International Relations

The Future of Work among the Forcibly Displaced
Evan Easton-Calabria
and
Andreas Hackl

The current scale and duration of displacement prompts renewed urgency about livelihoods prospects for displaced people and the role of humanitarian organisations in fostering them. This special issue focuses on how aid organisations, together with the private sector and other actors, have worked to include refugees in new forms of online work within the web-based digital economy. Building on comparative analysis and a comprehensive review of the field of digital livelihoods among the forcibly displaced, in this introductory article we argue that including refugees in this digital economy is currently neither a sustainable form of humanitarian relief nor is it a development solution that provides large-scale decent work. We show how digital livelihoods approaches have gained a special footing in the middle ground between short-term economic relief and long-term development. Indeed, digital economies seemingly offer a variety of ‘quick-fix’ solutions at the transition from humanitarian emergency towards long-term development efforts. While digital economies harbour significant potential, this cannot be fully realised unless current efforts to include refugees in digital economies are complemented by efforts to address digital divides, uphold refugees’ rights, and ensure more decent working conditions.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Amanda Alencar
and
Julia Camargo

Discourses around the so-called digital economy are increasingly more present in contexts of forced displacement, with digital inclusion of refugees being framed by humanitarian agencies as a fundamental human right and an essential tool to promote access to income and skills development. While digital work can certainly bring about positive changes in forced migration settings, imaginaries around the role of the digital in refugees’ economic lives reflect a broader neoliberal project that envisions a retreat of the welfare state and that places on refugees the responsibility to integrate. This article draws on spatial imaginaries frameworks to advance the theoretical understanding of power differentials that are embodied in the use of technologies to promote refugee livelihoods. A combination of interviews, participant and non-participant observations was used to examine the perspectives of Venezuelan refugee women and humanitarian actors in the context of a digital work initiative in the city of Boa Vista, Brazil. The analysis reveals a mismatch between the imaginaries underpinning digital work opportunities and the expectations and plans of the refugee women themselves about the use of ICTs and engagement in digital forms of employability. Such disconnect can reinforce inequalities for refugee’s agency in the digital economy.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Bilateralism versus alliances
Robert Mason

Under shifting macro-economic conditions, namely rising energy imports, a reorientation of Chinese foreign policy under President Xi Jinping, and the expansive Belt and Road Initiative, China–United Arab Emirates and Saudi relations are burgeoning. Having concluded comprehensive strategic partnerships encompassing political, military, energy and security dimensions, these relations are well matched, especially in areas such as fintech, smart city technology, artificial intelligence and COVID-19 vaccine cooperation. However, conditioned by Beijing’s reticence over Middle East entanglements and prioritisation of the Indo-Pacific region, US policy priorities and aversion to over-dependence, this chapter finds that whilst bilateral relations are vital, they remain somewhat uncertain.

in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
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Robert Mason

The conclusion answers the book’s guiding research questions. It covers a number of conceptual bases including threat perception, modified decision making, absent effective regional security structures, as well as transitions within and away from riyal politik and economic statecraft. The chapter also dwells on the role of oil policy and other strategic economic relations in the conduct of Saudi and United Arab Emirates (UAE) foreign policy and international relations, such as expatriate labour opportunities, labour remittances and the Hajj. The chapter discusses new or revitalised trade patterns generally associated with the Saudi and UAE Visions strategies, alongside shifts in US policy. Alliance patterns, hegemony, dependency, leverage, patron–client relations, hedging and political legitimacy are analysed within this new context.

in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
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Security on the western flank
Robert Mason

Recent conflicts such as the Eritrean–Ethiopian War of 1998–2000, with a final peace agreed only in 2018 with significant Saudi and United Arab Emirates (UAE) economic and diplomatic support, and the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen from 2015, have catalysed Saudi and UAE engagement. The chapter also describes how the Arab uprisings as well as the Qatar Crisis involving Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE and Egypt on the one hand, and Qatar and Turkey on the other, have further incentivised Gulf Cooperation Council state competition in the Horn of Africa, especially in states undergoing transition such as Sudan and Somalia. The chapter finds that Tehran does not generally have the economic resources to compete. However, the death knell for its influence in the Horn has been a combination of pragmatic local political elites seeking to balance their interests, a lack of local Shia affiliation, and Saudi Arabia’s golden opportunity to extend its alliances in the Horn in 2016, buttressed by upfront economic and energy payments.

