Faculty Spotlight: David Marshall

Name: David Marshall 

Course: The New Conflict Prevention Paradigm

Department: International Affairs


We sat down with David Marshall to learn more about his background and course, “The New Conflict Prevention Paradigm.” David has spent over 20 years working on justice-related issues in conflict states, most recently as the head of the UN human rights office’s efforts monitoring the ISIL trials in Iraq. He has led UN policy tools on transitional justice and rule of law. His field work also includes heading the UN investigation into atrocity crimes in South Sudan. He is a graduate of Leeds University and Harvard Law School. He is currently a Visiting Fellow at the Schell Center for Human Rights at Yale Law School. He is the author/editor of The Rule of Law Movement – A Crisis of Legitimacy and the Way Forward, Harvard University Press, 2014. 



Q: Can you tell us a little more about yourself, your professional and educational background before you came to The New School? 

A: I’m a lawyer by background, a criminal lawyer — a human rights lawyer. I came to the UN as a criminal procedure advisor and then had the UN work on rule of law and transitional justice policies, both from the HQ perspective, crafting new policies on transitional justice. Transitional justice is an approach in which the best way to address a conflict, or the renewal of conflict, is to make sure you address the past, and past atrocities. So I worked on that in 2003, both from a policy perspective and operational perspective, so I have had a lot of field experience leading UN Human Rights investiagations on killings and sexual violence in South Sudan, and I spent last year as the head of the UN’s human rights team monitoring ISIL trials in Baghdad. I also drafted the UN’s report on mass graves. So a lot of criminal justice work, with policy and operational — and also some academic work. I published a book, with others, from the Harvard Law School, when I went to law school, on what I call “rule of law reform,” institution building around transitional justice institutions and the failers around that. Currently, I am the Justice Advisor to the government of Canada, the department of foreign policy called Global Affairs Canada. So my background is very much around justice through policy and operational work. 

Q: So would you say those are your areas of interest? 

A: I think so, I think traditionally I have been interested in injustices that lead to grievances that lead to conflict and how we can help alleviate those. So more than criminal justice, but just generally issues around justice. So they could be economic, social, cultural, they could be your classic human rights violations. So it’s sort of a broader scope than just criminal justice — and I should say, I am also at Yale, I’m a visiting fellow with the law school at Yale, working on these issues as well. 

Q: David, you are teaching a new course here at The New School IA Department, The New Conflict Prevention Paradigm, can you talk to us about the course, its focus and goals? 

A: It’s a new course, Conflict Prevention Paradigm, and what we mean by new is that we’ve had a new report from the UN on conflict prevention, which has been an ongoing challenge for the UN and its member states. The evidence about preventing conflict is pretty slim, and there are all sorts of reasons behind that. There was a decision by the Secretary General, SG Guterres, to launch a new approach to conflict prevention, and the outcome was a groundbreaking document called “Pathways to Peace,” that is an evidence based approach to examining some of the deeper linkages between peacebuilding, development, and human rights. It is more comprehensive, greater coherence, to this work around conflict prevention, with greater chances of preventing and ending conflict. In the past conflict prevention has been about diplomacy, human rights monitoring, good offices at the Secretary General, maybe state and institution building — but there hasn’t been a reflection about greater coordination between the development work and the developing states to transition to democracy and to have free and fair justice systems. So the course is more in line with this approach by the Secretary General, in what’s called “Pathways to Peace,” which is a joint World Bank and UN document. 

Publications & Articles: 

Iraq Brings the Islamic State to Justice, Foreign Policy, 2019.

The Rule of Law Movement – A Crisis of Legitimacy and the Way Forward, Harvard University Press, 2014.