International Relations

Obama’s Legacy and the Trump Transition

This edited volume explores the political, economic and security legacies former US President Barack Obama leaves across Asia and the Pacific, following two terms in office between 2009 and 2017. The aim is to advance our understanding of Obama’s style, influence and impact by interrogating the nature and contours of US engagement throughout the region, and the footprint he leaves behind. Moreover, it is to inform upon the endurance of, and prospects for, the legacies Obama leaves in a region increasingly reimaged in Washington as the Indo-Pacific. Contributors to the volume examine these questions in early 2019, at around the halfway point of the 2017–2021 Presidency of Donald Trump, as his administration opens a new and potentially divergent chapter of American internationalism. The volume uniquely explores the contours and dimensions of US relations and interactions with key Indo-Pacific states including China, India, Japan, North Korea and Australia; multilateral institutions and organisations such the East Asia Summit and ASEAN; and salient issue areas such as regional security, politics and diplomacy, and the economy. It does so with contributions from high-profile scholars and policy practitioners, including Michael Mastanduno, Bruce Cumings, Maryanne Kelton, Robert Sutter and Sumit Ganguly. The volume will be of interest to students and scholars of the international relations of Asia and the Pacific, broadly defined; US foreign policy and global engagement; the record and legacies of former President Barack Obama; and the foreign policies of the administration of President Donald Trump.

Oliver Turner

This chapter begins by exploring the ideational and material foundations of the United States’ modern-day presence across the Asia Pacific. Since the early to mid- nineteenth century the United States has pursued a position of imperial hegemony throughout the region, to secure an American Pacific framed by the perceived civilisational values and physical authority of the American self. As a result, the Asia Pacific has long been understood in Washington to constitute an extension of US territory and identity. The chapter then turns to the presidency of Barack Obama, to demonstrate how his policies and worldviews were heavily informed by centuries of embedded logics about the United States and its role in the Asia Pacific. It then assesses what the first two years of the Donald Trump presidency reveal about the historical legacies of the United States’ enduring regional presence in the post-Obama era. Key legacies of the American Pacific for US administrations remain manifest as routinely unquestioned truths about the United States as a local actor throughout a distant region. An ever-expanding reach of US influence and authority has led to an ever-expanding sense of responsibility to sustain and defend itself there.

in The United States in the Indo-Pacific
German Responses to the June 2019 Mission of the Sea-Watch 3
Klaus Neumann

The European responses to irregularised migrants in the second decade of the twenty-first century have been qualitatively new not so much because of the often-celebrated cultures of hospitality in countries such as Germany and Sweden, but because of acts of solidarity that have challenged the prerogative of nation-states to control access to their territory. I discuss elements of the public response in Germany to the criminalisation of one such act, the search and rescue (SAR) operation of the Sea-Watch 3 in the Central Mediterranean in June 2019, which led to the arrest of the ship’s captain, Carola Rackete, by Italian authorities. I argue that while the response to Rackete’s arrest was unprecedented, it built upon a year-long campaign in support of private SAR missions in the Mediterranean, which drew on the discourse of rights and was therefore not reliant on a short-term outpouring of compassion. Rackete’s supporters have also been energised by alternative visions of Europe, and by the vitriol reserved for her by followers of the populist far right.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
A Framework for Measuring Effectiveness in Humanitarian Response
Vincenzo Bollettino and Birthe Anders

In most of today’s crises, humanitarian organisations operate in the same environment as a range of military and non-state armed actors. The effective engagement between militaries and humanitarian aid agencies can be beneficial for the timely delivery of aid and is also often unavoidable when trying to gain access to areas controlled by military or non-state armed actors. However, such engagement also comes with risks. Previous literature on the subject has described some of the benefits and potential risks of different types of engagement between military and humanitarian actors. To date, however, quantifiable data on how civil–military engagement unfolds and which factors influence the effectiveness of coordination is lacking. This paper proposes an indicator framework for measuring the effectiveness of civil–military coordination in humanitarian response. It provides nineteen descriptive level and twenty perception and effectiveness indicators that may be used at any stage of a response to a humanitarian emergency, from mission planning and assessment through the various stages of a response and post-response assessment. The full set of questions, or a more targeted subset of these questions, may also be used as periodic polls to actively monitor developments in theatre.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
The Law and Politics of Responding to Attacks against Aid Workers
Julia Brooks and Rob Grace

