Why Gender matters when responding to the effects of climate change in Canada

By: Romina Raeisi


People don’t often think of climate change and gender inequality together. Particularly in developed states such as Canada, the idea that climate change affects men and women differently may, at first, appear absurd. This is because, in Canada, we tend to compartmentalize climate change as an environmental issue rather than a socio-economic one. At the same time, when dealing with gender inequality, we focus our attention on sexual harassment and gender parity while relegating the disproportionate poverty and subsistence needs of women as largely third world issues. We ignore the connections between gender, socio-economics, and climate change.

A deeper analysis shows, however, that climate change has unpredictable effects on the weather and the environment which harm economic and social structures, worsening existing gender inequalities. Furthermore, women’s needs are often underrepresented in decision-making processes, which means that the policies adopted to mitigate and adapt to climate-related problems often do not address the particular needs of women. The connections between the two seemingly unrelated issues are important because we cannot hope to respond effectively to climate change if we ignore the needs of half the population. In the same vein, we cannot overcome gender inequality if our environment and policies create an inherent disadvantage for women.

Canada’s commitment to Gender Equality and Climate Change

Since 2015, Canada’s Liberal government has made it a point to focus on both gender equality and climate change issues. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau openly declares that he is a feminist and has dedicated significant funding to the cause of gender equality.[1] Canada is also a member of multiple international agreements related to the promotion of women’s rights and gender equality. These include the 1995 Beijing Platform of Action which encourages decision-makers to use gender mainstreaming strategies and impact analysis to identify gender considerations across a wide range of issues. In complying with the Beijing Platform, Canada has developed a Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) strategy for assessing how policies, programs, and initiatives affect men, women, and intersectional and gender-diverse people differently. In 2017, Status of Women Canada developed a GBA+ course for departments and employees. While GBA+ is not mandatory, it is significant to note that Status of Women Canada chose to include emergency preparedness, including from natural disasters and environmental damage, as well as the prosperity of the forestry sector as two of the case studies showing the importance of GBA+.[2]

At the same time, the government has redoubled its efforts to support the work under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC)[3] and was a major promoter of the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015.[4]  Among other things, the Paris Agreement includes ground-breaking obligations for countries to create gender-responsive national climate action strategies. [5] To fulfill the government’s mandate and to uphold its international obligations, particularly under the Paris Agreement, Canada must focus its efforts on applying GBA+ to its climate-related action strategies.

Applying GBA+ to Climate Change in Canada

GBA+ requires decision-makers to consider gender as an integral part of the analysis for each issue, including those related to climate change. In the context of climate change, we can apply two types of questions to our analysis. First, how do climate change and climate-related strategies impact men and women differently? Second, are men and women equally represented in climate-related decision-making processes?

Gendered impacts of climate change

First, decision-makers should consider how climate change impacts women and men differently when adopting mitigation and adaptation strategies. Climate change is characterized by an increase in extreme weather events and rising temperatures. These changes can be detrimental to the economy, human health, and quality of life. For example, changing temperatures damage farms and agriculture leading to increased food costs.[6] Floods, droughts, and storms have the potential to destroy homes and habitats, hinder transportation, and force people to migrate or relocate creating significant financial burdens.[7] Mitigation measures such as carbon tax schemes increase the price of oil, heating and electricity.[8]

Climate change impacts raise the costs of living and create a disproportionate burden on those with lower incomes, such as women, who have a lower capacity to absorb added costs.  Women in Canada still earn 19% less than men, the third highest wage gap among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.[9] Women are more likely than men to experience poverty, especially in the case of single mothers and senior women. According to Statistics Canada, in 2015, women over the age of 75 were almost twice as likely to have low-incomes than men in the same age group. Single mothers were 35% more likely to live in low-income households than single fathers, and three times more likely than households with two parents.[10]

Women also suffer disproportionately from the effects of climate change because of their role as unpaid caregivers. In 2010, women spent an average of 50 hours per week on childcare, more than double the time spent by men. Women also completed 66% more unpaid domestic work and spent more time caring for seniors and volunteering.[11] When extreme climate events occur, women bear a higher percentage of unpaid work when caring for the sick and injured. Women also incur the added food and energy costs for those in their care.

