3 October 2012

UQ criminologist Dr Adrian Cherney is heading a research project aimed at examining the factors influencing government legitimacy following post-conflict reconstruction.

The project is funded by the US Air Force Research Laboratory (ADRL): Asian Office of Aerospace Research and Development (AOARD).

It will break new ground in understanding best practice for governments and agencies involved in post-conflict reconstruction.

“One of the key objectives for countries facing post-conflict reconstruction or ‘nation building’ is to rebuild functioning, legitimate governmental authorities and establish the rule of law," Dr Cherney said.

“Our project aims to understand factors that impact on the success of this process, drawing on a range of social science methodologies and insights from social psychology, criminology and political science.”

The research team includes Dr Cherney, from the UQ School of Social Science, and Professor Matthew Hornsey and Kylie Fisk from the UQ School of Psychology.

The project grew out of work Dr Cherney had been doing on police legitimacy and cooperation with the police among ethnic minority groups in Australia.

Dr Cherney said that while the issue of institutional legitimacy and cooperation with authorities had been explored in places like Australia, the UK and the US, it had not been investigated in post-conflict contexts.

“Logistically there are real challenges in collecting data on people’s judgments about governments, none more so than in countries emerging out of conflict," he said.

"We have been really lucky in that funding and the contacts we have through ADRL and AOARD will allow us to investigate these processes.”

The project is in its third phase and will involve a series of studies in Nepal and Afghanistan.

The first two phases were aimed at conducting case studies of potential fieldwork sites and applying for ethics clearance.

“It actually took three years to get ethics clearance from the US Air Force given we proposed to collect data from countries like Afghanistan that are defined as active combat zones," Dr Cherney said.

"We had to liaise with US Central Command to receive clearance to undertake data collection in Afghanistan.”

The research team collaborated with Dr Andrew Smith from the UQ Institute for Social Science Research on phase one of the project which conducted a text-based analysis of the legitimacy literature using Leximancer.

Data collection in Nepal will occur in 2012 and the Afghanistan fieldwork will begin in 2013.

Into the future Dr Cherney hopes to further expand the project to examine Islamic radicalisation and support for violence in Indonesia, to be undertaken with Indonesian collaborators at the University of Indonesia and the US Office of Naval Research.

Media: Dr Adrian Cherney (School of Social Science), email a.cherney@uq.edu.au, phone 3365 6663 or Helen Burdon (Marketing and Communications, Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences), email h.burdon@uq.edu.au, phone 3346 9279.