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International Relations theory has tended to overlook the role of Africa and Africans in the international system. Traditionally, the discipline’s most influential theorists have focused instead on relationships between and perspectives of “major powers.” A growing body of work, however, has challenged these more limited efforts to conceptualize African agency in international politics. This scholarship has emphasized the significant space available to, and carved-out by, African states in molding the agendas of international institutions, and the role of African governments and advocacy networks in influencing the trajectory of major international debates around issues such as aid, development, trade, climate change, and migration. The study of African agency in international politics continues to wrestle with two key debates: the meanings of “agency” and “African.” Much of the literature focuses primarily on the role and influence of African states rather than that of African citizens and communities. This focus provides, at best, only a partial and qualified view of the ways in which African agency is secured and exercised at the global level, particularly given the significant structural constraints imposed on Africa by global economic and political inequalities. The extent to which contemporary analysis captures the breadth of African engagement with the international system is also compromised by current state-centric approaches. It is thus necessary to examine a range of approaches adopted by scholars to deepen and nuance the study of African agency in international politics, including work on agenda-setting, mesolevel dynamics and microlevel dynamics.

Article

Ana E. Juncos and Karolina Pomorska

The European External Action Service, with its 140 delegations all over the world and its headquarters in Brussels is a unique institution, which has been likened to a state diplomatic service or EU ministry of foreign affairs. The composition of the EEAS and its functions have been the result of complex negotiations between the member states of the European Union and EU institutions. The ability of the EEAS to have an influence in the European Union’s foreign policy process and outcome is still a subject of controversy, not least because it co-exists with 28 national diplomatic services. The impact of the establishment of the EEAS on the emergence of a esprit de corps among its ranks and whether it has led to the transformation of European diplomacy as a result constitutes other key questions in existing scholarly debates.