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African agency and global orders: the demanding case of nuclear arms control

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Abstract

How much agency do African states have to shape global orders? This study puts the global nuclear order under scrutiny to answer this question. It amounts to a demanding case. Arms control is something that global great powers take very seriously, and there is no weapons category that they take more seriously than nuclear weapons. My findings provide a nuanced picture. Although often outflanked and frustrated by nuclear weapon states, the nuclear order would look different without African actors exerting their agency. They successfully shaped background and foreground institutions constituting the global nuclear order by building advocacies for new institutions upon already existing ones, reaching out to state and non-state actors outside of Africa, and channelling communication through African states with authority in global fora. This study makes three contributions: First, it underlines the key finding of recent literature on African agency that African actors are more to be reckoned with than often assumed. Second, it provides novel evidence about the diplomatic mechanisms through which they come to make a difference. Third, it adds to our grasp of the constitution of global orders as well as the processes through which they come to be made, re-made and unmade more generally.

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