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Prestigious ESRC grant for innovative research on religious leaders and humanitarian norms

Posted on 26 September 2019

Dr. Ioana Cismas, Senior Lecturer at the Centre for Applied Human Rights and the York Law School, has been awarded a large grant by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The grant was awarded to develop the project 'Generating Respect for Humanitarian Norms: The Influence of Religious Leaders on Parties to Armed Conflict' (2020-2023).


Image credit: GenevaCall

Humanitarian norms, anchored in international humanitarian law (IHL) and international human rights law (IHRL) aim to 'humanise' war by requiring parties to armed conflict to protect civilians from attacks, detainees from abuse, and to facilitate humanitarian assistance. Yet, across the globe and all too often, civilians are killed, detainees are ill-treated, and hospitals and aid convoys are bombed. This situation depicts the pressing need for the identification of new approaches aimed at generating greater compliance with humanitarian norms.

The research project proposes such a novel approach by focusing on the role that religious leaders (can) play in influencing state and non-state armed actors to internalise humanitarian norms with the ultimate aim of enhancing the protection of communities affected by armed conflict. The project will be implemented by a team of seven researchers led by Dr Cismas (PI) and Mr Ezequiel Heffes (Geneva Call - CoI), in close partnership with key humanitarian organizations and UN mechanisms. Read more about the research on the research themes pages.

The ESRC panel assessed Dr Cismas' project as 'timely, well focused, and well-designed' and anonymous reviewers commented that the research 'is likely to make a very significant contribution both to scholarship and to policy and practice in an extremely important area.' The ESRC is committed to 'supporting the very best research, with scientific excellence the primary criterion for funding'. Each year, it receives hundreds of applications to its open call research grants from a wide range of research organisations. In the past four years, between 12 and 17 per cent of these applications were successful.