AHRC-FCDO Collaborative Humanitarian Protection Research Programme

Duration: 2020 - 2022

Supported by: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) - Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)

The post 2003 order has resulted in the consolidation of a patronage system across the areas under the control and/or influence of the main Kurdish parties. The Conflict Drivers within the Kurdistan Region of Iraq: The Role of Patronage Networks project interrogates the current state of these networks following the recent shocks of ISIS, Erbil-Baghdad tensions, and the referendum.

IRIS is taking part in the AHRC-FCDO Collaborative Humanitarian Protection Research Programme together with the Global Public Policy institute (GPPi). The AHRC-FCDO funded 2-year research project is entitled "Protecting Civilians From Harm: How HumanitariansCcan Encourage Armed Actors to Comply with Norms." It focuses on a particular type of protection intervention, namely efforts to encourage restraint of armed actors.

The research will initially analyse and reconstructs the theories of change on which restraint activities are built. The reconstruction and development of theories of change is expected to make a direct contribution to the thinking about and practice of protection. The research project then compares these theories of change with the perceptions of armed actors on what influences their behaviour towards civilians.

The research will also provide primary data on the perceptions of armed actors, protection actors and affected communities in Iraq on the effectiveness of interventions. Simultaneously, the developed theories of change will create the preconditions for improving the monitoring and evaluation of protection activities and thereby hopefully contribute to generating more evidence on the impact of protection in the long term. The theories of change also have the potential to contribute to a common conceptual framework, thus enabling better comparability of studies and reports on protection activities in the future.

A third contribution will be to the conceptual approach of protection research. Traditionally, protection research has focused on direct deaths and injuries, for example from gunshots and aerial bombardments. Scholars in public health, medicine, and medical anthropology, however, have found that the larger civilian injury and mortality burden of conflict comes from incidents such as electrical shocks, falls, and unintentional explosions, raising questions about military strategies that cause damage to critical infrastructure. As the mode of warfare in Iraq has blurred the lines between combatant and civilian spaces, targeting hospitals and other infrastructures crucial to the long-term health of the population,the research will contribute to redefine the meaning of protection in a context in which indirect conflict-related mortality and injury represents a huge burden. 

The AHRC is part of UK Research and Innovation, a new body that works in partnership with universities, research organisations, businesses, charities, and government to encourage research and innovation and funds research into humanitarian protection of people affected by conflict under the AHRC-DFID Collaborative Humanitarian Protection Research Programme.

Capacity Building

The project’s capacity building component will offer 20 students (five students per semester) the opportunity to participate in this semester-long training and mentorship program, which will also involve a part-time internship component as junior research assistants on the project. The training and mentorship program will equip the students with qualitative and quantitative research skills and a strong conceptual understanding of key concepts of relevance to the task at hand (i.e., human rights and social science perspectives on civilian protection). The students will apply these concepts to a specific context in Iraq, writing a research paper on civilian protection issues in Iraq’s selected geographic area.

For more information click here for the project leaflet.