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David Backer

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David Backer is currently research director of the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) and a research professor in the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. Previously, he held positions as a research professor in the Department of Government & Politics, associate director of the Center for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM), and director of the Minor in International Development and Conflict Management (MIDCM), after originally joining the University of Maryland in 2012. Before then, Backer served as a senior program officer at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). From 2005-2010, Backer was an assistant professor in the Department of Government and a member of the African Studies and International Relations faculty at the College of William & Mary.
His research focuses primarily on issues of human security and development. A particular specialty is comparative analysis of the choice and impact of transitional justice easures, reflected in studies of the responses of victims of conflict in Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, as Director of the West Africa Transitional Justice Project, and separately in South Africa and Kenya. Other notable work examines topics such as political violence, ethnic conflict, elites in closed regimes, nongovernmental organizations in authoritarian settings, elections and party systems, foreign aid, and food security. He was the lead editor and contributed chapters to the books Peace and Conflict 2014, Peace and Conflict 2017, and Peace and Conflict 2018. He has also authored articles and book reviews in the Journal of Conflict Resolution, Comparative Political Studies, the International Journal of Transitional Justice, International Politics, Democratization, the Taiwan Journal of Democracy, Global Studies Review, Complexity, Global Food Security, Food Security, Lancet Planetary Health, Spatial Demography, and Data in Brief, chapters in multiple edited volumes and conference proceedings, and working papers released by the Santa Fe Institute, the Carter Center, the Afrobarometer Project, and the Oxford Transitional Justice Research Network. In addition, he is a founding Co-Director of the Constituency-Level Elections Archive (CLEA) and an original member (since 2006) of the Board of Editors of the International Journal of Transitional Justice.
Backer’s research projects have been awarded grant and contract funding from USIP, the US National Science Foundation, the US Department of Defense, the US Agency for International Development, the UK Foreign, Development &Commonwealth Office, the Taiwan Foundation for Democracy, and the American Political Science Association. The projects involved partnerships with firms and organizations in the US and abroad, including ARD, TetraTech, MSI, the Center for Democracy and Development (Ghana), the Center for Democracy and Empowerment (Liberia), the Sierra Leone Court Monitoring Program, Development Gateway, and Action Against Hunger. He has also served as a Research Associate of the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation and a consultant to the Innovations for Successful Societies initiative at Princeton University, the Election Forensics project and the Subnational Geospatial Data (SUNGEO) project at the University of Michigan, the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Response to Terrorism at the University of Maryland, and the Liberia Social Cohesion and Reconciliation (SCORE) project conducted by Seeds of Peace (Cyprus) and Search for Common Ground.
Backer received an MA and PhD in Political Science at the University of Michigan, supported by a Jacob K. Javits Fellowship. Prior to graduate school, he was a Fulbright Scholar in the Department of Political Studies at the University of Cape Town. He also received a BA summa cum laude, majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies (Social Change & the Political Economy) and Economics, from Amherst College.

Areas of Interest
  • Transitional justice; Human security and development; Food security; Conflict processes; Predictive analytics
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