The CIS is one of the leading political science research centers in Europe. Most research at the CIS concentrates on four broad themes: democracy, political violence, markets and politics, and sustainable development.
In the Western world, and increasingly beyond it, political legitimacy depends on democratic governance. At the same time, democracy is experiencing new challenges:
Contemporary border-transgressing processes undermine the traditional form of representative democracy associated with the nation-state. International and supranational organizations, among them the European Union, pose new challenges in this regard. We explore whether democratic institutions are able to adapt to settings beyond the nation-state.
In many well-established democracies, democratic governance is experiencing a malaise - as illustrated by the rise of populist parties and extra-parliamentary movements that vocally criticize political elites. We study why this is so and what could be done about it.
Democratic institutions are being “exported” to areas of the world where they have no local tradition. We are interested in these processes of democratization and the difficulties involved in promoting and consolidating such governance structures under conditions of conflict and instability.
The CIS acts as leading house for a large, multidisciplinary research program, the National Center of Competence in Research “Challenges to Democracy in the 21st Century” (NCCR Democracy). This research program includes many political scientists and media- and communications specialists, and examines the impact of globalization, supranationalization and European integration on the capacity and legitimacy of the nation-state. It also investigates how the media’s influence on politics and on the shape of public discourse has grown and developed. >>
Despite the declining global trend in political violence, civil and ethnic conflicts remain a serious problem especially in poorer regions of the world, claiming victims on a scale that often surpasses even the worst natural disasters. In an increasingly interconnected world, developed countries can no longer afford to ignore these sources of instability.
Challenges that stem from problems of persistent underdevelopment and chronic violence in the developing world, including international terrorism, fundamentalism, pressure due to increasing migration and environmental degradation can not be effectively analyzed within a traditional security framework, because neither the problems nor the solutions are confined to the nation-state. We explore ways to expand the notion of security with regard to these new types of threats.
Furthermore, we analyze multilateral and supranational efforts to provide security, including new structures within the European Union, as well as new peace-building instruments, including the innovative deployment of armed forces.
all markets are embedded in social institutions. Hence they also interact with
political structures and processes. The world-wide trend since the 1990s
towards domestic and international market liberalization has been accompanied
by a parallel trend towards more government regulation and public-private
partnerships. Moreover, many public policies are increasingly relying on market
mechanisms and instruments. We study interactions between markets and politics
in areas such as trade, finance, environment, network industries, taxation, social
policies, and education. We are particularly interested in the following
Governments intervene in markets and regulate identical or similar problems (e.g., biotechnology, intellectual property rights, air pollution) in different ways. We study the causes of cross-national differences in regulatory policy and their effects on international trade, investment and technological innovation.
When, why and how do specific public policies or government practices spread within and between countries? That is, we study processes of policy diffusion, for instance with respect to market liberalization in the utilities sector, banking regulation, social policies, and environmental protection.
Processes of market liberalization and market integration (globalization) affect many areas of policy making. We study the effects of globalization on redistributional (welfare state) policies and on public goods provision in areas such as environmental protection, education, and monetary policy.
Socio-economic and environmental sustainability of development processes are key concerns in various policy areas such as development cooperation or international climate policy. These concerns arise at the local as well as at the global level and require analysis of individual, national and international decision making, and of the interaction of decision-making processes at the different levels. In this context, we examine the following questions:
How do developing countries design and implement policies and institutions to promote economic development and poverty reduction?
How do developing countries benefit from international cooperation in areas such as climate policy, water management and poverty reduction?
How can such benefits be measured, and how can they be supported by national and international institutional arrangements?
Which interests and/or behavioral characteristics shape the individual decision-making process? How are these interests or behavioral characteristics related to the policies determined at the national and international levels?
One of the CIS projects in this contex is the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS) funded 'Negotiating Climate Change'. The project investigates the power resources and the choice of bargaining strategies by member states in the current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations leading to the Post-Kyoto agreement in Copenhagen. >>
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