Thus climate change affects men and women differently because of pre-existing inequalities. GBA+ allows decision-makers to consider these pre-existing inequalities when analyzing the gendered impacts of climate change; thus, helping them structure agreements, policies, programs, and initiatives in a way that supports, rather than exacerbates, gender equality.

Women’s participation in decision-making processes

Second, Canada should examine whether men and women are represented equally in climate-related decision-making processes and how this can impact Canada’s climate-related actions. Studies have shown that women and men have different attitudes, knowledge, and interests concerning climate change issues.[12] For example, women may have greater ties to a community and a corresponding interest to adapt rather than relocate in response to a climate-related event.[13] Women also have unique needs such as a need for well-equipped sanitation facilities and sanitary products when planning for emergency responses to climate-related events.[14]

Unfortunately, women continue to be under-represented in climate science and political decision-making relating to climate change, meaning that their concerns and interests are usually not be taken into account to the same extent as men’s.[15] For example, when determining community needs in response to climate-related events, male-dominated decision-making processes may place sanitation facilities in isolated locations that jeopardize the safety of the women who need them most. Encouraging women to participate equally would ensure that women’s interests and perspectives are taken into account.


The connections between climate change and gender are varied and complex. Pre-existing inequalities often combine with the new climate change-related socio-economic threats, amplifying the devastating impacts of climate change and perpetuating the cycle of gender inequality. To effectively address the socio-economic impacts of climate change and break the cycle of inequality, Canadian policymakers must use gender mainstreaming and GBA+ to assess and address the gendered impacts of climate change and climate-related policies.


Romina Raeisi is a third-year French Common Law student at the University of Ottawa.



[1] Justin Trudeau, “I wholeheartedly agree: Poverty is Sexist.” (25 August 2016), ONE, online: <https://www.one.org/canada/blog/i-wholeheartedly-agree-poverty-is-sexist/>.

[2] Status of Women Canada, What is GBA+?, online: <http://www.swc-cfc.gc.ca/gba-acs/index-en.html>.

[3] United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 4 June 1992, UNTS 1771 (entered into force 21 March 1994), online: <http://unfccc.int/files/essential_background/background_publications_htmlpdf/application/pdf/conveng.pdf>.

[4] See, for example, Environment and Climate Change Canada, News Release, “Minister of Environment and Climate Change continues Canada’s global climate change leadership at G7 Environment Ministers’ Meeting” (12 June 2017), online: <https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/news/2017/06/minister_of_environmentandclimatechangecontinuescanadasglobalcli.html>.

[5] Adoption of the Paris Agreement, UNFCCC, 2015, UN Dec 1/CP.21, online: <http://unfccc.int/resource/docs/2015/cop21/eng/10a01.pdf#page=2>.

[6] Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability (Geneva: IPCC, 2014) online: <//www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg2/>; National Climate Assessment and Development Advisory Committee, Third National Climate Assessment (Washington: U.S. Global Change Research Program, 2014) online: <http://www.globalchange.gov/ncadac>.

[7] Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Preparing BC for Climate Migration (Ottawa: Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, 2014) at 10, online: <https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/BC%20Office/2014/11/ccpa-bc_ClimateMigration_web.pdf>.

[8] Nathalie Chalifour, “A Feminist Perspective on Carbon Taxes” (2013) 21:2 Canadian Journal of Women and the Law 171.

[9] Canada, Building a Strong Middle Class #Budget2017, tabled in the House of Commons by the Honourable William Francis Morneau, Minister of Finance (Ottawa: 2017) at 220.

[10] Statistics Canada, Census Datasets, online: <http://www12.statcan.gc.ca/datasets/Index-eng.cfm?Temporal=2016&Theme=119&VNAMEE=Low-income%20indicators%20%284%29&GA=-1&S=0>.

[11] Statistics Canada, Women in Canada: A Gender-based Statistical Report (2015) online: <https://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/89-503-x/2010001/article/11546-eng.htm#a13>.

