James M. Flaherty Report – Research Scholar Siobhán Airey

October 30, 2017

Report of Siobhán Airey, University of Ottawa 

James M Flaherty Research Scholar 2016/2017

Home institution  

Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa


Host institution  

UCD College of Business which incorporates UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School and UCD Lochlann Quinn (Undergraduate) School of Business


Title of research  

Financing the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals – new challenges to the governance of international development finance.



This Research Scholarship has enabled the creation of a new research relationship between the UCD College of Business, Dublin, and within the University of Ottawa’s interdisciplinary Human Rights Research and Education Centre and Faculty of Law. From preparation for this research scholarship, a 3-year international post-doctoral fellowship application was prepared, and was successful in attracting funding. During the 6-week Fellowship visit, another international, interdisciplinary collaborative research proposal was prepared and submitted, creating new links between universities in Ireland, Canada, Europe, Scandinavia and South America. Each of these participating universities has created a dedicated link with a national NGO to enhance community-academy collaboration.

Thus, this Scholarship has had immediate, medium and longer-term scholarly and public policy outcomes which will prove of lasting benefit to researchers and to UCD and the University of Ottawa, and to wider scholarly and public policy researchers in the field of international development finance.

Details of the research visit

This visit took place from Friday 24th March until Friday 25th May, 2017 The purpose of the visit was to undertake research on the response of Irish Aid and Irish public policy on ODA (Official Development Policy or development aid) to an international change in donor ODA policy being promoted by key international development institutions such as the World Bank and the OECD’s Development Assistance Committee. Due to a number of developments in the period between being awarded the scholarship and my arrival, the schedule for the visit was adapted to accommodate other research-focused activities. These included –

  • The development of an international, inter-disciplinary collaborative research proposal between researchers in the Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa; the UCD College of Business incorporating UCD’s Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School and UCD’s Lochlann Quinn (Undergraduate) School of Business; TMI Asser Institute in Amsterdam, the Netherlands; University of San Paola, Brazil, and the Faculty of Law, University of Torku, Finland. Prepared with and submitted by me, Dr. Julie Byrne and Dr. Maeve Houlihan of UCD’s College of Business, this 3-year project focuses on the international governance of sustainable investment. Titled “Transformations to International Sustainable Investment (ISI) – Reframing and Refocusing the Governance Challenge”, the project examines why, despite remarkable innovation in new sustainable investment products and the emergence of new investors, the transition to a more sustainable, inclusive economy remains an aspiration. It proposes that to be effective, innovation in international sustainable investment (ISI) requires innovation in institutional governance. The project has three objectives – (a) To identify and analyse gaps, anomalies and paradoxes in current international governance frameworks that shape the design, delivery and implementation of ISI (b) To analyse the ontological, conceptual, instrumental and institutional underpinnings that result in these gaps, and (c) To identify and describe opportunities for new governance techniques and approaches to better achieve ISI goals.

The project brings the governance and institutional dimensions of ISI to the fore of research on sustainability. It brings a new conceptual approach to analysing the governance challenges of ISI that recognise complexities of scale, interdependency and institutional diversity. It identifies potential for new governance techniques and approaches in the effective promotion of ISI goals. This project has clear epistemological and policy relevance. It will contribute to the work of key stakeholders, including governments, international and regional organisations, the financial sector, the research community and civil society. A dedicated area of activity is the links created between each of the university research centres and a national NGO, thereby enhancing community-academy relations, and aiding the dissemination of the research findings.

A preliminary proposal was completed and submitted to the funders (the Belmont Forum and NORFACE) on April 5th 2017. We await their decision on whether we are invited to submit a fuller proposal in September 2017. However, as a result of this research proposal, new international and interdisciplinary links have been created between all of the 5 project partners involved, spanning universities and NGOs in Canada, Ireland, Brazil, the Netherlands and Finland.

  • Presentation of my proposed post-doctoral research project on the governance of a new/old form of international development finance called Blended Finance ascribed a key role in addressing the funding gap to meet the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. The presentation, titled ‘The Financing of the SDGs – Effective Implementation – Challenges to Governance’ was delivered in the Quinn School on April 4th, 2017.


  • Research on the Irish public policy response to changes to international ODA policy. Informal interviews were undertaken with several key informants within Irish Aid. A literature review on Irish public policy on ODA was undertaken.


  • Meetings and connections with researchers in UCD’s School of Political Science and International Relations; School of Law; UCD College of Business (incorporating UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School and UCD Lochlann Quinn Undergraduate School of Business).

Future continuing collaboration

As a result of the preparation of the application for the James M Flaherty Research Scholarship, in November 2016, I submitted a post-doctoral application to undertake a 3-year international fellowship undertaking interdisciplinary research on the governance of Blended Finance, involving supervision by a team of three experts from UCD’s Quinn School of Business; Smurfit Graduate School of Business, and the School of Law, with collaboration with an international NGO – TNI – based in Amsterdam. While undertaking the James M Flaherty Fellowship in UCD in April 2017, we were informed of the success of the application. This award now means we will be able to continue, broaden and deepen the engagement between the University of Ottawa’s Human Rights Research and Education Centre and Faculty of Law, and UCD’s Smurfit and Quinn Schools of Business, and School of Law.