The Paris Globalist Staff President Serafine Dinkel Editor in Chief Stuart Richardson Social Media Manager Kate Moran
Cover Illustration Rosa HofgĂ¤rtner
Editors Teddy Demangeot Casimir Legrand Megan Alexander Gabriela Bernal Charlotte Massey Andrea Noronha Matthew William Abbey Kimberly Aagaard Matilde Bettencourt Cruz Sapna Dubey
Staff Writers Jaikishan Agarwal Sara Bundtzen Margarida Teixeira Alexander Edward Stronell Carine Monteiro Da Silva Asim M Jaweed Jill van de Walle Alexandra Kolev Gabriela Billini Christa Rawkins Nina Chitaia Chloe Baumes Malfant Hyojeong Kim
Table of Contents
6 Venezuela in Uproar Gabriela Bernal
13 The Dividing Line: Migrant Stories Along the Mexico United States Border
Analucía Partida Borrego
32 Xi’s Legacy: The “Green Leap Forward?” Nina Chitaia
37 Riyadh’s Reform or Ruin? Asim M Jaweed
42 The Right to Self-determination: A Lost Cause for the Sahrawi People?
49 Making Foreign Policy Feminist Chloé Baumes
54 Afghans, Europe’s Forgotten Refugees Margarida Teixeira
IN UPROAR by Gabriela Bernal
A civil insurrection, spurred by a faltering economy, has troubled Venezuela since 2014. But this crisis is decades in the making.
authoritarian government; violent crackdowns on civilian protesters; mothers burying their teenage sons killed by members of the army; people queuing from three in the morning in front of supermarkets to buy food; patients dying due to a lack of medicine; an economy with the highest inflation rate in the world; and an unprecedented refugee crisis — No, this is not Syria or Iraq, but Venezuela. Venezuelans have suffered unspeakable hardships since the death of former president Hugo Chavez. But how did a country with the largest oil reserves in the world end up becoming a bankrupt failed state? How did that happen?
It is simply impossible to study contemporary Venezuela without first accounting for the strong impact Chavez had on the citizens and the country itself. Better known in Venezuela as El Comandante (the Commandant), Hugo Chávez Frías served as Venezuela’s president from 1999 until his death in 2013,
soon after being elected for his third term. During his presidency, Venezuela’s unemployment rate halved; income per capita more than doubled; the poverty rate fell by more than half; education improved;, and the infant mortality rate declined. Born into poverty himself, Chavez understood the struggles of the working class and vowed to replace the corrupt elite then in power with a socialist government that would work solely in service of the people. In the 1990s, most Venezuelans placed little trust in their country’s public institutions and judicial system. Corruption was rife, and the violent repression of protestors by the state was commonplace. Chavez, then an army lieutenant colonel, aimed to change the system and staged a coup in 1992 against the government of President Carlos Andrés Pérez. Although the coup ultimately failed, it legitimized Chavez as the voice of the disenfranchised. Following a two-year prison sentence for his role in the coup, Chavez won the 1998 presidential election with 56 percent of the vote.
The rise of populism
Chavez consolidated the power of populism in Venezuela. He promised free healthcare and housing for the poor, government-run aid programs, investment in infrastructure, and massive wealth redistribution programs. He also denounced the so-called Washington Consensus. Chavez’s socialist policies and personal charisma made him the most popular leader in Venezuela’s recent history. Wherever Chavez would go, his supporters, called Chavistas, would follow and paint the streets like a red ocean, the color of Chavez’s party and historically the color of the left. He called his movement the Bolivarian Revolution, named after Simón Bolívar, a revolutionary Venezuelan leader who championed much of South America’s independence from Spanish rule in the nineteenth century. Chavez had a clear goal: He wanted this revolution to take over the entire region. Chavez also gained popular support as a result of his deep respect for the electoral system. He used his profound knowledge of the
electoral process to consolidate his legitimacy both at home and abroad. Chávez submitted himself to fourteen national votes, winning thirteen of them by large margins, in polling which former US President Jimmy Carter deemed in 2012 to be the “best in the world” of the ninety-two elections that he had monitored. Chavez even allowed his opposition to run a recall referendum against him in 2004, only two years after surviving an attempted coup. He won by a significant margin. Despite his popular support, many dissenters were unhappy with Chavez’s socialist policies and vision for the future. While the working class received countless benefits and saw their livelihoods improve dramatically and the nouveau riche benefitted from close links to the government, the middle class was largely left behind. Those who were perceived to be well-off and unsupportive of the government faced discrimination. Several emigrated to neighboring countries, like Colombia. Those with European ancestry quickly applied for E.U. passports.
Chavez had a strong message, a charming personality, a compelling vision, and a profound connection with his supporters, but the combination of these elements never proved enough to truly make a long-term success of his country. Certainly, Chavez’s desire to advocate for the redistribution of wealth and greater equality was sound and drew popular appeal. He understood that access to education, affordable housing, and universal healthcare were necessary for the nation to thrive. However, the means by which he sought to achieve these ambitious goals were fundamentally flawed from the outset and have arguably precipitated the current economic and political crisis that Venezuela faces today. Independent of his character, message, background, and vision, Chavez was acutely aware that his socialist revolution could not endure without one crucial ingredient: high oil prices. Chavez unreservedly relied on the income generated by high oil prices to keep his promises to his support-
ers. By doing this, he hoped to boost domestic consumption, which in turn would further increase his power at home and abroad.
Hugo Chavez (pictured in 2007) led Venezuela from 1999 to his death in 2013. [Wikimedia Commons]
This revenue did not translate into a rise in productive domestic investment as Chavez had hoped. As the government quickly plunged into debt, it spent and borrowed massively to compensate for its deficit in the short term. Regrettably, the government never contemplated a long-term strategy on the off chance that oil prices would decline, which they began to do in 2014.
Between Chavez’s election in 1998 and 2017, Venezuela’s overall oil output declined by 53%. This decline was problematic given that oil still accounts for about 95% of Venezuela’s export revenue.
As a result, Nicolas Maduro’s public announcement on March 5, 2013, that their beloved Comandante had died came as a tremendous shock to the public.
Chavez’s moral aspirations to stimulate Venezuela’s economy for the benefit of all in fact resulted in an economy dependant on oil. Unpredictable fluxes in oil prices jeopardized the national economy, as well as a large working class population that consequently became reliant on government assistance. Following a difficult decade of economic stagnation, oil prices unforeseeably plummeted and Venezuela’s economy collapsed.
Shortly before his death, Chavez had named Maduro as his successor. But Maduro was no Chavez and would never be a comparable leader. Contrary to Chavez, Maduro lacked charisma, oratory talent, deep passion, vision, and a strong connection to his people. Despite claiming to have run on the same socialist platform as his predecessor, Maduro was unable to galvanize the same amount of popular support. He won the 2013 presidential election by a slight 1.5% margin.
Prior to the collapse of oil prices, Venezuela experienced an equally (or, some would say, even more) devastating and unforeseeable event in 2013: the death of El Comandante. The public was vaguely aware that Chavez had been undergoing cancer treatment prior to his death, but the government explicitly withheld specific details about his health.
By then, Venezuela lacked two fundamental factors that had kept it going for more than a decade: its revered leader and high oil prices. To make matters worse, the country’s fate was now placed in the hands of a leader who had yet to prove his governing abilities. Amidst pressure to carry out a socialist agenda in line with Chavez’s, Maduro now had to deal with a mourning working class population, a frustrated middle class, an economy on the brink of collapse, and low approval ratings — even among Chavistas. Today, Venezuela has the world’s worst inflation rate, second-worst unemployment rate, third-worst murder rate and, according to Transparency International, eleventh-worst corruption score. According to the IMF, inflation in Venezuela is estimated to soar to 13,000 percent in 2018. Moreover, the country’s currency, the Venezuelan bolívar, has seen a 99.99% drop in value in the past six years. Supermarket shelves are mostly empty. People queue outside, sometimes all night, to be first in line
to buy what few supplies are available. Venezuelans have created social media pages and groups to trade goods and medicines and to notify each other when certain products become available. Looting is commonplace, and crime levels are continuously increasing. According to WorldAtlas, Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, was considered the world’s most dangerous city in 2017. In fact, four of the ten most dangerous cities in the world are situated in Venezuela.
cine has also meant a shortage of contraceptive pills, which has led to Venezuela now having the highest rate of teenage pregnancies in Latin
America. Even in rare cases when contraceptive pills are available, one box can cost up to two months of an average worker’s salary.
