Research projects

Rising Powers and Conflict Management in Central Asia

Principal Investigator - John Heathershaw

The project aims to explain the reasons for and the consequences of the failure of Western approaches to conflict management to gain traction in post-Soviet Central Asia. It contrasts these approaches with those promoted by Russia and China, both bilaterally and through regional organisations, and looks at the effects of these on national conflict management strategies.


The project's case studies are three significant outbreaks of violence in recent years: in Khorog, Tajikistan in 2012; in the Rasht valley in Tajikistan in 2010-11; and in Osh, Kyrgyzstan in 2010. In each case the international responses were complex and partly divergent along traditional lines of geopolitical competition.


The project team will conduct interviews in London, Beijing and Moscow with policy-makers, academics and NGOs, to assess the ways in which policy-makers framed and understood these conflict situations. Fieldwork in Central Asia will assess local views in Osh and Rasht regions, both of the nature of the conflict but also of the divergent international responses. It will also seek to indentify and assess societal and state practices of conflict management which may diverge from those prescribed in Western approaches. The research seeks to improve our understandings of such divergent approaches to conflict management with the aim of more effective responses to conflict in the region, in the context of emerging relations between Rising Powers and the West. Furthermore, it will explore the effects of conflict management on the formation of states in post-Soviet Central Asia.

The project involves a team of three academics from the universities of Exeter and Newcastle, working together with the London-based NGO Saferworld. The core research team consists of:

Dr John Heathershaw, Principle Investigator, University of Exeter

Dr David Lewis, Co-Investigator, University of Exeter

Dr Nick Megoran, Co-Investigator, Newcastle University

Mr Ivan Campbell and colleagues, Co-Investigator, Saferworld

Workshop - Project launch, 13th March 2013

Apart from a wide range of intended academic outputs, the project is designed to inform discussion among Russian, Chinese, Western and Central Asian policy makers about different ways to manage and resolve conflict, thus attempting to improve mutual understanding in a region of potential strategic competition and political volatility.


The project one of twelve projects in the ESRC-funded programme 'Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures'.