Christian Bueger

Training course on impact

Over the last four weeks I had the pleasure to participate in a training course provided by DANIDA. The course focused on engagement, impact and influencing, or in other words how research can be turned into useful expertise. For me it was the second time to attend a course with such a focus, having earlier attended the one provided by the U.S. Bridging the Gap project. It was a brilliant opportunity to reconnect not only to the debate on expertise in practical terms, but to learn more about the tools and tactics employed in particular by non-governmental organizations and development workers to plan for impact and “stakeholder” engagement but also how to record outcomes.

While many of these tools are developed against the “project logic” and ideas of documenting “measurable impact”, they are still productive to reflect on the various ways that academics can act as experts and translate their knowledge, for instance, through capacity building, networking, education, or even providing more policy oriented technical tools. Such tools might be concepts, narratives or policy options and scenarios, and hence go far beyond from the old fashioned ideas, that scientific research primarily develops ‘facts’ or ‘causal’ knowledge claims. Engaging with non-academic audience also does not necessarily imply to work with governments or power elites, but very well mean to prioritize work with NGOs and communities directly.

Virtual conference of the European International Studies Association (EISA)

This week I am attending the conference of the EISA which is the main association in International Relations (IR) in Europe. After the cancellation of last year’s edition, this year is taking place in a virtual format. The conference program documents the rich variety of current research in IR and particular the various strands of sociology driven forms of analysis. At the conference I am part of five panels.

The first panel is a discussion of the insights from our recently published book titled Concepts at Work, edited by Piki Ish-Shalom. The book makes a case for the importance of concepts as core material of international relations, and raises the need to focus academic inquiries on the entity of concepts. In my contribution to the panel, I revisit the core take away points from my chapter in the book which analyses the concept of ‘blue economy’.

In the chapter, I argue that we should investigate concepts in practice and pay particular attention to the situations in which concepts are used as tools for particular purposes. Blue economy is a remarkable concept since it has restructured the politics of ocean governance substantially and offers an opportunity to think the economic potential and the sustainability of ocean resources conjointly. Yet, there is quite some variety in how the concept is used. I explore how the EU, the small island state of Seychelles and the African Union develops the concept.

The second panel is a roundtable on ‘folk theory’. This follows up on an earlier discussion at the 2021 International Studies Association conference. Folk theory is a notion that invites us to reflect on the concept of theory and in how far the knowledge production of non-academic actors matters in world politics.

In my own commentary I stress that folk theory is an important concept that invites us to open up conventional understandings of ‘theory’ in IR. It is important not to restrict ‘theory’ to a sort of academic upper class of theorizers or to maintain a hierarchy between those doing theory, and those doing empirics. The notion of folk theory brings back agency: who actually theorizes? Addressing this question leads us to consider a broader set of actors that do theorizing. Yet, we shouldn’t extend the groups of theorizers without limitations, as otherwise we risk conflating the concept of ‘theory’ with ‘knowledge’. ‘Theory’ needs to be understood as a particular form of knowledge that has particular characteristics, such as the capacity to travel beyond contexts.

In addition, I am the chair of a panel on knowledge production, expertise, and epistemic practices, and discussant on a panel on spokespersons and on theorizing practice.

Public debate on African navies and capacity building

This week I had the pleasure to speak at an event organized by the maritime security team at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria. The event was titled “Safe, secure and stable seas: how are African navies contributing?”. The discussion provided an opportunity to review the current state of maritime security in Africa and investigate in particular two issues: firstly, the role of navies in contributing to maritime security, secondly, the capacity building needs of African countries.

In my talk I summarized some of the core insights from our 2020 book “Capacity Building for Maritime Security. The Western Indian Ocean Experience” and ideas derived from the ongoing AMARIS project that studies maritime security in Ghana. In particular I stressed the importance of the diversity of states in terms of their maritime security challenges, the importance of the coordination problem and the lack of attention to sustainability of capacity building initiatives.

A recording of the event is available here.

AMARIS interpretation workshop

The core team of the Anaylizing Maritime Insecurity in Ghana (AMARIS) research project met on the 25th and 26th of August to reflect on initial findings and outcomes. AMARIS is the first project to investigate maritime security in the country of the Global South in-depth. While substantial research has been conducted on regional processes, and global maritime security providers such as the U.S., the European Union, Australia or the UK have been studied in detail, the national level in countries severely affected by maritime insecurities in the Global South have hardly been investigated, with few exceptions.

AMARIS Core Team

AMARIS is a collaboration between Denmark and Ghana based researchers. Together we explore maritime security on three levels: 1) blue crime, 2) maritime security governance, and 3) capacity building. Further information is available on the SafeSeas website.

Conference on Maritime Asia

From the 9th to 12th of August I am participating in an exciting inter-disciplinary conference organised by the Centre for Geopolitics, Cambridge and the Institute for East Asian Studies, Berkley. The conference is titled “Maritime Asia: The securitization of the China Seas in the 19th to 21st Centuries.” As the title indicates the conference is an attempt to facilitate a trialogue between international history, international relations and area studies.

