The field of International Relations has long been involved in the study of “normative transformation” – i.e. with the ways in which norms with universal ambitions, such as human rights, are “projected” onto states and there “internalized” by local actors. Much less is known, however, about how these interpretations are in turn fed back up to the global level. By focusing on understandings of peacebuilding in China, Japan and Russia, this project seeks to study the manner in which both top-down and bottom-up dynamics influence the nature, content, and direction of normative change. In doing so, it advances a new theoretical and methodological framework that seeks to offer an innovative contribution to contemporary scholarship on norm diffusion, the role of rising powers in global governance, and the (re)shaping of international order.
Mainstream peacebuilding scholarship, which is predominantly Anglophone and ideologically embedded in the “liberal peace” paradigm, pays little attention to peacebuilding practices undertaken by non-Western countries. This project seeks to critically compare and contrast the normative and practical underpinnings of what the project calls the “global peacebuilding order” by focusing specifically on the three case-study countries and their regional spheres of influence. Indeed, China has been increasingly involved in peacebuilding activities in Africa, Russia is active in the Caucasus and the Middle East, and Japan has recently changed its constitution to allow military personnel to be sent abroad. What is more, the three countries are also key players in contemporary security dynamcis in Central and East Asia.
In terms of deliverables, the project will produce a vibrant and interactive webpage that links peacebuilding scholars and practitioners, four to five scholarly articles published in peer-reviewed journals, an edited volume that offers reactions to the project’s findings from key academics and practitioners in China, Japan and Russia, and a set of accessible issue briefs. Drawing on the research teams’ extensive network of peacebuilding scholars and practitioners in Beijing, Tokyo and Moscow, the project will confront practitioners in Geneva and New York with “alternative” visions of peacebuilding maintained by academics, decision-makers and the general public in the three countries of study.