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international organisations, the United Nations, the UN Secretary-General, leadership, norm entrepreneurship, gender UN and the use of force, relationship between IR and international law

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Personal profile

Research interests

The focus of Kirsten's research over the past eleven years has been questions of governance at the United Nations. Emerging from her doctoral research, which investigated the UN Secretary-General’s role in developing and defining an agenda of democracy promotion, she analysed the role of people and (specific) individuals, and leadership. This research focussed on the Secretary-General and women executive heads, and intersected questions of leadership, recruitment and representation. Subsequent research coalesced around three key areas:

Leadership and agenda development

This research in leadership engaged in the first instance with the UN Secretary-General and his role in creating and shaping new ideas and agendas. Conceptually, this research has focussed on defining norm entrepreneurship and the nature of agenda development, leading to the publication of one monograph and a peer-reviewed article in the British Journal of Politics and International Relations, regular commentary in Vereinte Nationen and engagement with the 1for7billion project. This research intersected with her research on gender, which analysed the impact of women executive heads on gender equality at the UN; a question also developed through Kirsten's membership of the Women in Leadership in Global Governance research network.

Gender and UN governance

Kirsten's research on gender sought to translate findings from organisational domains such as parliaments, governments and business to international organisations i.e. the UN, to understand the limitations and opportunities for women to assume senior roles in the UN system. While the question of gender equality, specifically in senior roles, had been an established policy at the UN since the 1970s, research engagement with its development had been sporadic and certainly not reflective of the recent and significant improvement in gender parity at the UN since 2000/2005. Investigating this empirical development, Kirsten published broadly on this issue, including a forthcoming monograph (Women’s Access, Representation and Leadership in the United Nations, Palgrave). This research also informed her work assessing UN Women at its ten year anniversary. 

Representation and the UN

Kirsten's work on individual leaders and leaders’ profiles informed this strand of work, while 2016 election of the UN Secretary-General, which explicitly called for the nomination of women candidates, connected with research on gender at the UN. Kirsten is currently developing this area of research through an increased focus on visual representation of IR and statehood.


Kirsten Haack is Associate Professor in International Politics. She is a researcher of international organisations with a focus on the United Nations, specialising in the study of people/individuals in international relations, specifically leadership in international organisations by the UN Secretary-General, women executive heads and women diplomats, and questions of representation at the UN. She is further interested in international law as practice, specifically relating to the use of force. Kirsten is currently co-leading the international WiLiGG (Women in Leadership in Global Governance) network and engaged in three projects: a history of gender equality at the UN; conceptualising women's leadership in international organisations; and visual IR, art/artefacts and representations of IR, statehood and political practice.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality

Education/Academic qualification

MEd, Open University Milton Keynes

MA, Ruhr University Bochum

MA, University of Kent

PhD, University of Kent


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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