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Patrick Meehan


Personal profile


I joined HCRI in January 2024 as a Lecturer in Peace and Conflict Studies. Prior to this, I held positions in the Department of Development Studies at SOAS University of London where I completed my Ph.D. and two post-doctoral research fellowships, and in the School of Cross-Faculty Studies at the University of Warwick.

The core focus of my research is to understand the drivers of armed conflict, the relationship between violence and development, and the dynamics of conflict resolution and peacebuilding. My work integrates theory, policy and practice with the aim of better understanding how to support communities living in conflict-affected environments, how to stabilise large-scale armed conflicts, and how to strengthen long-term peacebuilding and reconciliation. Cutting across these themes is a focus on the distributive impacts of conflict, and peacebuilding, spatially and in relation to gender, youth, class, race, and ethnicity.


My research combines history, political economy, geography and anthropology to examine various global challenges, including armed conflict and political violence; resource politics and environmental crisis; illicit economies; rural poverty and agrarian change; and processes of uneven and exclusionary development.

My work focuses particularly on Myanmar and the borderland and frontier regions of Southeast Asia, where I have conducted extensive fieldwork for more than a decade and have established strong research and policy networks. My work is inspired by critical development theory and is rooted in a deep historical, cultural and empirical understanding of the regions where I work and is underpinned by close partnerships with research organisations and civil society organisations.

I have also worked with the UK Government, The Asia Foundation, and the United Nations Research Institute for Social Development on issues related to armed conflict, peacebuilding, environmental protection, and illicit economies.


Research interests

Over the past decade, my research has focused on how illicit drug economies have become embedded in the ways that states, markets and societies function. I have published widely on the drug trade in Myanmar, using this as a lens to develop broader theoretical and empirical insights into processes of state formation and capitalist development, and the violence that surrounds these processes. This includes a keen interest in how drug use becomes embedded in practices of everyday life and pathways into drug harms, especially amongst youth.

My research also explores the dynamics of resource frontiers and the tensions and trade-offs facing efforts to address climate change. I am currently leading a research project that is analysing the social, environmental, and economic impacts of rare earth mining in the Myanmar-China borderlands, and works with local civil society organisations to explore ways to mitigate the harms caused by current mining practices. Myanmar is now one of the world’s largest sources of heavy rare earth elements, which are essential components in many clean energy technologies such as electric cars and wind turbines that are central to a net-zero transition. However, unregulated extraction of these critical minerals is taking place in conflict-affected and is causing major environmental damage. My research is particularly interested in how responses to climate change are generating new drivers of uneven development in which some regions – like Myanmar’s borderlands – becoming ‘sacrifice zones for other countries to reach climate targets.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Development Studies, SOAS University of London

Award Date: 15 Mar 2016

Master in Science, Development Studies, SOAS University of London

Award Date: 1 Dec 2009

Bachelor of Arts, History, Oxford University

Award Date: 1 Jun 2007


  • development studies
  • Myanmar
  • Illicit economies
  • Violence
  • armed conflict
  • peacebuilding
  • Southeast Asia
  • drugs
  • opium/heroin
  • militia
  • borderlands
  • frontiers


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Collaborations and top research areas from the last five years

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