Analysis That Matters

An audio Q&A with political scientist Brendan O'Leary on his service as United Nations advisor.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

By Peter Nichols and Christopher Abreu

In September, Lauder Professor of Political Science Brendan O'Leary returned to campus from a year's leave, during which he served as Senior Advisor on Power-Sharing for the Mediation Support Unit in the United Nations Department of Political Affairs. He was part of the Standby Team, which could be dispatched on 72 hours notice to trouble spots around the world.

The director of the Penn Program in Ethnic Conflict, O'Leary has long combined his academic career with political advising. His expertise in national and ethnic conflict and power-sharing were sought during the peace process that ended the conflict in Northern Ireland, and he has been a national constitutional advisor to the Kurdistan Regional Government in Iraq. O'Leary calls his advisory work "analysis that matters" because it allows him to apply his expertise to resolving very difficult, often life-or-death, situations.

In this audio Q&A O'Leary talks about what it was like to be on standby for the U.N.'s worldwide conflict-mediation efforts.

What is the United Nations Mediation Support Standby Team? 

Describe your activities in Sudan and with the Darfur peace process. 

You’ve worked a lot with Islamic people and cultures this past year. What have you learned that might help American diplomats involved in mediating conflicts in the Muslim world? 

What is the role of independent academic expertise in mediating conflict? in the Muslim world?