Research lines and projects

The Governance, Law and Social Justice research group is organized along the following main lines and projects.

Research lines


Human security, human development and migartion

This line of research, which is linked to a Leiden-Delft-Erasmus (LDE) initiative on Migration and Diversity, focuses on notions of human security and human development as concepts that challenge traditional notions of security and development. Researchers also participate in a Masters-level Migration track.

Building on earlier and ongoing collaborative work,[1] this first line of research focuses on notions of human security and human development as concepts that challenge traditional notions of security and development.

  • Human development and human security frameworks

The new concepts have emerged from attempts to give practical meaning to socioeconomic and cultural rights and provide a normative framework for evaluating development outcomes, both within national territories and internationally.

The human development framework tends to focus on reconceiving and redirecting development within a national territory, whereas the human security framework deals with the security of persons and communities in a wider variety of situations, such as vulnerabilities resulting from migration, political persecution and environmental degradation.

The human security and human development concepts broaden the scope of investigation by going beyond conventional sources of insecurity, such as violence and war, and traditional measurements of development, such as monetary income levels.

The concept of human development draws on the important work of Amartya Sen and focuses on the broad range of circumstances, including education levels, health and distribution of resources, that impact on persons’ capabilities and range of choices and options in life.

Human security encompasses freedom from want and indignity next to freedom from fear, and pays attention to non-conventional sources of insecurity, such as environmental degradation, food scarcity, population displacement and institutionalized forms of gender violence.

Both seek to focus thinking about prioritization within sectors (as in the MDGs programme) and between sectors. Human security thinking in particular contributes to thinking beyond now partly obsolete framings of issues in terms of supposedly largely self-contained (for both explanation and evaluation) national boxes. It looks at diverse, situation-specific, interacting threats and how they affect the lives of ordinary people, especially the most vulnerable.

  • International migration

This first line of research analyses aspects of human security and human development in various dimensions. In particular, a major transnational force is international migration, which affects the lives of people in both countries of origin and host countries.

Migration is fuelled by human insecurity and underdevelopment, and policies aimed at dealing with migration flows are a major determinant of social justice in the field of human mobility flows as one important dimension of contemporary globalization.

  • Climate change: governance, policy and political economy

Another area in this research line is climate change: its causes and effects, and especially the politics, legal contours and ethics of possibilities for reducing and modifying such change and for adapting to the changes which are now underway. We anticipate that adaptation to these changes will grow, especially impacting low-income countries and low-income groups. GGSJ members have started working in this field, including in cooperation with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and in particular Working Group II: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, as well as researchers in Norway (at: CICERO – Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research, Oslo; University of Bergen; Christian Michelsen Institute, Bergen; University of Oslo) and in associated networks with members especially in the USA (Pennsylvania State University; University of Washington) and South Africa (Universities of Kwazulu Natal and Witwatersrand). We welcome inquiries from students with interests in these topics.

Contact person: Professor Des Gasper

[1] The research project on ‘Human (In) Security in the Network of Global Cities’ (2004-8), financed by the Japanese Ministry of Education and Science, was coordinated by Thanh-Dam Truong and focused on issues of human (in)security caused by migration, on the basis of day-to-day experiences of different categories of migrants. The research group organized a major international conference on Migration and Human Security at ISS in 2007.

International law, society and development

This line of research investigates the function of international law in development cooperation, particularly in the areas of regionalism, legal mobilization and human rights.

Contact person: Professor Karin Arts

Research projects