Authors: Fatima Ahmed and Areeja Syed
The post-cold war world has experienced many changes, not only in practical terms but also in theoretical sphere. One of the significant paradigm shift that took place was in the traditional meaning of security. The traditional meaning of security is state centric, it means that the territory of the state needs to be protected against any hostile attack. It can also be seen as protection from external threats. On the other hand, non-traditional security is human centric. It means that the people of a state should be protected from hunger, disease, poverty and natural disasters(Yousaf, 2017).In 1994, UNDP HDR presented a report according to which seven things were added to the concept of security, these are personal, environmental, economic, political, community health and food security(Tsai, 2009). The state should protect its people from these internal threats.(Yousaf, 2017).
The theories of International relations defines security differently. Realism that still dominates the field of IR through its new version As Realist perceives the nature of human as selfish and egoistic which will incline more towards immorality. They argue that as the nature of human is selfish, same is the case with the states, They also act selfishly by looking in to just their own national interests and have nothing to do with other’s interest. If war is in their national interest they will go for war, and if co-operation is in their interest, they will cooperate with the other state. Neorealism, the branch of realism claims that there is no change in the world after the end of cold war, power is still the main entity in international relations and this power structure is due to the anarchical structure of international system and they still question the int. structure that it is still anarchic and there is constant competition among the states. The Realists and neorealist are not willing to come out of the traditional concept of state centric security. They stick to the narrow definition of security which refers to the protection of the country against external aggression(Lasan). On the other hand, Neoliberals agrees with neorealism on many points e.g. both believe that states are the main actors in the world, both views them as rational actors and considers the international system anarchic. Neoliberals do not approach the concept of security directly; rather they say that international security can be maintained through strengthening the institutions, international law, democratization and political integration. Marxism is another mainstream theory of IR. According to them, the definition of security is determined by the structure of global capitalism (ibid).
Constructivist school of thought gained popularity after the end of cold war. It addressed the issue of identity, security and material issues in the contemporary world. Constructivists do not consider security as an objective reality. They view security as being constructed and re-constructed through inter subjective human understanding. There focus shifts from materials to ideas. For constructivist, the concept of security is broad as they say that nothing is true or false, it’s the perception of the observer how he/she sees that particular point.(perception) As Alexander Wendt said that anarchy is what states make of it, the same can be said about security(Sorensen, 2013).
Along with constructivists, The Copenhagen school of thought is important to mention, it is built on the writing of Barry Buzan. In 1983, Barry Buzan, highlighted that the concept of security includes military, economic, social and environmental security. So this school of thought extends the concept of security beyond military aspects(Lasan). This school of thought talks about securitization. It conceptualizes security as a process of social construction of threat which includes securitizing actors who will declare that a particular threat is present which needs to be handled, this situation will be presented to the audience and if they accept it, the actors will have legitimacy to act against that threat. This is how an issue is securitized. This is an interesting way of defining security (Sulovic, 2010).
There is another significant lens to view security .i.e. through critical theory. Their focus is on how the institutions and relations evolved and how they can be altered. This theory shifts the focus from state to the individual. It envisions the freedom and liberty of the individuals(Lasan).When the focus is shifted to individuals, we have feminist theories. There are four strands of feminist theories, all lay emphasize on the fact that the current security studies has been fashioned and put into practice by male and females has been excluded from it. If women are included in defining security, the World could be more peaceful (ibid).
From Feminist theory, we move towards the post-modern security studies. This approach, like the critical studies, shifts the focus of security from state to non-state actors, from individuals to ethnic and cultural groups, regional blocs, NGOs including MNCs. This theory intends to bring alternative reality to that of realist reality for a more peaceful world (Lasan).
The subject matter of International Relations is still evolving. The concept of security is one example of it. It is a contested concept. With the change in the geopolitical environment, contemporary theories have given their definition of security which moves away from the traditional state-centric concept of security. Contemporary IR theories have given unconventional definitions of security which is a major development in the studies of IR. This has generated debates within the IR community which will ultimately affect the policy makers across the world in the days to come but eventually there is a need to have that security where all the people and states across the world feel sheltered and safe. furthermore the concepts like ‘positive peace’ by johan galtung and ‘stable peace’ by Kenneth Boulding which are the newest emerging trends of security needs to spread rapidly in order to make this world a peaceful and safe place for all.
