanitarian projects of international non-governmental organizations. There are four central aims for this research:

  • It will provide a comparison of the internal organizational processes and structures of a substantial group of humanitarian non-governmental organizations.
  • It will investigate the impact of these internal organizational arrangements on the performance of INGOs in humanitarian crises.
  • It aims to analyze the influence of variations in the degree of contradictory environmental pressures on the relationship between project performance and internal organizational arrangements.
  • The final aim will be to provide evidence-based recommendations related to how specific internal organizational arrangements within these organizations enable or constrain the ultimate effectiveness and goals of humanitarian INGOs.

Human resource management, turnover and retention in Humanitarian Organizations

The department of Sociology of Groningen University (Rafael Wittek, Melinda Mills, Liesbet Heyse & Valeska Korff) cooperates with a prominent humanitarian organization to investigate the patterns, causes and consequences of turnover in this organization. Turnover has been identified as a core problem in humanitarian aid; the quality and quantity of humanitarian workers is deemed a crucial determinant of effective humanitarian aid. Human resource management is perceived a potential means to decrease turnover and increase performance in the humanitarian sector. Through unique access to the organization's personnel database, personnel files, HRM policy documents and organizational informants, this is one of the first academic research projects into the effects of HRM on turnover and performance in humanitarian organizations. In addition, the department of Psychology (Theo Bouman) will assist in reviewing the current methods to assess work-and crisis related stress in the organization.

ESPRIT Project: Environmental Sustainability: Priority education and Research In the Tropics

Dr. Weesie is project leader of the EDULINK-ESPRIT Project (2008-2012) financed by the European Development Fund through the EDULINK Programme. Within the ESPRIT project, five university centres for sustainable environment in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon and The Netherlands are working together in the field of sustainable dryland management.

In many West-African drylands, populations are rising, climate is changing and current land-use systems do not produce sufficient food, feed and fuelwood. Especially in places where soils are poor and markets far-away, this leads to soil degradation, biodiversity loss, river bed sedimentation and conflicts amongst local populations over scarce resources, all contributing to deepening poverty and rural depopulation. This implies that a sustainable intensification of agriculture is necessary, without high-cost production means, providing work to many, and leaving enough space for bushland and biodiversity conservation. Elements of this process include investments in new forms of animal husbandry, soil and water conservation, nutrient management,biodiversity conservation and last but not least, in the institutions that support these changes and that are to put into place more efficient agricultural and environmental protection policies. Hence the need to establish a local knowledge base on sustainable management in Sahelian and Niger River basin drylands.

STEM - State of Emergency Mapping

By Prof.dr. A.J. Zwitter

State of emergencies are legal mechanisms that limit the law of normalcy during times of political necessity. Currently there is no systematic quantitative research on this matter. STEM aims to map state of emergency declarations all over the world starting from 1991. One of the objectives is creating a database that contains information on emergency powers de lege and de facto in order to gain a better understanding of the politics of law in different regions of the world. This open source database will provide the necessary tools for researchers to study the occurrence, triggers and backgrounds against which emergencies are being declared and connect these with the laws governing the declarations. Two student assistants work on the project under the supervision of Prof. Zwitter. Their task is to build a searchable database and to track developments in all regions of the world.

International Law of Humanitarian Action II

By Prof.dr. Andrej Zwitter, Prof.dr. Hans-Joachim Heintze (Ruhr-University Bochum), Prof.dr. Joost Herman, dr. Christopher Lamont

The field of Humanitarian Assistance has become increasingly complex in every aspect. Since the end of the cold war one can observe multiple changes – increase in humanitarian action, increased number and variation of humanitarian actors, proliferation of tasks between different actors (e.g. militaries as relief and developmental actors), professionalization of relief aid etcetera. Bluntly speaking, the times when the Red Cross and States where the only humanitarian actors and when international humanitarian law alone was sufficiently covering an emergency situation are long gone. All these developments were accompanied with a slow adaptation of international (humanitarian) and regional law. This research project is the follow up to a successful previous project that was conculded with an edited volume with Springer Publishers.

Disaster Analysis and Intervention Design in Humanitarian Action - D-AID

By Prof.dr. Andrej Zwitter, dr. Liesbet Heyse, Prof.dr. Joost Herman, Prof.dr. Rafael Wittek

This research aims to elaborate on what comprehensive security nowadays encompasses and how it can be of use for research in the area of humanitarian studies. The outcome of this project is a framework for the analysis of complex contexts on different analytical levels (from the assessment of international and regional security to the individual security). On the one hand, the analytical tool will guide researchers, practitioners and students when facing the constraints of analysing complex emergencies. On the other hand, it will guide the planning of interventions by determining entry points and intervention strategies.

Determinants of Virtue and Vice in International Law and Politics

By Prof.dr. Andrej Zwitter

Based on my work on securitization processes and international law in humanitarian action, I have developed an explanatory model for why and how situations with a high moral impact influence policymaking more than events with little impact. In particular, the way that actors evaluate security threats in relation to national interest, mandate and empathy contributes to moral and immoral decision-making in a manner sometimes inconsistent with rational choice. Based on virtue ethics, psychological and sociological as well as cognition research, the objective is to explain the mechanisms that lead to behaviour guided by virtues and vices in international politics.

State of Emergency in Theory and Practice

Recently completed by Prof.dr. Andrej Zwitter, Mathis Fister(Wirtschaftsuniversität Wien), Hans-Joachim Heintze, (Ruhr-Universität Bochum), Jana Hertwig (Ruhr-Universität Bochum), Tina Roeder (TU Dresden)

States of exception and laws of emergency have specific characteristics – one fundamental characteristic of these emergency mechanisms is that legislative power is shifted from the legislative to the executive or in other words democracies become less democratic. This research project comparatively deals with the legal conception of states of emergency from five angles: the legal dogmatic perspective, international and EU law as well as Austrian and German regulations on states of emergency.

Psychological aspects of rehabilitation in Indonesia (Aceh, Yogyakarta)

By Prof.dr. - T.K. Bouman (Department of Psychology) and Gadjah Madah University Yogyakarta

Regulation and human rights; the role of NGO's in the international legal system

Ongoing/future research by dr. A.G. Hallo de Wolf.

Transitional justice system build up in post conflict states, more in particular Northern African countries. Partners: University of Sousse and Dutch Embassy in Tunis

By dr. C.K. Lamont, Prof.dr. A.J. Zwitter and Prof.dr. J. Herman.

Last modified:21 December 2012 1.12 p.m.