With no money, no work, high inflation, and barely any food to buy, many are turning to drug trafficking and gang activity to survive The country also faces a massive health crisis. The many hospitals that Chavez had built over the past decade are now empty. They lack even the most basic equipment and supplies to treat patients. Everyday Venezuelans die because they cannot get treatment. Venezuela’s morgues and funeral providers are overwhelmed. The lack of medi-
A woman protests in Caracas in October 2016. [Eneas de Troya/Flickr]
A dictatorship in the making?
In addition to the horrific humanitarian crisis in Venezuela, Maduro’s government has made life for citizens even more miserable by ordering violent crackdowns on protesters and opposition groups. Most opposition leaders are now either jailed, exiled, or barred from holding public office. Despite this, large waves of protests have broken out in Venezuela’s major cities. But Maduro doesn’t take such opposition lightly. Those taking part in the protests are constantly being arrested by the military and subsequently attacked, tortured, or disappeared. Venezuelans unable to bear Maduro’s iron fist have fled to neighboring countries, like Colombia and Brazil. This massive sudden outflow of Venezuelans is now resulting in an immigration crisis for neighboring countries. To make matters worse, Maduro does not enjoy the same level of popularity among government officials as Chavez once did. He has
consistently alienated his own political base. Moreover, Maduro’s increasing reliance on handing out cabinet posts to military officials further supports the argument that he is struggling to remain in control. Chavez never pursued this course of action because the military backed him throughout his time in office, even during the failed coup attempt. To be able to rely on the military as a way to consolidate his power, Maduro is convinced that he must continue to offer military officers political positions that they are unqualified to hold. These inappropriate job allocations further perpetuate the government’s misguided decisions to enact policies that benefit a few individuals at the expense of the public, ultimately exacerbating the country’s chaos and suffering. Unlike Chavez, Maduro has not used the electoral system to solidify his legitimacy to represent the public interest. He has sought to divide Venezuela by pushing the narrative that domestic conditions, particularly for the
Chavistas, would be worse with the opposition in power. He also blames many of the country’s problems on outside factors and claims only he has the power to ameliorate the situation. However, the Venezuelan people have yet to have a fair opportunity to express their real feelings towards his government. In 2016, Maduro blocked the opposition’s effort to force another election that would remove him from power. The same year, in perhaps his most unpopular move to date, he decided to set up an entirely new Constituent Assembly, comprising of his supporters alone. This Assembly possessed the authority to change the constitution, dismiss existing officials, and dissolve institutions. The public and international community see the vote to elect these representatives as fraudulent. Such a move has pushed Venezuela one step closer to dictatorship.
A way out?
Despite the countless criticisms levied against Maduro, many believe that his days are numbered.
Comparisons made between the governing styles of Robert Mugabe, Zimbabweâ€™s recently ousted president, and Maduro suggest that Maduro is likely to encounter a similar fate. But even if he were to be ousted and the opposition placed in power, it is unclear whether new leadership would be able to turn the situation around. Paradoxically, the opposition itself is completely divided and has failed to win the support of the majority of the working class and most of the rest of the mixed-race population. Indeed, governing after a coup, gaining the trust of the military as well as the public, and improving the economy would all be very difficult tasks. The possibility of having the opposition in power in the near future seems increasingly unlikely. Compounding the problem, the Supreme Court, largely controlled by Maduro, ruled that the main opposition coalition would not be allowed to register for the presidential election in May. With the prohibition of the opposition, it is likely that Maduro will remain in power. Efforts to oust
him with the use of force, either by way of a domestic military coup or through international military intervention, remain equally unlikely at this moment in time. It is unclear how much longer Maduro can keep the military on his side as a way to remain in power. But, surely, his time will run out. When this happens, opposition forces will must be united if they want to stand a chance of breathing new life into their country. â™Ś Gabriela Bernal is a contributing writer to the Paris Globalist and a graduate student at the Paris School of International Affairs. Feature Photo: A protestor onfronts the Venezuela National Guard in May 2017. [Wikimedia Commons]
The Dividing Line:
Migrant Stories along the Mexico â€“ United States Border by AnalucĂa Partida Borrego
Tijuana, Mexico, is ground zero for a protracted migrant crisis. Those in the midst of the emergency share their stories.
The city of Tijuana in Baja California, Mexico, lies
a mere 30 kilometers from San Diego, California. Although the cities share the same border, their experiences as border cities could not be more different. The border seems distant to most people residing in San Diego. It lies 27 kilometers from the cityâ€™s buzzing downtown area. Tijuanaâ€™s city center is barely five kilometers away. Houses are lined up, one after the other, within meters of the border wall. Many families joke that the wall is their backyard.
Of all Mexican cities, Tijuana generally receives the most migrants each year. These migrants are divided into two large categories: those coming from different states in Mexico and a wide range of countries, usually with the intention of demanding asylum in the U.S.; and those who have been repatriated, or deported, from the United States. This creates challenges in the provision of services and mechanisms of (re)integration for these migrant communities.
According to data compiled by the Mexican government, in 2017, there was a monthly average of 2688 repatriations from the United States to Mexico and 2416 migrant entries in Tijuana. Thatâ€™s over 5,000 migrants arriving in the city each month. Some people stay in Tijuana for days; others for years. The thousands of migrants that reach Tijuana by crossing Mexico face numerous difficulties due to local gangs, drug cartels, and corrupt agencies. Some migrants come from Central America while others hail from as far away as Brazil and Ghana. On the other hand, hundreds of repatriated migrants once lived in the United States for many years and now struggle to readjust to Mexican culture and the workforce. These are their stories.
Deported to a City He Didnâ€™t Know Jose, 42
â€œWhen they deported me, I felt alone, without my family and without my children in an unknown city and without knowing where to go. At that moment, I felt so lonely that I had moments of depression. There I was, living in the canal; I had my subterranean house there. I had to dig about a meter below and more or less cover the hole to be at ground level. Since I had a piece of cardboard, I was a bit protected from the cold.â€?
“I was always with my backpack and my cleaning equipment for vehicles. The brothers that would bring donations would come, and I would first run and wash the car, the lights, and the rims… I looked for a way. I was always involved in activities. It’s what has helped me, being able to make a living with my own work. One day, after cleaning the scratches and the dirty lights of a car, I was given 20 dollars and new clothes and shoes. I wanted to take a shower and change. I went. I cut my hair. I transformed. I didn’t want to return to the canal. Since that day, I rent a small room.”
Fighting for Her Children Monserrat, 36
â€œAt 17, I get married. My husband decides we should cross the border. We crossed through the river. We went to North Carolina because he had family there. I ended up living 12 years there. It was very difficult because I suffered from domestic violence from the beginning. I became pregnant with my first girl and later my second. I thought many times of leaving him but felt this kind of fear, or I would feel that it was my fault he was like that. But then he became more aggressive. I didnâ€™t call the police out of fear. I did not report him.â€?
“One day I left everything and went to Mexico with my girls. My husband agreed and would send money for them. But life was very difficult. The girls would get bullied because they didn’t speak Spanish well. The social worker recommended they take a year off in order to avoid trauma, so they lost a year of schooling. After two years, I decided it was better for the girls to be in the States. Since the girls were born over there, they crossed normally. I tried to cross three times but was stopped and held at a detention center for a month.”
