Will Trump make China great again? The belt and road initiative and international order Astrid H. M. Nordin and Mikael Weissmann Under President Xi Jinping's leadership, Chinese foreign relations have moved from keeping a low profile, to a more assertive bid for international leadership that is beginning to take form in the ‘belt and road initiative’ (BRI). This initiative focuses on connectivity in policy coordination, facilities, trade, finance and people-to-people relations, in order to connect China to key parts of Asia, the south Pacific, east Africa and Europe. Networked capitalism and the national unit, which are often seen as spatial opposites in the global political economy, are both exercised through the BRI in mutually supporting ways. Networked capitalism is not challenging the national spatial unit, nor vice versa. Rather, they conglomerate to reinforce Chinese government narratives which portray China as the new trailblazer of global capitalism—thus illustrating and justifying a new Sinocentric order in east Asia. Likely winners of this constellation, if it is successful, are megalopolises in Eurasia, and most of all the Chinese Communist Party. Likely losers are countries that are not included in the BRI, most notably the United States. In a context where President Donald Trump is signalling a more protectionist stance and the United States is withdrawing from free trade pacts like the Trans-Pacific Partnership, Trump may ironically enable Xi's dream of making China great again. Preventing violent extremism through the United Nations: the rise and fall of a good idea David H. Ucko In January 2016, late in his term as Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon introduced a Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism (PVE). The approach promised to bring balance to multilateral counterterrorism by adding much-needed focus on the drivers of mobilization into violence. Highly arguable in theory and with great potential against the online recruitment efforts of groups such as Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the PVE agenda has nonetheless found enemies at the United Nations—both among member states and within the Secretariat. Errors committed in the Plan of Action's rollout made the new approach hostage to the very limitations and tensions that it was intended to resolve. PVE also rests on a shaky conceptual foundation and has been further stultified by the intensely political setting in which it was to be implemented. The future of this well-intended approach therefore looks at risk, even bleak. This article traces and explains the rise and likely fall of PVE at the United Nations, bringing to light a number of sobering insight into the possibilities and limits of multilateral counterterrorism. Norm spoiling: undermining the international women's rights agenda Rebecca Sanders Women's social, economic and political equality and reproductive freedom have been rhetorically embraced by a majority of countries that have ratified international human rights treaties. At the same time, conservative states and non-state actors have waged a concerted campaign to undermine these principles at the United Nations. In this article, I trace the dynamics of what I call the strategy of norm spoiling. Norm spoiling is the process through which actors directly challenge existing norms with the aim of weakening their influence. Although utilizing traditional tools of norm entrepreneurship and human rights advocacy, it has distinctive characteristics. The reactionary nature of norm spoiling means norm challengers do not need to consolidate and institutionalize support for alternative norms in order to advance their agenda. Instead, they can frustrate and destabilize target norms through protracted efforts to block their development and diffusion. Moreover, because spoilers are united by shared antipathies rather than by a substantive vision of politics, spoiling coalitions are composed of unnatural and even counter-intuitive allies. Throughout the article, I document tactics used by women's rights spoilers as well as their impact on international treaties, declarations and related policies. Women's rights advocates would be wise to recognize these trends in order to defend progressive gains. Adaptive peacebuilding Cedric de Coning International peacebuilding is experiencing a pragmatic turn. The era of liberal idealism is waning, and in its place new approaches to peacebuilding are emerging. This article identifies one such emerging approach, gives it a name—adaptive peacebuilding—and explores what it may be able to offer peacebuilding once it is more fully developed. It builds on the knowledge generated in the fields of complexity, resilience and local ownership, and may help inform the implementation of the emerging UN concept of sustaining peace. It is an alternative to the determined-design neo-liberal approach that has dominated peacebuilding over the past three decades. It represents an approach where peacebuilders, working closely together with the communities and people affected by conflict, actively engage in structured processes to sustain peace by using an inductive methodology of iterative learning and adaptation. The adaptive peacebuilding approach embraces uncertainty, focuses on processes rather than end-states, and invests in the resilience of local and national institutions to promote change. Counter-insurgency in the Somali territories: the ‘grey zone’ between peace and pacification Louise Wiuff Moe This article explores how contemporary counter-insurgency and peacebuilding converge around a pragmatic interventionary discourse that reinvents historical pacification practices centred on bottom-up support for local coercion wielders and securitized institution-building. The analysis combines a historical perspective on the changing position and meaning of peace in relation to counter-insurgency with an exploration of contemporary articulations of war with peace in interventions in the Somali context. Through analyses of the cases of Jubaland and Somaliland—two sites where counter-insurgency has adapted to the limitations of state-centric stabilization by instead targeting institutions and actors beyond the host nation government—the article explores how contemporary counter-insurgency embeds itself within the legitimating vocabulary of peace and bottom up reconstruction, and draws on the operational tools provided by peacebuilders. Moreover, it demonstrates how these tools are thereby reframed in such a way that their stated peacefulness is subjugated to counter-insurgency campaign objectives—with far from peaceful effects on local orders. By teasing out these effects through empirical examples, and by offering a historical contextualization of the examples, the article reappraises understandings of contemporary counter-insurgency as a benevolent and locally-sensitive approach to defeating ‘subversion’ and installing peace—instead it conveys the marked resemblance to colonial and Cold War efforts of pacification. This highlights the importance of closely examining the specific geopolitical and policy contexts in which the terms of the debate on bottom-up peace circulate, as well as the different intervention agendas with which such proposals become entwined. The HIPPO in the room: the pragmatic push-back from the UN peace bureaucracy against the militarization of UN peacekeeping Louise Riis Andersen As the global political landscape is in flux, the roles and functions of United Nations (UN) peacekeeping is also shifting. Increasingly, UN peacekeepers are deployed to places where there is no peace to keep. This challenges and undermines existing foundational assumptions of what UN peacekeeping ‘is’. Focusing on the UN peace bureaucracy, this article contributes to the debate on the future of UN peace operations and the pragmatic turn in peacebuilding. It does so by taking a step back to ask not how to make the UN ‘fit for purpose’ but rather for what purpose the international civil servants working for the UN wish the world body to be fit. Zooming in on the review conducted by the High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations (HIPPO) in 2014–2015, the article interprets the HIPPO as a deliberate push-back against the Security Council's robust turn to stabilization. To counter this militarized form of pragmatism, the HIPPO produced an alternative—more UN-like—yet still pragmatic vision of the future role of UN peace operations in the twenty-first century. The article suggests that while the Zeitgeist is moving from liberal templates towards more pragmatic forms of intervention, the exact role of the UN in this move remains contested—with UN officials actively contributing to the contestations. Conflict prevention as pragmatic response to a twofold crisis: liberal interventionism and Burundi Katja Lindskov Jacobsen and Troels Gauslå Engell Contemporary conflict prevention depends on information gathering and knowledge production about developments within the borders of a state, whose internal affairs have been deemed precarious by external actors. The international community, especially the United Nations (UN), calls this early warning and early action. However, for governments whose affairs are considered in need of monitoring, preventive endeavours—and the knowledge production they entail—can be seen as ‘early aggression’. In this article, we argue that seeing knowledge production as having power effects reveals contemporary conflict prevention as an interventionary practice. Through an analysis of the international community's preventive diplomacy vis-à-vis Burundi (2015–2016) we highlight three unintended power effects: privileging the UN's knowledge production created resistance to international involvement from the Government of Burundi, it led to a change in patterns of violence and to a backlash against the institutionalization of international monitoring beyond Burundi, and it enabled arguments for further, more forceful, intervention possibilities. This framing enables us to understand the recent return to conflict prevention not as a retreat from liberal interventionism, but as a pragmatic response to its purported crisis. Crucially, although conflict prevention falls short of military intervention, it nonetheless leaves important interventionist footprints. Concrete approaches to peace: infrastructure as peacebuilding Jan Bachmann and Peer Schouten Do roads literally lead to peace? While seemingly a strange question to ask, today's peacebuilders certainly seem to think so. After decades of focus on questions of governance, today, instead, infrastructure primes in state- and peacebuilding missions in many fragile and conflict-affected societies. Peacebuilding efforts in places ranging from Somalia to Afghanistan to the Congo are, to a considerable extent, interventions in the built environment. While infrastructure has always been around in post-conflict reconstruction, today, infrastructure is mobilized during ongoing conflict, invested with aspirations of improving security and stability. To be sure, infrastructure played a big role in the formation of strong western states. But can we take this experience to try and forge political orders of concrete and steel? At a first glance, a theory of change that reorders societies by deploying the hidden powers of the built environment seems compelling, and measurable and concrete infrastructure outputs, additionally, fit perfectly within today's more pragmatic approaches to peace. However, based on examples from across the contemporary global peacebuilding landscape, we show that infrastructure neither amounts to a uniform force, nor is it clear what its impact on peace exactly is. What is certain is that infrastructure is profoundly entwined with contemporary peacebuilding, and that we therefore need to develop novel theoretical angles to come to terms with the ubiquitous politics of infrastructure. Pragmatic peace in emerging governscapes Finn Stepputat In examining different forms of pragmatic peacebuilding—including the turn to the local, hybrid orders, resilience and non-state actors—this article argues that such approaches bring about analytical and normative challenges that are difficult to deal with within state-centred frameworks. As an alternative, the article develops the notion of ‘governscapes’ as a framing device that can help examine, first, the uneven ways in which the use of force and forms of governance circulate and spread within and beyond state boundaries and, second, how pragmatic peacebuilding approaches play into emerging landscapes of authority and governance. It is argued that pragmatic peacebuilding approaches place too little emphasis on the capacity for using violence that characterizes many of the ‘non-state’ actors that exercise some kind of authority against or alongside state authorities. Finally, the article examines cases in which international actors have engaged non-state actors in order to promote peacebuilding. In one case, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, international actors aimed to build multilevel security arrangements; in other cases that the article mentions, international NGOs and organizations have sought, through partial recognition, to make armed non-state actors more accountable to the populations they control. Book review essay: International relations in the age of ‘post-truth’ politics Rhys Crilley In 2016, the victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential election, alongside the United Kingdom's decision to leave the European Union, led to the term ‘post-truth’ being chosen the word of the year by the Oxford English Dictionary. These events also led to the publication of a spate of books that address how contemporary politics has shifted from an age of reason and facts to an age of emotion and lies. In reviewing several works on ‘post-truth’, this book review essay explores what this might mean for the discipline of International Relations (IR). As such, I argue that claims about an epochal shift to ‘post-truth’ politics are based on problematic distinctions between rationality and emotion, fail to reflect on the importance of emotion in politics and society prior to 2016, while also obscuring who is actually to blame for the events that are seen as archetypes of ‘post-truth’ politics. I suggest that the issues raised in these books require scholars of IR to move beyond claims about ‘post-truth’ politics, and instead to pay more attention to emotions, racism, sexism, everyday experiences and the role of mediatization in contemporary global politics. © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of The Royal Institute of International Affairs. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
International Affairs – Oxford University Press
Published: Mar 1, 2018
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