[12] See for example: Ulrike Röhr et al, “Gender Justice as the Basis for Sustainable Climate Policies: A Feminist Background Paper” (2008) Bonn: German NGO Forum Environment and Development, at 22; Karin Edvardsson Bjonberg & Sven Ove Hansson, “Gendering local climate adaptation” (2013) 18:2 Local Environment 217-232; Gerd Johnsson-Latham, “A Study of Gender Equality as a Prerequisite for Sustainable Development: What We Know about the Extent to Which Women Globally Live in a More Sustainable Way Than Men, Leave a Smaller Ecological Footprint and Cause Less Climate Change” (Stockholm: Ministry of the Environment, 2007) at 12.

[13] Bjonberg & Hansson, supra note 12.

[14] Status of Women Canada, supra note 2.

[15] Ibid.

  • Secular Stagnation and the Dual Economy in the US.


    By Andrés Copa-Hinostroza

    The purpose of this article is to explain to the reader, in simple terms, a somewhat recent term used in politics (in this case, frequently used in Political Economy). To do this, a few articles were selected from the IJPE (International Journal of Political Economy) issue of winter 2017. The chosen issue to be explained here is that of "Secular Stagnation."

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  • Argentina and the National Security Doctrine: State Terror for State Security? By: Nathalie Chaar


    Introduction: An Authoritarian Turn  

    Between the 1960s and the 1980s, military-run dictatorships took control of the majority of Latin American countries (Rosigno, 2015; Zoglin, 1989). This period was marked by human rights abuses committed by governments against large parts of their populations. For instance, during Argentina’s dictatorship from1976 to 1983, large parts of the population were routinely tortured and killed by state agents (Pion-Berlin, 1983). In order to understand this regional shift to authoritarianism and state repression, it is important to look at the dominant military ideology of the period. In the late 1950s, the majority of armed forces in Latin American countries underwent an “intense restructuring” of the theoretical backgrounds that shaped their military strategies (Rosigno, 2015, 148). This shift was influenced by a growing fear of the spread of communism. This fear intensified after the successful installation of a communist government in Cuba following the 1959 Cuban Revolution (Rosigno, 2015; Pion-Berlin, 1988). The dominant ideology being taught in Latin American military academies during this period quickly became the National Security Doctrine (NSD). Understanding NSD gives an important insight into the motivations behind the actions of these dictatorships, as well as the consequences of these regimes on human rights protection and individual freedom. This will be done by looking at the origins of NSD and its subsequent development in the Argentinian context.  

    The Origins of the National Security Doctrine  

    While it eventually became synonymous with the region, NSD was not actually developed in Latin America. Its spread can be traced back to the involvement of both French military officers and American espionage agencies, namely the CIA, in Latin American military training centers. In the 1950s, France developed counterinsurgency tactics in response to colonial wars in both Algeria and Vietnam (Carlson, 2000; Pion-Berlin, 1983). The officers that took part in France’s efforts to quell anticolonial forces developed very distinct views on these revolutionary groups. Rather than frame them as nationalists who were fighting for the independence of their countries, officers saw them as “instrument[s] for a larger and more ominous movement against Western civilisation and its ideals” (Pion-Berlin, 1983, 99). Specifically, they saw them as enemies who were working in the interests of the international communist cause and whose goal it was to undermine the foundations of Western culture (Carlson, 2000). Moreover, these threats were made even more foreboding by the prevailing belief within NSD that these enemies could easily dissimulate themselves in society. This meant that threats to the state could come at any time, from anywhere, and that military strategy must always be prepared to crush these “subversive elements” (Crenzel, 2011, 1064; Calvo, 1979). This framework was propagated throughout the region when French military officers were welcomed at numerous military training academies. In Argentina in particular, institutions such as the Escuela Superior de Guerra (High Warfare Academy) began teaching this doctrine starting in 1958 (Rosigno, 2015; Carlson, 2000). The CIA supported these teachings, and would also support Latin American military coups d’état in the 1970s and 1980s as a part of their anti-Communist strategy (McSherry, 1999).  

