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 how authoritarian regimes cooperate and the domestic and international consequences that result from this, in drivers and consequences of institutional design of International Organizations, and current challenges to the international liberal order. My research draws on a combination of quantitative research and  case-based analysis with a special focus on the Middle East and Western China.


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.


 Within my work for the ERC project, I examine why some International Organizations decline and die while others manage to adapt and survive and what role institutional design plays in explaining resilience. 

My second project deals with international networks between autocrats and populist leaders and examines the consequences of increased illiberal cooperation for international human rights regimes. 


Authoritarian Regionalism and the International Liberal Order (with Daniëlle Flonk) 

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




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

Clubs of Autocrats: Membership in Regional Organizations and Autocratic Incumbent Survival, R&R Review of International Organizations.


The “Dark Side” of Regional Integration: How Authoritarian Regimes Exploit Regional Organizations to Boost Resilience, R&R, Democratization.

Legitimation, Regime Survival, and Shifting Alliances in the Arab League: Explaining Sanction Politics during the Arab Spring, R&R, International Political Science Review.

Institutional Design for a Post-Liberal Order: Why some International Organizations Live Longer than Others (with Hylke Dijkstra), under review (available as Working Paper at 

Talking the Talk of Regionalism: International Legitimation via Regional Organizations. Paper accepted for the 2020 ISA Annual Convention, Honolulu

Measuring Online Transparency of International Organizations (with Sebastian Knecht).

Authoritarian Regionalism and International Organizations (with Daniëlle Flonk).

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.


International Relations: Contemporary Issues and Actors

Lecturer, Maastricht University

Period 3, 2020

This undergraduate seminar serves as an introduction to the different conceptual understandings of International Relations (IR) and specifically the types of international actors and their relationships in a number of contemporary policy areas. The course covers basic theories of International Relations as well as the role of international (governmental) and international non-governmental organizations in various issue areas such as migration, security and the transformation of global order. The course employs the problem-based teaching method. 

Research Methods: Introduction to Quantitative Methods

Lecturer, Maastricht University

Period 5, 2020

This undergraduate skills course serves as an introduction to quantitative data analysis. The course covers major concepts such as the logic of causal order, levels of measurement and measures of central tendency and dispersion as well as statistical techniques, including measures of association, correlation and regression. The course enables students interpret commonly used statistics and to process data in order to produce a variety of statistical procedures. 

Regional Integration & Multi-Level Governance 

Lecturer, United Nations University Maastricht 

Spring Term, 2020

This graduate workshop explores contemporary challenges to regional integration from domestic and international actors in a globally comparative perspective. It focuses particularly on current pressures from populist parties and authoritarian leaders on regional organizations both from within the regions and from beyond by exploring integration and disintegration tendencies in Europe, Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Asia.    


Conferences & Workshops


International Studies Association (ISA) Annual Conventions – 2017-2020

ECPR Joint Sessions of Workshops – 2016, 2019


ECPR General Conference – 2016, 2019-2020

Annual Meeting of the Political Science Section of the German Association for American Studies, Heidelberg, 2019

5th Joint Nordic Conference on Development Research, Copenhagen Business School, 2019

Fox International Fellowship Conference, Yale University, 2018  

German Political Science Association (DVPW) 3-Länder Tagung, University of Heidelberg, 2016   

German Association for the Middle East (DAVO) Annual Congress, University of Bochum, 2015

German Political Science Association (DVPW) Comparative Political Science Section Conference, GIGA Hamburg, 2015   


Politicologenetmaal, Workshop “Global Order in Crisis?”, Radboud University, Nijmegen, 2020 (Co-organizer)


ERC Workshop ‘Decline and Death of International Organizations’, Brussels Campus, Maastricht University, 2020 (Co-organizer)

Maastricht-York Workshop, ‘Europe and the future of global rules and multilateralism’, Maastricht University, 2019

ISA Venture Research Workshop ‘International Organization Dissolution’, University of Zurich, 2019  

Authoritarian Politics and International Relations (APIR) Seminar, Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin (WZB), 2019 

Author’s Workshop ‘Regional Democracy Protection and Sanctions’, Stockholm University, 2019  

7th International Joint Ph.D. Workshop of the Berlin Graduate School for Transnational Studies (BTS) and the Leonard Davis Institute for International Relations at the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, 2017


Authoritarianism in a Global Age Project Meeting, University of Amsterdam, 2017


Get in Touch

Berlin, Germany

+49 (0) 176 32272045

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