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GeoPolotics. GEOPOLITICS – the basics. Geopolitics examines the political, environmental, social, environmental and economic interactions within and between countries.

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geopolitics the basics
GEOPOLITICS – the basics
  • Geopolitics examines the political, environmental, social, environmental and economic interactions within and between countries.
  • Also describes how nations exert their influence over their own people and over other nations in order to achieve greater international power

In Essence:

Geopolitics is a term used to refer to “great power rivalries and the geographical dimensions of global political power”

Simon Dalby – Ottawa University

a dynamic landscape
A Dynamic landscape
  • The geopolitical landscape is in a state of constant change
  • Several factors play a role in determining how these changes take place including:
      • Communication technologies
      • High tech weapons
      • Surveillance techniques
      • International trade agreements
      • Emergence of new political and economic strucutres (ie. European Union)
      • Resource development
      • Globalization
  • Often shifts in the geopolitical landscape are accompanied by conflict within or between states
  • It is common for these events to make the news “headlines”
  • Although all too common the the causes, effects and solutions for each conflict can be very complex

Conflict Fishing….

In pairs use the Ipads or your own computer to find a recent geopolitical conflict event (in last year) in a news article and briefly outline the following:

  • Why this event supports the definition of “Geopolitics”
  • Who is involved
  • Where the event occurred
  • What caused the event
  • How you think the situation could be solved/mediated
state nation or nation state
State, Nation or Nation-State??


A political entity, institutional structure or organization.

Must be “Sovereign” (have ability to make own decisions )

Other attributes can include:

  • A defined territory of land
  • A permanent resident population
  • An organized economy
  • An interconnected system of financial and infrastructure services (banks, transportation, communication, power services)
  • A form of government recognized by the international community

There are currently 206 declared states around the world

state nation or nation state1
State, Nation or Nation-State??


The word nation is derived from the latin word natio meaning “of birth”

Traditionally Nation was used to characterize people who shared a common geographic origin

In today’s more modern, complex society is most accurately defined as:

A large group of people who are aware of, and share, one or more cultural feature such as; language, ethnicity, historical experience, identification with a homeland, customs, values, and religion.

Nations my not be confined to political boundaries

Members of the nation view themselves as belonging to a distinct group regardless of location

Can be thought of as a “imagined political community” as it exists in the minds of its members. Examples include: Kurds, Tibet, Tamils

state nation or nation state2
State, Nation or Nation-State??

Nation - State:

Essentially when you are able to ‘wrap” a state around a nation….

Often misused as a synonym for “country”

There are over 1400 “nationalities” in the world and only 206 states…

Can Canada be considered a true “nation-state’?

Several nation stated where

created during the break up of the

USSR examples include:

types of boundaries
Types of Boundaries
  • Negotiated Boundaries – ie. Nunavut
  • Disputed Boundaries – ie. Israel and Palestine or North Korea/South Korea
  • Evolving Boundaries – many boundaries are becoming more “permeable” information and transactions flow across boarders via communication technologies. The function of boundaries may change as the expansion of political and economic blocs shift us closer to the notion of a “borderless” world
  • Traditionally states grew larger and more influential by attaining more land area “Colonialism”.
  • In today’s society the trend is in for more smaller independent states rather than fewer large ones
types of conflict
Types of Conflict
  • Interstate War – When two sovereign states declare war on each other. Ie. Germany declares war on France in WWII
  • Civil War - A civil war is, simply put, a war between citizens of the same country. Be it a division that falls along political, racial, gender, geographic region, or any other lines, if it is involves citizens of the same country who are at war with each other it is classified as a civil war. Civil Wars generally are fought for political independence (or dominance) of each side - they may or may not result in a splitting of the original country, but those wars where secession is a stated goal of one side (not just an outcome) are generally always considered a Civil War. Ie American Civil War (South wanted independence from the Union…They Lost)
types of conflict1
Types of Conflict
  • Revolutionary War - A revolution is a war fought to overthrow or rid yourself of a government in order to establish a new one. The old government may be indigenous, or may be external (i.e. colonial). In general, the main point of a revolution is to completely overthrow the existing government and replace it with a native government, NOT to split the country. Revolutions can be civil wars, but civil wars do not have to be revolutions. Ie. Syria
  • Ethnic War - is a conflict between ethnic groups often as a result of ethnic nationalism and ethnic hatred. They are of interest because of the apparent prevalence since the Cold War and because they frequently result in war crimes such as genocide. Ie Rwanda
global conflict trends
Global Conflict trends
  • Growing concerns that long standing disputes or rivalries may escalate the conflict into serious fighting
  • Growing toward separatism, as distinct ethnic groups continue to fight for independence
  • Rebel groups have increased control over lucrative resources such as diamonds (Sierra Lione), oil (Iraq), metals (Congo) and drugs (Mexico, Colombia) which are used to pay for weapons
  • Regional warfare tends to continue or even escalate without resolution (Israel)
conflict locations
Conflict Locations

Major wars, 1,000+ deaths per year

Minor skirmishes and conflicts, fewer than 1000 deaths per year

cracks in the geopolitical landscape
Cracks in the Geopolitical Landscape
  • Economics
  • Global Power Shifts
  • Terrorism
  • Ethnopolitical Movements
  • Resource Demands and Environmental Constraints
holding it all together a look at the united nations
Holding it all together A Look at the United Nations
  • Following World War 11 in 1945 the United Nations was created
  • Its mandate was to promote world peace and ultimately prevent the onset of another World War
  • Today the United Nations provides a forum for all nations to discuss and debates issues impacting Earth’s global community
  • The UN headquarters is in New York City
  • Each of the 192 members in the General Assembly has the ability to vote for or against any mandate proposed to the UN
  • “One Nation, One Vote!”