    NSD: Core Components and Mutations  

    NSD bases its theoretical framework on three main doctrines: counterinsurgency, geopolitics and development (Pion-Berlin, 1988). As mentioned above, counterinsurgency frames internal enemies as representative of outside threats to the nation. Therefore, from this perspective, internal “subversives” had to be dealt with using “military action” and “campaigns of state violence” Pion-Berlin, 1988, 388; Osiel, 2001). This means that armed forces gave themselves a wider breadth of acceptable actions to use against any individuals or groups in society that they viewed as threats, including torture and summary executions (Rosigno, 2015).  

    Geopolitics is a field which deals with the power dynamics between states. Geopolitical theorists argue that states are in “endless competition” with one another (Pion-Berlin, 1988, 388). Because of this competition, states are constantly trying to exert their strength against other states. However, within NSD, the relationship is flipped. The distinction between external and internal threats is blurred and militarization comes to affect relations both within and outside the country (Pion-Berlin,1988; Gatti, 2014; Rosigno, 2015). In fact, during the height of authoritarian rule in Latin America, many authoritarian governments were more concerned with internal threats than external ones. Governments would often collaborate to exchange citizens who were fleeing violence, which made seeking asylum from political violence almost impossible (Pion-Berlin, 1983). Therefore, geopolitics is present in NSD, but the threat is framed in a different way.  

    Development is also an important part of NSD because military leaders felt that communism thrived when a country was underdeveloped. However, while they focused on the importance of infrastructure and industry, they ignored social justice and were generally distrustful of poor people (Calvo, 1979; Gatti, 2014). NSD is an elitist ideology that sees democracy as creating conflict and inefficiency, and sees the armed forces as being the only ones able to lead a country in turbulent times (Zoglin, 1989). Therefore, development was understood as a safeguard against communism through industrialisation and militarization, rather than through addressing the concerns of a country's most vulnerable citizens (Pion-Berlin, 1988). In fact, poor citizens were often victims of state violence because they were seen as hostile and dangerous to the social order (Calvo, 1979). All three of these subdoctrines were important in the development of NSD throughout the region and were incorporated in each country in diverse ways. The Argentinian case illustrates how the influence of NSD led to transformations in the realm of state repression and terror.  

    NSD in Argentina: The Proceso de Reorganización Nacional and the “Dirty War”  

    In 1976, a military coup d’état overthrew Argentina’s democratically-elected president Isabel Perón and installed a military junta (Zoglin, 2015). This junta was made up of three high-ranking officers from the three branches of Argentina’s military: Lieutenant General Jorge Rafael Videla of the army, Admiral Emilio Eduardo Massera of the navy and Brigadier-General Orlando Ramón Agosti of the air force. These military leaders argued that the democratic government was inefficient in addressing Argentina’s economic problems and that they had allowed left-wing “subversives” to thrive in an uncertain political environment, echoing fears central to the NSD (Zoglin, 1989; Pion-Berlin, 1983). They called their rule the Proceso de Reorganización Nacional (National Reorganisation Process, PRN). The goal of the PRN was to root out any potential left-wing or communist dissidents, in order to optimize the efficiency and security of the country (Carlson, 2000; Pion-Berlin, 1983). What was hidden behind this argument of efficiency of the PRN was the brutality of the state terror that would accompany it (Gatti, 2014; Crenzel, 2011). The junta was extremely paranoid and deployed police, military and paramilitary forces against segments of the population seen as threatening. This included trade union workers, intellectuals, journalists, lawyers, students, poor citizens, priests etc. (Crenzel, 2011).   