A Minor, Alone and on the Run Elvin, 18
“It’s been a year since I left my house. First, I came to Chiapas. And well, since I don’t know how to read or write, what I like to do is work in the fields. I like to do everything. I was working for a year with a man that gave me support, work, a place to sleep, things. The little bit that I earned — every fifteen days they paid me — I would send to my mom. But the people from the gang came looking for me.”
“They first started to bother me when I was around 14 years old. They wanted me to sell drugs when kids would go out in the streets and assault people. The truth is I didn’t want to. My mom would tell me, ‘No, that is really bad. The police can catch you and put you in jail for a long time.’ Since I didn’t want to join them, they would beat me up. I told my mom, ‘God with me, God with you, I have to get out of this life because I can’t keep living like this.’” ♦
Analucía has spent most of her life living on both sides of the Tijuana/San Diego border. She is the co-founder of Alza la Voz Glob, a freelance human rights network that facilitates dialogue around compelling issues. She is currently completing a master’s degree in human rights at Sciences Po.
THE “GREEN LEAP FORWARD?” by Nina Chitaia Chinese President Xi Jinping must overcome many challenges if he is to turn China into a global environmental leader.
Following its rapid industrial and eco-
nomic growth beginning in the 1970s, China has become the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. As such, it has faced high pollution levels and waste problems at home. Today, the pace of China’s economic development has not slowed, nor has the East Asian country’s pursuit of global hegemony. As Chinese President Xi Jinping has begun focusing more on resolving the country’s environmental issues, China has also aimed to position itself as a leader in combating climate change. During China’s 19th Communist Party Congress last October, President Xi summed up his ideology and policies in 14 points, highlighting “harmony between human and nature” as a key component. He argued in favor of adopting a holistic approach to conservation. This would lead, he contended, to “eco-friendly growth models and ways of life.” President Xi also called for improving domestic recycling, reducing energy consumption and pollution levels, and adopting low-carbon green technology. At the same time, he stated that the country should take the driver’s
seat in global cooperation regarding climate change, while becoming a “torchbearer in the global endeavor for ecological civilization.”
Coal chokes the air
China has remained the world’s largest coal producer and consumer for over a decade. Its air quality has consequently deteriorated in major cities. This has, in part, impaired its economic growth. In 2013, the World Bank estimated that air pollution cost China close to 10% of its GDP due to reduced worker productivity and lower than average life expectancy. As China’s fourth leading cause of premature death, air pollution contributes to over 1.6 million deaths every year according to a 2015 study by researchers at the non-profit research institute Berkeley Earth. These numbers result from respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, cancer, and chronic illnesses. Poor air quality has forced cities such as Beijing to issue pollution red alerts lasting days. Schools have closed. Work, particularly in construction and manufacturing, has shuttered. Car usage has been restricted. Over the years, China has also ex-
hausted and polluted its water sources. While one fifth of the world’s population lives in China, the country contains only 7% of total available fresh water. According to the 2012 Environmental Conditions Report, published by China’s Environment Ministry, 57.3% of groundwater in approximately 200 cities is categorized as “bad” or “extremely bad,” and over 30% of China’s largest rivers are heavily polluted. Moreover, overgrazing, excess cultivation and water use, alongside climate change, have transformed rural areas into dumping grounds, while 1.05 million square miles of Chinese land have experienced desertification, affecting over 400 million people. Over time, demands for improving China’s environmental protections have swelled. Rural and urban protests have sprung up alongside increasing awareness of the health threats posed by poor environmental conditions. Chen Jiping, a former leading member of the Chinese Communist Party’s Committee for Political and Legislative Affairs, has characterized these demonstrations as “unofficial gatherings of one hundred
or more” ranging from “peaceful protests to riots.” In 2015, Chinese reporter Chai Jing, collaborating with former coworkers at China Central Television and government officials, made the documentary Under the Dome, which depicted air pollution problems across the country. In revealing ongoing environmental problems, the 104-minute documentary focused on the role that factories in China have played by violating regulations, which has deteriorated with the country’s industrial growth. The film gained instant popularity, as it reached over 100 million views within two days after its release on Chinese video hosting websites, including Youku and Tencent. Yet, within days of its release, the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda department censored the film.
Beijing takes on pollution
In response to growing discontent, the Chinese government has begun devising initiatives to tackle environmental issues. In 2014, Premier Li Keqiang declared war against pollution, and the government required 15,000 factories to report hourly data
regarding their discharges, including air and water emissions. Officials pledged to spend $275 billion on improving air quality and $33 billion on water quality. They have also released policy statements, such as “Air Ten,” “Water Ten,” and “Soil Ten,” to map out the government’s goals to ensure environmental protections. Most notably, in 2016, China signed the Paris Agreement under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. More recently, the Chinese government enacted the Environmental Protection Tax Law, which replaced China’s 40-year-old pollutant discharge fee. The original fee was intended to protect the environment, though it was poorly enforced. The new law imposes an environmental tax, creates a green financial and taxation system, and promotes pollution control. Local governments are moreover able to set and keep tax revenues raised from firms that violate pollution standards. Beijing has begun to crack down on officials and businesses that violate environmental regulations. Since
2016, Beijing investigators have accused over 18,000 officials for failing to take action against environmental damages. Last fall, Chinese authorities fined 424 of these individuals for a total of $83.3 million. According to a January 2018 Ministry of Environmental Protection notice, the government also fined local truck companies $5.84 million for manufacturing diesel trucks. Charges included exceeding emissions standards and emissions fraud. In order to cut particulate matter concentrations, the government has forced thousands of other companies to close, and ordered steel mills and aluminum makers to reduce their production capacity. Following recent policies in curbing pollution levels, Chinese cities have already reported positive results. Beijing revealed a 54% drop in air pollution in the fourth quarter of 2017, while the concentration of particulate matters has been reduced by 33% across 28 major cities. Given its efforts in curbing pollution and improving conditions domestically, China has been regarded as
an emerging leader in the international arena in combating climate change. As President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris Agreement in 2017, some believe that China can inherit the United States’ leadership position. According to Mark Lynas, a fellow at Cornell University, China possesses the “unenviable position of being world leader on climate change.” But China still has a long way to go. Although the country is meeting its commitments under the Paris
According to a 2017 study, smog in northern China reduces life expectancy by three years. [Adam Cohn/ Flickr)
Agreement, in 2015 the country contributed to almost a third of global carbon emissions, and is expected to add over 400 million tons each year with the construction of its new coal-to-chemical plants. Moreover, in developing its “One Belt One Road” economic initiative, China has invested in over 100 projects requiring the use of coal power plants. China should continue investing in its renewables sector. In 2017, the country installed 55 gigawatts of solar capacity and accounted for 40% of
electric car production. It also spent $44 billion on international projects and takeovers, having sold over $8 billion worth of solar equipment, overtaking the United States and Germany in exporting environmental goods and services. Along with increasing nuclear energy sources, China aims to invest $350 billion in domestic renewable power generation, while the Chinese government has adopted “green bonds” to support eco-friendly business development. Continuing to invest in eco-friendly businesses and projects would both improve China’s domestic environmental conditions and contribute to setting global standards in promoting green growth. Last year the Chinese government rolled out an emissions trading scheme, which would set carbon dioxide emission allowances and enable power plants to sell or purchase excess permits. Pilot plans have already been launched, but the government is not expected to start trading and transferring emissions until 2020. The plan aims to motivate plants to improve their efficiency and incorporate cleaner technology through an incentivized trading system. As China
is currently expected to achieve its carbon emissions peak in 2030, according to Nathaniel Keohane of the Environmental Defense Fund, the trading scheme would enable its emissions level to reach this goal earlier. Finally, China should continue its initiatives in funding and promoting environmental projects abroad. In December 2017, Minister of Environmental Protection Li Ganjie signed a strategic cooperation agreement with Erik Solheim, the executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, to commit an additional $6 million to support projects addressing pollution and biodiversity in developing economies across Asia and Africa. But China’s efforts toward domestic environmental improvements could mean that its waste and pollution may be pushed to Southeast Asian countries. As such, it would need to devise policy and ensure cooperation among neighboring countries to promote regional efforts in advancing environmental protection. As President Xi has extended his lead-
ership, his ambitions regarding the future of China’s environment are likely to continue. In March 2018, the State Council announced plans to place the Ministry of Ecology and Environment in charge of environmental policymaking. As Jackson Ewing writes in The Diplomat, the ministry’s efficiency will help to reveal China’s “stability, its socioeconomic ambitions, and global efforts to address environmental challenges” going forward. ♦ Nina Chitaia is a contributor to the Paris Globalist. She is currently completing a graduate degree in international public management at Sciences Po. Feature Photo: The sun sets over smoggy Beijing in 2011. [Bridget Colla/Flickr]
Riyadhâ€™s Reform or Ruin? by Asim M Jaweed
Saudi Arabiaâ€™s heir apparent, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is ready to revolutionize his country despite the high stakes.
Saudi Arabia is currently in the midst
of the most significant transformation since it’s kingdom’s foundation in 1932. As a G20 economy and a leading regional power which exerts influence throughout the Middle East and across the Muslim World, Saudi Arabia’s domestic politics hold sway far beyond the Land of the Two Holy Mosques. Perhaps not since 1973, when it led a crippling oil embargo against nations supporting Israel, has the Kingdom garnered such worldwide attention. The Gulf state, which has positioned itself as the leader of the Sunni Muslim realm, is locked in a tense rivalry with its archrival, Shiite Iran, over leadership in the Islamic world. The rivalry picked up steam after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and has grown increasingly into a turf war fought through proxies since the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 disrupted the careful balance of power in the region. The two are among the primary actors contributing to entrenched civils wars in Syria and Yemen and now further threaten Lebanon’s political stability. At the helm of this radical transformation in geopolitics is Saudi Crown
Prince Mohammed bin Salman, often referred to by his initials MbS in Western media. Son of the current King Salman, he was effectively promoted to Crown Prince, next in line for the throne, when King Salman deposed the extant Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef in June 21, 2017. Since then, Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been racing to exert control over the Saudi state. Some, including officials in the U.S. Department of State, have categorized his actions as a reckless threat to regional stability according to the New York Times. The Crown Prince’s supporters argue that he is implementing necessary reforms to revitalize Saudi Arabia’s economy and society while countering an ascendant Iran.
A slow-motion coup
Until recently, the Kingdom has practiced a form of collective leadership where political decisions were made among select male descendants of founder King Abdulaziz ibn Saud. As decisions required consensus, the King was simply first among equals, in addition to being the public face of the regime. Power sharing also manifest-
ed through different sons of ibn Saud controlling different key ministries of the Saudi state. As these roles were headed by elderly men, it is perhaps unsurprising that Saudi Arabia has simultaneously retained such stability and conservatism.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in 2017. [The White House/ Flickr]
However, in an unprecedented and swift move on November 5, 2017, the heir apparent, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, ordered the arrest of dozens of Saudi Arabia’s most influential figures on charges of corruption. Among those arrested were bin Salman’s last remaining domestic rival, his cousin, Prince Mutaib, as well as billionaire investor-philanthropist Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal (released as of late January).
What separates illegal corruption from the decades-established patronage system entrenched in the Saudi political system remains unclear.
officials. Trump is heavily influenced by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has developed a camaraderie with Mohammed bin Salman.
“Prince Mohammed is neutralizing all of the other factions and competing networks that could stand in his way, consolidating power in a one-man regime,” says Stéphane Lacroix, Associate Professor of Political Islam at the Paris School of International Affairs. “But these transformations could jeopardize the Sa’ud Asabiyya, the family solidarity, that has long been a foundational pillar of the Saudi political system.”
“I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing,” Mr. Trump tweeted in November. “Some of those they are harshly treating have been ‘milking’ their country for years!”
Three principal supporters have emboldened the Crown Prince to make such daring moves. One is his octogenarian father, King Salman, who has long favored MbS, but may no longer have the mental faculties to fully comprehend his son’s actions. Second is Mohammed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi who shares similar domestic and regionals aspirations. Another is U.S. President Donald Trump, who has been an ardent supporter of the Crown Prince despite the reservations of other American
Trump has not been shy about his support: His first foreign trip was to Saudi Arabia for the May 2017 Arab Islamic American Summit — bucking a decades-long trend of a first visit to neighboring Canada or Mexico.
Moderate Islam for economic revitalization?
Some of the enthusiasm for Prince Mohammed is driven by ambitious economic projects outlined in the Saudi Vision 2030 plan.
U.S. President Donald Trump meets with the Crown Prince at the White House in March 2017. [The White House/Flickr]
MbS announced the proposal in 2016 with designs to rid the Kingdom of its reliance on oil and provide employment opportunities for a growing population. A 50% drop in the price of oil since late 2014 has forced Saudi Arabia to reconsider both its economy and welfare state. New taxes and levies including annual taxes on expatriates are expected to generate non-oil revenues as well as free up domestic labor opportunities for the 12.8% of Saudi citizens who are unemployed. The Crown Prince recently announced a $500 billion independent economic zone straddling its border between Jordan and Egypt. Named NEOM, the new city is planned as a major business hub with advanced manufacturing and biotech and will include a tourist zone where the men and women can commingle. However, Saudi Arabia’s earlier mega-project, King Abdullah Economic City, announced in 2005, is still mired in delays and has failed to deliver housing and jobs for millions. According to the Crown Prince’s progressive philosophy, economic revitalization cannot take place without a new social contract. He has sought to
distance the Kingdom from its past ultra-conservatism not just in rhetoric but also action. “We are simply reverting to what we followed – a moderate Islam open to the world and all religions,” the Crown Prince told the Guardian in October. “What happened in the last 30 years is not Saudi Arabia.”
will be a stark departure from a Kingdom known for financing the spread of Wahhabism around the world and often categorized as overly narrow-minded and intolerant.
The regional playground – Israel, Yemen, Qatar, Lebanon
Thus far, the Crown Prince has lifted the ban on women driving, eased female guardianship laws, and effectively neutered the feared religious police by suspending their right to arrest. The highly rigid religious establishment appears to be taking notice. Sheikh Abdullah al-Mutlaq, a senior religious scholar in Saudi Arabia, spoke out in February against the law requiring women to wear the long black abaya robes in public, arguing that “more than 90% of pious Muslim women in the Muslim world ... do not wear [them].”
Critics of the Prince point to his aggressive foreign policy, which risks Middle East peace as he pushes aggressively against Iran. In doing so, MbS is shedding historical animosity to broach closer ties with Israel. Although Israel and Saudi Arabia do not currently maintain diplomatic ties, Saudi Arabia reportedly approved Israeli commercial use of its airspace in March for the first time. In turn, Israeli Intelligence minister, Yisrael Katz, recently invited the Crown Prince to visit Israel, describing Saudi Arabia as “the leader of the Arab world.” These moves suggest the two nations are finding common ground over a shared distrust of Iran.
Paramount to these reforms is a shift in the centuries-old alliance between the Al Saud political dynasty from which MbS hails and the ultra-orthodox Wahhabi clerics that legitimized the royal family’s rule. If these changes hold, it
Many of MbS’s regional projects, originally intended to demonstrate Saudi muscle against Iran, have failed to work as planned. There have been more complications for Saudi Arabia than wins.
