The United Nations (UN) is undoubtedly a force for good – but could they be more effective? Dr Sarah von Billerbeck’s research examines how the UN can overcome challenges while helping war‑torn countries rebuild.
Research inspired by her work in the UN
Sarah’s interest in post-conflict reconstruction was ignited during her time as a political officer in the UN’s peacekeeping mission in Congo. Inspired to take a step back to reflect on the bigger challenges, she focused her academic career on peacekeeping.
One strand of her research focuses on local ownership – the role of the local population – and the difficulties the UN faces in translating local ownership into reality. A sustainable peace needs local people to play a role in its creation, rather than simply UN-imposed solutions.
Feeding experience and research into postgraduate teaching
Sarah’s experience of working for the UN, and her research, directly feed into her postgraduate modules at the University of Reading: Building Peace After Civil War and Diplomacy.
Sarah uses real examples from the field, and challenges her students to compare these to theory and scholarly literature, bringing research and real-world experiences together.
Bringing academia and policy together
Sarah is proud that her research is policy relevant and that she is merging the academic and policy worlds.
She champions open dialogue between academics and policymakers; Sarah has cultivated an impressive network and frequently speaks at conferences with participants from the UN and governments. This enables Sarah to communicate her research to policymakers, while also giving her an overview of current concerns to keep her work relevant.
Sarah believes that together we can help the UN be more effective in the crucial work they do.
Dr Robert Jubb
Dr Robert Jubb's areas of interest include methods in analytical political theory and philosophy and responsibility for and appropriate responses to structural injustice. His research feeds into undergraduate research-based modules.
Dr Alice Baderin
Dr Joseph O'Mahoney
Dr Joseph O'Mahoney specialises in international norm dynamics, including norms surrounding war and the proliferation of nuclear weapons, in his research and teaching.