Call for Papers — International Conference on Promoting Democracy: What Role for the Emerging Powers?

Conference to be held on 15-16 October 2013 in Ottawa, Canada

Co-sponsored by:
German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE)
International Development Research Centre (IDRC), and
Centre for International Policy Studies (CIPS), University of Ottawa

Deadline for submission of abstracts: 15 May 2013

1. Justification and Objectives

The principal goal of the conference is to examine what role emerging powers, particularly emerging democracies such as Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, India or Indonesia can play in promoting democracy beyond their own borders. This topic is of particular relevance, for at least two reasons:

First, western-sponsored democracy promotion efforts have been experiencing difficulties in recent years. The challenges of consolidating young democracies were cast into stark relief by the aftermath of the Arab spring, while the pace of democratic transitions has slowed down elsewhere, held back by the remarkable resilience of authoritarian regimes. Considering their greater proximity and familiarity with local contexts, as well as the experience of their own, often more recent democratic transitions, the emerging powers could assist others in making the transition from authoritarian rule or in consolidating still-incipient democratic structures, filling gaps left by western actors and giving democracy promotion new vigour.

Second, western-led approaches frequently have been criticized for being ineffectual, counterproductive or unsuited to the needs of democratizing states, especially fragile ones. In particular, critics have pointed to an over-reliance on minimalist, procedural models of democracy and a tendency to “export” institutional or other “blueprints.” Drawing on the experience of building their own democratic systems, the emerging powers could help develop other, more context-sensitive forms of democratic practice. This could improve the coexistence of democratic forms of rule with older norms and traditions, including cultural and religious ones. At the same time, it could help address the perceived “substantive” deficit of representative democracy, by demonstrating that inclusive social and economic policymaking designed to address developmental deficits can go hand in hand with – indeed, be intrinsic to – democratic forms of representation.

To date, the emerging powers have taken only cautious steps towards these goals. This has prompted some critics to question the depth of their commitment to democratic principles. Other critics have argued that for non-democratic states, the twin temptations of authoritarianism and populism constitute strong countercurrents that undermine the attractiveness of the democratic model to begin with. The planned conference takes these observations not as an end but as a starting point. It aims to delve deeper into the underlying drivers, motivations, and constellation of interests, to shed more light on the contextual factors that shape and sometimes constrain democratic aspirations. At the same time, the conference takes a longer view, so as not to lose sight of the factors that make promoting democracy appear in the emerging powers’ own best interest.

2. Format

The conference will comprise three different sessions, each containing several panels.

The first session will look at the state of affairs of international democracy promotion efforts and the role of the emerging powers within them. We are especially interested in conceptual papers covering questions such as these:

  • Has the entry of the emerging powers into the democracy promotion arena affected underlying conceptions of democracy? Are the emerging democracies embracing similar models of representative democracy as western democracy promoters, or are they supporting alternate conceptions as well, including more expansive ones centred on economic and social rights?
  • What are the prospects for democracy promotion in the face of systemic competition by authoritarian states? What constraints does this competition impose on emerging democracies in particular, and what opportunities arise from it?
  • In what way have the actions of the emerging states affected the delicate balance between respecting a nation’s sovereignty and getting involved in its internal affairs?
  • What has been the impact on the instruments and mechanisms used to promote democracy? Did the emerging powers enrich the “toolbox” of democracy promoters and if so, how?

The second session will examine past and current democracy promotion efforts of some key emerging powers themselves, particularly Brazil, South Africa, Turkey, India, and Indonesia. Papers should address the following questions:

  • What has been the experience – and the track record – of emerging powers so far in promoting democracy beyond their own borders?
  • What have been the drivers, motivations, and interests behind the actions they have taken?
  • What results were achieved and how can these, as well as the underlying policy choices, be explained?
  • What factors and trends could provoke changes in the current posture of the emerging powers?

The third and final session will focus on democracy promotion by the emerging powers in multilateral settings, including regional organizations, the United Nations, the G20, emerging-country groupings such as IBSA, or international associations specifically created to promote democracy, such as the Community of Democracies. Trilateral forms of cooperation, involving emerging as well as western countries will also be examined under this heading. Questions to be addressed include the following:

  • Has the involvement of the emerging powers strengthened global governance systems and underlying democratic norms, including the view that democracy constitutes a global public good?
  • To what extent have the emerging democracies championed more inclusive governance models at regional and global levels, also taking account of the interests of smaller developing countries?
  • What potential is there for greater synergies among the emerging powers, and between emerging and western countries, and how much of it has been realized? Are trilateral partnerships a promising way forward?

3. Organization and Logistics

The conference will be held over a two-day period on 15 and 16 October 2013 in Ottawa, Canada. Travel support (covering airfare, accommodation and per diems) is available for up to twenty participants; priority will be given to researchers based in the Global South, particularly in the emerging powers that the conference focuses on.

4. Proceedings and Results

Depending on the number of proposals received parallel sessions may be needed, although a premium is put on discussion and exchange among all participants, including those from different regions and/or disciplinary backgrounds. A reception on the evening of 14 October 2013, before the conference, will be open to representatives from the policy and academic communities in Ottawa. One or two keynote speeches during lunch breaks are likewise planned.

Subsequent to the conference, we are planning to publish a selection of papers, as an edited volume or in a special edition of an academic journal.

5. Submission of Abstracts and Papers

We are asking for abstracts (and subsequently, papers) that address the theme of the conference, specifically the issues specified under point 2 above. Abstracts should be no longer than 400 words and include the title of the proposed paper, the name(s) of the author(s), their institutional affiliation(s) and complete contact details. Abstracts should also include a clear statement of the research question, the methodology to be used, and the expected results.

Please submit your abstracts to [email protected], in MS Word or PDF format, indicating “Democracy Promotion and the Emerging Powers” in the subject line. Please also indicate whether you require travel support.

The deadline for submitting abstracts is 15 May 2013.

All abstracts will be reviewed and authors will be notified by 31 May 2013 if their papers have been accepted. Final papers will need to be submitted by 15 September 2013. We aim to distribute all papers to conference participants well before the event.

For further information, please contact Gerd Schönwälder (Visiting Fellow) or Jörg Faust, Head of Department “Governance, Statehood, Security”.

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