Violence against aid workers seeking to bring assistance and protection to vulnerable people amid ongoing armed conflicts, disasters or other crises has fuelled growing concern over how to protect the humanitarian mission. Based on semi-structured interviews conducted with 118 practitioners involved in humanitarian operations and security management, this article considers three under-analysed prongs of grappling with humanitarian insecurity. The first three sections, in turn, examine the pursuit of accountability at both the domestic and international levels, public advocacy efforts and confidential negotiation. The fourth section links the article’s assessment of these three modes of responding to humanitarian insecurity to the broader discourse on security management in the humanitarian sector. Specifically, this section revisits and reimagines the security triangle, a framework that has played an influential role in shaping discourse on security management in humanitarian operations. The final section offers concluding remarks.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Why Building Back Better Means More than Structural Safety
Bill Flinn

This paper explores the importance of house and home for survivors of natural disaster: it protects from hazards and contributes to health, well-being and economic security. It examines the reconstruction of homes after a disaster as an opportunity to Build Back Better, re-defining ‘better’ as an holistic and people-centred improvement in housing. It questions the humanitarian shelter sector’s emphasis on structural safety while poor sanitation, inadequate vector control and smoke inhalation are responsible for many more deaths worldwide than earthquakes and storms. The paper extends this discussion by arguing that promoting ‘safer’ for a substantial number of families is better than insisting on ‘safe’ for fewer. The overall benefit in terms of lives saved, injuries avoided and reduced economic loss is greater when safer is prioritised over safe, and it frees resources for wider consideration of a ‘good home’ and the pursuance of ‘self-recovery’. The paper is informed by field research conducted in 2017 and 2018. Finally, implications for humanitarian shelter practice are outlined, with particular reference to self-recovery. It highlights a need for adaptive programming, knowledge exchange and close accompaniment so that families and communities can make informed choices with respect to their own recovery pathways.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Fernando Espada
Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
A Response to the Journal of Humanitarian Affairs Special Issue on Innovation in Humanitarian Action (JHA, 1:3)
Anna Skeels
Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Nazanin Zadeh-Cummings and Lauren Harris

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK, or North Korea) has been a recipient of international humanitarian aid from international organisations (IOs) and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) since 1995. In recent years, multilateral and unilateral sanctions in response to the DPRK’s nuclear programme have created a new layer of difficulty for humanitarians looking to engage with the authoritarian state. This paper explores how sanctions are affecting humanitarian work in practice, utilising interviews with practitioners. The research first surveys documentation, particularly from IOs, to establish how humanitarians understand contemporary need inside the country. Next, this paper examines the impacts of sanctions on aid efforts, with a particular focus on multilateral United Nations Security Council (UNSC) sanctions and unilateral American measures. Unpacking humanitarian challenges and potential ways to navigate the sanctions regime provides a foundation for academics and humanitarian practitioners to better understand both the DPRK and possible avenues for principled, effective aid.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Open Access (free)
Brad Evans

This essay critically addresses ten prevailing assumptions about violence: (1) violence is natural; (2) violence comes easily to humans; (3) violence attacks a juridical life; (4) violence is the result of underdevelopment; (5) violence is the result of difference; (6) violence is a sign of absolute power; (7) violence is associated with some death drive; (8) violence can be intelligent through a mastery of technology; (9) the opposite of violence is a just peace; and (10) violence is an assault on the sacred meaning of life. In doing so, it opens up a conversation on the meaning of political violence and makes an impassioned call to free ourselves from sacred myths that bind us to a problem that still appears insurmountable.

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs