BLOGS

Canada Must Protect Activists-in-Exile Against Transnational Repression

By: John Packer and Ghuna Bdiwi

Many struggles for justice, peace, or well-being incur the pushback of the state. When the state is authoritarian and unconstrained (or unconcerned) by the rule of law, ‘pushback’ can be severe and even lethal. Not surprisingly, many dissidents or activists seek safety in exile. It was assumed that, once abroad, activists would be able to live safely. However, this is not the case. 

New Challenges Threaten Zimbabwean Democracy

By: Farai Chipato

Zimbabwe has been gripped by political controversy over the past six weeks, as opposition parties and activists objected to the passing of two bills amending the country’s constitution, threatening to erode Zimbabwe’s ailing democracy further. The bills pushed through several changes, including removing age limits for judges and an extension of presidential powers to appoint members of the judiciary and vice presidents.

The Right Family: The Personal is Geopolitical

By: Rita Abrahamsen

In the wake of Mr. Biden’s election victory, the foreign policy commentariat is brimming with optimism.  With a committed internationalist in the White House and a woman as Vice-President, the world stage seems set for a return to happier times.

 

Selling Human Rights Due Diligence in Canada

By: David Hughes

On 29 November, Swiss voters gathered for a referendum. They affirmed that the country’s constitution should be amended to impose human rights due diligence (HRDD) requirements on multinational firms headquartered in Switzerland. The proposed amendment, which would require companies to proactively manage the adverse human rights impacts of their business activity, ultimately failed.

The Rise of African Philanthropy and International Development

By: Farai Chipato

There is a significant change taking place across the global south, as international development agencies are taking a less prominent role in promoting development and democracy.

 

The Ties that Bind? The Increasing Complexity and Indeterminacy of Inter-Governmental Organizations

By: John Packer

The State-based system of international governance that evolved from the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 is struggling in the face of contemporary realities.  Today, developments in technology permit instantaneous movement of capital and information, quick movement of goods, and the simultaneous presence of persons – whether as State agents, commercial actors, or private individuals – in different territories and time-zones. 

 

PEER-REVIEWED ARTICLES

Canada and the African Union: towards a shared agenda

Canadian Journal of African Studies

By: Rita Abrahamsen & Barbra Chimhandamba

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, global powers are not only scrambling for Africa’s abundant resources but also jostling for its political attention. In the midst of this new geopolitical environment of heightened tension, Canada is developing its first ever engagement framework for Africa. In light of this, we argue that the African Union (AU) should be central to Canada’s engagement strategy. Canada’s ability to engage bilaterally with fifty-four countries is inevitably limited. At the same time, the AU is increasingly speaking with a stronger, more unified voice on the international stage, seeking to position Africa as an influential global partner. Many of the AU’s founding principles and guiding norms support a rules-based multilateral order, and Canada and the organisation can find common ground in seeking not only to strengthen but also possibly improve and reform what is commonly known as the rules-based liberal international order.

 

THE AFRICAN UNION, PAN-AFRICANISM AND THE LIBERAL INTERNATIONAL (DIS)ORDER: PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE

Global Studies Quarterly – Volume 3, Issue 3, July 2023

Introduction by: Rita Abrahamsen, Barbra Chimhandamba and Farai Chipato

Long considered peripheral to both international affairs and the discipline of international relations (IR), Africa is increasingly at the center of global politics and academic debates. Global powers are competing for economic, political, and strategic influence on the continent, while Africa itself has emerged as an increasingly powerful and confident actor on the world stage. In large part, this is due to the leadership of the African Union (AU), which since its founding twenty years ago has embarked on an ambitious agenda inspired by Pan-Africanism, seeking to create an Africa that is a “Strong, United, and Influential Global Player.” Following the AU’s twentieth anniversary, this article and Special Forum situate the AU within recent debates in IR about non-Western agency and the contributions of the global South to world politics. Focusing on the role of the AU and Pan-African ideology in shaping Africa and its international engagements, we argue that an analysis of the AU and the influence of Pan-Africanism is crucial to an understanding of Africa’s actions and positions in contemporary world affairs. We conclude that the heightened geopolitical rivalry following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens to undermine two key aspects of the AU’s Pan-Africanism, namely its commitment to democracy and human rights and its ambition to speak with a united voice on the world stage.

