Protecting civilians during violent conflict has become the principal tasks of international interveners. Effective protection requires that several international organizations work together. However, they often do not cooperate. Sometimes, they even engage in competitive behavior. Despite these widely acknowledged problems, research on inter-organizational behavior is limited. Practice-oriented research tends to be a theoretical and focus on specific incidents or cases, which limits the applicability of their insights to other contexts. On the other hand, academic studies often do not do justice to the complex and dynamic practicalities of organizational interaction. Organizational theory is frequently applied in an abstract and deterministic manner, suggesting that organizational drivers, such as resource needs, organizational routines and culture will lead to static, predictable outcomes. In contrast, this explorative project investigates the everyday practices of interaction between organizations mandated to protect civilians in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). To fully grasp the conceptualization and operationalization of protection I am researching inter-organizational dynamics from UN headquarters (NY), to the national, provincial and village levels in DRC. Following Bourdieu, protection is conceptualized as an organizational field, in which structural factors are received, reproduced and redefined through human agency. Looking at the interplay of general conditions of the field and specific action within it allows for a more realistic yet theoretically relevant understanding of how organizations relate to each other, what their de facto priorities are and how this influences protection outputs. Kullenberg will briefly introduce the project, giving some more information on the theoretical framework and methodology, before discussing key findings and preliminary analysis from his on-going research.


Kullenberg is a doctoral candidate at the Bremen International Graduate School of Social Sciences, as well as a member of the German Expert Pool for Peace Operations (ZIF) and the Oslo Research School on Peace and Conflict. His research interests include armed conflicts, peacekeeping, humanitarian and development aid, international organizations and African politics. His current PhD project focuses on the interaction between international organizations in the field of protection, which he examines through a multi-level investigation in the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo. As a Visiting Scholar at the Saltzman Institute, he will conduct research at the UN headquarters. Kullenberg graduated from Humboldt University Berlin and Science Po Paris, and holds a Master’s degree from Oxford University. He has worked for different research institutions in east and central Africa and the German Development Agency (GIZ) and the UN Peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUSCO). He is fluent in German, English, French and Swahili.