©2018 by Maria J. Debre. Pictures by Unsplash. Proudly created with Wix.com

Maria Josepha Debre


About Me 

Authoritarianism, Comparative Regionalism, International Organizations, Gender Politics, Middle East

I am currently a post-doctoral researcher at Maastricht University in the ERC project "Who get's to live forever? Toward an Institutional Theory on the Decline and Death of International Organisations." 

I received my Ph.D from the Free University Berlin in International Relations in 2018, where I was funded by the Research College (KFG) "The Transformative Power of Europe." 

Prior to returning to Berlin, I was a Fox International Fellow at the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale University for the academic year 2017/2019. 

You can download my full CV here



My research is situated at the intersection of international relations and comparative politics. I am interested in the domestic impact of regional cooperation between authoritarian regimes, in international aspects of gender inequality, as well as the drivers and consequences of institutional design of International Organizations. My research draws on a combination of quantitative research and  case-based analysis with a special focus on the Middle East.


My dissertation explores when and how regional organizations can be exploited by authoritarian regimes to ensure their survival. I argue that regional organiztions can empower autocratic incumbents to prevent democratic regime change by strengthening domestic survival strategies with unconditional diplomatic support, strategic information, and security resources. My argument is supported by a nested research design, combining both statistical analysis and in-depth case studies.


The first project investigates to what extent and how regional organizations, agreements, and treaties address and regulate gender equality, and what effects these regulations have on domestic gender policies, particularly in the realm of female political representation in member states. 

The second project explores the consequences of democratic backsliding for international security by examining if increased cooperation between authoritarian regimes has led to the establishment of illiberal regional orders. 


Causes and Consequences of Online  Data Availability for Research on International Organizations (with Sebastian Knecht) 

Consequences of Regime Type for Design of Regional Organizations (with Yoram Haftel) 




Peer-Reviewed Publications

Die „digitale IO“: Chancen und Risiken von Online-Daten für die Forschung zu Internationalen Organisationen. [The “digital IO“: Chances and Risks of Online Data for Research on International Relations.] ZIB Zeitschrift für Internationale Beziehungen, 25(1) (2018) (with Sebastian Knecht).

Out of the Shadows: Authoritarian Regimes, Flawed Elections and International Legitimation, Contemporary Politics, 23(3) (2017), 328-247 (with Lee Morgenbesser).

Public Affairs Commentary

How Global Efforts to Promote Regional Organizations Can Strengthen Authoritarian Regimes. Scholars Strategy Network, (June 4, 2018). 

Fatma gegen Goliath. Frauen erlangen das Wahlrecht in Saudi-Arabien. [Fatma vs Goliath. Women gain the Right to Vote in Saudi Arabia.] Mediterranes 1/2016, 40-41.

Der Club der Monarchien – Saudi-Arabiens Kampf um den Erhalt der sunnitisch-royalen Vormachtstellung im Nahen Osten. [The Club of Monarchies. Saudi Arabia’s Fight for Sunni-Royal Hegemony in the Middle East] Alsharq Blog, (Aug. 22, 2015).

Omans ungewisse Zukunft – dem Sultanat droht eine Nachfolgekrise. [Oman’s Uncertain Future - Is the Sultanate Threatened by a Succession Crisis?] Alsharq Blog, (Nov. 11, 2014).

Work in Progress

Explaining Changing Regional Sanction Politics of the Arab League. Special Issue, Guest Editors: Stefano Palestini (Catholic University Chile), Elin Hellquist (Stockholm University) 

Regional Organizations and Autocratic Survival. Paper accepted for the 2018 Annual APSA Meeting (Boston) and the 2018 ECPR General Conference (Hamburg) 

Talking the Talk of Regionalism: International Legitimation via Regional Organizations. Paper accepted for the 2018 DVPW Congress, Goethe Universität Frankfurt a.M. 

Overview of Courses

The EU as a Foreign Policy Actor in the Middle East

Lecturer, Free University Berlin

Summer Semester 2016

This undergraduate seminar explores the strategies and interests of the EU and its major member states in the Middle East and Northern Africa region (MENA). Based on different theoretical approaches to foreign policy analysis, the seminar addresses political, economic, cultural and security aspects of EU Mediterranean relations, and in particularly changes since the Arab Spring Uprisings in 2011.

Introduction to Research Design in the Social Sciences 

Lecturer, Free University Berlin 

Winter Semester 2016/17

This graduate seminar offers an introduction to research design in the social sciences. It covers all major aspects, from finding a topic and defining a research question, to literature review, theory development as well as a short introduction to different quantitative and qualitative methods for data gathering and analysis. The course also includes a practical component where students have to develop, present, and feedback a research design at the end of the course.

Sex, Markets, and Power 

Teaching Assistant, Yale University 

Spring Term, 2018

The courses explores variations in gender (in)equality across time and regions, addressing how biology, markets, and politics influence socio-economic status and political power of women. 
As a teaching assistant, I taught two sections of 20 students per week to review literature and lead discussions on the major debates covered in lecture. My duties also included grading of mid-term and final exams, as well as advising and grading of final papers.


Get in Touch

Berlin, Germany

+49 (0) 176 32272045