Project

Legitimating Global-Regional Security Cooperation

Goal: International security governance is increasingly shaped by complex cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations. This complicates its legitimation, as global and regional actors may have very different ideas about what constitutes appropriate security action. The project analyzes and compares the legitimation discourses surrounding UN security cooperation with different regional actors, focusing on the sources and consequences of normative frictions at the intersection of global and regional governance.

Date: 1 September 2017 - 28 February 2020

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Kilian Spandler
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On 17 November 2020, I presented my research on narratives in Southeast Asia's humanitarian governance at a webinar organized by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS). You can watch the full video here:
The presentation is based on the paper:
 
Kilian Spandler
added a research item
Webinar at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) on the article "Saving people or saving face? Four narratives of regional humanitarian order in Southeast Asia" Video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xIPvNCCev6M&feature=youtu.be Paper link: https://doi.org/10.1080/09512748.2020.1833079
Kilian Spandler
added a research item
ASEAN member states have invested substantially in cooperation on humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR). Despite broad support for the idea of ‘localizing’ HADR governance, the rise of regional agency has in practice led to uncertainty and frictions between humanitarian stakeholders. The article makes sense of these tensions by investigating the narratives through which intra- and extraregional agents construct the role of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre). Based on the assumption that narratives are central legitimating practices when new agents enter a governance arena, it analyzes textual material produced by different humanitarian organizations that operate in Southeast Asia, as well as interviews with representatives from these organizations. Their accounts of the AHA Centre’s role can be grouped into four narratives that are bound up with competing ideas about regional humanitarian order: an affirmative one, a skeptical one, a critical one and a transformative one. The article thus rejects characterizations of regional HADR as a rationally designed ‘architecture’ and instead defines it as a deeply political arena where different conceptions of order are asserted, contested and negotiated.
Kilian Spandler
added a research item
The ‘hybrid' United Nations-African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) was initially hailed as a model for peacekeeping cooperation between the UN and African regional organizations. However, UNAMID soon faced contestation from different stakeholders, and the UN and the AU have now essentially abandoned the hybrid approach. The article reconstructs how the mission’s deteriorating legitimacy relates to changing self-legitimation strategies by the two organizations. The UN and the AU pursued mutual legitimation when establishing UNAMID, but later mobilized historical narratives and diverging normative standards to promote competing authority claims. The article thus advances an understanding of inter-organizational relations as inherently political.
Kilian Spandler
added a research item
The traditional dominance of Western state and non-state actors in the governance of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) has frequently led to frictions around questions of sovereignty and authority. Affected states often resent what they perceive as external intervention, while aid agencies routinely accuse governments of denying their populations much-needed help. Against this background, states in the non-Western world are increasingly cooperating regionally to foster their own agency in HADR. To some extent, these developments are compatible with discourses supporting the 'localization' of humanitarian action. However, empirical evidence shows that there is persistent uncertainty about the role of regional mechanisms in HADR governance. Based on a case study of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) in Southeast Asia, this paper offers a counterpoint to the pursuit of a governance 'architecture' by arguing that the rise of regional mechanisms fundamentally unsettles the humanitarian order and its liberal underpinnings. Drawing on theories of ordering and narrative legitimation, and based on extensive interviews with policy-makers and stakeholders in the region, the study shows that regional mechanisms have acquired an ambiguous standing in HADR governance. The role of the AHA Centre remains suspended between four competing narratives that correspond to the classical genres of narrative analysis: romance, tragedy, comedy and satire. These accounts do not just offer diverging ideas about the legitimacy of regional HADR mechanisms, but are also bound up with competing perceptions of liberal order. Diverging interests and normative predispositions militate against a convergence of actors' narratives around a common vision of regional HADR governance. The paper thus rejects characterizations of regional HADR as a rationally designed 'architecture' and instead defines it as a deeply political arena where different conceptions of order are asserted, contested and negotiated.
Kilian Spandler
added a research item
Since the early 2000s, the UN and its African partner organizations have increasingly engaged in joint planning, resourcing and implementation of peacekeeping operations. Intensifying cooperation was a way to address the criticism of traditional top-down approaches in which the UN delegated peacekeeping tasks to regional actors. At the same time, new legitimacy problems and ongoing contestation among global and regional security actors have emerged. In fact, the most integrated instance of joint peacekeeping to date, the 'hybrid' UNAMID operation in Darfur, has decidedly lost its former status as a model for African peacekeeping. This paper interprets the seemingly paradoxical standing of hybrid peacekeeping-creating legitimacy problems despite being introduced as a more legitimate solution-as a consequence of dynamic legitimation discourses. Applying a framework inspired by frame analysis, it shows that while the UN and the AU initially engaged in mutual legitimation in the context of the Darfur crisis, normative divergences have subsequently led to more contested legitimation. Supporting cooperation can thus be a strategy for global and regional actors to legitimate peacekeeping, but it also heightens the potential for frictions, as it leads to a pluralization of legitimation agents and audiences.
