Doctoral defence "On the Ethics of External States in Peacebuilding: A Critical Study of Justification"

  • Date: –13:15
  • Location: Universitetshuset, sal IV Biskopsgatan 3, Uppsala
  • Doctoral student: Johanna Ohlsson is a PhD candidate at the Institute for Russian and Eurasian Studies (IRES) and at the Faculty of Theology (in Ethics) at Uppsala University. She holds a MA degree in Human Rights and a BA degree in Peace and Conflict Studies, both from Uppsala University. Ms. Ohlsson’s research is focused on the role of morality in political processes, primarily in foreign policy and in particular in relation to peacebuilding involvements.
  • About the dissertation
  • Contact person: Johanna Ohlsson
  • Disputation

On November 30, Ms. Ohlsson will be defending her dissertation "On the Ethics of External States in Peacebuilding – A Critical Study of Justification". Faculty opponent is Associate Prof Pamela Slotte (Helsinki University). Grading Committee: Assosiate Prof Elisabeth Gerle (Lund), Prof Helena Lindholm (Gothenburg), and Prof Ruben G. Apressyan (Moscow). Chair: Prof Elena Namli.

ABSTRACT

Even the most obvious actions require justification. The need for justification of peacebuilding involvements is always present. This thesis argues that justification is particularly needed when there is a prevalent power asymmetry between an external state and a host community. The dissertation addresses how the attempts of states to justify their engagement in peacebuilding should be evaluated in the light of justification theory. The study’s research questions are addressed by developing a theoretical framework based on justification theory that is combined with empirical case studies. As a result, the starting-point for this dissertation is both descriptive and normative. It builds upon and develops the theory of justification offered by Rainer Forst, by testing Forst’s formal criteria of reciprocity and generality on two case studies, the Republic of South Africa and the Russian Federation.

The thesis attempts to scrutinize the role played by the justifications made by external states engaged in peacebuilding. The focus on how Russia and South Africa view, act, and try to justify their peacebuilding efforts, serves to further nuance our theoretical understanding of the justification of external states in peacebuilding processes. The study is exploring which justification strategies are being used and how. By combining ethical analysis with empirical research and by building on an analysis of the case studies, the study presents two typologies of the attempts at justification which Russia and South Africa make in their foreign policy discourse. In order to accomplish this, the thesis uses different methods, including case studies, expert interviews, and document analysis.

This study is written within the critical discipline of social ethics. By making a critical analysis of the official Russian and South African foreign policy discourses on peace engagements, this dissertation aims to contribute to existing literature both empirically and theoretically. The analysis shows that Forst’s formal criteria are useful, but not sufficient, to analyse states’ justificatory attempts. The study aims to contribute both to our understanding of Russian and South African engagements in peacebuilding processes abroad, as well as justification of peacebuilding and the role of ethics and morality in foreign policy generally.