in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
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Shifting tides of interaction and dependency
Robert Mason

Saudi and United Arab Emirates relations with India and Pakistan, and Asia more widely, are becoming increasingly complex and dynamic as Saudi Arabia shifts focus from Islamic to economic credentials and as these Gulf Cooperation Council states continue to implement their Visions strategies. Whilst relations with India and Pakistan are durable, a number of potential hurdles remain. This chapter argues that Saudi–India relations and Saudi–Pakistani relations reached a possible inversion point in the 2015–20 period after Pakistan proved unreliable in sending troops to support the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and indirectly criticised Saudi Arabia over its policy on Kashmir. As a major and growing economy which has been able to establish joint ventures and avoid entanglements in the Middle East, and with significant military-to-military relations, India adds significant value for these states. The chapter concludes with further remarks concerning the conceptualisation of shifts and transitions taking place bilaterally and inter-regionally between South and West Asia.

in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
Transnationalism and Islamic leadership
Robert Mason

Having sat on the periphery of Gulf politics and Islam for decades, Southeast Asia is becoming a hotbed of local and interregional activity once more, partly spurred on by Iran filling a vacuum left by Gulf Cooperation Council state disinterest. Following the growth of Al Qaeda and ISIS in the Middle East and the Taliban becoming the dominant power once again in Afghanistan, debates surrounding violent Islamism and Islamic fundamentalism have been ignited, to which these states are responding. This chapter provides an overview of Saudi and United Arab Emirates engagement with Indonesia and Malaysia, referencing changes in the domestic politics of these nations and the evolving bases of their centuries-old interactions. Malaysia’s Muslim summit in 2019 positioned it briefly as a ‘challenger state’, underscoring an emerging fault line between these Asian states with diverse identities, constitutions, governance and policies.

in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
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Robert Mason

This introductory chapter briefly lays out the aim of the book, which is to explore the foreign and security policies of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, the two largest economies in the Middle East, in the context of leadership, political succession, transition and consolidation, as well as socio-economic change and other challenges taking place. It then summarises the structure of the chapters to follow.

in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
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A supreme ontological threat
Robert Mason

Saudi and United Arab Emirates (UAE) relations with Iran are central to their respective threat perceptions and their wider regional and international calculations. This chapter outlines key shaping factors that drive these ’states’ contemporary interactions and provides some additional context for their (dis)engagement, notably due to Hajj incidents and to US policy ranging from rising sectarian tensions after the US intervention in Iraq in 2003, to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which failed to address Iranian missile developments and Iranian relations with militia groups. However, shifting calculations concerning US Middle East policy under successive administrations, especially on Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria and Yemen, has created a new landscape for diplomatic engagement. The UAE, with its own historical contentions with Iran, doubled down on efforts to engage Iran with health diplomacy during COVID-19, and both Saudi Arabia and the UAE used the election of President Ebrahim Raisi as an opportunity to elevate contact and diplomacy further. The chapter, coupled with the following one on regional relations, underscores the main dynamics of Saudi–Iranian contestation and expression.

in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates
Institutionalising ties amid strategic uncertainty
Robert Mason

This chapter details the broadening bilateral relations between Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Japan and the Republic of Korea. It assesses the interplay of energy dependence, East Asian contributions to, and benefits from, Saudi and UAE Vision strategies, and attempts to conceptualise their contemporary relations and effects on the wider region. The chapter covers the period from the turn of the twentieth century, to Japanese energy calculations following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in 2011, and engagement with Vision 2030. The chapter further charts wider how energy and security relations have developed over time, East Asian soft power penetration into these Gulf Cooperation Council societies and the complementary nature of strategic diversification and demand between these states.

in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates