Contesting Governance

The global challenges of Rule, Accountability, and Citizenship

What are the responses of citizens who feel unprotected, abandoned, or attacked by the state? How do people express their concerns and assert their rights in public spaces and legal institutions? How do individuals negotiate their daily needs and livelihoods when private armed actors dominate their physical and social environments, and determine their fate? What types of regulations and power structures emerge in areas where state governance is lacking or has collapsed?

Contesting Governance is a collaborative initiative among researchers from Utrecht University who are deeply invested in exploring critical and interdisciplinary themes where governance, institutions, human rights, conflict, and security intersect. Through a critical lens, we examine how power is constructed and operates within specific institutional and societal contexts.

Going beyond normative framings that picture what the rules should be and how they should be exercised, our group has the combined expertise to understand how de facto governance and de jure governance intersect, and how they strengthen and/or contest each other.


  • Global Justice Investigations Lab

    The current era of globalization and digital technology has made it easier for knowledge and information to reach unprecedented levels of dissemination. However, it has also led to the proliferation of misinformation and fake news. As a result, there is an urgent need for students to develop critical inquiry skills that can cut across various disciplines. One effective way to do this is through open-source investigation techniques. With these techniques, students can learn to identify, document, verify, analyze, and evaluate open-source materials such as news reports, social media posts, and satellite images. Read more

  • Hawija: The Destructive Realities of Our Remote War Against IS

    The town of Hawija in Iraq was destroyed by a bombing in 2015, resulting in the death of at least 85 civilians. It was only four years later that Dutch investigative journalists were able to uncover the culprit responsible for the attack: the Netherlands. Researchers Jip van Dort, Lauren Gould, and Marrit Woudwijk, all part of the Intimacies of Remote Warfare project, conducted an investigation into the bombing and have now published their findings in a new work titled “Hawija”. Read more

Meet our team:


We currently collaborate with the following societal partners that operate in different contexts:

  • Airwars
  • Amnesty International
  • Clingendael Institute
  • Dutch Ministery of Defense
  • Dutch Ministery of Foreign Affairs
  • Dutch Police/Police Academy
  • Friends of the Earth NL
  • Geneva Call
  • Human Rights Watch
  • International Justice Mission
  • Mathare Social Justice Centre
  • NJCM – Public Interest Litigation Project
  • PAX
  • Public International Law & Policy Group
  • Studium Generale
  • The Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law