COVID-19 Diplomacy and the Role of the United Nations Security Council
On 30th January 2020 World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, soon after on 11th March 2020 it was declared Pandemic i.e. a worldwide spread of a new disease. As of today, COVID-19 is having a foothold in more than 195 countries, with 28,377 mortalities and 617,288 confirmed cases, while at the same time no specific treatment and vaccine have been developed so far.
To address the pandemic effectively, countries have started considering and offering bilateral and regional cooperation, with a much recent example is a SAARC COVID-19 Emergency Fund proposed by Prime Minister of India Shri Narendra Modi, along with G-20 nations pledging USD 5 trillion. This pandemic is not only ruthlessly claiming the lives of innocent people but has brought the entire world to an economic halt. Kristalina Georgieva, chief of the International Monetary Fund, has given an indication that the world has entered into recession. To address this grave situation, a much stronger response is needed by all the nations to consider it as a global public health challenge in the form of a security threat.
This article deals with the aspect of international diplomacy in global cooperation to tackle the menace of COVID-19. The role of the United Nations Security Council in health governance is important to mention as the recent COVID-19 crisis not only emerged as the global health challenge but also it poses a threat to international peace and security.
The spread of infectious diseases is more prevalent in the globalized world, where members of the world community are interdependent to tackle such pandemic. To overcome this challenge, a robust and comprehensive global health framework is required, which inevitably involves cooperation and coordination amongst states, international organizations, civil societies, and other relevant actors. The primary inter-governmental body in global health coordination and cooperation is the World Health Organisation but the ongoing crisis has made it clear that the world has to look beyond WHO and there is a need for intervention of the UN Security Council as it did before during the Ebola crisis.
Considering the unprecedented extent of the COVID-19 virus across the globe, it arguably constitutes a threat to international peace and security. During the Ebola outbreak, the Security Council adopted resolution 2177 (2014) calling for immediate action and resolution 2439 (2018) condemning attacks by armed groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Looking at the current development of events, all these situations are prevailing in this pandemic. The world needs an accelerated response from the World Health Organization to strengthen its technical leadership and operational support to governments and other partners in that effort. There is a pressing need for quarantine, treatment, and public education, which the WHO is undertaking. However, to make it more effective, an obligatory resolution has to be passed by the United Nations Security Council. There is a possibility that Security Council resolution may help in easing the process of global cooperation, with having equal probability of making the entire process apolitical.
The efforts taken by international health and humanitarian relief workers are praiseworthy, provided their efforts have to be properly channelized, with necessary arrangements, such as medical evacuation capacities and their immediate deployment to the affected countries, must be put in place. As said by then Secretary-General of the United Nation – Ban Ki-moon – in the UNSC resolution 2177, that “The gravity and scale of the situation now require a level of international action unprecedented for an emergency.” The current situation is more grave and of high magnitude affecting almost all the countries of the world. The United Nations launched a major humanitarian appeal to keep COVID-19 from circling back around the globe and to mitigate its impact on fragile countries with a weak health system.
Much has been expected from the United Nations in this trying time, to establish an emergency health mission aimed at stopping the outbreak, treating the infected, ensuring essential services, preserving stability and preventing further outbreaks by passing a resolution. The world needs to race ahead of the outbreak and curb it through the coordinated actions of the United Nations.
The UN Security Council has condemned the “heinous and Cowardly” terrorist attack on a gurdwara in Kabul, where over 25 worshippers were killed and 8 injured during this epidemic. The Security Council said that “The members of the Security Council underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers, and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice, and urged all states, in accordance with their obligations under International law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with the Government of Afghanistan and all other relevant authorities.”
Considering the prevailing pandemic where the whole world is going through such tough times, what has stopped the UN Security Council from adopting a resolution for the aforesaid situations? When it has adopted two resolutions in the past for such situations, can we put an onus on China’s diplomacy? Much recently China has rejected Estonia’s proposal to hold a UNSC meeting to discuss the coronavirus and loss of lives across the world as per media reports. It is believed that COVID-19 emerged from the Wuhan province of China and currently China is the President of the UNSC till March 31. All the countries are silent over China’s role, arguably, because in the worst-case scenario the countries affected have to import medical equipment from China. Looking at all the developments concerning COVID-19, the United Nations Security Council must step in and take control of the situation to repost faith of nations in it.