 

The Global Politics of African Identity: Pan-Africanism and the Challenge of Afropolitanism

By: Farai Chipato

This paper uses the 20th anniversary of the founding of the African Union (AU) to examine the role of race and identity in Pan-Africanism, from the perspective of International Relations (IR). Pan-Africanism played a crucial role in the decolonization of the African continent and remains the ideological basis for the AU, which leads on issues of continental governance. The paper examines the development of Pan-Africanism, and foundational ideas of race, modernity, and identity that remain as important elements of some strains of the ideology. This is further explored by examining the relationship between these ideas and the rise of nativism, demonstrating the ways that essentialist conceptions of African identity can justify violence and authoritarianism. Finally, the paper stages an engagement between Pan-Africanism and Afropolitanism, examining the ways that Afropolitan approaches provide an important critique of nativist forms of Pan-Africanism, as well as offering more productive ways of engaging with African identity. This is important both for theoretical debates around identity in IR and for the future of the AU, as the institutional home of Pan-Africanism. The argument takes both Pan-Africanism and Afropolitanism seriously as approaches to IR, focusing on the ways that Africa and African ideologies can be viewed as central both to the formation of modern political thought and to conceptualize the future of international politics and global order.

 

Resorting to the International Court of Justice to Hold the Syrian Government Accountable for Violating Its Obligations Under the United Nations Convention Against Torture

Hikama – The Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies

By: Ghuna Bdiwi

Dr. Bdiwi wrote an article titled  “Resorting to the International Court of Justice to Hold the Syrian Government Accountable for Violating Its Obligations Under the United Nations Convention Against Torture” for Hikama- the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies (published in March 2022). The article examines the joint decision of Canada and the Netherlands to invoke the responsibility of the Syrian government for breaches of its international obligations under the United Nations Convention Against Torture and Other Inhuman, Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). It argues that the decision is a momentous step for at least three reasons. First, it keeps the pressure on the Syrian government and reminds it that its egregious human rights violations are not forgotten. Second, it may spur or compel the Syrian government to take the necessary measures, such as adopting constitutional and legislative reforms consistent with its obligations under the CAT and to hold accountable perpetrators of acts of torture as stipulated in the relevant CAT provisions. Third, the Canada and the Netherlands’ process is veto-proof, i.e., not subject to veto by the Syrian government’s allies holding veto power and therefore has the chance to do more to open the regime’s human rights record during the decade-long civil war to external scrutiny.

The article was submitted in English and Arabic but published in Arabic.

 

Thickening Autocracy in a Non-Democratic State: Changing Demographics in Syria to Maintain Authority

Arab Law Quarterly

By: Ghuna Bdiwi

Dr. Ghuna Bdiwi wrote the article “Thickening Autocracy in a Non-Democratic State: Changing Demographics in Syria to Maintain Authority” for the journal Arab Law Quarterly and it was published in June 2022. The article analyses several authoritarian practices in Syria since 1971 and demonstrates that, since the 2011 uprising, its authoritarian regime has successfully remained resilient instead of collapsing. The post-2011 Syrian Government under Al-Assad is no longer the Ba`thist government of old, albeit still autocratic. Instead it is adept at adapting to hostile changing political environments. Al-Assad’s regime no longer relies on Ba’ath Party loyalty and appearances of legitimacy both during and after the war. Instead it depends more on social re-engineering to sustain its political and economic power. The Syria example demonstrates that, when threatened, authoritarian regimes may thicken the layers of their autocratic rule to sustain their grip on power, even changing the composition of its citizenry to create a new population to rule. The author demonstrates how the Syrian Government has used urban planning, housing, and property laws to re-engineer its demographics so that friendly foreign nationals will receive permanent citizenship and displace indigenous citizens.

