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Accountability for Conflict-Related Sexual Violence  

Philipp Schulz and Anne-Kathrin Kreft

Since the late 1990s and early 2000s, notable progress has been made toward holding accountable those responsible for conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), with a view toward ending impunity. Developments by the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda, as well as by the International Criminal Court, were instrumental to advancing jurisprudence on sexual violence in the context of armed conflict. Despite progress in seeking to hold perpetrators accountable, critics note that there is persistent impunity and a vacuum of justice and accountability for sexual violence crimes in most conflict-affected settings globally. At the same time, feminist scholars in particular have critiqued the ways in which criminal proceedings often fail sexual violence survivors, especially by further silencing their voices and negating their agency. These intersecting gaps and challenges ultimately reveal the need for a broader, deeper, thicker, and more victim-centered understanding of justice and redress in response to sexual violence.


Civil Wars and Displacement  

Ayşe Betül Çelik

The growing number of civil wars in the post-Cold War era has been accompanied by a rising number of forcibly displaced people, who either stay within the borders of their own countries, becoming internally displaced persons (IDPs), or cross borders to become refugees. Although many studies have been conducted on the reasons of conflict-induced displacement, various questions remain of interest for the scholars of international relations, especially questions pertaining but not limited to the (a) gendered aspects of conflict, displacement, and peace processes, (b) predicting possible future displacement zones, and (c) best political and social designs for returnee communities in post-civil war contexts. Most studies still focus on the negative consequences of forced migration, undermining how refugees and IDPs can also contribute to the cultural and political environment of the receiving societies. Considering that there is a huge variation in types of conflict, motivations for violence, and the resulting patterns of displacement within the category of civil war, more research on the actors forcing displacement, their intentions, and subsequent effects on return dynamics can benefit research in this field. Similarly, research on return and reconciliation needs to treat displacement and return as a continuum. Paying attention to conflict parties in civil war bears the potential for new areas of exploration whose outcomes can also shed light on policies for post-civil war construction and intergroup reconciliation.


International Order in Theory and Practice  

Kyle M. Lascurettes and Michael Poznansky

International relations scholars of all stripes have long been interested in the idea of “international order.” At the most general level, international order entails some level of regularity, predictability, and stability in the ways that actors interact with one another. At a level of higher specificity, however, international orders can vary along a number of dimensions (or fault lines). This includes whether order is thin or thick, premised on position or principles, regional or global in scope, and issue specific or multi-issue in nature. When it comes to how orders emerge, the majority of existing explanations can be categorized according to two criteria and corresponding set of questions. First, are orders produced by a single actor or a select subset of actors that are privileged and powerful, or are they created by many actors that are roughly equal and undifferentiated in capabilities and status? Second, do orders come about from the purposive behavior of particular actors, or are they the aggregated result of many behaviors and interactions that produce an outcome that no single actor anticipated? The resulting typology yields four ideal types of order explanations: hegemonic (order is intentional, and power is concentrated), centralized (order is spontaneous, but power is concentrated), negotiated (order is intentional, but power is dispersed), and decentralized (order is spontaneous, and power is dispersed). Finally, it is useful to think about the process by which order can transform or break down as a phenomenon that is at least sometimes distinct from how orders emerge in the first place. The main criterion in this respect is the rapidity with which orders transform or break down. More specifically, they can change or fall apart quickly through revolutionary processes or more gradually through evolutionary ones.


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.


The Sources of International Disorder  

Aaron McKeil

Debates on the decline and future of the “liberal” international order have produced increasing interest in the concept and sources of disorder in world politics. While the sources of disorder in world politics remain debated and pluralistic, the concept is increasingly used with more analytical clarity and theoretical interest. This growing research on the intended and unintended sources of disorder in world politics contributes to advancing thinking about the problem and future of international order in world politics.


State Terrorism  

Joseph M. Brown

State terrorism is a contentious topic in the field of terrorism studies. Some scholars argue that the concept of terrorism should only be applied to the behavior of nonstate actors. Others argue that certain government behaviors may be understood as terrorism if the intent of state violence and threats is to stoke fear and influence the behavior of a wider audience. Three possible conceptualizations of state terrorism are worth exploring: government sponsorship of nonstate actors’ terrorism, terrorism perpetrated by government agents outside a legal framework, and “inherent” state terrorism—acts perpetrated by the state in the everyday enforcement of law and order that, if perpetrated by nonstate actors, would clearly qualify as terrorism. Each of these conceptualizations yields insight about state behavior, highlighting particular uses of violence and threats as instruments of state policy. Depending on one’s conceptualization of state terrorism, common policies and functions of government possess an underlying terroristic logic. Analytical tools developed in the field of terrorism studies may be useful in helping us understand state behavior, when violence and threats appear to have a broader communicative function in influencing an audience beyond the immediate target.


