RESEARCH

Photos were taken during dissertation field work.

Meeting the Prime Minister of Timor-Leste,

Xanana Gusmao.

Crossing from south to north in Cyprus.

I research the impact of post-conflict votes on peace. My work is broadly comparative, at the intersection of international relations, comparative politics and peace & conflict studies. In my research on the use of referendums in peace processes, I look at settling civil wars and the power and peril of voting on peace.

My book project is on peacemaking referendums. Contemporary war is most often ended not through victory but rather through negotiation. Peace agreements, however, frequently fail to make peace, particularly in intra-state wars rooted in basic sovereignty contentions. Peacemaking referendums are a mechanism that can move difficult peace negotiations forward and improve conditions for the implementation of peace agreements. These votes can create a foundation on which to build peace. However, peacemaking referendums may be violent and can de-rail peace or freeze a conflict.

Since World War II, peacemakers have mandated and held a growing number of referendums in efforts to forge, legitimate, and enact peace agreements. My book presents a framework for analyzing how these referendums benefit peacemaking and the risks they present to peacebuilding. Referendums are used to 1) initiate peacemaking, 2) ratify a peace agreement, 3) conclude the implementation of a peace deal, or 4) to stand-in for a negotiated settlement when peace talks are not possible or productive. 

Researching this project, I conducted elite interviews with peace negotiators, electoral administrators and civil society stakeholders. I travelled to Colombia, Cyprus, East Timor, Indonesia, and South Sudan in addition to work in Washington DC and New York. The book revises and extends my dissertation work.

Juba's empty streets on the second anniversary of South Sudan's independence.

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