Prior focus: Our Perspectives

Mitchell Belfer on Small States and Security

The Persian Gulf. Image: Hégésippe Cormier/Wikimedia

Trying to define what, exactly, constitutes a ‘small state’ remains a matter of interpretation. The World Bank, for example, defines such a state as a country with a population under 1.5 million, while the United Nations’ Forum of Small States (FOSS) has over 100 (and often more populous) members. In today’s podcast, Mitchell A. Belfer explains why there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ definition of a small state. He also reveals 1) what inspired him to study the contributions that small states make to security; 2) why small states such as Bahrain are often good indicators of the security and geopolitical forces that shape a particular region; and 3) reveals which small states warrant greater attention on the international stage.


Mitchell A. Belfer is the founder and Head of the Department of International Relations and European Studies at Metropolitan University Prague, Czech Republic, and Editor in Chief of the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies (CEJISS).

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Mediation Perspectives: What is Mediation?

Pictured here are US Secretary of State John Kerry and Swiss Federation Council President Didier Burkhalter at the Geneva II conference on Syria. Image: Wikimedia

On 25 November 2014, the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs, together with various German mediation support NGOs, organized a conference on peace mediation. The aims of the conference were to explore the role that Germany can play in this field and to raise the country’s profile as a conflict mediator. As part of the discussion, one of the working groups focused on the types of human resources and institutional structures needed for effective mediation and mediation support. In this context, the first question to arise was “what is mediation?” Indeed, only once this question is answered can the relevant resources and institutions be assembled to effectively provide the desired forms of ‘mediation.’ This implies that the first step for organizations seeking to expand their role as mediators is to be clear about what exactly they have in mind. » More

Prior focus: Partner Insights

Post-Big Bang Expansion, is EU Overcorrecting with the Western Balkans?

EU – Kosovo – wall painting outside Peje (Pec), Kosovo. Image: Adam Jones/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by Friends of Europe on 25 November, 2014.

“Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door”

Bob Dylan

The perspective of joining the European family has proven to be the most effective mobilising factor to stabilise and reform the Balkans. It’s replaced the dark scenario of conflicts sparked by efforts to redraw borders along ethnic lines. It has undoubtedly been the EU’s most powerful geopolitical instrument, the latest illustration being the brokered Belgrade-Pristina agreement. Before the process reached the point of no return, however, the enlargement policy has been challenged, accession hopes dangerously watered down and the door slammed shut, for now. » More

Prior focus: Academic Perspectives

On Religion and Violence

Jihadists carrying rockets.

Masked Palestinian militants with homemade rockets in the outskirts of Gaza City. Image: Amir Farshad Ebrahimi/Flickr

This article was originally published by Contending Modernities, a blog hosted by the University of Notre Dame, on 25 November, 2014. It is part of Contending Modernities’ “Deadly Violence and Conflict Transformation” series.

The rise of ISIL and the so-called Islamic State in 2014 has given prominence to discussions of religious violence in the media, with much emphasis placed on questions of the relationship between Islam and violence. In his speech to the nation on 10 September 2014, President Obama restated his longstanding view that no one who commits violent atrocities in the name of religion can be considered an authentic believer. Similarly, Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium affirms that in the face of “disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalizations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.” Others, however, have responded negatively to such statements, citing, violence in the Qur’an, religious leaders who have promoted violence, and contemporary and historical cases of religious violence linked to Islam. » More

Prior focus: Global Views

“Boots On Our Ground, Please!”: The Army in the Pacific

US Marine Corps General John Paxton in conversation with US Army General Vincent Brooks. Image: Cpl. Tia Dufour/Wikimedia

This article was originally published by War on the Rocks on 26 November 2014.

“It’s great to be someplace where ‘boots on the ground’ is not an insult.” With these words, Secretary of the Army John McHugh kicked-off last month’s Association of the United States Army (AUSA) annual meeting. He continued, to raucous applause, that the United States is, as President Obama termed it, “the indispensable nation,” and that, “we are the indispensible Army of that indispensible nation.”

Good meat and potatoes stuff for an Army crowd, but Secretary McHugh’s words tend to fall on deaf ears outside the medal-bedecked battalions assembled within the AUSA convention hall. Does anyone else share Secretary McHugh’s views? As the Army defines itself for the future, how does it make sure “boots on the ground” is a compliment rather than an insult, and how does it remain “an indispensible Army”? » More

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