The Crime–Terror Nexus  

Katharine Petrich

The crime–terror nexus is the convergence of two types of disruptive nonstate group activities, crime and terrorism. The phrase can also be used to refer to cooperation between criminal and terrorist groups. When conceptualizing the crime–terror nexus, it’s helpful to categorize relationships in three ways. To achieve nexus status, groups either collaborate, combine, or convert. The most common presentation of nexus (or hybrid) groups is terrorist “conversion,” when a purely terrorist organization transitions into a more diversified model, rather than criminal groups moving toward political violence (though there are some notable exceptions) or two groups of different types “joining forces.” Responses to the crime–terror nexus have been uneven. Organized crime and terrorism research have traditionally been siloed from each other, with academics, policymakers, and law enforcement specializing in one or the other—an artificial divide that has become particularly problematic given the modern interconnectedness of political and economic systems wrought by globalization. Traditional security thinking is biased against crime–terror convergence because it emphasizes the difference in motivation between criminal and terrorist groups. Adherents have argued that any such relationships would be transactional and short-lived because criminal groups are interested in remaining out of the public eye, while terrorist groups are explicitly interested in drawing attention to themselves. However, this perspective misses both the potential benefits of diversified activities for violent nonstate groups, and the idea that groups can pursue a range of goals simultaneously across different levels of the organization. Notable exceptions to this institutional siloing include “deep web” and “dark networks” research, which have identified criminal–extremist relationships as relying on similar infrastructure and thus persisting over a longer time span. Both law enforcement and researchers should take their cue from this wholistic orientation. Siloing crime and terrorism from one another presents operational problems: while these groups and their activities may move easily between criminal and political violence, states often separate their law enforcement from their military and domestic security agencies, creating bureaucratic hurdles for effective disruption of hybrid groups. A small cadre of researchers, however, have begun to rectify these artificial disciplinary boundaries. Recent literature on the crime–terror nexus can be broadly categorized into four major buckets: the causes and enabling conditions that allow for such interactions, the spectrum of possible relationships, the ways that groups change as they move into the other’s area of operation, and the policy implications for melded groups. Drawing on work across criminology, sociology, political economy, history, and organizational behavior, in addition to political science, we can more effectively map and understand the contours of the crime–terror nexus. Criminally diversified terrorist groups are a distinct security threat because they are more adaptable, resilient, and entrenched than their traditionally resourced counterparts. Further, criminal activity may alter a group’s long-term political goals, making negotiated settlements and demobilization agreements more challenging. By including the crime–terror nexus in assessments, both academics and policymakers can make more accurate assessments of the contours of low-intensity and asymmetric warfare, leading to better policy outcomes, durable institution building, and increased protections for populations impacted by violent nonstate actors.


Transnational Organized Crime and Terrorism  

Katharine Petrich

A significant, policy-relevant relationship exists between terrorist groups and transnational organized crime. However, definitional challenges, disciplinary boundaries, and legal logistics all contribute to the mischaracterization of the relationship, leading to piecemeal responses and uneven academic attention. International studies research tends to focus on one or the other, with an emphasis on terrorist group dynamics and choices. Two enduring rationales for separating the study of terrorism from that of transnational organized crime exist: the “greed versus grievance” debate, which argues that organizations pursue either private (financial) goals or public (social or organizational change) goals and the “methods not motives” argument, which suggests groups may overlap in their tactics but diverge in their strategic goals. Terrorist violence by criminal groups is largely held separate from the “transnational crime and terrorism” literature, often categorized instead as “criminal governance” rather than terrorism studies. The reality is much more nuanced: both group types pursue a variety of objectives and engage with a spectrum of actors which may or may not share their aspirations. Members are diverse in their priorities, a fact that is often lost when analysis collapses the rank and file with leadership into a monolithic bloc. Additionally, globalization has increased opportunities for groups to pursue different activities in different theaters. In areas where terrorist groups are contesting for political control and seeking to present themselves as viable alternative governance actors, they may be less likely to work openly with illicit actors, but in areas (or countries) where they have little governance ambition, criminal networks may be important public partners. These groups intersect in a spectrum of ways, from engaging in temporary ad hoc relationships designed to achieve a specific goal, to fully incorporating the opposite type’s motive into organizational priorities. Political ambitions largely center on power and control, but illicit activities are wide ranging, with the most prominent involving firearms, drugs, and people. Further, there are several important enabling factors that foster these relationships, including corruption, illicit financial flows, fragile states, and lootable resources. When these enabling factors are present, diversification and relationship building are more likely, increasing organizational resilience and making demobilization less likely. These factors, particularly corruption, also increase the chances of organized crime entering the political system. Looking ahead, both policymakers and academics should consider transnational organized crime and terrorism more holistically. Work that engages with only one element will fall short in assessing the dynamics of irregular conflict, leading to incomplete analysis and weak policy recommendations. Observers should cultivate the flexibility to think in terms of networks and variety across geographic contexts—the way that a terrorist group behaves in one area or with one type of criminal group does not necessarily predict its behavior globally.