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Article

Annexation  

Brendan O'Leary

Annexation refers to both the unlawful and the lawful incorporation of a territory and its people into another state. In contemporary international law, unilateral annexation of a territory is unlawful. It was not always so. Previous international law recognized a right of conquest and other modes of acquiring territory without popular consent. Unification of territories accomplished through authentic processes of consent may, however, lead to annexation that is lawful, both domestically and internationally. The subdisciplines of international law, international relations, and comparative politics respectively have distinct literatures on annexation. International law addresses its normative appropriateness, international relations examines whether the incidence of unilateral annexation has declined because of legal prohibitions or for other reasons, and scholars of comparative politics address why governments may annex territories—among other options.

Article

Cultural Genocide in Law and Politics  

Alana Tiemessen

The violent and nonviolent repression of cultural groups, or using cultural means to destroy a group, is often identified as “cultural genocide.” The concept’s association with genocide, the “crime of crimes,” suggests it is of serious international concern. Yet contestation over its meaning and application has rendered cultural genocide more of a rhetorical tool than a crime that can be prevented or punished. The scholarly literature on this subject demonstrates that academics and policymakers have been hampered by legal debates and states’ political interests, from Lemkin’s original conception of genocide and the UN Genocide Convention negotiations to the ad hoc responses to “real world” cultural genocide cases. The legal debates have centered around whether cultural genocide can fit within the limits of the Convention’s definition of genocide, that is, the specific intent to destroy, specific protected groups as victims, and so on, and the assumption that genocide is primarily the physical destruction of a group by violent means. Interdisciplinary perspectives on cultural genocide, particularly from anthropology, have shown that cultural genocide is diverse in practice; while not always physically violent in its means or ends, it is closely associated with historical and modern cases of settler colonialism. The politics of cultural genocide has historically been manifested in the politicized negotiations of the Genocide Convention and UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in which the self-interests of many states precluded any specific mention of cultural means of genocide. In the early 21st century, debates about who should be considered a cultural group and the utility of identifying cultural genocide without its criminalization have resulted in a lack of recognition and response to group destruction.

Article

De Facto States in the 21st Century  

James Ker-Lindsay

De facto states have become an increasingly interesting topic for scholars and policy makers. Regarded as an anomaly in the international system, their increasing prevalence is raising serious questions about the nature of statehood and secession in the contemporary international system. But they present a number of definitional and conceptual issues. Quite apart from how they should be called, which is a debate that seems to be close to settlement, there have been debates about which territories should qualify as de facto states. More importantly, what hope do these territories have of being legalized or legitimized in the future? It seems that the strong aversion to recognizing unilateral acts of secession will remain in force. It is also worth noting that the very nature of the international system is now changing. The international system focused almost exclusively on states is disappearing rapidly. All sorts of bodies, organizations, and companies now interact on the world stage. In this sense, de facto states may well find that they find a place in their own right in an evolving and expanding international community.

Article

The Global Economic and Political Causes of Human Trafficking  

Robert G. Blanton and Shannon Lindsey Blanton

While various forms of slavery and forced labor have existed throughout human history, trafficking in humans is a relatively new area of global concern, as specific laws date back only to 2000. As a legal concept, human trafficking is defined according to its requisite acts (recruitment, transport, harboring of victims), means (use of force, fraud, or coercion), and purpose (exploitation). As a basis for scholarly analysis and public policy, trafficking can be viewed in terms of multiple dimensions, as it constitutes a criminal activity, an egregious abuse of human rights, and a pervasive illicit market. Each of these frames suggests different scholarly approaches to examining trafficking, as well as different policy responses to combat it. For example, a criminal activity frame connotes a prosecutorial response toward traffickers by state agencies, while a human rights-based approach suggests increased attention and services to trafficking victims. There is a significant, though underdeveloped, body of scholarship on the causes of human trafficking. Broadly put, extant work focuses on economic, political, and demographic variables, each of which are part of the wider array of factors that can make trafficking more or less likely. Economic factors can be assessed at both micro and macro levels, ranging from the cost–benefit analyses of traffickers to macroeconomic factors such as poverty and globalization. Political correlates of trafficking include armed conflict, the presence of peacekeepers, and the strength and capacity of domestic political institutions. For their part, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) can also play a significant role in shaping state responses to trafficking. As trafficking commonly involves the movement of people across borders, some of the same demographic factors that drive migration are also associated with trafficking flows. Taken as a whole, there are still many underexplored avenues for future research. While well over a thousand articles and books have been published on human trafficking since 2000, a majority of extant research is non-empirical in nature, including general overviews of trafficking or analyses of relevant laws. A key factor contributing to this relative dearth of empirical literature is the lack of comprehensive data that reflects the complex and nuanced nature of trafficking. Given the policy-relevant nature of human trafficking, as well as its implications for human rights, there remains a great need for additional evidence-based research in this area.

Article

Human Rights in Latin America  

James C. Franklin

The systematic study of human rights came into its own in the 1980s on the heels of expanded efforts by human rights organizations, the U.S. Congress, and the Carter administration to respond to human rights abuses. Latin America was a primary target of these efforts and many of the early studies on human rights focused on this region. Here, an early literature on human rights formed around the practical question of whether U.S. foreign aid allocations were steered away from human rights violators, as the law required. The literature brought some of the first attempts to measure human rights violations systematically, and several of these scholars moved on to broader questions about what caused human rights abuses and on global efforts to stop them. This included analyses of threat perceptions, human rights movements, foreign policy, naming and shaming, and transitional justice. Some of the key theories in this literature were developed, at least in part, by Latin Americanists and a lot of early empirical application of the theories focused on this region. Over time, this literature has become increasingly global, and thus earlier research on Latin America greatly influenced the broader literature on human rights. Alongside the evolution of the scholarly literature, the nature of human rights abuses in Latin America has also changed. After the widespread democratization of the region, abuses shifted from those primarily targeted at political opposition to actions targeted at socially marginalized individuals. This suggests an important new topic for researchers.

