Shortlist: International Affairs Early Career Prize 2017

Andrew Dorman & Krisztina Csortea

In 2017 the editorial team at International Affairs launched a new Early Career Prize, designed to celebrate the quality of the research published in the journal by authors with less than seven years of active experience in the field of International Relations. After a rigorous selection process, we can now reveal the three articles which made our shortlist for the inaugural prize.

Why now?

It has rarely been harder to launch a career in academia. Current demands placed on PhD students and post-doctoral researchers in terms of teaching, course administration, outreach, and, of course, research, have been well documented. In the UK the new Research Excellence Framework (REF) has only added to the pressure to publish regular high-quality, high-impact work alongside a researcher’s other institutional responsibilities. Similar pressures exist throughout the academic world.

In light of this we believe it is important to celebrate outstanding research produced by early career researchers. Of course, the seniority or otherwise of an author is not taken into account during the editorial process, but looking back at the high quality articles by relatively young authors has been a highly rewarding task.

What is the prize?

We have teamed up with our colleagues at Chatham House and Oxford University Press to put together the following prize:

  • A one year membership of Chatham House, including: access to hundreds of events, webinars and briefings; one year subscriptions to International Affairs and The World Today; borrowing rights for the Chatham House library.
  • £300 worth of books from the Oxford University Press catalogue.

When will the winner be announced?

The chosen winner will be announced at a drinks reception during the ISA Annual Convention in San Francisco, on Wednesday 4 April at 7pm. If you are attending the ISA this year then we would be delighted to see you there.

The shortlist

The following articles have been shortlisted by members of our editorial board. They are listed in order of the issue in which they were published.

1) Sexual exploitation and abuse in peace operations: trends, policy responses and future directions

Jasmine-Kim Westendorf and Louise Searle

Celebration of the Internationnal Peacekeeping Day at Ghanbatt, 2014. Photo MONUSCO/Myriam Asmani

Abstract: In 2013, a UN investigation declared sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) ‘the most significant risk to UN peacekeeping missions’. The exploitation and abuse of women and children by peacekeepers, aid workers, private contractors and other interveners has become ubiquitous to peace operations, ranging from rape to transactional sex, sex trafficking, prostitution and pornography. This article investigates the causes of SEA by interveners, and the development of policy responses undertaken by the UN and the international humanitarian community to prevent and ensure accountability for SEA. We argue that use of the umbrella term ‘SEA’, while helpful in distinguishing such behaviour from other forms of abuse, obscures the significant differences in the form, function and causes of the behaviours that fall under it, and we develop an account of the dominant forms SEA takes, based on survivor testimony, in order to better understand why policy responses have been ineffective. Our analysis of global policies around SEA demonstrates that it is dealt with as a discrete form of misbehaviour that occurs on an individual level and can be addressed through largely information-based training processes that inform personnel of its prohibition but fail to engage them in discussions of the local, international, normative, systemic and structural factors that give rise to it. We identify the structural and bureaucratic pressures that have contributed to the narrowing of approach regarding SEA to focus on individual compliance rather than the more complex set of factors at play, and which have undermined the effectiveness of policies globally.

Read the article here.

2) Is China eroding the bargaining power of traditional donors in Africa?

Haley J. Swedlund

A bridge on the China-funded Tanzania Zambia Railway (TAZARA). Photo Richard Stupart/Flickr

Abstract: In this article, the author explores whether the growing presence of Chinese financial assistance is decreasing the bargaining power of traditional donors vis-à-vis African governments. The article relies on data from an original survey of high-ranking donor officials working in multiple African countries, as well as case-studies of Chinese engagement in three diverse African country contexts: Ghana, Uganda and Tanzania. It finds that claims of a ‘silent revolution’ in development cooperation due to China’s increased involvement in the region are overstated. Among donor officials, there is far from consensus that China is decreasing the bargaining power of their agency. On the contrary, evidence from Ghana, Tanzania and Uganda suggests that traditional development aid continues to play an important role and that, in practice, China rarely directly competes with traditional donors. There are, however, two important caveats to this claim. First, when China and traditional donors do directly compete – for example, on infrastructure projects – many recipient governments prefer assistance from China. Second, given China’s interest in expanding markets and acquiring natural resources, countries receiving higher amounts of Chinese official finance are likely to have lower rates of aid dependence. As a result, financing from China is likely to be correlated with a decline in the bargaining power of traditional donors, even if it is not causing such a decline.

Read the article here.

3) Borders and sovereignty in Islamist and Jihadist thought: past and present

Mohamed-Ali Adraoui

The Blue Mosque, Istanbul. Photo Navid Serrano

Abstract: This article explores how Islamists and jihadists have framed issues pertaining to sovereignty, borders, as well as political and religious identity, over the last century. At a time when the territorial delimitations of several Arab countries seem more fickle than ever, it is necessary to address how Islamists and jihadists view the historical and contemporary aspects of borders and sovereignty. The Islamists, on the one hand – whose aim is creating a caliphate – have had to deal with unexpected realities, turning inevitably to some extent of reform of their original revolutionary ambition. The jihadists, on the other hand, while remaining committed to an armed struggle to unify Muslims worldwide, do not advocate for any action other than global insurrection. By focusing on the writings and discourses of major Islamist and jihadist leaders, it thus appears that the study of borders and sovereignty is indispensable to understanding the similarities and differences between the two ideologies. In addition, the study of borders and sovereignty allows for predicting developments in the region that largely pertain to the desire to achieve (jihadists) or amend (modern Islamists) the original revisionist design. It appears that borders, territory and sovereignty prove to be significant constraints for both Islamists and jihadists. Evidently, both Islamists and jihadists have reacted in diverging ways to the political and cultural realities that stand against their founding ideology – with certain Islamist movements having thus nationalized their doctrine, while jihadists still remain eager to achieve their original ambition.

Read the article here.

What next?

The judges will select the article from this list which:

  • Shows innovative thinking on an issue in international affairs/studies
  • Offers a valuable contribution to the field/literature
  • Demonstrates excellent research methods, analytical abilities and a clear presentation of argument
  • Is well written in an accessible style
  • Overall stands out as the best article by an early career author in the given calendar year, observing International Affairs’ remit to be an academically rigorous and policy-relevant journal.

For more information on International Affairs, and how to submit your research, visit our website.



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