THE UN Explained

pecha kucha practice
  • In pairs put together a 5 slide PechaKucha presentation to outline on of the following components of the United Nations
  • General Assembly
  • Secretariat
  • Security Council
  • International Criminal Court
  • Economic and Social Council
  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)
preventing conflict
Preventing Conflict

Intervention: the act of interfering or mediating , especially by one state in the affairs of another. Two main forms: Military and Humanitarian

Military : a single of multiple group of nations threatening to use military force or coercsion to alter an existing conflict where political or civil rights are being violated.

Humanitarian: can be used with military intervention.

Intended to protect civilians from human rights violations

typical humanitarian intervention
Typical humanitarian Intervention

International government organizations

  • NATO – 1949 collective security alliance of western states
  • UN – 1945


  • Non governmental organizations
  • International committee of the red cross
  • Amnesty international
  • Medecins sans frontiers (doctors without borders)
international law
International Law

UN Charter law article 2(4) prohibits “the threat or use of force against another state”

  • How does one justify their role in intervention in a conflict?

In the 2000s, Western powers undertook military interventions in three countries:

  • Afghanistan in 2001
  • Iraq in 2003
  • Libya in 2011

In all three cases, military interference was executed in a form not authorized by the UN Security Council.

  • In Afghanistan, U.S. and NATO operations took the shape of self-defense, albeit under the guise of protecting Afghan civilians from the Taliban (certainly an oppressive and .
  • The Iraqi mission was carried out in the name of the search for weapons of mass destruction. Allegedly, Saddam Hussein had gone “to elaborate lengths… to build and keep weapons of mass destruction. His goal is to dominate, intimidate and attack” It was only later that President George W. Bush augmented the anti-Saddam campaign with a humanitarian component.
prevention rather than intervention ideas and implementation from toronto
Prevention rather than Intervention Ideas and implementation from Toronto
  • Military intervention is invasive, expensive, potentially violent and in most cases a last step to intervene in a conflict that has escalated beyond a regional capacity to mediate between involved groups.
  • In recent years more focus (especially by NGOs) has been put into how to diffuse conflict in sensitive areas before the situation requires military intervention
  • One NGO that is actively doing this is the Toronto based Sentinel Project for Genocide Prevention
the sentinel project
The Sentinel Project
  • The Sentinel Project aims to prevent genocide before it happens
  • Uses technology to acquire and analyze data about the factors that contribute to the development of the preconditions (cultural, social, political) present prior to genocide events
  • Mandate: The Sentinel Project is a group of volunteers working on identifying communities vulnerable to genocide and developing creative ways to counter specific threats. Our work combines genocide research, information technology and risk management into a single framework.
indicators stages of genocide
Indicators/stages of Genocide

Classification Symbolization Dehumanization Organization Polarization Preparation Extermination Denial

