Inclusivity in post-conflict peacebuilding is a key focus of Dr Dawn Walsh’s research

Posted: 16 February, 2024

Hands holding a dove

Dr Dawn Walsh is an Assistant Professor in the School of Politics and International Relations at University College Dublin, where she is also Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Research.


Dawn is an expert in how to  design political institutions after conflict, to maximise their inclusivity and to provide for good government, and for enabling functional governance, low levels of corruption and high levels of gender equality.


A research project — titled ‘Power-Sharing and Independent Commissions in Post-Conflict Societies’ — funded under the distinguished IRC Laureate Starting Programme is at a penultimate stage.


For her IRC Laureate project, Dawn is leading a research project at UCD examining the role of independent commissions, which are given key roles such as organising elections or monitoring ceasefires. Specifically, the project is examining the composition of the commissions focusing on power-sharing, international involvement and gender.


Directly before embarking on her IRC Laureate fellowship, Dawn had completed an ELEVATE IRC MSCA (Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions) COFUND postdoctoral project, titled ‘How coordination mechanisms and entrenched guarantees contribute to the success of complex power-sharing in post-conflict societies’.


Dawn’s ELEVATE postdoc had, in turn, directly followed on from an IRC Postgraduate Scholarship (2010-2014) that she was awarded for a PhD research project titled ‘Independent Commissions: Implementing Contentious Issues in the Post Good-Friday Era’, which she undertook in the School of Law and Government at DCU.


The ELEVATE IRC MSCA COFUND programme ran between 2013 and 2018 to assist experienced researchers (ERs) in the development of their research careers. ELEVATE contained an international dimension to allow ERs gain additional skills and expertise, and on their return to Ireland, the ELEVATE fellows transferred to a higher education institution in Ireland to continue their project.


For her ELEVATE fellowship, Dawn carried out research that examined the use of complex power-sharing institutions in post-conflict societies, including Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Macedonia, Moldova and Iraq.


Dawn spent the first part of her ELEVATE fellowship at the University of Birmingham under the mentorship of Professor Stefan Wolff, who is Professor of International Security in the Department of Political Science and International Studies.


She then completed the fellowship at DCU under the supervision of Dr John Doyle, who is current vice president for research at DCU, and who was previously director of DCU Institute for International Conflict Resolution and Reconstruction, as well as Professor of International Conflict Resolution in DCU School of Law and Government.


International Network Building & Collaboration

The ELEVATE programme enabled Dawn to use her knowledge to positively engage and collaborate with external stakeholders. During the fellowship, Dawn became the co-convenor of the conflict specialist group of the Political Studies Association of Ireland and  a member of the International Studies Association, British International Studies Association and European Consortium of Political Research.


For each year of her ELEVATE fellowship, Dawn attended a major international conference for people in her subject discipline called the International Studies Association (ISA) Convention, which is held every year in North America.


The ISA is one of the oldest interdisciplinary associations dedicated to understanding international, transnational and global affairs. It is made up of a global membership of academics, practitioners, policy experts, private sector workers and independent researchers, among others.


Attending the ISA Convention facilitated Dawn in being able to build a network of external stakeholders within the global research community and to exchange ideas among those involved in the study, teaching and practice of international studies.


This has led to continued international engagement opportunities for Dawn, who said, “The network that I have now, the people who I’m inviting to partake in special issues and events that I’m organising as the Director of the Centre for Peace and Conflict Research at UCD, it’s all built on being able to go to the International Studies Association Convention, not just once but for a sustained period. You see the same people, they learn how your research is progressing, you learn about how their research is progressing, you see where the overlap is.”


The development of an international research network has, in turn, led to invitations for Dawn to present at conferences and special events around the world.


In 2022, she was invited to teach at a Summer School on Human Rights, Minorities and Diversity Governance, organised by the thinktank Eurac Research, that took place in South Tyrol, which is a province in the north of Italy.


South Tyrol is a formerly disputed area between Italy and Austria that has three language groups — Italian, German and Ladin — and that was characterised by ethnic tensions.


The 2022 summer school event marked the 50th anniversary of the second Statute of Autonomy of South Tyrol, which brought a formal ending to the dispute between Italy and Austria over the province.


Today, South Tyrol is characterised by peaceful cohabitation, and the second Statute of Autonomy is generally considered by scholars, practitioners and politicians as a model for dealing with and resolving ethnic tensions.


The summer school in South Tyrol explored the theme of “Autonomies, Borders, Conflicts” through seminars, workshops and study visits led by international experts, including Dawn.


Her teaching at the summer school saw her compare South Tyrol’s experience to Northern Ireland, and how legally and constitutionally it might be managed post-conflict.




Picture of Dr Dawn Walsh

Engagement with Policymakers

Dawn’s peace and conflict expertise has seen her meet with policymakers internationally. She recalls how four years ago, she travelled to Odessa to talk to Ukrainian policy-makers about how they might organise the ethnic and religious diversity that’s within Ukraine constitutionally.


In 2023, Dawn visited the University of Notre Dame in the United States for a conference on the Colombian Peace Agreement, where she was able to share her research findings and learn from the lived experiences of other attendees.


Dawn has had a seamless research career trajectory examining the role of commission-type institutions in ending conflict and in peace processes.


Commenting on the impact the IRC has had on her research career, Dawn said, “The IRC facilitates work in Ireland that couldn’t be done without it. It’s the only place to go if you’re an arts, humanities or social sciences researcher, where it’s funded wholly based on the quality of the research, the proposal, what we can learn as a society, what you think is the next important question to answer in your discipline. We don’t have a large history of philosophy or political sciences companies to go into partnerships with, so the IRC is the only support we have to do large-scale research.”


Dr Dawn Walsh took part in a first-person interview in June 2023 for this feature.




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