Ph.D. On Campus

Contesting national sovereignty. Transnational civil society activism and EU external action against deforestation

GEM Stones

36 months
Tuition fee
Apply date
Start date


The Contesting national sovereignty. Transnational civil society activism and EU external action against deforestation program from GEM Stones will focus on contested governance practices championed by the EU. This IRP will analyse the EU's role in, and response to, transnational campaigns centring on global governance challenges where national sovereignty is a key issue.


Key Features

The Contesting national sovereignty. Transnational civil society activism and EU external action against deforestation program from GEM Stones will focus on environmental governance and in particular deforestation. The IRP will analyze the policy-making process in Brussels on this issue, including the potential influence of civil society organizations, as well as the interactions with stakeholders in producer countries. It will unpack the impact of the policy contested instruments available to the EU to advance its goals in its own external action. The empirical case study associated with this IRP is EU external action efforts in the fight against deforestation.

Fighting deforestation has quickly risen towards the top of the EU's external action agenda. Not only is deforestation a major source of environmental degradation and greenhouse gas emissions, but it also contributes in many countries to rampant illegality and violations of indigenous community rights. Yet multilateral institutions for forest governance such as the UN Forum on Forests remain extremely weak, while global efforts to prevent deforestation, e.g. through the UNFCCC process and the Paris Agreement, are hotly contested by resurgent claims to national resource sovereignty, of which the Bolsonaro government in Brazil is a prominent example. 

Spearheaded by transnational civil society organizations and advocacy networks spanning developed and developing countries, multinational corporations and national governments, including a number of EU member states, have made high-profile voluntary commitments to fight tropical deforestation and reduce its impact on their supply chains, but with limited effects to date. In response, the European Commission has recently proposed a path-breaking new cegulation which prohibits businesses from placing agricultural products derived from deforested land on the EU market and requires them to demonstrate due diligence that they have mitigated the risks of doing so, subject to stringent penalties.

The proposed PhD project will analyze the EU's role in the transnational campaign against deforestation and the policy instruments available to the Union to advance this goal through its own external action. Key instruments to be examined include unilateral measures, such as restrictions on deforestation-related products entering the EU market and due diligence requirements for importers of agricultural forest-risk commodities. They likewise include bilateral and plurilateral measures, such as partnership and trade agreements with producer countries, as well as cooperation with other consumer countries. The research will also examine the responses of producer country governments, business, and civil society organizations to EU measures that may be perceived as challenging national sovereignty over natural resources and development strategies. 

Depending on the PhD researcher's specific interests and expertise, the project could include a comparative analysis of major regional/sectoral cases, such as palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia; cocoa in Ghana and Ivory Coast; or beef and soy in Brazil. Addressing a crucial contemporary policy challenge, this project will shed valuable light on the EU's capacities to promote its core norms and values, such as environmental sustainability, the rule of law, and fundamental rights, in an age of contested multilateralism and resurgent national sovereignty.

Programme Structure

GEM-DIAMOND’s overall research program will collectively tackle three shared knowledge gaps regarding contemporary strains on liberal democracy: 

  • Objective 1: Conceptualising the seemingly mounting dissensus surrounding liberal democracy.
  • Objective 2: Unpacking the ambiguous role different actors can play as both champions and challengers of liberal democratic norms, values and practices.
  • Objective 3: Assessing the impact of increased dissensus regarding liberal democracy on the policy instruments of the EU and its capacity to act in its internal and external policies. 

Key information


  • Full-time
    • 36 months

Start dates & application deadlines




On Campus

Academic requirements

We are not aware of any academic requirements for this programme.

English requirements

We are not aware of any English requirements for this programme.

Other requirements

General requirements

As part of their application, candidates will be asked to submit a personal interpretation of the research project in the form a specific project proposal of 2-3 pages, including a research question, a theoretical framework, a methodological strategy, and a justification for the suggested empirical choices.

Candidates must apply through the GEM-DIAMOND online application system,which will request the following information:
  • A personal profile form (incl. CV overview)
  • A scientific profile form (incl. ESR’s expression of interest, statement of motivation and personal interpretation of the research project)
  • A full academic CV
  • An academic record with scan of the degree qualifications
  • A proof of language proficiency
  • Two academic recommendation letters

Tuition Fee

To alway see correct tuition fees
  • International

    Tuition Fee
    Based on the tuition of 0 EUR per year during 36 months.
  • EU/EEA

    Tuition Fee
    Based on the tuition of 0 EUR per year during 36 months.

4000€ Gross per month (48.000€ / year). This is a gross EU contribution to the salary cost of the researcher. The net salary will result from deducting all compulsory (employer/employee) social security contributions as well as direct taxes.

Living costs for Amsterdam

1000 - 1500 EUR /month
Living costs

The living costs include the total expenses per month, covering accommodation, public transportation, utilities (electricity, internet), books and groceries.


Studyportals Tip: Students can search online for independent or external scholarships that can help fund their studies. Check the scholarships to see whether you are eligible to apply. Many scholarships are either merit-based or needs-based.

This programme is taught in different countries. Which country are you interested in?

Our partners

Contesting national sovereignty. Transnational civil society activism and EU external action against deforestation
GEM Stones


Go to your profile page to get personalised recommendations!