Chair in Digital Sovereignty

Why was the VUB Chair in Digital Sovereignty founded?

States, as security providers, regulators, and redistributors of wealth continue to dominate global fora. However, their dominance is being fundamentally questioned by the digital transformation. Security, economic growth, education and healthcare are all policy fields where the nature of governance is shifting away from the state towards a more complex picture of multiple actors.

Non-state actors claim that they should be involved in global governance structures to provide legitimate and effective management. Yet, nation states appear to be reclaiming a vision of the primacy of international policy coordination through multilateral institutions or even unilateral action. Deepening our academic understanding of the digital transformation of international society is therefore necessary.

Objectives of the Chair

The Chair wants to unpack the dynamics of the transformations we are currently undergoing. Interdisciplinary research and engagement is required with the new actors active in promoting the digital transition in societies across the world. The research focuses on evaluating and assessing contemporary developments. It is driven by a desire to help forge a better understanding of how a pluralist new world order can emerge that will ensure sustainable development for all.

The major objective of the Chair is to reflect on the emergent and divergent meanings of sovereignty in the 21st Century. It will specifically focus on the role of technology in affecting and effecting change in political institutions.

The Chair has the following four goals:

  • Interaction and engagement between researchers and practitioners 
  • Capacity building of young and experienced researchers 
  • Conducting research of a globally renowned quality 
  • Enabling delivery of advanced level education

All of above mentioned objectives will be carried out by the Chair. It will be a joint venture between the Brussels School of Governance, part of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, and UNU-CRIS. It will work closely with its sponsors to deliver timely and relevant outputs that will come in written form (policy briefs, op eds, etc.) and through dissemination efforts to the Brussels and UN communities.

Aims of the Chair

The following diagram best describes the aims of the Chair and the roles of the VUB and UNU-CRIS:


Microsoft NV/SA is providing the seed funding for this initiative and will contribute a fixed sum on an annual basis. The Chair will be renewed after two years, upon successful implementation of performance.

Chair holder

Prof. dr. Jamal Shahin is the Programme Director of the Advanced Master European Integration and an Assistant Professor at the Brussels School of Governance. He is also a Senior Lecturer at the University of Amsterdam and Professorial Fellow at the United Nations University-CRIS in Bruges, where he directs the Cluster on Digital Governance. He holds a PhD in Politics from the University of Hull (2005). He acts as Principal Investigator on the GREMLIN project, and will hold the VUB Research Chair in Digital Sovereignty (2021-2023).

His research interests focus on: global internet governance, political participation in democratic systems and EU governance. Jamal is keen to explore how new forms of social and political organisation at the global and local levels influence effectiveness and legitimacy of decision making. He is particularly interested in the way in which the EU attempts to communicate its role in both domestic and international venues. Jamal is also intrigued by the relationship between science and society, and has carried out research with colleagues at the IES on how to optimise dialogue between disciplines to ensure relevant and useful research can help critique, design and improve policy. He is currently on the expert panel commissioned with authoring ENISA’s (the EU Agency for Cybersecurity) annual report on research and innovation (2021).