At the conference I will be give a presentation drawing on a paper co-authored with Scott Edwards. The paper investigates the rise of maritime Southeast Asia as an ocean region. It draws on and advances the securitizing community of practice framework to investigate the rise of a transnational maritime security community that conceives of maritime Southeast Asia in integrated and holistic terms.

Event on Subsea Data Cables

Yesterday, SafeSeas organized an event on the protection and governance of subsea data cables. On the basis of our recently published article, we discussed why data cables are often invisible, and what are the key challenges in governing and protecting them. The recording is available on YouTube.

The webinar was the first of a series organised as part of the DACANE project funded by the Danish Agency for Higher Education and Science. DACANE is a collaboration between the University of Copenhagen, the Institute of Security Studies in Pretoria and the SafeSeas network.

Workshop on the E3 in the Indo Pacific

What is the future role of the E3 – France, Germany and the United Kingdom – in the Indo Pacific region? This was the core question explored at an online expert workshop on 22.6. organized by four think tanks from the three countries. The focus was on two areas: 1) maritime security and 2) climate change and environmental policy.

The workshop participants discussed what the major challenges in these two areas are and whether and how the E3 would be the right format to take concerted action.

In my own contribution I stressed the importance of not narrowing down maritime security in the Indo-Pacific to inter-state affairs, but to pay full attention to the wider spectrum, in particular counter-terrorism and the fight against blue crimes, such as piracy, smuggling, illegal fishing and pollution. It is these problems where the E3 can make a major impact, rather than investing the majority of resource in signaling and freedom of navigation operations. I recalled the 2015 Luebeck Declaration on Maritime Security by the G7 which strikes a useful balance in terms of the different maritime security challenges.

I also stressed that any role for the E3 needs to be seen in the light of the European Union’s recent Indo Pacific Strategy, as well as the current experiments of the European Union in establishing Coordinated Maritime Presences as a new concept, at the moment tested in the Gulf of Guinea. How the UK can contribute to a future coordinated maritime EU presence in the Indo Pacific is the crucial question that needs to be addressed. Another institutional question is certainly in how far any response should be rather coordinated and carried out in the frame of NATO or the G7 rather than the mini-lateral E3 format.

The second session focused on climate change policies and highlighted in particular energy policy and decarbonization as ongoing coordination challenges. As the discussion revealed climate change and maritime security need to be seen as a inter-linked policy fields, in terms of the emissions from naval forces, new challenges for maritime security caused by climate change, as well as the importance of maritime security forces in enforcing environmental regulations at sea and securing biodiversity in particular in the face of disasters such as oil spills.

Workshop on Standardization in Global Governance

On the 14th and 15th of June I had the pleasure to attend a workshop that illuminated different forms of standardization processes in global governance with a particular focus on standards of “good governance”. The workshop was organised by Jens Steffek, Technical University of Darmstadt, in collaboration with the Centre for Global Cooperation Research.

At the workshop I discussed the curious case of “best practices’ and how they emerged as a new way of how to conduct standardization. I offered a range of explanations for the impressive proliferation of best practices.

What is the state of the EU’s maritime security strategy?

The Portuguese presidency of the Council of the EU has made quite some efforts to lift maritime security higher on the agenda of the EU. To reflect on the state of EU maritime security provision, Portugal organized a mini away day of the EU Military Committee on 2 June 2021.

I had the pleasure to speak at the event alongside the keynote speaker Mr Kitack Lim, Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization, and the Portuguese Special Representative for Maritime Security in the Gulf of Guinea.

In my talk I reviewed the current strategy choices of the EU. I highlighted a number of current challenges, which includes in what kind of command structures the EU operates abroad to address piracy and other blue crimes, the relationship to NATO’s work on maritime security, and the issues linked to the Brexit process.

I also argued for the need to pay more attention to arising matters, including the environmental security agenda at sea, the consequences of climate change, and the importance of subsea data cables.

I concluded in suggesting to revisit the EU Maritime Security Strategy and calling for an open dialogue with NATO on the matter.

Attending SHADE: The key military coordination mechanism in the Western Indian Ocean

The Shared Awareness and Deconfliction (SHADE) mechanism is a brainchild of the responses to piracy off the coast of Somalia. It is the key instrument through which the various navies coordinate each others activities and arrange for the International Coordinated Transit Corridor, and convoys and patrols in the Western Indian Ocean region. It is also the main mechanism through which the transport industry and navies collaborate on a strategic level. The successful coordination in SHADE is one of the key factors explaining the decline of Somali piracy.

On the 27th of May, the 48th SHADE meeting took place as usually held in Bahrain. This time it was complemented by an online participation platform through which I had the honor to address the participants.

At the meeting, I presented some of the key insights from the SafeSeas survey of regional maritime security alignments in the Indo Pacific. I provided an overview and emphasized that institutional proliferation is problematic. In consequence, SHADE must ask how it sits in this environment, and how it wants to continue its work in the long run.

This is ever more important as SHADE in the meantime is a platform for discussing various maritime security issues. As reflected in the presentations at the meeting this includes, illegal fishing, smuggling, or the security situations around the Yemeni coast and Strait of Hormuz.