Article

Neutrality Studies  

Pascal Lottaz

The study of neutrality, as an academic subject in the fields of history and the social sciences, is concerned with the politics, laws, ethics, economics, norms, and other social aspects of states and international actors that attempt to maintain friendly or impartial relations with other states who are—or might become—parties to international conflict. In this regard, neutrality studies is a subject of international politics in its broadest sense, encompassing international law and international relations. It is an open space that has been explored through various academic lenses, including (but not limited to) realism, liberalism, constructivism, and poststructuralism. Most neutrality research in the early 21st century is focused on particular periods or forms of neutrality. To discuss this topic, it is helpful to distinguish two levels of analysis. First, there is historical research that describes the observable phenomenon of neutral behavior and its related effects, in other words, specific instances when countries (or actors) remained neutral. This is mostly the domain of historians. The second level is the moral, legal, political, and ideational assessment of neutral situations, which are theoretical discussions that treat issues (including but not limited to) the underlying reasons and the larger impact of neutrality on specific conflict dynamics, security systems, identities, and norms. Ideological debates often occur on this level since theoretical assessments of neutrality depend heavily on the subjective framing of the conflicts they accompany.

Article

The Politics of Digital (Human) Rights  

Ben Wagner, Andy Sanchez, Marie-Therese Sekwenz, Sofie Dideriksen, and Dave Murray-Rust

Basic human rights, like freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and privacy, are being radically transformed by new technologies. The manifestation of these rights in online spaces is known as “digital rights,” which can be impeded or empowered through the design, governance, and litigation of emerging technologies. Design defines how people encounter the digital world. Some design choices can exploit the right to privacy by commodifying attention through tactics that keep users addicted to maximize profitability; similar design mechanisms and vulnerabilities have facilitated the abuse of journalists and human rights advocates across the globe. But design can also empower human rights, providing novel tools of resistance, accountability, and accessibility, as well as the inclusion of previously underserved voices in the development process. The new capabilities offered by these technologies often transcend political boundaries, presenting complex challenges for meaningful governance and regulation. To address these challenges, collaborations like the Internet Governance Forum and NETmundial have brought together stakeholders from governments, nonprofits, industry, and academia, with efforts to address digital rights like universal internet access. Concurrently, economic forces and international trade negotiations can have substantial impacts on digital rights, with attempts to enforce steeper restrictions on intellectual property. Private actors have also fought to ensure their digital rights through litigation. In Europe, landmark cases have reshaped the international management of data and privacy. In India, indefinite shutdowns of the internet by the government were found to be unconstitutional, establishing online accessibility as a fundamental human right, intimately tied with the right to assembly. And in Africa, litigation has helped ensure freedom of speech and of the press, rights that may affect more individualsas digital technologies continue to shape media. These three spheres—design, diplomacy, and law—illustrate the complexity and ongoing debate to define, protect, and communicate digital rights.

Article

The Arctic in International Relations  

Andreas Østhagen

The Arctic has risen on the international agenda, both for the eight Arctic states and for other actors external to the region. Security and geopolitical dynamics have developed and changed in the north. Nevertheless, one-liner predictions of a resource race or an imminent conflict do not capture the nuances of Arctic politics. When it comes to territorial or border disputes, none remains in the Arctic. The last territorial dispute—over Hans Island—was settled in 2022. When it comes to maritime boundary disputes, only one remains—namely, between Canada and the United States. Along these parameters, the Arctic is in fact remarkably defined and stable, in contrast to other maritime domains surrounded by states. There are still disputes in which states disagree over the interpretation of international law or how to manage the change in resource activity brought forth by climate change. Looking at the international relations of the Arctic, it also makes sense to separate three sets of political dynamics: regional (intra-Arctic) relations, global relations with an Arctic impact or relevance or both, and subregional security relations. Examining security relations as a subset of Arctic International Relations makes it particularly apparent that these primarily revolve around the Barents Sea or North Atlantic maritime domain and the Bering Sea or North Pacific maritime domain, linking to, but not encompassing all of, the Arctic.

Article

Utilitarianism and International Ethics  

Gerard Elfstrom

Utilitarianism is inextricably linked to international ethics. The roots of the principle of utility can be traced to the 18th and 19th centuries, when it was employed by thinkers such as David Hume. However, Jeremy Bentham first formulated utilitarianism in detail and carefully studied its implications. According to Bentham, happiness is a condition in which an individual enjoys more pleasure than pain. Because utilitarianism is focused on the welfare of the individual, state boundaries are of little consequence. Its reach is inherently global. There are different varieties of utilitarianism. What sets them apart from other ethical theories is their stipulation that whatever is of value should be maximized for all and whatever of disvalue should be minimized for all. For Bentham, pleasure is the ultimate value. Later, John Stuart Mill distinguished between higher and lower pleasures and argued that higher pleasures should be given greater weight. In the 20th century, authors such as R. M. Hare determined that maximal satisfaction of preferences is the value to be sought. The utilitarian emphasis on maximization of value and its choice of values have generated much criticism from those who espoused human rights theories, such as John Rawls and those influenced by his work. At present, the scholarly literature dealing with issues related to international ethics mostly comes from those who are committed to human rights theory or who are committed to equality of outcomes for human beings.