Informal Politics in Fragile States Course Report

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Willy Brandt School’s own Shaheera Syed reports on a joint course within the Conflict Studies and Conflict Management Program in cooperation with the Philipps Universität Marburg:

Last summer semester, a course titled “Informal Politics in Fragile States: Between Corruption and Stability” was offered under the Conflict Studies and Management Program specialization. This course was offered in collaboration with the University of Marburg (Prof. Dr. Thorsten Bonacker), and students from the Peace & Conflict Studies Master program. The course consisted of two main block sessions: the first took place at the University of Marburg while the second session was held at the Willy Brandt School of Public Policy. This unique arrangement brought together 10 to 15 students from both universities to form small case study teams. These teams worked together to understand and analyze the different aspects of informal politics and the different patterns it can take, such as clientelism, corruption, state capture, and neopatrimonialism. Case studies from five different regions—Africa, Latin America, the Western Balkans, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia—were used for the application of the concepts learned. We were also able to ask some of the participating students about their experience while attending this course.

“I liked the cooperation with the University of Marburg on the topic of informal politics. It was great to visit Marburg, get to know conflict students from a different program with a different focus, and to learn from each other. The mix of lectures, self-study, group presentations, debates, and the final research paper or policy memo made the class more interactive. Also, it allowed us to learn about the differences in informal politics, which vary from region to region.”

Julian Untiet, CSMP student, 2nd year

“Having the opportunity to meet people from another university in Germany was a unique experience. Sometimes in academic life, you get used to the debates and opinions from the people you are studying with. Therefore, having classes with new people opens your mind to new ideas and perspectives about crucial topics for post-conflict countries such as informal politics.”

Laura Barrios, CSMP student, 2nd year

“This course offered new insights into how to best define what informal politics are and how they differ from one society to another. One of the most interesting parts of the course was the opportunity to discuss these ideas with the students from Marburg.”

David Adejobi, CSMP student, 2nd year

“This was one of the most interesting courses offered in the last semester at the Willy Brandt School. This is not only because it was organized in two beautiful cities, Marburg and Erfurt, although that was a unique part of it. We had the opportunity to meet the students and professor of Conflict Studies at Marburg University, and work in a diverse group, which was both a challenge and a great learning experience. It was also fun, of course! After the completion of my policy paper for this course, I feel that I have developed the necessary skills to clearly see how each of these “informal institutions” influence decision making in public institutions, as well as how they allocate power and resources and affect the lives of people in most regions of the world.”

Rahmatullah Batoor, CSMP student, 2nd Year

Follow Shaheera Syed:

Shaheera Syed is a second year Master’s student of Public Policy majoring in conflict studies at the Willy Brandt School. She has completed her Bachelors in Public Administration from National University of Science and Technology, Pakistan and has worked for a number of organizations, ranging from World Wide Fund for Nature to the United Nations. She has also written for various newspapers in her home country and plans to use her experience here, since she loves writing almost as much as she loves talking about politics.