Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs



While traditional security concerns persist, the transformed security landscape of the early 21st century presents a range of “new” challenges, from climate change, resource conflicts, and pandemics to cyber-threats, transnational crime, and irregular warfare. Engaging Brown faculty across the social sciences and beyond, the Institute's research spans these and more conventional security issues, including armed intervention, post-conflict reconstruction, nuclear proliferation, and military spending. More so than in many other security studies programs at peer institutions, Institute security-related research is distinguished by substantial methodological, theoretical, and disciplinary diversity, as well as deep knowledge of different areas of the world. Watson security projects also prioritize the exchange of ideas among public officials and practitioners, civil society, and scholars.

Watson Institute security projects are clustered under two broad themes:

Political Economy of Security

The first area of inquiry focuses on issues at the intersection of political economy and security issues. How do oil and other commodities and resources influence conflict? Do targeted sanctions work? What are the budgetary implications of US military intervention? How do terrorists and insurgents fund their operations and what are governments doing to counter such financing? What are the illicit dimensions of globalization and how does this shape organized violence? How can critical infrastructure be secured in the face of cyber attacks? Institute projects tackle such questions and their policy implications. While political economy and security traditionally have been treated as separate realms of study, many of the most pressing challenges of the 21st century suggest that these are increasingly intertwined.

Security Governance

A second area of focus is the governance challenges posed by a range of new and enduring peace and security issues.  How effective are the existing norms and institutions in managing contemporary security issues? How can the capacity of the international community to deal with global security challenges be improved?  For example, what is the future of the nuclear nonproliferation regime?  What governance arrangements are needed to secure cyberspace and ensure an open and reliable Internet?  How effective are multilateral conflict resolution mechanisms such as peacekeeping and UN sanctions and how can they be strengthened?  Do the laws of war still matter? What informal governance mechanisms are emerging and evolving, and what new instruments are needed to address humanitarian crises and pandemics? Watson researchers analyze these and other crucial governance challenges arising from the changing nature of conflict. 


Climate and Development Lab

Costs of War

Global Governance and Transnational Civil Society

Illicit Globalization

Iran State Sanctions Project

Medics and Political Violence

The Rise and Fall of the Roman Republic, 1848-1850

Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Peacekeeping

Terrorist Transformations: IMRO and the Politics of Violence