Dr Soeren Keil, Reader in Politics and IR was the Academic Lead for a new Myanmar Federalism Leadership Programme (MFLP), a 10-day programme to prepare activists from civil society, the administration, ethnic armed organisations and political parties for the future discussions on federalism in the country. This is particularly timely, as the next round of the 21st Century Panglong Peace Conference is scheduled for January 2018. Soeren worked in Nay Pyi Taw, the country’s capital city, from 16-26 November 2017. He represented Canterbury Christ Church at the event, and was in charge of multiple lectures, discussion rounds and inputs. The event was co-organised with UN Women, the Hanns Seidel Foundation and the Centre for Development and Ethnic Studies. After his work at the MFLP, Soeren participated in two further events, one with a number of civil society activists in Yangon (Rangoon) from 3-5 December 2017 on ‘Advanced Discussions on Federalism’, and another event as a discussion forum with the civil society forum for peace, a collection of several NGOs from across Burma.
Paul Anderson, PhD student in Politics and International Relations, also contributed to the MFLP with a lecture on autonomy, secession and minority rights, with particular reference to Scotland and Catalonia. In addition to this, Paul spent five days (20 to 24 November) at the Lower Myanmar Civil Service Campus in Phaunggyi, training 35 civil servants on the topics of democracy, decentralisation and federalism.
Both Soeren and Paul contributed to raising Christ Church’s profile in Myanmar/Burma and they have become well respected experts in the country, sharing their knowledge and expertise with a number of actors in the peace process, including leading NGOs, ethnic armed organisations and the civil service. Their work contributes to the wider activities of Politics and International Relations in the field of supporting transition processes in post-conflict societies, with a special focus on advice for territorial reform, decentralisation and federalism.
CCCU’s Politics and International Relations team was strongly represented at the 2017 IPSA Colloquium held in Nicosia, Cyprus, from 24-27 June, with participation from senior academic staff and PhD candidates.
The conference brought together three International Political Science Association (IPSA) research committees (13, 14 and 28) to examine the challenges of designing democratic institutions in divided societies. The papers presented at the conference scrutinised the role of different factors (e.g. ethnicity, political institutions, nationalism, gender, efficacy of multi-level governance, the intersection between peace and democratic stability) in fostering democratisation in the context of regional and global integration.
In his capacity as an active member of the IPSA Research Committee 28 ‘Comparative Federalism and Multilevel Governance’, CCCU’s Dr Soeren Keil chaired the panel on ‘Institutional Design in Divided Societies: Kosovo in Comparative Perspective’. Drawing from his research on institutional design in post-conflict societies with a special focus on federalism and state-building in the Western Balkans, Dr Keil moderated the discussion during the panel and provided valuable insights for the panellists by placing the content of the panel related to decentralisation, democratisation and ethnic cleavages in a broader comparative perspective.
Dr Keil also organised the panel ‘Policy Issues in Divided Societies’ which included two papers from CCCU Ph.D Candidates Paul Anderson and Simon Bransden, and a co-authored paper between Soeren Keil and Jelena Džankić (European University Institute, Florence). This panel focused on a number of policy issues, including Citizenship Policy and constitutional politics.
Building on his extensive research on the Western Balkans, Dr Keil presented a paper titled ‘The Ties that (Never) Bind – Citizenship in the Socialist Yugoslavia and its Federal Successor States’. This paper explores the continuity and change in citizenship policies in federal states created as a result of state disintegration. The authors argue that disintegrative processes cause new federal states to model their legislation after that of the old state while at the same time state-creation and re-articulation of ident
ities demand a modification of the rules for inclusion and exclusion, so that they can reflect new political realities and relationships among communities constituting the state.
CCCU’s Simon Bransden presented the outline of the first paper he intends to write drawing from his recently defended Ph.D. Thesis, in a paper entitled ‘Process, Dynamics and Instrumentalities in the UK/EU Brexit Crisis after May 2015’. The paper examines the way that the EU tried to accommodate the UK’s demands in key areas of free movement of people, state sovereignty, and economic independence, whilst respecting fundamental principles of European integration. He concluded that while the package offered to UK elites was acceptable, the UK’s electorate rejected the offer.
Paul Anderson, presented on an important and timely issue in a paper entitled, ”Too little, too late?’: Brexit and the Constitutional Future of Scotland and the United Kingdom’. Here Paul examines the potential constitutional and territorial implications of leaving the European Union, and asks whether Scottish Labour’s recent conversion to federalism offers an alternative constitutional vision for Scotland. Paul’s analysis drew from a number of interviews carried out in February and March 2017 with MPs and MSPs from all five major parties in Scotland, and demonstrated that while for most federalism was considered as theoretically attractive, most pro-independence supporters believed it ‘too little, too late’, while most pro-Unionists saw it as a worthwhile yet challenging endeavour. Paul concludes that Scottish independence is not an inevitable consequence of Brexit, but the decision to leave the EU has resulted in yet more (irreparable) cracks in the UK’s once strong and stable constitutional edifice.
Overall, the participation of CCCU at the IPSA Colloquium in Nicosia highlights the variety and importance of research that is undertaken in Politics and International Relations. The panel organised by Dr Keil was highly regarded by other scholars attending the conference and further demonstrates CCCU’s growing strength in the area of comparative federalism, minority rights and conflict resolution. In this context it is also worth mentioning that the cutting-edge research presented at the conference and the exchange with other leading researchers will feed into ongoing CCCU projects. For example, Michael Siegner, Research Assistant at CCCU with a focus on federalism as a tool for conflict resolution, also took part in the conference and will be able to utilise the insights gained for his collaboration with Dr Keil in relation to providing academic advice to stakeholders in the peace process of Myanmar which is inextricably linked to federal reforms. This underlines CCCU’s strong commitment to impact oriented research.
With four participants in the conference, CCCU was one of the most represented institutions at the IPSA Colloquium, thereby demonstrating the growing international profile of our staff and PhD researchers. Funding for the participation at the conference was kindly provided by the Politics and International Studies Research Excellence Fund.