Reforms of diplomatic agencies
The Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) has played host to a round table the participants of which discussed a report by senior expert of the Center for Advanced Governance (CAG), RIAC expert Oleg Shakirov.
In the introductory part of the report the expert stated that diplomatic agencies are very conservative and are rarely subjected to fundamental reform. This is due, firstly, to their special status, and secondly, to their elitism.
According to Shakirov, there is a need to systematize international experience and analyze diplomatic organizations’ reforms.
The author of the report said that to perform such an analysis they selected countries by two criteria. Firstly, the country had to have completed a comprehensive modernization of its diplomatic service – an integrated process known as modernization, transformation or reform. Secondly, they examined reforms the progress on which could be obtained from open sources of information.
While preparing the report, experts considered the experience of reforming the diplomatic agencies in eleven countries, four reforms were analyzed in detail (Great Britain, Germany, the Netherlands, Uzbekistan), and seven were analyzed in brief (Australia, Denmark, Kazakhstan, Canada, New Zealand, France and the USA).
The report identifies two reasons for reform – national and global. The first type was demonstrated by the example of Uzbekistan. After a change of president, the country launched a large-scale modernization strategy which envisaged foreign policy changes and the Foreign Ministry’s new agenda: the reform was the result of political reforms at home.
As for the global causes that are common to all countries, the participants singled out the three main ones: the growing influence of economic factors on world politics (economization), a change in the communication environment, and the tightening of ties between states.
Speaking about economization, O. Shakirov made it clear that at present foreign affairs agencies are adapting to an increasingly greater role of economic factors in world politics. In most cases, this adaptation boils down to expansion of powers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This means a new agency springs up, or the old one has been strengthened to address economic issues, or an agency or department in charge of economic issues is transferred to the foreign affairs department. For example, at the end of 2018, the Investment Committee was included in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Kazakhstan.
Amid the increasing role of economic factors, there may occur changes in the configuration of the diplomatic network, as happened in Denmark. Denmark closed some embassies in Europe, while opening new agencies in a number of developing countries in order to expand economic ties. In addition, in the conditions of economization, there appears a need to create new mechanisms of cooperation between diplomats and business. Often, external observers want more tangible results from diplomacy: not only a victory in negotiations, but, for example, specific advantages for companies.
Under the current conditions there are expectations that diplomacy should function as a service. For example, in the Netherlands, not only the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but various departments within the government provide assistance to Dutch companies if they operate abroad. Among the most innovative measures is the creation of special mobile applications that would ease interaction with government agencies.
The second global reason is associated with a change in the communication environment diplomats live in. The speaker emphasized that since the Internet is becoming the main source of information for an increasingly larger number of people, the changes are most noticeable in the Internet as ministries and individual diplomats regularly use their pages on social networks and experiment with formats. The Russian Foreign Ministry has been repeatedly named one of the leaders in the field of digital diplomacy. Another feature of the communication challenge is declining public trust in government agencies, which explains why some diplomatic agencies are trying to establish a dialogue with the internal audience as part of reform. Germany has set a good example: its diplomats make public speeches in different cities and hold seminars on foreign policy with the participation of the public.
The third reason is the strengthening of relations between states. There are many channels of cooperation, not only through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but also via other departments – the ministries of economics, the “digital” ministries, the ministries of agriculture, etc. The researcher noted that non-governmental agencies are also joining in. In general, foreign policy is acquiring the qualities of a network. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has traditionally been an “interpreter” or “translator” from the local to international. Today, it no longer enjoys the monopoly in this area.
O. Shakirov remarked that even though in some countries reforms pass fairly quickly, in most cases they take long. In France, during the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy, the 2015 reform was autonomous but incorporated the previous experience. The arrival of Emmanuel Macron marked a new stage of public service reforms, so the Foreign Ministry reform acquired a new quality.
For any bureaucratic organization, reform is not an easy process. That is why it is very important how reform preparation is carried out. There are two imaginable scenarios to this effect. The first scenario – the new government provides guidance on what kind of transformations need to be implemented. In this case, this will come more than stressful for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The second scenario envisages taking into account the various wishes of the lower and middle level diplomats. However, in both cases, the instruction for reform comes from above – from top leadership.
