Though China serves as a permanent member of the Security Council and contributes major funding and personnel to UN Peacekeeping Operations, very rarely have Chinese scholars working on UN issues conducted field research on peace building and conflict prevention.
Beginning in 2010, the Africa and Asia programs of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) and the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) in New York jointly organized a series of study tours, field trips, and dialogues at the UN, in China, and across Africa to bridge the gap between scholars in this field.
Following AFSC-supported trips to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, and Liberia on the role of the UN in peace building, on the role of women in peace operations, and on the role of local civil society in responding to conflict, AFSC partners from four leading Chinese institutes published their findings in one of China’s leading journals on international security studies.
When shared understanding leads to shared security
By bringing Chinese scholars together with grassroots leaders and UN agency representatives, AFSC’s goal is to spark dialogue and exchange:
- How can leveraging different perspectives on peace operations enhance the effectiveness and coordination of UN and other multilateral peace-building efforts?
- How can exposure, exchange and dialogue lead to a shared understanding of peace?
Yet another goal is to help Chinese scholars build relationships in the field that would help them mainstream information about different approaches to policy circles back in China. This goal is also evident in AFSC’s efforts to bring experts working at the United Nations in New York and Geneva and from African peace-building organizations to China for dialogue.
After engaging in AFSC’s activities Chinese scholars have brought the issue of peace building and conflict prevention to the forefront of the academic and policy conversation on security studies in China.
Field research and relationships built also support Chinese involvement in the United Nations Review of Peace Operations -- currently underway, and which was the focus of an AFSC-QUNO initiative with the China United Nations Association held in July of 2015 (link to the report here).
Ambassador Wang Xuexian of China served on the Review Commission, and has become a strong voice in favor of China playing a deeper role in peacebuilding globally, and of the UN taking a new direction in its global peace operations.
A summary of findings from AFSC-supported Chinese scholars
The five published papers (in Chinese) focus on a range of different issues of UN peacebuilding. They include:
- The Role of African Women in Peace Processes: The paper discusses women in Burundi and Liberia as victims of civil conflicts, as well as a major force in the peace processes. In this report, author Li Yingtao finds that the representation of women in government is relatively high, but not at the grassroots level. Women in communities still face many challenges like poverty and violence.
- Peace by Piece in Africa: A Chinese Perspective: This paper discusses China’s participation in UN peace operations in Africa and China’s bilateral aid to Africa for economic development. In this report, author Sheng Hongsheng examines China’s reluctance in interfering in the internal affairs of African countries or participating in international criminal justice cases.
- Building Global Partnership on Preventive Diplomacy: Coordinating and Integrating Multiple Players: Author Xue Lei explores how the UN has been trying to transform itself from a “culture of responsiveness” to a “culture of prevention”. The article introduces different functions of UN agencies and regional organizations in preventive diplomacy, while also mapping how China has changed from adhering to its own non-interference policy to playing a more active role in the process of preventive diplomacy in recent years.
- United Nations Peacebuilding and the Protection of Human Security: In this report, author He Yin looks at how peacebuilding is strongly linked to institution building but not always economic development. By contrast, Yin argues that China has developed a model that could be described as peace through development. The way to lasting peace must seek out a balance between liberal peace and peace through development, between institution building and economic development, and between political and economic security.
- From Protection of Civilians to Security Governance: Strengthening Cooperation among UN, Local Government and Civil Society Groups: Author Li Dongyan interprets the concept of Protection of Civilians as described differently in several UN documents, then reviews problems in practices, providing suggestions to improve the practices -- especially strengthening cooperation between UN, local government and civil society.
A link to the original Chinese can be found here.
Two full texts and three abstracts of these papers with English translations are available in the "related content" section, below.