In Yemen, the United Nations estimates that the ongoing conflict has already claimed more than 10,000 lives, with the Saudi-led coalition responsible for the majority of civilian casualties. This humanitarian crisis has only been exacerbated by a Saudi blockade of Yemeni airspace and seaports. The war in Yemen has been raging for three years with no end in sight and has dragged Saudi Arabia into a morass. Another Saudi-led effort to blockade its smaller eastern neighbor Qatar largely backfired on its original objective of inducing Qatari compliance. In June 2017, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates launched a campaign to isolate Qatar for its oft-critical newspaper, Al Jazeera, as well as for maintaining ties with Iran. But the isolation of Qatar has only pushed it towards other Saudi rivals, namely Turkey and Iran. Qatar remains defiant as ever, and as a key member of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the blockade has considerably damaged Gulf relations as well as the Saudi-led Gulf Cooperation Council in its entirety. A similar move to exert influence on
Lebanese politics also failed to produce its desired outcome. In November, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s surprise resignation during a stay in Saudi Arabia fueled speculations of undue influence. Mohammed bin Salman would likely be wary of the Iran-backed Hezbollah party that constitutes a significant part of Mr. Hariri’s political coalition. Hariri rescinded his resignation within weeks of his return to Lebanon and by early December had returned to power.
A “sheikhy” road ahead
A revolution set to redefine Saudi Arabia and the Middle East is well underway with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Having cleared most domestic limits to his power, and making significant headway towards social change, the Crown Prince represents the biggest transformation to the Kingdom since oil was discovered in the 1930s. The new regime appears to be pursuing a combination of authoritarianism, social progressiveness, and military hawkishness.
diversify the economy away from oil and satisfy the needs of a growing country. A more socially moderate Saudi Arabia is a welcome change — both domestically and internationally with respect to the ultra-orthodox Wahhabism it funds abroad. But for the time being, much of the Middle East remains mired in instability, which Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s bold moves only appear to be aggravating. ♦ Asim Jaweed is a contributor to The Paris Globalist and is pursuing a graduate degree in international security at Sciences Po-Paris. Feature Photo: Original illustration by Rosa Hofgärtner for The Paris Globalist.
It is perhaps too early to determine if his ambitious economic projects will attract enough foreign investment to
The Right to Self-determination
A Lost Cause for the Sahrawi People? by Sara Bundtzen
In 1963, the UN General Assembly recognized Western Sahara as a Non-Self-Governing Territory, whose people have a right to self-determination. To date, Western Sahara is Africaâ€™s longestrunning territorial dispute.
Today, a 2700-kilometre-long berm,
almost four times as long as the Israeli West Bank barrier, divides the territory of Western Sahara and isolates its people. For more than 40 years and without any right to sovereignty, Morocco has occupied and exploited roughly 85 percent of the territory west of the berm, which is rich in natural resources, including large deposits of phosphate and well-stocked fisheries. The Polisario Front, the Sahrawi political organisation, which formed as an independence movement to fight colonial Spain in 1973, administers the much smaller, less prosperous eastern strip. The berm is surrounded by electronic surveillance, thousands of deployed soldiers and police, and one of the world’s largest minefields — visible signs of Morocco’s forceful occupation of the territory. Yet, the violation of international law hardly gains the full attention of the international community as ongoing (bloodier) conflicts in other parts of the world have more critical interests at stake.
One of the most protracted refugee situations globally
No other than the Sahrawi people, once nomads living in the territory, pay the price of the diplomatic and political stalemate. Their native language is Hassaniya, a distinct dialect of Arabic, but most Sahrawis also speak Spanish and to varying degrees French and English. The practice of Sunni Islam is pragmatic and
presents a cultural rather than political component of the community. Since Morocco’s invasion of Western Sahara, half of the Sahrawi people (an estimated 165,000) live in refugee camps in the Sahara Desert in southern Algeria. Many Sahrawis born in the camps know nothing else other than a life in exile and the status of being a refugee without a homeland.
The Polisario Front maintains political control of the land to the east of the berm (in red). [Wikimedia Commons]
This area is known as the “Devil’s Garden,” where temperatures rise beyond 50 degrees Celsius and sandstorms choke the air. The European Commission defines the Sahrawi refugee situation as a “forgotten crisis” and remains the largest donor of humanitarian aid, although international funding has been rapidly declining following the 2008 financial crisis. Precarious nutrition situations and limited access to markets or livelihoods challenge daily life in the camps.
Perspective of an activist
tells me. It was women who built the camps and who now actively participate in the struggle for Sahrawi independence. During her childhood summers, Fatma was fortunate to participate in the Vacaciones en Paz (“Holidays in Peace”), a program jointly organised by the Unión de Juventud de Saguia el Hamra y Río de Oro, the youth organisation of the Polisario; and Spanish solidarity associations. Every year, she and hundreds of other Sahrawi children visited Spain to live with host families, a chance to receive
medical treatment and meet nutritional needs — and to experience another culture and way of life. Later, the United World College (UWC) National Committee of Refugees from Western Sahara selected Fatma to attend the UWC Robert Bosch College in Freiburg, Germany, where she obtained her International Baccalaureate diploma. To date, she pursues a degree in law and business, while continuing her advocacy for the
Fatma, a 21-year-old Sahrawi activist and student, was born in the camps and knows these harsh conditions very well. I first met her in Brussels when she sat together with Members of the European Parliament (MEPs), on behalf of the Sahrawi people, to raise awareness among policymakers. Fatma tells me about the Sahrawi people and her thoughts. When talking about the Sahrawis, she is very proud. She is proud of their long resistance, but also their modernity. “Unlike many other countries of the Islamic world, Western Sahara promotes secularism and protects women’s rights,” Fatma
Fatma stands with the author in front of the Altiero Spinelli Building of the European Parliament in Brussels. [Sara Bundtzen]
Sahrawi cause. She works with Western Sahara Resource Watch (WSRW), an international network of activists focusing on the preservation of natural resources in the occupied territory for use by its people. With the support of international humanitarian aid, the Polisario administers daily life in the camps. Yet, the Moroccan government uses every occasion to undermine the Polisario’s political leadership and representation of the Sahrawi people. Many European policymakers have equally questioned the Polisario’s role. Fatma says, “Of course, there are problems in the day-to-day administration of camp affairs…because sometimes the Polisario is more concerned about the external rather than the internal issues.” However, she emphasizes that Sahrawis are unanimous on the Polisario’s fundamental goal: a referendum on self-determination. Ultimately, as the key arbiter of international conflict resolution, the UN has recognized the Polisario as the legitimate representative of the Sahrawi people. Debates on the Polisario’s legitimacy often root in the Moroccan intention to distract from the real issues.
In the camps, Fatma formed a youth organisation that aims to empower Sahrawi youth by creating a domestic market and new job opportunities. She regrets that although many young Sahrawis are well-educated, thanks to obligatory and secular education in the camps and opportunities to study in Algeria or abroad, they are confronted with a narrow job market due to the harsh climate and remoteness of the camps. Sahrawis fighting for an independent Western Sahara likewise do not often see the point of investing in an economy that is not supposed to be their future home. Employment in international NGOs, the civil service of the Polisario, the Sahrawi army, the black market, or traditional activities, such as agriculture and rearing livestock, remain the main sources of income.
increasingly tired of prolonged diplomatic efforts to resolve the dispute. Nonetheless, Fatma keeps advocating for self-empowerment by engaging the Sahrawis in building a domestic economy and looking for partners around the world, notwithstanding the political stalemate.
With the prolonged isolation, “more Sahrawis think about leaving the camps,” Fatma asserts. “The camps are not the same as 40 years ago. With the introduction of the Internet, people now see the outside world. A sense of unfairness is growing.” She is part of a generation that is highly aware of global developments and
When colonial Spain faced international pressure after the Second World War to decolonize what was then called Spanish Sahara, it announced it would organize a referendum on self-determination, opening the door for Sahrawi independence. Simultaneously, the Moroccan government requested that the UN
A European responsibility
To date, none of the EU Member States have recognized Morocco’s sovereignty claims over the territory. Yet, the EU’s political stance tells an ambiguous narrative. For decades, European politics and society have left the unresolved question of Western Sahara nearly unnoticed — despite intertwined colonial legacies and ever-growing trade relations with Morocco that have become a major burden to the Sahrawi cause.
refer the question of territorial sovereignty to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) with the intention of obtaining a decision that would assert that the territory had been Moroccan prior to colonization. The Advisory Opinion of the ICJ, however, did not find any legal ties between the territory of Western Sahara and the Kingdom of Morocco “of such a nature as might affect the application of the principle of self-determination through the free and genuine expression of the will of the peoples of the territory.” Hence, “[t]he purpose of a self-determination referendum in Western Sahara is not to decide between competing sovereigns… but to poll the Sahrawis as to whether or not they wish to retain, modify, or divest their sovereignty.” In defiance of the ICJ and Spanish plans to hold a referendum, King Hassan II called for 350,000 Moroccans to march into Western Sahara, known as the “Green March.” Spain subsequently ended its presence in the territory and unilaterally ceded the land to Morocco and Mauritania (who later withdrew) in the Madrid Agreement of 1975 without holding a referendum. Although the agreement never trans-
ferred any sovereignty in accordance with international law, Morocco still attaches complete validity to it and uses it as a legitimate argument to defend its position. Morocco’s annexation generated a Polisario-led guerrilla war against the Moroccan military, forcing thousands of Sahrawis to flee into Algeria. In 1976, the Polisario formally proclaimed a government-in-exile of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). After 16 years of a war that killed thousands, the UN brokered a ceasefire in 1991. The peace agreement was based upon certain arrangements made in a settlement plan. Notably, the mandated UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) would monitor the ceasefire, identify eligible voters, and organize a referendum for the Sahrawis in early 1992. For the referendum to truly provide self-determination, at least the two options – integration with Morocco and independence – were to be on the ballot.
The fight continues...
25 years later, no effective progress towards respecting the freely expressed will of the Sahrawis has been
made. The initial provisions of the peace agreement disappeared, while protracted efforts at conflict resolution decayed into never-ending rounds of lobbying the UN to mediate in either sides’ favour. The MINURSO has been extended every year. In September 2017, Horst Köhler, former President of the Federal Republic of Germany, was appointed as the Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy for Western Sahara. He seeks to re-launch the process in a new spirit and dynamic. But will he succeed where his predecessors have failed and mend the deep divisions that exist between the parties? Morocco has relied heavily on its historically important and strategic ally France to delay progress. Every time the case of Western Sahara is on the table of the Security Council, France has voted in favour of Morocco and as such has vetoed the inclusion of human rights monitoring into the mandate of the MINURSO. It is also the French heavyweight in the EU that established a relationship with Morocco that repeatedly turns a blind eye to legal uncertainties. The EU has demonstrated itself to be incapable of using political pressure on Morocco
and has failed to establish a coherent policy of condemning its occupation. In a similar manner, U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger justified the American policy towards Morocco in 1975 when he argued that preventing “the Green March would have meant hurting our relations completely with Morocco.”
Lobbying on a European level
To date, the EU remains mostly reluctant to genuinely engage with the applicable legal regime because it is prejudiced by its political and geostrategic interests. Morocco, situated on the doorstep of Europe, seeks to exploit any potential leverage as a partner to the EU in critical areas such as counter-terrorism, illegal migration, and drug trafficking. Without any legal arguments, the Moroccan government holds tight to the perception that its “southern provinces” are already part of its territory. From the Moroccan perspective, the sole basis for negotiations remains its 2007 initiative for the autonomy option. Thus, mutually exclusive realities continue to be reinforced at the regional and international level. But only Morocco’s reality is one implemented through widespread propaganda and force.
In December 2016, the Court of Justice of the EU ruled that the people of Western Sahara ought to be viewed as a third party to the EU’s relations with Morocco and that the bilateral agreements concluded between the EU and Morocco must receive the consent of such a third party, if it is affected. The ruling was a major victory for the Polisario. MEPs of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament (S&D), the Confederal Group of the European United Left — Nordic Green Left (GUE-NGL) and Group of the Greens/European Free Alliance (Verts/ALE) have long expressed sympathy for the Sahrawi cause (excluding French MEPs). However, thus far the problem has been rooted in the policymaking of the Council, providing the mandate, and notably the
Fatma and other Sahrawi activists together with WSRW continue to lobby in the European Parliament to raise awareness among its members in hope of sparking a debate and influencing upcoming votes on trade deals with Morocco. And they do not come without strong arguments.
Commission, which represents the EU at the negotiation table. Brussels has continuously decided to pursue a position which circumvents the legal imperative to obtain the Polisario’s consent when negotiating with Morocco on agreements that are applied de facto to the territory of Western Sahara. On 10 January 2018, the Court of Justice of the EU published the Advocate General’s Opinion in a pending case on the Fisheries Agreement concluded between the EU and Morocco. He found that the EU had failed to fulfill its obligation to not recognize the illegal situation resulting from disrespect of the right to self-determination. With its financial aid and assistance to Morocco, the EU has further contributed to maintaining that situation. Notably, the Advocate General identified Morocco “the occupying power in Western Sahara,” setting aside the taboo of the word “occupation.” In late February, the Court followed the Advocate General’s opinion by ruling that, considering the fact that the territory of Western Sahara does not form part of the territory of the Kingdom of Morocco, the waters
adjacent to Western Sahara are not part of the Moroccan fishing zone referred to in the Fisheries Agreement. In light of the court ruling, the flawed notion of a “de facto administration” frequently used by EU officials to legitimize Morocco’s actions on behalf of the Sahrawis, is clearly exhausted. The Court yet again confirms the lack of any factual evidence relating to Moroccan claims.
“Sahrawis have been very optimistic from the beginning — otherwise, we would not live more than 40 years in exile, isolated in a desert.” Many Sahrawis maintain high hopes despite no progress being made. For Fatma, the coming years will be crucial. Legal uncertainties, the diplomatic burden, and economic risks challenge national governments and multinational companies that are engaged in sustaining Morocco’s power by either providing development aid or making investments. The dispute will not be solved by the
sole existence of international law but rather through the gradual increase in consistent judicial rulings and persons who act according to the general principles that have been established by international treaties. Illegality has long disrupted diplomatic and political relations between Morocco and its partners in the EU. Companies have decided to withdraw from the territory. Recently, Chuck Magro, President and CEO of the Canadian company Nutrien, announced his company’s intention to no longer source phosphate rock from Western Sahara. According to the WSRW, Nutrien is the largest financier of Morocco’s occupation, purchasing several hundreds of millions of dollars in phosphate. In fact, exports are worth more than all the humanitarian aid given to the Sahrawi refugees. Fatma is aware of the fact that commercial interests and traditional realpolitik are likely to continue to undermine conflict resolution. Nonetheless, she continues to urge the EU and its Member States to stand up to their self-proclaimed image of a diplomatic soft power that promotes democracy and the rule of law.
In the prolonged absence of a political solution, risks of returning to violent conflict become more likely by the day. “Enough is enough” many Sahrawis are thinking, and this worries Fatma. Already surrounded by destabilized countries that foster transnational criminal and terrorist networks, another crisis would have dramatic consequences for the entire Maghreb region. Considering that European governments seek to identify and reduce the root causes of growing migration, a more engaged stance on conflict resolution and a clear commitment to applying international law in the dispute over Western Sahara is in the EU’s fundamental interest. ♦ Sara Bundtzen holds a bachelor’s degree in European Studies from the University of Southern Denmark and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in International Security at PSIA. Feature Photo: Original illustration by Rosa Hofgärtner for The Paris Globalist.
