alexa Center for International and Comparative Studies Zürich

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Center for International and Comparative Studies Zürich

The Center for Comparative and International Studies (CIS) stands for innovation and excellence in research and teaching in the fields of International Relations and Comparative Politics. Launched in 1997 as a joint initiative between the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich and the University of Zurich, CIS brings together scholars from the fields of Democracy, Markets and Politics, Political Violence and Sustainable Development, a fusion which renders it one of the leading political science research centers in Europe.

The Center offers a series of inter-disciplinary graduate and postgraduate programs, as well as a number of undergraduate courses, enabling students the opportunity to engage in the full breadth of CIS research.

CIS regularly hosts workshops, colloquia and conferences that bring together political science scholars from around the world.

In January 1997, two International Relations professors (Juerg Martin Gabriel and Thomas Bernauer, respectively), a professor for Security Politics and Conflict Research (Kurt R. Spillmann), and a professor for Political Studies (Dieter Ruloff) together founded the Center for Comparative and International Studies (CIS) as we know it today. As a result of their efforts, the Center today claims approximately 20 faculty members and roughly 150 PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and other scientific and administrative staff from the ETH Zurich’s Department of Social Sciences and Humanities, and the University of Zurich’s Department of Political Science.

Research

Their research concentrates on five broad themes, namely: Democracy, Markets and Politics, Political Violence, Sustainable Development and Security Studies. See below for more information.

1) Democracy Research

In many well-established democracies, democratic governance is experiencing a malaise - as illustrated by the rise of populist parties and extra-parliamentary movements that vocally criticize political elites. We study why this is so, and ways in which this may be overcome. Democratic institutions are furthermore being “exported” to areas of the world where they hold no weight, traditionally. We are interested in these processes of democratization and the difficulties involved in promoting and consolidating such governance structures under conditions of conflict and instability.

2) Political Violence Research

Despite the declining global trend in political violence, civil and ethnic conflicts remain a serious problem especially in poorer regions of the world, claiming victims on a scale that often surpasses even the worst natural disasters.

We conduct this research in close connection with the other research themes at CIS. These links are evident in our research questions:

• Does democracy and democratization trigger war or do they help to stabilize political systems?

• Have political economy approaches to political violence overlooked the role of inequality or grievances?

• Does economic and political inequality among ethnic groups trigger conflict?

• Does economic and political equality guarantee peace?

• To what extent is underdevelopment responsible for the outbreak of armed conflict, and does it in itself worsen economic performance?

3) Sustainable Development Research

Socio-economic and environmental sustainability of development processes are key concerns in various policy areas such as development cooperation or international climate policy. These concerns arise at the local as well as at the global level, and require analysis of both the individual, national and international decision-making, as well as of the interaction of decision-making processes at the different levels.

One of the CIS projects in this context was the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS) funded 'Negotiating Climate Change' (2010-2012). The project investigated the power resources and the choice of bargaining strategies by member states in the current United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) negotiations leading to the Post-Kyoto agreement in Copenhagen. As a follow-up, a new project financed by the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) investigates how the institutionalized divide between Annex I (industrialized countries) and non-Annex I (developing countries) has shaped the path of further negotiations.

4) Security Studies

Socio-economic and environmental sustainability of development processes are key concerns in various policy areas such as development cooperation or international climate policy. These concerns arise at the local as well as at the global level, and require analysis of both the individual, national and international decision-making, as well as of the interaction of decision-making processes at the different levels.

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