Richard Illingworth | School of Politics and International Studies | University of Leeds

Richard Illingworth

Please tell us a bit about yourself and your background (including previous study)

I hold a BA (first-class) in War and Security Studies from the University of Hull and an MA (distinction) in International Relations from the University of Leeds. I am currently in receipt of funding for my PhD at the University of Leeds through the Leeds Doctoral Scholarship programme. The project is supervised by Dr Adrian Gallagher and Professor Garrett Brown.

What motivated you to undertake a PhD and why did you choose the University of Leeds?

A thirst for knowledge, a passion for my topic and the enjoyment research gives are the reasons I continued into PhD study. The University of Leeds is home to the European Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, which brings together a number of leading scholars in the field, making it the prime choice of university for me.

Please tell us about your research topic and what makes you passionate about this area of study.

My research is concerned with halting mass atrocities, with a specific focus on the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) doctrine. The R2P was near-unanimously adopted by the international community in 2005 at the UN World Summit. Through both prevention and response, the R2P aims to protect populations against four mass atrocity crimes of: genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. Yet despite this, as has recently been highlighted by the World Bank’s report ‘Pathways for Peace’ (2018), mass violence has in-fact dramatically increased since R2P’s inception in 2005. This highlights that the R2P is failing, for it has not successfully led to the curbing of mass violence.

My PhD project seeks to address this problem by focusing on reforming the R2P through the perspective of Cosmopolitan Theory. This involves an exploration of both reform of the R2P framework itself, in addition to wider reform measures at the international level. Such reforms are aimed at furthering R2P’s practical implementation through a cosmopolitan lens, focused on the provision of duties, justice, and human protection.

The R2P is concerned with stopping those crimes which are most morally abhorrent. It should therefore be of deep concern to everyone that the international community often fails to live up to its R2P. As well as being an academic curiosity, the goal of improving the R2P and the protection of vulnerable peoples against mass atrocities is worthy moral goal and the greatest motivation for my research

How would you describe the research environment and community in the school and in the university generally? Are you involved in research centres and/or do you work with other academics and postgraduate researchers whether inside the school or across the university?

Leeds has a strong research and community environment. As part of the ECR2P I work alongside leading academics in the field. The centre holds regular research-led seminars and its members are involved in conferences and events throughout the year. The School of Politics and International Studies itself also has an active research community, holding its own regular seminars and events. PhD candidates in the school now also run their own occasional seminar series which I have taken the opportunity to present in myself. Overall, there is always something going on for students to be engaged in.

What would you say about the learning, training and research facilities in the School and at the University?

For PhDs, the University offers a range of incredibly useful training courses, from IT-skills, through to teacher training, to time-management. I would highly advise any new PhD students to take advantage of these, especially in their first year of study. The University also has multiple libraries to make use of, each with multiple quiet-study rooms useful for writing. In POLIS, the PhD suite gives all PhD students their space to work and discuss research with their fellow colleagues.

What are your plans once you have completed your PhD?

My plan is to obtain a full-time academic position at a university in the UK.

What do you think of Leeds as a city?

Leeds offers everything you want from a city. Transport links are good. There are plenty of shopping and eating areas too. People will also enjoy an active night life from restaurants, pubs and clubs.

What would you say to someone considering a research degree in the School?

The School of Politics and International Studies is an excellent place to undertake a research degree. The facilities are good and the staff are great. Everything you need to be successful in your degree is provided, so what are you waiting for?