 

Performative citizenship and the politics of scale: Local, national and global citizenships in Zimbabwe

Political Geography

By: Farai Chipato

This paper explores the interaction between different scales of governance and performative citizenship, understood as acts by citizens that claim new political rights and reshape the political arena. Performance allows citizens to creatively transform the meanings and functions of citizenship during struggles over rights. The paper focuses on a series of examples in Zimbabwe, which highlight the entanglement of different scales of citizenship and the ways that the acts of citizenship both challenge and sustain these relationships. This is examined through a framework that combines theories of performative citizenship with concepts from human geography that examine scales of governance. The argument draws out the implications of these dynamics in relation to conflicts over customary citizenship in rural Zimbabwe, the issue of dual citizenship among white Zimbabweans and the exercise of citizenship rights by non-Zimbabweans. It highlights both the ways citizens have harnessed the creative potential of acts of citizenship which address multiple scales, and the constraints that scalar hierarchies put on citizen action. The examples demonstrate that new forms of political rights can be produced across scales, but that opportunities for creative acts of citizenship are unevenly distributed due to these scalar hierarchies, which are produced by postcolonial legacies.

 

Of Tactics, Illegal Occupation and the Boundaries of Legal Capability: A Reply to Ardi Imseis

European Journal of International Law

By: David Hughes

This contribution engages with Ardi Imseis’s article ‘Negotiating the Illegal: On the United Nations and the Illegal Occupation of Palestine, 1967–2020’. In reply, I contemplate whether an occupation’s legal status can or should affect the requirement that an occupying power must withdraw from the territory that it controls. I consider Imseis’s claim that it is necessary to declare that an occupation has become illegal to move beyond the tension that exists between the requirements of state responsibility and a political preference for negotiations. I question the effectiveness of Imseis’s proposed approach, argue that the duty to terminate an occupation is a positive legal duty that exists regardless of an occupation’s legal status and suggest that the negotiation process cannot be completely uncoupled from the withdrawal requirement. In conclusion, I suggest that grounding calls to terminate occupation in the principle of temporality and the international consensus prohibiting the acquisition of territory by force better reflects international law’s capacity to contribute to an occupation’s termination.

Something is Not Always Better than Nothing: Problematizing Emerging Forms of Jus Ad Bellum Argument

Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

By: David Hughes and Yahli Shereshevsky

Since the adoption of the UN Charter, an unending debate concerning the permissible exceptions to the use of force prohibition has filled the pages of countless law reviews. The resulting legal regime, the jus ad bellum, has become increasingly strained as the international community faces new threats and encounters unforeseen scenarios. The post-war legal architecture is, so the debate goes, either insufficiently enabled to address contemporary challenges or consistently undermined by actors who seek exceptions to the strict limits placed upon state conduct. Debates regarding different instances when force is used exhibit a predictable pattern. Those that wish to limit the scope of the permissible use of force by states (minimalists) offer legal arguments that emphasize the importance of adhering to a strict reading of the UN Charter. Responding, those that support broadening the instances in which force is permissible (expansionists) provide moral arguments that stress the need to bridge the gap between what the law says and what is required to ensure a just international society. This Article identifies a significant shift in the structure of this debate. Following the controversial airstrikes by US, French, and UK forces in Syria, proponents of an expansionist approach have moved from pursuing moral arguments about the necessity of armed intervention to embracing argumentative techniques that attempt to nullify minimalist apprehensions. The Article describes three forms of emergent expansionist arguments that have altered the traditional form of expansionist claims. Each instance suggests that good-faith expansionist efforts to ensure the legitimacy of thead bellum regime are undermined by this emerging argumentative prioritization. The Article concludes by proposing reversion to a form of legal argument that accentuates moral implications and positions international law to maintain its relevancy by effectively contributing to the redress of many of the most consuming challenges that face a nonideal world.