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Xiang Li, Mengqi Shao, and May Tan-Mullins

President Xi Jinping announced the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI一带一路) in 2013. The BRI, which will pass through over 60 countries in Asia, Europe, Middle East, and Africa, aims at improving and creating new trading routes and investment opportunities. It consists of the Silk Road Economic Belt (SREB) and the Maritime Silk Road Initiative (MSRI), and is a continuation of China’s “opening up” policy. It comprises six overland and one maritime economic cooperation corridors, supporting the expansion of Chinese enterprises abroad to facilitate industrial upgrading at home, paving the way for Chinese outward foreign direct investment (OFDI) and trade abroad, and advancing the internationalization of the Chinese currency. In addition, the project is welcomed by recipient countries due to their need for infrastructure investment. China remains the biggest player in the initiation and implementation of BRI projects. As such, the impact of Chinese projects on the economic, political, cultural, and environmental fabric of host countries will likely be dramatic, especially since many BRI projects are large-scale infrastructure projects that cut across different regions and states. The COVID-19 pandemic further implicated the progress of BRI projects in these areas.

Article

International development has remained a key driver of global economic relations since the field emerged in the mid-20th century. From its initial focus on colonization and state building, the field has grown to encompass a wide range of issues, theoretical problems, and disciplinary traditions. The year 1945 is widely considered as a turning point in the study of international development. Three factors account for this: the emergence of the United States as an economic hegemon after World War II; the ideological rivalry that defined the Cold War; and the period of decolonization that peaked around 1960, forcing development issues, including foreign aid, state building, and multilateral engagement, onto the global agenda. Since then, development paradigms have continuously evolved, adapted, and been reinvented to address the persistent gap between the prosperous economies of the “developed North” and the frequently troubled economies of the “Global South.” In the early 2000s, a loosely knit holistic paradigm emerged that recognized the deficiencies of its predecessors, yet built on their strengths. Now called “development cooperation,” this holistic approach embraces methodological pluralism in the scholarly study of development, while recognizing that multiple stakeholders contribute to the development agenda in practice from policy practitioners, entrepreneurs, and corporations to nonstate actors such as community groups and Indigenous peoples. In 2015, development cooperation was on full display with the adoption by 193 countries of the expansive United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to serve as the global guideposts for future development initiatives. While exceedingly optimistic in good times, the economic effects of the global pandemic wrought by the spread of COVID-19 in 2020 threatened to undo many of the perceived global gains realized in the development context over the preceding 25 years. Regardless of the speed of recovery of the global system, the profound reverberations on foreign aid and thus the backsliding of global progress indicators is a likely outcome for many years to come.

Article

The issue of mass migration and north–south relations are increasingly becoming complicated in international relations. In the case of the interactions between Africa and Europe, irregular migration has become a major problem that is also breeding new forms of relations between the two continents. Migration into Europe through the western Mediterranean corridor from Morocco into Spain is a central part in the development of this new relationship. In these changing relations, it is important to ask how the security concerns of mass irregular migration, the emergence of diverse efforts to manage mass migration, and the forms of collaborations that have emerged between the European Union and Spain on the one hand and Morocco on the other hand have had an impact on overall south–north human flows. In particular, this line of inquiry focuses on the way incentives (aid-based, diplomatic, legitimation, etc.) are deployed by Spain and the European Union to ensure that Morocco prevents irregular migrants from crossing into Europe. Overall, it is important to address two kinds of questions relating to the security issues in mass migration and the forms and nature of international collaborations to manage mass migration from Africa to Europe. The intersection of security issues with pragmatic collaboration in international relations is critical to examine. In terms of security, mass irregular migration is tied to human, cultural, and state security concerns. In terms of the management of migration, the various forms of incentives, mainly development assistance and diplomatic support, are used to get Morocco to enforce stringent anti-immigration practices. However, the system of incentives created by actors in the north also creates a form of mutual dependency between Morocco and Europe in a way that enhances the agency of Morocco in its relationship with Spain and the European Union as a whole.

