Ukraine Recovery Conference - The role of academia

Institutional Communication Service

The International Ukraine Recovery Conference will be held in Lugano in early July. Global players will sit at the same table to work out a new kind of Marshall Plan to chart a path for reconstruction through a comprehensive political and diplomatic process. In the run-up to the conference and in light of the Ukraine situation, we wish to approach several angles, including the role of academia. We bring you an interview with Jean-Patrick Villeneuve, Associate Professor of Public Administration and Management at Università della Svizzera italiana (USI), Director of the Institute of Communication and Public Policy (ICPP), Head of GRIP (Public Integrity Research Group), and Co-Director of the Master's programme in Public Management and Policy (offered in collaboration with the Universities of Lausanne and Bern). His research focuses on transparency, anti-corruption, and accountability with attention to the limitations, challenges and impacts related to the implementation of these governance initiatives.


Professor Jean-Patrick Villeneuve, what is the role of academia in the light of a situation like that of Ukraine? 

There are multiple roles. First and foremost, each academic discipline has to apply its analytical grids, theories, and methodologies to try to make sense of the situation. In the case of the Institute of Communication and Public Policy, it means notably using Public administration, political science, international relations and intercultural communication as angles of analysis for understanding the present but also trying to envisage and prepare for the future. 

A second and equally important element today is to support Ukraine researchers. Through the Scholar at Risk Programme and USI’s International Relation office support, the Institute has welcomed two Ukrainian scholars. They will be able to continue their research from their temporary homes at USI. 

As a result, we also push forward with research projects and initiatives addressing the situation, exploring and preparing for a path forward, precisely in the same spirit as the Ukraine Recovery Conference (URC2022). 


What does the public administration have to say about the situation? 

Public administration is a relatively ‘hands-on’ discipline with a strong link to institutions. It analyses the development, deployment and impact of public policies and the management of public institutions. Therefore, we are not analysing the “whys” of the current situation, nor the strategies to achieve lasting peace, but rather the conditions in which Ukraine can get back on its feet and keep moving forward. 

Our specific focus, in line with ongoing research projects, has two distinct dynamics: 

With the assistance of a new scholar, Dr Demyan Belyaev, we will extend our analyses of corruption dynamics to the Ukrainian context. We believe this will be an essential aspect to consider for an effective, impactful and politically supported reconstruction process. This is essential for Ukraine. A better governance framework will also be a mandatory condition imposed by funders worldwide. This will be an extension of ongoing projects funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), and others such as Transparency International (TI).

Similarly, and in line with a Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS)funded project, we shall address the stakeholder participation in the various processes, notably those linked to reconstruction. Who should have a voice, and how should these voices be heard. 

Before the war, Ukraine was facing difficult realities in terms of governance. But it has been a member of the Open Government Partnership since 2011. So, there is a desire and a willingness to move forward on these issues. We need to make sure the dynamic is not lost through the current challenges and contribute, as academics, to provide solutions and to identify pitfalls. 


What has happened so far? 

In the past few months, we organised a conference, with the participation of ASIS Svizzera Italiana and START InSight. “From Washington to the war in Ukraine, the dimension of disinformation”. It was an opportunity to discuss disinformation, cybersecurity, new horizons of radicalisation and extremism. All themes directly address the current situation in Ukraine and are linked to other USI initiatives such as the MEM or PEN conference cycles. 

In the past year, Afghanistan, another troubling situation, has also been at the heart of the activities of the Institute – notably through the arrival of another Scholar at Risk, Parwiz Mosamim analysing the status of women in Afghan administrations.   


What would you ask? 

That the ‘after’ starts being planned right now. The Lugano conference is a meaningful step in this direction. That a diversity of voices be heard during the reconstruction. That the full capacity of Ukrainians, inside and outside the country, be mobilised. That science, research, know-how, and not just politics and power-relations be part of the equation. For now? For now, this means better funding for mechanisms such as Scholars at Risk. It means defining and launching new research mechanisms addressing the myriad of challenges that lay ahead. If we want to be ready, the work needs to start now!


For more information and interviews contact [email protected], +41 58 666 47 92