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Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law

The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law
Established 2007
Director Robert M. Chesney
Location Austin, Texas, United States
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The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law is a nonpartisan, multidisciplinary global affairs research center at The University of Texas at Austin. The Center is named for renowned lawyer and public servant Ambassador Robert S. Strauss.

Purpose and Activities

In addition to recruiting top scholars and practitioners of global affairs to The University of Texas, The Strauss Center also convenes meetings, conferences, lectures, and other events that bring government officials, national opinion leaders, global figures, and prominent thinkers to campus to debate and discuss major global issues. In conducting these activities, The Center strives to:

  • Engage the world beyond the university: The Strauss Center bridges the gap between UT and the world outside by engaging policymakers, business and civic leaders and journalists. Creating new networks inspires innovative thinking about global affairs.
  • Conduct multidisciplinary research: Today’s global challenges are multi-dimensional. They cannot be solved by one discipline alone. The Center brings together scholars from across the campus to tackle the most difficult global issues.
  • Prepare the next generation of leaders: Throughout his career, Ambassador Strauss has championed new and varied voices. The Strauss Center continues this tradition of mentorship by supporting the work of promising undergraduate and graduate students.
  • Promote civil, responsible discussion: In advising presidents of both parties, Ambassador Strauss embodied the value that guides the Center’s efforts: civility. The Strauss Center is nonpartisan and encourages the free and open exchange of ideas.

The Center actively disseminates its work to policymakers, journalists, scholars, students, and other interested citizens in the United States and abroad. It does so in the books, articles, and op-eds written by its fellows; through public events and television, radio, and newspaper interviews; and with written, visual, and audio presentations on the Strauss Center website.


The Strauss Center’s program on Climate Change and African Political Stability (CCAPS) seeks to better understand the relationship between the growing threat of climate change and the ability of African countries to manage complex emergencies, including humanitarian disasters and violent conflict. A collaborative research program among four institutions and led by The University of Texas, the CCAPS program aims to provide practical guidance for U.S. policymakers, enrich the current body of scholarly literature, and nurture a future generation of scholars and practitioners.

CCAPS is funded by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Minerva Initiative, a university-based, social science research program focused on areas of strategic importance to national security policy. Through quantitative analysis, GIS mapping, case studies and field interviews, the program will identify whether climate change could trigger disasters that undermine state stability, define strategies for building African state capacity, and assess global development aid responses. The CCAPS team seeks to engage Africa policy communities in the United States, Africa, and elsewhere as a critical part of its research.

The CCAPS Program:

  • Investigates where and how climate change poses threats to stability in Africa. The program examines the spatial and temporal relationship between climate change vulnerability and patterns of conflict, thereby specifying where, when and how climate-related events disrupt Africa’s security and development. The program is producing new datasets mapping climate change vulnerability and cataloguing political and social disorder in Africa.
  • Identifies strategies needed to reinforce or rebuild accountable and effective governance in Africa, with a particular focus on constitutional order and post-conflict reconstruction.The aim is to assess what strategies have enabled governments to mitigate the effects of climate change and other stresses on political stability. The program is conducting case studies on constitutional design and conflict management, assessing governance structures, and evaluating institutional capacity for complex emergencies in Africa.
  • Evaluates the capacity and effectiveness of international development aid to help African societies adapt to climate change. If effectively coordinated and implemented, aid for climate change adaptation should contribute to crisis prevention and mitigation and reduce the need for global assistance. The program’s work is thus building a dataset to track adaptation aid, analyze aid distribution, and assess effectiveness of adaptation projects.

Specific Research Areas

The Strauss Center’s research covers the full range of issues affecting global affairs, with key focus areas leveraging The University of Texas’s specific research strengths:

  • America’s Role in the World: America faces tough challenges overseas. China, India and Brazil are emerging as new power centers. Peace in the Middle East remains elusive. Russia is resurgent. Global trade both helps and hurts American workers. Transnational problems such as nuclear proliferation, climate change and infectious disease raise questions about the effectiveness of America’s tradition of acting unilaterally. The United States needs to find new ways to succeed in a shifting global environment.
  • Technology, Innovation, and Global Security: The United States has been both a creator and beneficiary of the technology revolution. America’s economic competitiveness and national security depend on remaining a vibrant leader on the cutting edge of technology and innovation. But in the current international environment, America faces increasing challenges to its technology leadership. Finding ways to sustain innovation, apply technology to solve global economic and security problems and avoid the dangers of misuse and abuse of scientific advances are among the most pressing issues of our day.
  • Energy and the Environment: Abundant energy is both essential to sustaining global prosperity and a potential source of its undoing. The global economy has been built on relatively low-cost energy supplies. But as energy costs soar, economic growth is stymied and potential conflict looms. At the same time, the world’s reliance on fossil fuels is changing Earth’s climate and threatening to devastate the global ecosystem. These developments could shake the foundations of modern society and fundamentally alter the geopolitical landscape.
  • Global Governance: Globalization is profoundly altering the lives of people around the globe—for better and for worse. The increased flow of goods, services, capital and ideas across borders stimulates economic activity and enhances prosperity. But is also threatens age old cultural practices and economic interests, breeds resentment between the poor and the rich, triggers disputes over rules, rights and responsibilities and provides new opportunities for criminals and terrorists. Managing the disputes that globalization generates and mitigating the dangers it unleashes is one of the great challenges of the 21st century.

Recent Research

  • History and Policy: Strauss Center Director of Studies Frank Gavin addresses examples of how and when historical scholarship can be a benefit to creating policy, despite a generally poor relationship between historical scholars and policymakers. The article appears in the Winter 2007-08 issue of International Journal.
  • The Thirsty Dragon and the Wealthy Bear: How China, Russia and high oil prices threaten to erode U.S. foreign influence: Russia and China are once again reluctant to side with the United States and support another sanctions resolution against Iran and its nuclear enrichment and reprocessing activities. Challenges to important U.S. foreign policy strategies like Iranian containment sharply illustrate how high energy prices are helping to foster new global power dynamics that compromise and complicate America's foreign policy and challenge U.S. leadership and influence.
  • Climate Change and National Security: An Agenda for Action: Climate change presents a serious threat to the security and prosperity of the U.S. and other countries. Effects of climate change can overwhelm disaster-response capabilities, as evidenced by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Recognizing that some degree of climate change is inevitable, Strauss Fellow Josh Busby moves beyond diagnosis of the threat to propose a portfolio of feasible and affordable recommendations for action.

Strauss Center Events

The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law hosts a variety of events on pressing issues facing the United States and the rest of the world. These events bring together scholars, students, and practitioners to share expertise and debate ideas. The Strauss Center encourages free and open exchange of ideas and welcomes speakers representing a wide array of views to discuss global issues.

2013 Events


  • Francis J. Gavin, Director
  • Celeste Ward Gventer, Associate Director
  • Catherine Weaver, Associate Professor of Public Affairs
  • Jeremi Suri, The Mack Brown Distinguished Chair for Leadership in Global Affairs
  • William Inboden, Assistant Professor of Public Affairs
  • Kenneth Flamm, Director of Technology, Innovation and Global Security Program
  • Robert M. Chesney, Charles I. Francis Professor of Law

External links