Article

Africa has made significant progress at home and on the world stage that belies its image as the backwater of the global system. Far from being marginalized, African states have exercised their agency in the international system through an extensive mechanism of institutionalized diplomacy—anchored on the African Union (AU)—that they have forged over several decades of collective action. Changes are taking place in 21st-century Africa as a result of these collective efforts. Socioeconomic data from the African Development Bank, the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa, the United Nations, and the World Bank, indicate the economic, political, and demographic forces that are remaking Africa. Finally, the changes in Africa have implications for the evolving world order. Objective conditions warrant a reimagining of Africa as an agent in the international system, rather than as a passive victim of a predatory, anarchical order. Current challenges facing the post-war liberal international order make such reimagination imperative.

Article

The discipline of International Relations is not at the cutting edge of dealing with planetary ecological problems such as the worsening climate crisis. The notion of the Anthropocene developed by earth scientists highlights the extent to which humans are a geological force shaping earth’s ecosystems. This official scientific discourse has gained traction in the United Nations climate negotiations process and is beginning to shape the knowledge project even in the academy. However, the discipline of International Relations has not engaged in any serious way with the Anthropocene discourse. Its claim that the Anthropos, the human as a species, and more generally 7.8 billion people on the planet are responsible causally for dangerous impacts such as climate change clashes with how the discipline of International Relations understands and seeks to explain global politics through its theoretical frameworks, relations, dynamics, and institutions. This claim warrants critical engagement from the International Relations discipline. However, mainstream International Relations epistemology reinforces coloniality in international relations such that an oppressive and relational hierarchy between the Global North and South is reproduced while being oblivious to how the ecological substratum of our lifeworld is being destroyed through replicating modes of living central to global modernity. Ecological relations are not part of mainstream International Relations thinking. Within mainstream International Relations, its hegemonic theories and frameworks are the problem. The conception of the international and international relations operating within the Anthropocene discourse also reproduces coloniality. Although the science it furnishes to understand the human–nature relationship is compelling and important, its human-centered explanation of how global power works is inadequate and reinforces the subordination of the Global South. To overcome these problems, a decolonized approach to the discipline of International Relations is crucial. At the same time, given the urgency of the climate crisis, countries in the Global South need to remake the world order and its future through decolonized International Relations. Several Southern decolonial thinkers are crucial for this task.

Article

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—FARC) was an insurgent group that emerged in the 1960s as a consequence of struggles between the Conservatives and the Liberals, as well as the consolidation of a Communist party that promoted an armed insurrection. A relative absence of state institutions in farther regions, the uneven distribution of land, and an impoverished peasant class were elements fueling rebellious movements. By the 1980s, however, FARC had become something more complex than an insurgent organization. After initially opposing the idea, the group accepted the generation of income through the taxation of activities in the cocaine-illicit economy. An unprecedented process of growth experienced by the insurgency, with this income, allowed a remarkable offensive against the security forces, in specific regions, by the end of the 1990s. Since then, an explanation of the organization as a “pure” political insurgency would be inaccurate; the motivation and purpose of some fighters within the group was profit. Although an explanation radically separating political and criminal (economic) agendas may be flawed, at least a concept which portrays the organization as something more than just an insurgency seems helpful. The concept of hybrid group, in which armed, political, and criminal dimensions coexist, invites exploring different types of motivations, purposes, and tasks that fighters might have. The observation of these dimensions also contributes to an understanding of the evolution of FARC after the Havana Agreement. A strong military offensive during the 2000s was one of the factors motivating the group to engage in peace negotiations with the Colombian government. With the Agreement, FARC as an armed insurgency ceased to exist, but the continuation of factors which motivated the existence of a hybrid group have triggered the emergence of a myriad of smaller groups, several of which claim to be the real successors of FARC, mixing in diverse ways the political and criminal agendas.