  • Genocide is a process that develops in eight stages that are predictable but not inexorable.
  • At each stage, preventive measures can stop it.
  • The process is not linear.  
  • Logically, later stages must be preceded by earlier stages.  But all stages continue to operate throughout the process
  • All cultures have categories to distinguish people into “us and them” by ethnicity, race, religion, or nationality: German and Jew, Hutu and Tutsi.
  • Bipolar societies that lack mixed categories, such as Rwanda and Burundi, are the most likely to have genocide
  • The main preventive measure at this early stage is to develop universalistic institutions that transcend ethnic or racial divisions, that actively promote tolerance and understanding, and that promote classifications that transcend the divisions.
  • We name people “Jews” or “Gypsies”, or distinguish them by colors or dress; and apply the symbols to members of groups.
  • Classification and symbolization are universally human and do not necessarily result in genocide unless they lead to the next stage, dehumanization.
  • When combined with hatred, symbols may be forced upon unwilling members of pariah groups: the yellow star for Jews under Nazi rule, the blue scarf for people from the Eastern Zone in Khmer Rouge Cambodia.
  • To combat symbolization, hate symbols can be legally forbidden (swastikas) as can hate speech. Group marking like gang clothing or tribal scarring can be outlawed, as well.
  • One group denies the humanity of the other group.
  • Members of it are equated with animals, vermin, insects or diseases.
  • Dehumanization overcomes the normal human revulsion against murder.
  • At this stage, hate propaganda in print and on hate radios is used to vilify the victim group.
  • In combating this dehumanization, incitement to genocide should not be confused with protected speech.
  • Genocidal societies lack constitutional protection for countervailing speech, and should be treated differently than democracies.
  • Local and international leaders should condemn the use of hate speech and make it culturally unacceptable.
  • Genocide is always organized, usually by the state, often using militias to provide deniability of state responsibility (the Janjaweed in Darfur.)
  • Sometimes organization is informal (Hindu mobs led by local RSS militants) or decentralized (terrorist groups.)
  • Special army units or militias are often trained and armed.
  • Plans are made for genocidal killings.
  • To combat this stage, membership in these militias should be outlawed. Their leaders should be denied visas for foreign travel. The U.N. should impose arms embargoes on governments and citizens of countries involved in genocidal massacres, and create commissions to investigate violations, as was done in post-genocide Rwanda.
  • Extremists drive the groups apart.
  • Hate groups broadcast polarizing propaganda.
  • Laws may forbid intermarriage or social interaction.
  • Extremist terrorism targets moderates, intimidating and silencing the center.
  • Moderates from the perpetrators’ own group are most able to stop genocide, so are the first to be arrested and killed.
  • Prevention may mean security protection for moderate leaders or assistance to human rights groups. Assets of extremists may be seized, and visas for international travel denied to them. Coups d’état by extremists should be opposed by international sanctions.
  • Victims are identified and separated out because of their ethnic or religious identity.
  • Death lists are drawn up.
  • Members of victim groups are forced to wear identifying symbols.
  • Their property is expropriated. They are often segregated into ghettoes, deported into concentration camps, or confined to a famine-struck region and starved.
  • At this stage, a Genocide Emergency must be declared.
  • If the political will of the great powers, regional alliances, or the U.N. Security Council can be mobilized, armed international intervention should be prepared, or heavy assistance provided to the victim group to prepare for its self-defense.
  • Otherwise, at least humanitarian assistance should be organized by the U.N. and private relief groups for the inevitable tide of refugees to come.
  • It begins, and quickly becomes the mass killing legally called “genocide.”
  • It is “extermination” to the killers because they do not believe their victims to be fully human.
  • When it is sponsored by the state, the armed forces often work with militias to do the killing.
  • Sometimes the genocide results in revenge killings by groups against each other, creating the downward whirlpool-like cycle of bilateral genocide (as in Burundi)
  • For larger interventions, a multilateral force authorized by the U.N. should intervene.
  • If the U.N. is paralyzed, regional alliances must act. It is time to recognize that the international responsibility to protect transcends the narrow interests of individual nation states.
  • If strong nations will not provide troops to intervene directly, they should provide the airlift, equipment, and financial means necessary for regional states to intervene.
  • It is the eighth stage that always follows a genocide.
  • It is among the surest indicators of further genocidal massacres.
  • The perpetrators of genocide dig up the mass graves, burn the bodies, try to cover up the evidence and intimidate the witnesses.
  • They deny that they committed any crimes, and often blame what happened on the victims.
  • They block investigations of the crimes, and continue to govern until driven from power by force, when they flee into exile. There they remain with impunity, like Pol Pot or Idi Amin, unless they are captured and a tribunal is established to try them.
  • The response to denial is punishment by an international tribunal or national courts. There the evidence can be heard, and the perpetrators punished.
  • Tribunals like the Yugoslav or Rwanda Tribunals, or an international tribunal to try the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, or an International Criminal Court may not deter the worst genocidal killers.
  • But with the political will to arrest and prosecute them, some may be brought to justice.
the newest tool hatebase
The Newest Tool - Hatebase
  • Hatebase – because field based data collection is costly, time consuming and only possible in targeted areas an internet based tracking system has been developed that allows people from all over the world to aid in the early identification of genocide precursors
  • It aims to improve the tools with which the Sentinel group is able to parse and prioritize data, whether from the field, from mainstream media or from social networks.
responsibility to protect r2p
Responsibility to Protect – R2P
  • The responsibility to protect (R2P or RtoP) is a United Nations initiative established in 2005. It consists of an emerging norm, or set of principles, based on the idea that sovereignty is not a right, but a responsibility.
  • R2P focuses on preventing and halting four crimes: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing, which it places under the generic umbrella term of, Mass Atrocity Crimes.
responsibility to protect r2p1
Responsibility to Protect – R2P

The Responsibility to Protect has three "pillars”:

  • A state has a responsibility to protect its population from mass atrocities;
  • The international community has a responsibility to assist the state to fulfill its primary responsibility;
  • If the state fails to protect its citizens from mass atrocities and peaceful measures have failed, the international community has the responsibility to intervene through coercive measures such as:
        • Economic sanctions
        • Military intervention (last resort)
responsibility to protect
Responsibility to Protect
  • In the international community R2P is a norm, not a law, however it is grounded in international law
  • R2P provides a framework for using tools that already exist, i.e. mediation, early warning mechanisms, economic sanctioning, and chapter VII powers, to prevent mass atrocities.
  • Chapter VII Powers outline the UN’s mandate to determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression" and to take military and nonmilitary action to "restore international peace and security”.
  • Civil society organizations, States, regional organizations, and international institutions all have a role to play in the R2P process. The authority to employ the last resort and intervene militarily rests solely with United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly.