Sarah von Billerbeck
- Research Division Leader
- Programme Director for the MA in Diplomacy
- School Diversity and Inclusion Lead
- Research Division Committee Member
- Model United Nations (PO2MUN)
- The Political Economy of Civil War (PIM62)
- Contemporary Diplomacy (PIM66)
- Building Peace After Civil War (PIM80)
Areas of interest
My research has two main thrusts: first, United Nations (UN) peacekeeping, peacebuilding, and post-conflict reconstruction; and second, international organisations, in particular the UN, and legitimacy.
I recently completed a major project entitled 'Self-Legitimation by International Organizations,' funded by an Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) Future Research Leaders Award, in which I conducted a comparative study of internal legitimation in the UN, NATO, and the World Bank. One of the articles published from this project won the 2020 University Best Research Output Prize at the University of Reading.
I am currently working on further aspects of legitimacy in international organisations, particularly as they relate to communication, discourse, and organisational change, as well as the changing nature of international organisations in international society.
I am also co-Principal Investigator on a large ESRC-funded project entitled 'Democratization and United Nations Peacebuilding' with Oisín Tansey (King's College London) and Birte Gippert (Liverpool) (November 2018-October 2021) and on a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRCC)-funded partnership development project entitled 'Peacebuilding and Local Knowledge Network' with Benjamin Zyla (Ottawa), Katia Coleman (British Columbia), and Steffen Eckhard (Konstanz).
In 2017–18, I was Principal Investigator of a project looking at performance management in international organisations funded by the Folke Bernadotte Academy. I am currently developing a project on banking and peacebuilding and I am also interested in leadership of peace operations, multilateralism and peace operations, and methodological issues in studying the UN.
I have also extensively researched local ownership and UN peacekeeping operations, and my book on the topic was published by Oxford University Press in December 2016. I have also published numerous articles on other aspects of peacekeeping and international organisations. I am also regularly invited to speak on these topics to a variety of academic and non-academic audiences and groups.
I am happy to consider doctoral supervision on:
- peacekeeping and peacebuilding
- international organisations
- the UN
- civil war and post-conflict reconstruction.
Research centres and groups
I joined the University of Reading in 2015. Prior to that I was a lecturer in the Department of War Studies, King's College London.
I previously worked for the UN peacekeeping mission in D.R. Congo (MONUC), the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia in Lebanon, the American Refugee Committee in Guinea, and the Institute of World Affairs in Washington, DC.
I am co-Director of the UN and Global Order Programme, established at the University of Reading in 2017, a member of the Folke Bernadotte Academy Research Working Groups, and a member of the Editorial Board of International Peacekeeping.
I serve actively in the International Studies Association, where I have been a member of the Executive Committee of the International Organisation Section (ISA) since 2016 and served as its 2020 Section Program Chair, and where I helped to establish ISA's first ever Pressing Politics Panels at its annual convention in 2018.
In 2018, I was a Visiting Research Fellow in the Department of International Development, University of Oxford. I am also a member of the Steering Committee Member of the Oxford Peace Research Network, University of Oxford, a Trustee of the Oxford Peace Research Trust, University of Oxford, and a Senior Fellow of the Weidenfeld-Hoffman Trust.
From 2015–20, I served as Reviews Editor for International Peacekeeping, and from 2013–19, I was an Associate Member of Nuffield College, University of Oxford.
At Reading, I have contributed to the development of online modules for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Diplomatic Academy and the Army Higher Education Pathway.
- DPhil, University of Oxford
- MS, Georgetown University
- BA, University of California, Berkeley
- Fellow, Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
Awards and honours
- UN University and UK Mission to the United Nations Research Grant, 'The Unintentional Consequences of UN Engagement in Post-Conflict Settings,' 2021
- Stabilisation Unit, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Research Grant, 'From Elite Bargains to Open, Inclusive Politics,' 2021
- SSHRCC Partnership Development Grant, 'Peacebuilding and Local Knowledge Network', 2020–present
- 2020 University Best Research Output Prize, University of Reading
- ESRC Grant, 'Democratisation and United Nations Peacebuilding', 2018–present
- ESRC Future Research Leaders Grant, 'Self-Legitimation by International Organisations', 2016–19
- Folke Bernadotte Academy Grant, 'Senior Leadership Performance Management in International Organisations', 2018
- Building Outstanding Impact Grant, University of Reading, 2018–21
- John Fell Fund Grant, University of Oxford, Co-I, 'Building Peace that Lasts: How UN Peace Operations and Development Assistance Affect the Durability of Post-Civil War Peace', 2009
- Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship, 2016 (declined)
- Executive Committee Member, IO Section, International Studies Association
- Editorial Board, International Peacekeeping
- Executive Committee Member, Oxford Peace Research Network
- Trustee, Oxford Peace Research Trust
- Senior Fellow, Weidenfeld-Hoffman Trust
- External Examiner, Department of Political Science, University College London
- "In UN Peacebuilding, Local Ownership Takes Backseat," Guest Blog Entry, One Earth Future Foundation, 31 March 2015 http://oneearthfuture.org/research/blogs/guest/un-peacebuilding-local-ownership-takes-backseat. OEF's no. 3 most read blog of 2015.
- "Is the news about Congo's conflict minerals good?' Washington Post, The Monkey Cage, 18 June 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/monkey-cage/wp/2014/06/18/is-the-news-about-congos-conflict-minerals-good/.
- Oksamytna, K. , Tansey, O. , von Billerbeck, S. ORCID: 0000-0003-0154-1944 , Gippert, B. (2023) Theorizing decision-making in international bureaucracies: UN peacekeeping operations and responses to norm violations. International Studies Quarterly ISSN: 1468-2478
- von Billerbeck, S. ORCID: 0000-0003-0154-1944 (2023) Organizational narratives and self-legitimation in international organizations. International Affairs , 99 (3). pp. 963-981. ISSN: 1468-2346 | doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ia/iiac263
- von Billerbeck, S. ORCID: 0000-0003-0154-1944 (2022) Talk from the top: leadership and self-legitimation in international organizations. International Studies Review , 24 (3). ISSN: 1468-2486 | doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/isr/viac022
- Heaven, C. , Rocha Menocal, A. , von Billerbeck, S. ORCID: 0000-0003-0154-1944 , Zaum, D. ORCID: 0000-0003-3148-555X (2022) From Elite Bargains to (More) Open and (More) Inclusive Politics. University of Reading , Reading. pp 78.
- Day, A. , von Billerbeck, S. ORCID: 0000-0003-0154-1944 , Tansey, O. , Al Maleh, A. (2021) Peacebuilding and authoritarianism: the unintended consequences of UN engagement in post-conflict settings. United Nations University pp 64. ISBN: 9789280865356
- von Billerbeck, S. (2020) No action without talk? UN peacekeeping, discourse, and institutional self-legitimation. Review of International Studies , 46 (4). pp. 477-494. ISSN: 0260-2105 | doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S026021052000011X
- von Billerbeck, S. (2020) Sociological institutionalism. In: Oksamytna, K. and Karlsrud, J. , (eds.) United Nations Peace Operations and International Relations Theory. Manchester University Press ISBN: 9781526148865
- von Billerbeck, S. (2019) "Mirror, mirror, on the wall": self-legitimation by international organizations. International Studies Quarterly , 64 (1). pp. 207-219. ISSN: 1468-2478 | doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/isq/sqz089
- von Billerbeck, S. and Tansey, O. (2019) Enabling autocracy? Peacebuilding and post-conflict authoritarianism in the Democratic Republic of Congo. European Journal of International Relations , 25 (3). pp. 698-722. ISSN: 1460-3713 | doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1354066118819724
- von Billerbeck, S. and Gippert, B. (2017) Legitimacy in conflict: concepts, practices, challenges. Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding , 11 (3). pp. 273-285. ISSN: 1750-2985 | doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17502977.2017.1357701
- von Billerbeck, S. (2017) UN Peace operations and conflicting legitimacies. Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding , 11 (3). pp. 286-305. ISSN: 1750-2985 | doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1080/17502977.2017.1353751
- von Billerbeck, S. (2015) Local ownership and UN peacebuilding: discourse versus operationalization. Global Governance , 21 (2). pp. 299-315. ISSN: 1075-2846 | doi: https://dx.doi.org/10.1163/19426720-02102007
- von Billerbeck, S. (2011) Whose peace? Local ownership and UN peacebuilding.
- Hoeffler, A. , Ijaz, S. , von Billerbeck, S. (2011) Post-conflict recovery and peacebuilding. World Bank , Washington, DC. pp 84.
- von Billerbeck, S. (2011) Aiding the State or aiding corruption? Aid and corruption in post-conflict countries. In: Cheng, C. and Zaum, D. , (eds.) Corruption and post-conflict peacebuilding: selling the peace?. Cass Series on Peacekeeping Routledge , Abingdon UK. pp. 80-96. ISBN: 9780415620482