Department of Political Science


International Relations

We are an emerging centre for the study of international relations (IR) in the U.K. We cover the major subfields of IR, with particular expertise in international conflict, global governance, international political economy, and human rights.

Research Summary

Our research addresses key empirical and normative problems in contemporary international politics, such as understanding the causes of civil conflict, strengthening global governance and international law, and defining standards of justice in international conduct. Our research is distinguished by a commitment to using diverse theoretical and methodological tools to advance both important scholarly debates and public policy questions.

Research Team

Research Themes

1. Conflict and Change

The study of political violence seeks to understand the causes, dynamics, and consequences of armed conflict, both within and between states. UCL faculty in this field share a focus on the rigorous analysis of political violence, drawing on a diverse range of theoretical approaches and empirical methods. The conflict research group at UCL brings together experts on civil conflict, peacekeeping and post-war statebuilding, non-state actors, military intervention, and human rights. Current research projects investigate fragmentation in ethno-political movements, forecasting conflict escalation in civil wars, the conduct of pro-government militias, the role of power-sharing institutions in mitigating ethnic conflict, and the philosophical basis for the punishment of state-sponsored atrocities.

2. Global Governance

Global problems such as climate change, terrorism, and the recent economic downturn are placing increasing demands on the institutions, laws, and norms that make up international governance. UCL faculty specializing in the study of global governance seek to understand how, in a world of sovereign states, formal and informal mechanisms of governance are adapting to meet new and increasingly transnational problems. Current research projects examine the role of national human rights institutions, informal decision-making and negotiation in institutions such as the European Union, the judicialization of climate change politics, and the role of multilateral security organisations in shaping public support for the use of military force.

UCL also hosts the Global Governance Institute, an interdisciplinary research center that serves a forum for the study of global governance issues. GGI scholars aim to contribute new research and policy ideas to address emerging global governance problems.

3. Human Rights and Global Justice

The study of human rights and global justice at UCL uses a diversity of methods in normative theory and legal interpretation to engage with various fundamental questions of international politics.

At UCL we are interested in a wide variety of topics related to human rights and global justice. What are the demands of justice during periods of war and conflict? What are the normative foundations of international law—particularly the laws of war, international criminal law, and human rights law? What justifies the legitimacy of states, and the legitimacy of international institutions? How should we think about the collective responsibility of state and citizens for global injustices? What are human rights, and specifically, what are their nature, scope, and justification? What are the moral standards that should govern our participation in international trade and our design of international institutions, especially in light of global poverty?

4. International Political Economy

The study of international political economy at UCL draws on the fields of comparative politics and international relations to explore the nexus between politics and economics. Current research in the Department examines the diffusion of international investment treaties, business lobbying and regulatory change in the European Union, public attitudes toward development aid, trade policy, and exchange rate policy. Other research looks at how global economic integration affects domestic patterns of violent conflict and human rights abuses.

Completed Projects

Attitudes for Peace: Post-Conflict Public Opinion

Funder: Norwegian Research Council

Collaborators: Karin Dyrstad (SINTEF), Helga Malmim Binningsbø (Peace Research Institute Oslo), and Arne Eide (SINTEF).

Aid Attitudes Tracker

The Aid Attitudes Tracker (AAT) project examines public attitudes and behaviours towards development, global poverty and overseas aid in four major donor countries: France, Germany, Great Britain and

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