Kilian Spandler
added a research item
Major transformations have made global security governance – including traditional peacekeeping but also other areas like post-conflict peacebuilding and disaster response – more complex than in the heyday of the so-called ‘liberal world order’. While the United Nations (UN) continues to claim supreme authority in matters of peace and security, regional organizations have built up their capacities and are pursuing their own aspirations – in part as a response to what they perceive as shortcomings of the UN. As a consequence, the UN and regional organizations now operate alongside or in cooperation with each other in a large number of conflict and emergency settings. In this presentation, I critically discusses this trend and its implications for security governance beyond the state. Evidence from cooperation instances from Europe, Africa and Southeast Asia shows that no single model for global-regional cooperation has materialized. Instead, the UN and its partners are operating with varying success in a baffling variety of institutional arrangements. I argue that these developments reflect an increasing diversity of ideas about legitimate security governance held by stakeholders on different scales. Just like the institutional models, an evaluation of the effectiveness and legitimacy of global-regional security cooperation can therefore not follow a one-size-fits-all approach. Instead, any assessment needs to take the specific context of actors and stakeholders in concrete instances of security cooperation into account.
Kilian Spandler
added a research item
In the field of international security governance, new forms of cooperation between the United Nations (UN) and regional organizations (ROs) have recently emerged. The conventional top-down delegation of tasks from the UN to regional bodies is increasingly supplemented by 'hybrid' missions, which are characterized by joint planning, shared resourcing and integrated command structures. This trend not only makes the operational implementation of security governance on the ground more challenging but also complicates its legitimation, i.e. the practices through which stakeholders assert that it is an appropriate form of security governance. Indeed, while many policy-makers and academics have ardently advocated for global-regional collaboration, some stakeholders remain highly skeptical towards hybrid approaches. To account for this contentious standing, the paper engages with the literature on legitimacy in global governance and develops a framework for analyzing the legitimation discourses surrounding UN-RO cooperation. Existing approaches to legitimacy in global governance have not systematically explored how normative contexts shape ideas about legitimacy. Consequently, we do not understand well what happens when organizations with different ideas about legitimacy come together to debate the possibility of cooperation, and how potential frictions can be mediated. To remedy this shortcoming, the paper makes conceptual and methodological suggestions. Conceptually, I treat legitimation as a discursive practice that is embedded in a normative context encompassing different visions of international society on the global and regional level. This context does not causally determine ideas about legitimacy but constitutes a realm of possible claims that agents can strategically employ in the process of legitimation. Methodologically, this contextual framework calls for a context-sensitive discourse analytical approach which is both sensitive to what is actually said and to the implicit normative foundations of legitimation talk. In lieu of an empirical application, I provide a methodological outline for an application in a comparative case study design that demonstrates the benefits of the framework. The approach promises new empirical and theoretical insights about the legitimation of hybrid security governance but may also enrich the study of legitimacy in global governance more broadly.
Kilian Spandler
added a research item
New forms of cooperation between the United Nations (UN) and regional organizations have recently emerged in the field of international security governance. Conventional top-down delegation of tasks from the UN to regional bodies is increasingly supplemented by hybrid missions with shared planning and command structures. This development does not only change the character of activities on the ground but also has important implications for the legitimacy of international security governance. While many policy-makers and academics have ardently advocated global-regional cooperation, some stakeholders remain highly reluctant. I argue that we need to understand this contentious standing of UN-RO security cooperation against the background of the discursive processes through which global and regional actors construct, assert and negotiate different understandings of legitimate security. To date, there is no comparative analysis of the processes of legitimization through which the UN and its partners in different world regions deliberate whether joint action is desirable. To fill this gap, the paper sketches out a research project which sheds light on the discursive struggles between promoters and opponents of cooperation, and how divergent legitimacy standards affect these processes. I engage with the literature on legitimacy in international society and develop a framework for analyzing the legitimizing discourses surrounding the emergence and implementation of global-regional security cooperation which takes into account their embeddedness in different global and regional ‘primary institutions’. Since such divergent normative convictions are a potential source of friction in the legitimizing discourses, the way in which the UN and its regional partners construct, represented and negotiate them are crucial for the legitimacy of global-regional cooperation.
Kilian Spandler
added a project goal
International security governance is increasingly shaped by complex cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations. This complicates its legitimation, as global and regional actors may have very different ideas about what constitutes appropriate security action. The project analyzes and compares the legitimation discourses surrounding UN security cooperation with different regional actors, focusing on the sources and consequences of normative frictions at the intersection of global and regional governance.