For our weekly “Ideas on Europe” editorial by UACES, the University Association for European Studies, we have the pleasure to welcome Miriam Mona Mukalazi, from the University of Düsseldorf, in Germany.
Miriam, you are a PhD researcher examining the EU’s “Women, Peace, and Security” agenda, with a focus on the EU’s role in the UN Security Council. Tell us more about your topic.
The Women, Peace and Security agenda – “WPS” in short – is a human rights framework to ensure a gender-sensitive approach to peace and security policies.
In 2000, with its Resolution number 1325, the UN Security Council set the fundament for this agenda. It consists of four pillars: prevention, protection, participation, as well as relief and recovery. To adapt the WPS agenda to specific contexts, regional and national action plans are put in place. And one of them is the EU Action Plan on Women, Peace and Security 2019-2024. Every October, the Annual Open Debate on WPS takes place in the Security Council, where WPS actors like the EU are invited to deliver a statement regarding their achievements and demands.
What assumptions is your own research on this agenda based on?
The assumption of my research is that international agreements and the international system are influenced by a (post-)colonial legacy. This could be the past colonial relation among states but also the current reproduction of colonial stereotypes of people.
One example of this (post-) colonial legacy among political powers is the self-understanding of the EU as a global WPS actor. It seems to be a given, almost normal, fact that the EU realises WPS projects mainly beyond its borders, particularly in its direct neighbour regions. At the same time, it also appears to be a given fact the regional organisations from the Global South, like the African Union, only focus on their own region. Although civil society and institutions from the Global South highlight the necessity to connect the WPS agenda with foreign and domestic policies, the EU is still mainly looking outside its borders when it comes to WPS.
I also apply post-colonial and feminist methods for my data collection. This had, for example, an impact on my selection of interview partners. Questioning who is defined as an expert and why. Or asking why experts from the Global South are seldomly identified as EU experts, but experts from the Global North are recognised as legitimate experts talking about all kinds of institutions across the globe.
So it’s actually more about the legitimation of actors in the WPS agenda.
Drawing on my professional experience at UN Women Germany, I started to be interested in studying how the WPS actors actually legitimise their behaviour and decisions. This is how I ended up studying legitimation processes in the WPS context. In particular, I find it fascinating to look at which actors the EU identifies as worthy of seeking legitimacy from.
Tell us about the experts you interviewed for your research and how the interviews went.
When I analysed the interviews, it really surprised me that most of my interview partners are aware of post-colonial and even decolonial approaches and actually trying to integrate them into their work around the annual debate, particularly during the consultation rounds before the annual debate.
It matters who is delivering the statement. Over time, there is a clear change of who is being addressed as legitimation audiences or not, how, why and when.
In the early years of the WPS agenda, representatives of EU member states delivered a statement on behalf of the EU, but then the EU created the position of a Principal Adviser on Gender and on UNSCR 1325, which was recently changed to Gender and Diversity Ambassador, who now delivers the statement. This had an impact on the legitimation audience. For example, the statements address more and more own EU entities and voice rising self-criticism. The legitimation dimension becomes increasingly internal and not only external as before.
One of the results is also that the EU clearly defines civil society actors as a key audience in its statements. In the early years of the WPS agenda, civil society was only mentioned in a small paragraph. But in the most recent statements, civil society gained a more prominent place in the EU’s statements. In addition to that, different civil society organisations were explicitly called by their names instead of generally speaking of ‘the civil society’. The interviews also confirmed that civil society is identified as a critical audience to seek legitimacy from for the EU’s WPS agenda.
Still, some civil society members in my interviews consider that, at the end of the day, the EU makes its decisions rather as a member states driven institution, not as an institution that embeds approaches of grassroots movements.
And if you look beyond the EU’s official statement in October?
The statement is part of a whole annual legitimation circle. My next step is to analyse to what degree and how the target legitimation audiences are involved during the whole circle of legitimation and why this matters for the EU’s next statement during the Open Annual Debate.
Many thanks, Miriam, for this insight into your very original research topic.
Ideas on Europe will be back next week and we will welcome Patrick Bijsmans, from Maastricht University, in the Netherlands.