The report draws two main conclusions. The first is that reforms of foreign ministries occur more often than commonly believed. And although changes are not always immediately noticeable, they are plentiful. This process can be perceived as part of the evolution of diplomacy and government. Changes in diplomatic agencies take place all the time. But reforms are an attempt to set the boundaries of these changes and systematize them, to make them more focused. What is important is that changes in the foreign policy environment have become faster and more intensive.
The second conclusion is that it is vital to keep reforms afloat. It is essential that a reform goes on regardless of political leadership. For example, in the United States, a project launched by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson went into oblivion after Mike Pompeo took over.
The participants in the discussion pointed out the relevance of the issues raised, their seriousness. There were also critical remarks, the main one being that the report is based solely on documents, without “live” connection with employees of foreign affairs agencies.
From our partner International Affairs
Public Diplomacy Via Twitter
Historically, after the invention of the printing press in Europe; the communication with the foreign publics was potentially altered. At the end of the Middle Ages, the Venetians had already introduced the systematic dissemination of newsletters inside their own diplomatic service. Under ancient regimes, the French started rebuilding their country image abroad than other European powers. Identity creation and image projection as well as nation branding became peak under Louis XIV and similarly in other countries like Turkey had also followed it aftermath of the Ottoman Empire.
Public diplomacy (PD) is a ever expanding field. PD doesn’t have a one line definition. However, according to Nicolas Cull; he had mentioned 5 elements of PD: Listening, Advocacy, Cultural Diplomacy, Exchange diplomacy and International Broadcasting (IB). According to Center on Public Diplomacy “PD has been widely seen as a transparent means by which a sovereign country communicates with publics in other countries aimed at informing and influencing audiences overseas for the purpose of promoting the national interest and advancing its foreign policy goals.”
These 5 elements has been now effectively conducted via use of internet; famously known as digital diplomacy. When British Prime Minister Palmerston had reported reaction of “My God, this is the end of diplomacy” after receiving the first telegraph message in 1850’s from Foreign Ministry. Such reaction was obvious when diplomatic letters used to travel manually from country to country in longer period. And, Telegraph invention had made long distance transfer of textual message easier rather than physical exchange of an object bearing the message. PD from the time of Telegraph to the time of Social Media; it has changed drastically. Before the audience was generally a specified person of foreign service but today PD has been targeted to pro-grassroots overseas. These grassroots are probably a university graduates, local entrepreneurs or veteran who get influenced and impressed by the specific country’s image and ultimately wants to visit, study, work, or migrate there.
Underlining these realities, today digital platforms are widely used to conduct PD. It is being used because it has a wider coverage and message can be transmitted within a second-minute than traditional PD method like meeting people, organizing cultural show, events. PD implementation via digital platforms is cheap and very less time consuming than traditional PD conduction method. In the case of Nepal, the US Embassy is using Social Media(Twitter & Facebook) widely comparing to any Embassies based in Kathmandu, Nepal to conduct PD.
PD by the US Embassy in Nepal via Twitter
The US Embassy in Nepal is forefront in conducting PD via use of digital tools. The US Embassy in Nepal regularly uses Embassy’s Facebook page, Twitter and Ambassador’s Twitter handle to conduct PD. The US Embassy in Nepal has around 4.1 Million Likes on Facebook (till date)whereas Indian Embassy in Nepal has around 100k likes(till date). Also, British Embassy in Nepal has around 76,000 likes(till date) on Facebook. Similarly, the US Embassy in Nepal has 402.5k(till date) followers on Twitter, and Indian Embassy in Nepal has 67.4K(till date) followers. The US Ambassador to Nepal Randy Berry personal Twitter handle has 187.8k(till date) followers whereas Chinese Ambassador to Nepal personal Twitter handle has 22.3k(till date) followers. Interestingly, the Facebook likes of Nepali Embassy USA has 4956 likes(till date) and 850 followers(till date) on Twitter. This shows, the US PD implementation via digital tools is very much effective comparing to Nepali Embassy in DC. The one who engages more on PD gets more chance to promote its national interest. And, in this front the US is getting more grounds than Nepali Embassy in DC. Despite the fact that, developing world like Nepal should have to engage more on digital platforms to promote its national interest in the Washington D.C(which is the apex location for formulating the US foreign policies affecting globally).
