Photo of Dr John Heathershaw

Dr John Heathershaw

External Engagement and Impact

I seek to reach as wide an audience as possible with my research and actively engage in international conversations about policy and practice.  I try to convey complex ideas in an accessible and concise manner, both to the public and policy-makers.  I have written short commentaries, op-eds and blogposts for Open Democracy, the FT, the BBC, The Conversation and Ekklesia among others.  I have co-authored policy papers for Chatham House, the Open Society Foundation and several other civil society organizations.  

My colleagues and I have organised several seminars with Chatham House's Russia and Eurasia Programme to present and discuss our research.  We have also been invited to present this work at policy fora in the US, Europe, Russia and China. I have worked as a consultant to the UK government, the US and German governments' development agencies, and several large international NGOs.  My advice is sometimes sought and provided informally and free-of-charge to human rights defenders at work in Central Asia. I also provide pro bono expert witness tesimony in asylum cases in the UK and overseas.  I have twice officially observed elections in Central Asia with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and have led or participated in evaluations of multi-million dollar aid programmes.  I have spoken many times at Parliament and in Whitehall, having briefed almost all the past and present UK ambassadors to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

My impact and engagement work has been particularly focused on explaining how and why international intervention in authoritarian political contexts provides resources, directly and indxirectly, for the suppression of democratic opposition and the consolidation of authoritarian rule.  I publicise findings from my research on how Western financial service providers, lawyers and other intermediaries also aid this consolidation of power in facilitating money laundering, lobbying and reputation management by the elites of post-Soviet kleptocracies. Many of these services are illegal or 'grey' and hidden from public view but they are both vital to the holding of power in Central Asia and serve as routine activities for Western companies which provide financial and other services to the post-Soviet world.  In recent years, with heightened international concern about radicalization, including in Central Asia, my public engagement work has sought to correct some of the myths about this apparent threat; it seeks to change the conversation to a broader one about how we identify the actual causes of terrorism and assess the consequences of counter-radiclization work.

Much of this public engagement work is highlighted on the website of the Exeter Central Asian Studies (ExCAS) research network which I founded in 2010 and have convened ever since.  In 2016, ExCAS launched the Central Asian Political Exiles (CAPE) project which charts the transnational repression, from threats to family members at home to assassination while overseas, faced by former regime members, opposition part leaders, religious figures and even human rights activists as they have been forced to seek refuge overseas.

I have also done signifiant media work for the BBC, Radio Free Europe and a huge variety of traditional and new media.

Please contact me by email, phone or through the Exeter press office if you would like me to write for your publication or provide comment for an article or programme.

A list of some of my most recent events and articles is below:

Dictators Without Borders: Power and Money in Central Asia, book launches at Chatham House, National Endowment for Democracy and the European Endowment for Democracy, April-May 2017

"How can we explain radicalisation among Central Asia’s migrants?", Open Democracy, May 2017

No shelter: the harassment of activists abroad by intelligence services from the former Soviet Union,Houses of Parliament, Westminster, 22 November 2016 a Foreign Policy Centre event

"For Karimov, the personal was always political",, September 2016

"How big a threat is Islamic State in Central Asia?", The Conversation, April 2016

"US looks away as tyranny steals a march in Central Asia",, September 2015