Making Foreign Policy
by Chloé Baumes Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallström has called for “feminist” foreign policy. What would that look like?
President Trump reinstated the anti-abortion “Global Gag Rule” a few weeks after taking office, it did not take long for some countries to take the opposite stance. The Netherlands launched the “She Decides” initiative only one day after Trump’s decision to withdraw federal funding to any institution performing or promoting abortion, including domestic and international NGOs. “She Decides” is a funding campaign intended to compensate organizations affected by this rule. Sweden quickly joined the initiative but also went one step further. The Scandinavian country announced that it would freeze aid to organizations that followed Trump’s order. After a year of implementation, this legislation and the reactions it sparked gives us a glimpse of what a “feminist foreign policy”—or its opposite—could look like. In October 2014, when Margot Wallström was appointed foreign minister of Sweden, she declared that she would implement a “feminist foreign policy.” Before her, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had claimed to give particular attention to women’s issues in her foreign policy from
2009 to 2013. So did her counterpart William Hague in the UK from 2010 to 2014. But Wallström was the first to officially coin the term “feminist foreign policy,” revealing a comprehensive approach going beyond a single-issue focus on women’s rights to a more systemic change in the practice of foreign policy. While Clinton had particularly focused on women in the developing world, and Hague on sexual violence in conflict, Wallström aims to incorporate a gender perspective in every aspect of her policy, and to take feminism—understood as the emancipation and empowerment of women—as its structuring principle. The Swedish government’s website lays out her framework, stating that: “Ensuring that women and girls can enjoy their fundamental human rights is both an obligation within the framework of our international commitments, and a prerequisite for reaching Sweden’s broader foreign policy goals on peace, and security and sustainable development” The idea is that equality between
women and men is both an objective in itself and a transversal one, required to achieve other foreign policy goals. Take what happens with peace processes: Often only government representatives and members of armed groups—the warring parties—are represented in peace talks. These actors are invariably men, with women largely excluded from official discussions. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, during the 1990-2017 period, only 5 percent of peace agreement signatories and 8 percent of negotiators in peace processes were women. Yet studies have shown that the participation of women, other than a question of equal rights, is instrumental in bringing about lasting peace. The 2017 Council on Foreign Relation report on the matter shows that agreements are 64 percent less likely to fail, and 35 percent more likely to last at least fifteen years when women have participated in the discussions, either as witnesses, mediators, or negotiators. It’s an important fact to keep in mind, when almost half of all peace agreements fail within five years. As a consequence, the promotion
of women as mediators in peace processes is part of the agenda of the Swedish foreign minister, aimed at achieving the broader foreign policy goal of sustainable peace. The link between the inclusion of women and conflict resolution, peacebuilding is also why Wallström restated her country’s commitment to the “Women, Peace and Security” agenda, as shown when Sweden held the UN Security Presidency in January 2017.
Sweden notably pushed for a Security Council statement that would stress the importance of women’s inclusion in the mediation efforts in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It was also Sweden’s initiative that a different list of criteria for gender-based violence be included in the sanctions regime for the Central African Republic. A “feminist foreign policy” takes into account the fact that the repercussions of foreign policy
Sidebar: The “Women, Peace and Security” Agenda
What we call the “Women, Peace and Security” agenda has its origins in the landmark resolution 1325, adopted by the Security Council in 2000. The resolution was pushed forward by women’s peace groups from around the world and recognizes that women and girls are uniquely and disproportionately affected by armed conflict; acknowledges women’s important role in conflict prevention, conflict resolution and peacebuilding; and urges countries to increase the participation of women in decision-making related to war and peace. Since resolution 1325, many others have followed on specific points of the WPS agenda, for instance, resolution 2242 of 2015, which emphasizes the role of women in countering violent extremism and sheds lights on the differential impact of terrorism on women and girls. To put into action the WPS agenda, several countries—66 so far—have implemented so-called “National Action Plans.” Sweden is among them.
decisions are gendered. To give an example: After 1991, international sanctions applied against Iraq disproportionately impacted women, who were more likely to work in the state sector than their masculine counterparts. More recently in Ukraine, most NGOs focusing on internally displaced persons (IDPs) failed to take into account the specific needs of women and girls, who faced higher risks of sexual and gender-based violence. Gender mainstreaming — which the Economic and Social Council of the UN defines as “the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action” — is also central to Swedish foreign policy.
Feminist IR in academia
According to the political scientist Anne-Marie D’Aoust, feminist IR theorists have been developing their theory on the margins of the greater discipline, probably due to two major factors: the fact that the dominant actors in international affairs—statesmen, diplomats, the military—are overwhelmingly male; and the strictly positivist epistemological approach traditionally used to study IR that is mainly empirical, based on
mathematical modeling and rational choice theory. Feminist theorists adopt a different, post-positivist approach. They argue that the precedence given to war and the use of force in international relations is the reflection of masculine hegemonies and that the domination of the male (socially constructed) perspective tends to devalue peace by constructing it as unmanly and feminine. Feminist theory constitutes a shift from the androcentric point of view that dominates the field towards one that reflects the experiences of the “forgotten” in IR, including women and other marginalized groups. Such an approach entails a complete change in what is traditionally seen as legitimate subjects to be studied in International Relations and in the realm of foreign policy. For instance, feminist writer, theorist, and academic Cynthia Enloe has highlighted how the success of militarized foreign policy rests on the contribution of women whom traditional analysis renders invisible, such as diplomats wives and sex workers. To illustrate this argu-
ment, Dr. Enloe gives the example of the Vietnam war, during which the US established Rest and Recreation sites, in countries like Japan or the Philippines, to provide sexual services to the military. Just as some security problems that women face on a daily basis tend to be ignored at the domestic level (such as domestic violence, street harassment, domestic labor, trafficking), they are not regarded as matters of concern at the international level. Adopting a feminist point of view draws attention to the experiences of
women and therefore pushes one to question assumptions and concepts generally taken for granted in the discipline, such as security. For instance, feminists have looked into the impact of military operations on women’ lives when their country is subject to a UN peacekeeping mission. Although such missions are supposed to ensure the security of the population, the expected security they could provide should be questioned in the case of women and children. Indeed, the involvement of peacekeepers in women trafficking and sexual violence has been widely documented.
Margot Wallström at the Conference on Disarmament, in Geneva on February 27, 2018. [Violaine Martin/UN Geneva/ Flickr]
The involvement of feminist movements with the state risks overemphasizing the experience of dominant (i.e., upper-middle class, white, able-bodied) women. A feminist foreign policy should not portray women as a unified group, leading to the exclusion of some women’s experiences. The need for an intersectional analysis and practice, which take into account other systems of domination such as classism or racism, is central to the inclusion of all women and marginalized groups. This would also avoid the instrumentalization of women’s rights rhetoric to serve other covert agendas, as was the case with the war in Afghanistan in 2001. At the time, US President Bush justified the intervention notably by mobilizing a discourse around the defense of Afghan women against the Taliban regime. In fact, such intervention had a detrimental effect on the local population including women. And, of course, Bush was not known for his feminist views in US domestic policy...