American Ambassador/Embassy in Nepal not only promoting PD via Twitter but also showing indirect symbol of proxy war in Nepali land between the US & China. After Chinese president Xi visit to Nepal on Oct 12, 2019; American Ambassador(Amb.) had Tweeted “It’s almost been a year since I’ve returned to Nepal, & along with amazing culture & natural beauty, Nepali food never disappoints! My two faves are momos in Boudha and DalBhat in Mustang! #WorldFoodDay.
Interestingly, Amb. Randy Berry rightly pointed the names of these two places which has a geopolitical importance for Nepal. These are the places where there is the strong secretive presence of China and America—whether it is a perceived CIA backed Khampas movement of Mustang in 1960’s or Free Tibet Movement protestors arrested in Boudha, Kathmandu. Both places are interest area of the US & Chinese foreign policies. Amb. Randy Berry had used Twitter in multiple occasions to conduct PD in Nepal. His Tweet is generally from promoting Nepali culture, festivals, Traditions, the US signature strategy known as Indo-Pacific Strategy(IPS) to the issue of women empowerment. He had even started communicating with general public in Twitter despite reservation from Nepal’s foreign ministry. He acts like a Nepali political leaders who visit places of Nepal and receives public warm welcome. Being a political man from Washington; he had hit the right nailed on PD to impress and influence Nepali public.
His few popular Tweets are as mentioned below:
What is the Indo-Pacific Strategy? It is our broad approach to economic, security & governance engagement in this region. In short, it’s our way of saying that we’re committed to this region & that we will always uphold & support a free, fair, & rules-based international order.
What was the best part of my Nepalgunj trip? Tough question! But the most delicious part was definitely my visit to Mubarak Biryani!
To support the #VisitNepal2020 campaign, I announce a month-long initiative across all @USEmbassyNepal social media platforms to promote tourism in Nepal through pics/stories of US staff & families traveling across the country, joining 78K Americans who visited during Jan-Oct 19.
I really enjoy interacting with you all on social media, but I realized that I will probably never meet all 4 million of our @USEmbassyNepal social media followers…so I am beginning “राजदूतसँग गफगाफ” to hear from & answer questions from you all. Stay tuned
I joined Nepali & American women from the US Mission family to experience the excitement of Teej festival celebrations! Wishes for an exciting, happy, colorful & empowering Teej to all of you! #HappyTeej
The US Embassy in Nepal has been using Twitter to promote its PD. Its Social Media presence in Twitter & Facebook is much more larger than UK, China or India. Even Foreign Ministry of Nepal(MOFA) Twitter handle has a 130.2k followers(till date), Nepali foreign Secretary has 1918 followers(till date) and Nepali Foreign Minister has a 248.9k followers(till date). This means, MOFA has been less engaging comparing to the US Embassy Twitter handle whereas Nepali Foreign Secretary is lagging behind in promoting Nepali diplomacy comparing to the US Ambassador. Nepali Foreign Minister has less Twitter followers than the US Embassy Twitter handle. This openly says, Nepal’s institutional and dignitaries Social Media presence is negligible comparing to the US. In this hyper digital age, Nepal is lagging behind to promote its diplomacy via digital platforms—which is not so much expensive and doesn’t require expert human resource. At this time, Nepali Foreign Ministry doesn’t need a radical shift but very simple renovation.
This simple renovation can be digitalizing Nepali foreign affairs. Overall these signifies that; the US wants to engage with Nepali public in much more comprehensive way. Pivotal Example is : The Amb. Randy Berry “ Chat with Ambassador” shows that, he is using the soft power to influence and impress Nepali public ultimately to promote the US vested interest in Nepal. Whether it is the case of Tweeting/posting on any Nepali festivals or promoting IPS—all proves that the US wants to counter influence of immediate neighbors of Nepal i.e. India & China. PD promotion(digitally) by super power countries in developing country like Nepal is not new. It is an enlarged strategies in the form of soft power to gain, retain and expand their influence. So, the key message is: Nepal need a win-win strategy by altering this perceive American zero-sum strategy conducted via digital platform.
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