Dr. David Backer joined the Center for International Development and Conflict Management (CIDCM) at the University of Maryland in March 2012. In his capacity as Associate Director of CIDCM, he serves as an expert on projects in the area of conflict management policy research. He has also served as the Director of the Minor in International Development and Conflict Management since June 2012. He holds another appointment as a Research Professor in the Department of Government & Politics. Meanwhile, he periodically teaches courses as a Visiting Professor in the Department of International Relations & Political Science at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, Switzerland.
Previously, Dr. Backer was a Senior Program Officer at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) from 2010-2011. His responsibilities included overseeing lessons learned initiatives on Gender, Conflict & Peacebuilding and Peace Education, designing and supervising the Strategic Focus Project Fund, contributing to the administration of the Annual Grant Competition, and managing a portfolio of grantees engaged in conflict resolution and peacebuilding projects around the world. From 2005-2010, Dr. 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. He also spent time as a Post-Doctoral Scholar at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (2005-06) and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Notre Dame's Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies (2009-10). During the 2004-05 academic year, he was a Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at the University of Michigan.
Over the years, Dr. Backer has taught undergraduate courses in comparative politics, African politics, comparative democratization, human rights, transitional justice, and geographies of conflict and development, as well as graduate courses on designing and conducting field research and reconciliation in conflict-affected settings. In addition, he has facilitated capacity-building programs for members of civil society and trained several research managers and dozens of survey enumerators in various post-conflict settings.
His specialty is comparative analysis of the choice and impact of transitional justice measures, 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, development aid, food security and acute malnutrition. 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 and Lancet Planetary Health, 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.
Dr. Backer's research projects have been awarded external 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 research program at Princeton University, the USAID-funded Election Forensics 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.
Dr. 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.
Center for International Development and Conflict Management
dbacker [at] umd.edu