In word and action
It is not surprising that in a world still dominated by supporters of realpolitik, Wallström‘s approach to foreign policy has sometimes been met with skepti-
cism. When she voiced criticism against the treatment of women and human rights defenders in Saudi Arabia in the spring of 2015, her speech to the Arab League was cancelled, and the Saudi ambassador to Stockholm was recalled. Even if at the time Sweden refused to renew a military memorandum meant to enable the Saudis to create their own arms industry with the help of Swedish companies, it is still one of the largest exporters of arms worldwide. As much as Wallström wants her foreign policy to be feminist, she partly failed to address the militaro-industrial complex as Sweden increased its military budget for 2018. For the feminist politics and international relations professor Jacqui True, however, “exposing the connections between state military complexes and transnational business…[enables one] to better understand how power works to fuel and fund conflicts around the world.” “A feminist foreign policy worth its salt needs to confront regimes of masculine hegemonies
and the unequal entitlements that hold such hierarchical political economic orders together at every level,” she wrote in an article published on Open Democracy in 2015. To what extent is a “feminist foreign policy” feminist, when it does not adopt an antimilitarist and pacifist stance? Adopting an antimilitarist stance as a foreign minister would be a real challenge in today’s world, still very much dominated by realist and masculine assumptions about international security. Wallström has still made some courageous decisions, including the recognition of the Palestinian state, since taking office. The very antithesis of Trump, indeed. If her style has at times been qualified as “splendidly undiplomatic,” some would argue, as professor True, that a “feminist foreign policy must be undiplomatic if it is to be transformative.” ♦ Chloé Baumes is a contributor to The Paris Globalist and a graduate student in international affairs and human rights at Sciences Po-Paris. Feature Photo: Liz Lemon/Flickr
AFGHANS Europeâ€™s Forgotten Refugees by Margarida Teixeira
Europe is reluctant to accept Afghan refugees, although the continent is responsible for creating the conditions that forced many to flee.
As Europe struggles to manage the
influx of refugees at its borders, some arrivals are given preferential treatment while others are ostracized. The European Union relocation scheme, designed to channel refugees from Greece and Italy to other European countries, includes Syrians, Iraqis and Eritreans but does not apply to Afghans. Many instead are deported back to Afghanistan. Although the recent refugee crisis is largely attributed to the Syrian conflict, this understanding tends to obscure the experiences of countless refugees from other countries who are not awarded the same media attention or overall support. Some groups, such as Eritreans, qualify for the European relocation scheme and enjoy a high possibility of receiving asylum on the continent although the conflicts and conditions they are escaping do not grab international headlines. Others donâ€™t fare as well, above all Afghans. These refugees are most likely to be deported back to their home country, despite the fact that many of them have never set foot in
Afghanistan as a result of living in exile for generations, mostly in Pakistan or Iran. For Afghans, this is a never-before-seen crisis. During the Soviet war in the 1980s and the Taliban government in the nineties, many Afghans were able to find a new home in North America or Europe. But now, being elderly, educated, well-integrated, or capable of speaking a European language is not taken into consideration during the deportation process. If you are Afghan, the odds are disproportionately stacked against you. Last October, Amnesty International accused Europe of being blind to the plight of Afghans, noting that forcible returns had skyrocketed as civilian casualties continued to rise in Afghanistan. While the Western media regularly documents terrorist attacks in Afghanistan, the Westâ€™s immigration policies, in large part, have not recognized Afghans as victims of an ongoing armed conflict, despite thousands of civilian casualties, some 10,000 in 2017 alone. Many countries in Europe
do not accept Afghans at all since they are not eligible under the EU relocation scheme. This is due to a process of eligibility that amounts to a vicious cycle: Only asylum seekers from sending countries with a high percentage of refugees already in EU countries are accepted. Thus, European countries either send Afghans back to Afghanistan, or these refugees remain stranded in countries such as Greece and Croatia. EU border countries, which refuse to accept Afghan asylum seekers, rarely make an effort to deport them safely.
Advocating for Afghans
In 2014, due to the increasing number of Afghan returnees, the Afghanistan Migrants Advice and Support Organization (AMASO) was established. The organization documents the stories of Afghans who were forced to go back to Afghanistan and advocates for their right to stay in safety in Europe and Australia. The organization also provides support and counseling for recent returnees in Afghanistan. For Abdul Ghafoor, the organizationâ€™s director, Afghanistan is still a war-torn
country fighting many insurgent groups (such as the Taliban, Hizb-e-Islami, ISIS). In fact, the security situation has deteriorated quickly. It is now far more dangerous in the country than during the NATO invasion in 2001. “More and more, provinces are falling into the hands of the Taliban and ISIS, and the government is losing ground,” he explains in an email. “The capital of Afghanistan, Kabul, has turned into one of the most dangerous provinces of Afghanistan, where people lose their lives on a daily and weekly basis. Minorities are at great risk after ISIS gained ground in the country. The recent attacks on the Shiite mosques in the west of Kabul are an indication of that.” People fear dying in suicide attacks on a daily basis. The national economy is crumbling under the pressure of war and violence: Investors are not interested in a country where no one can live safely. Meanwhile, according to Ghafoor, regional powers still consider Afghanistan a battleground, with Russia and Iran becoming increasingly involved in the country’s affairs since the rise of ISIS.
In addition to these common hardships, returnees face unique adversi ties back home. According to the current President of Afghanistan, Ashraf Ghani, Afghans who flee deserve no sympathy. (Of course, rampant corruption within his own government may have exacerbated the dire conditions that forced many Afghans to leave.) An agreement with the EU concluded in October 2016, which supports the deportation of Afghans, has not succeeded in convincing Afghans to remain in the country. According to a 2017 survey by the nonprofit Asia Foundation, 38.8% of Afghans stated they would leave the country if they were given the opportunity. Many consider the government to be completely inept at providing security and stability for the general population. The President’s recent appointment of the infamous warlord Gul Agha Shirzai as Minister of Border and Tribal Affairs was seen as yet greater proof of the government’s disrespect for its own people. For Ghafoor, the European Union’s strategy of targeting Afghan refugees as a way to dissuade them from seeking asylum is yet another illustration
of the Afghan government’s weakness and corruption. It is important to note, however, that not all countries conduct demographically balanced deportations. Germany, for example, deports mainly adults, while Sweden and Norway — traditionally welcoming countries — are increasingly accelerating the deportations of 18-year-olds and possible minors who are unable to pass the age assessment test. The situation is thus quite bleak as entire families face the risk of deportation. Another problem posed by the deportations is the amount of Afghans who already live as refugees in Iran or Pakistan. In those bordering countries, the local populations have become increasingly hostile to their presence. These refugees, too, are being sent back to Afghanistan and are, according to Ghafoor, the most vulnerable group. “With no network and no source of income, it is almost impossible to survive,” he argues. “As a result, the majority of those deported leave the country as soon as they can and return back to Iran, Turkey and further on.” Afghans
accordance with the EU’s agreement with Ghani’s government, are supposed to receive two weeks of accommodation and financial assistance through packages. But obtaining aid is difficult. “The packages need to be obtained through a very tricky process with a lot of document submissions,” Ghafoor says. “Some [returnees] get tired and even quit [receiving the packages] because it is a lot of paperwork, and without a network it is impossible to meet those requirements.” Many returnees do not have any family members remaining in Afghanistan and the provinces from which their families originally came can be hard to access due to ongoing fighting. Without access to these packages or any other kind of financial assistance, the returnees cannot afford to feed themselves or their families. The returnees therefore stop being refugees and instead become internally displaced persons, with almost no prospect of employment. If the EU and the Afghan government think this is the way to inspire young Afghans
to fight for their country against insurgent groups, Ghafoor firmly disagrees. “Hardly any returnees stay in the country, so I don’t think they can make any difference but [instead] turn into a burden,” he maintains. For Ghafoor, the best way to combat this problem is to inform Europeans on a daily basis of the tragedies experienced by the Afghan people. Awareness-raising campaigns and a change of policy which includes Afghans in the EU relocation scheme could prove very useful and keep thousands of people from being deported back to Afghanistan. It is time for Europe to take its share of responsibility for the situation in Afghanistan and welcome the refugees of a war European powers helped to create. ♦ Margarida Teixeira is a graduate student of human rights and humanitarian action at Sciences Po. Feature Photo: An Afghan refugee in Belgrade, Serbia, in March 2017. [Frode Bjorshol/Flickr]
The Paris Globalist - Spring 2018 (Volume 11, Issue 1)