Sarah von Billerbeck

von Billerbeck Sarah

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.

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


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