    State terror was enforced systematically. The country was divided into five “Defence Zones”, each of which was controlled by “Zone General Commander” (Rosigno, 2015, 149-151). Within these zones, there was further division into “sub-zones, areas, and sub-areas" all of which set “a fine grid of control over the territory and its population (Rosigno, 2015, 149). This subdivision allowed for repression to be carried out in a systematically. A major invention of the Argentinian military government was the practice of forced disappearances. This is a process through which suspected dissidents were kidnapped by state agents at night and brought to one of 340 clandestine detention centers (CDCs) in the country. In these CDCs, kidnapped citizens were tortured and killed and their bodies disposed of (Zoglin, 1989). It was a process of literally making people disappear without a trace in order to silence their critical voices (Gatti, 2014). This form of extrajudicial killing is particularly brutal because families were unable to get any information on the whereabouts of lost members, since the perpetrators of the violence were state agents (Zoglin, 1989). It is estimated that between 9,000 and 30,000 people were victims of forced disappearance (Crenzel, 2011; Pion-Berlin, 1988). This process of mass torture and killing by the state was referred to by the junta as the “Dirty War”; a war which they saw as brutal but necessary for the maintenance of social order (Pion-Berlin, 1983; Carlson, 2000). Forced disappearances are an Argentinian military invention that fit within their interpretation of NSD. The junta was extremely paranoid and intolerant of criticism. Since they saw themselves as Argentina’s saviours, any threat to their power became a threat to the security of the nation, and any amount of force, no matter how brutal, was then justified to crush opposition (Pion-Berlin, 1983).  


    Conclusion: The Ultimate Contradiction of the National Security Doctrine   

    The irony of NSD and its manifestation in Argentina is that it “undermined the very goals it sought to address” (Zoglin, 1989, 266). In their effort to defend national security, the military government created a process of “institutionalization of terrorism by the state,” in which thousands of citizens were victimized and killed (Zoglin, 1989, 267; Gatti, 2014). The security of citizens was sacrificied in the junta’s paranoid attempt to root out all dissident voices (Gatti, 2014). NSD, in its contradictory logic, claimed to protect Western values while simultaneously crushing democratic free speech and individual rights. In NSD, we can see an example of an ideology which at its core contradicts its primary goals, and which is at the root of state sponsored terror and repression.  


    Reference List  

    Calvo, R. (1979). The Church and the Doctrine of National Security. Journal of Interamerican Studies and World Affairs, 21(1), 69-88. doi:10.2307/165691 

    Carlson, E. (2000). The Influence of French “Revolutionary war” Ideology on the Use of Torture in Argentina's “Dirty war”. Human Rights Review1(4), 71-84. doi:10.1007/s12142-000-1044-5 

    Crenzel, E. (2011). Between the voices of the state and the human rights movement: Never again and the memories of the disappeared in Argentina. Journal of Social History, 44(4), 1063-1076. doi:10.1353/jsh.2011.0044  

    Gatti, G. (2014).” A Catastrophe for Identity and Meaning: Forced Disappearance, Modernity, and Civilization in Surviving Forced Disappearance in Argentina and Uruguay: Palgrave Macmillan US.  

    McSherry, J. P. (1999). Operation Condor: clandestine inter-American system. Social Justice, 26(4), 144–174. Retrieved from https://search-ebscohost-com.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eue&AN=507675659&site=ehost-live 

    Osiel, M. (2001). Constructing Subversion in Argentina's Dirty War. Representations, 75(1), 119-158. doi:10.1525/rep.2001.75.1.119 

    Pion-Berlin (1983). Security Ideology, Liberal Economics, and the “Dirty War” in Argentina, 1976-1983 in The Ideology of State Terror: Economic Doctrine and Political Repression in Argentina and Peru, Lynne Rienner Publishers: Boulder & London.  

    Pion-Berlin, D. (1988). The national security doctrine, military threat perception, and the “Dirty war” in Argentina. Comparative Political Studies, 21(3), 382-407. doi:10.1177/0010414088021003004 

    Rosignoli, B. (2015). Archaeology of state terrorism: Exploring the territorial strategies of clandestine repression in Argentina (1976–1983). Archaeologies, 11(2), 144-168. doi:10.1007/s11759-015-9279-6 

    Zoglin, K. (1989). The national security doctrine and the state of seige in argentina: Human rights denied. Suffolk Transnational Law Journal, 12(2), 265-298. 



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  • An unconventional path towards conflict resolution through Track Two diplomacy


    By Shona Moreau

    Description: This blog post looks at the recent emergence of the Track Two field of study and how its existence has legitimised civil society action, in conjunction with official diplomatic streams (Track One diplomacy) to bring about peace talks.



    Built from the minds of a small group of perceived radical, free-thinking individuals, the concept of Track Two diplomacy pioneered the belief that private citizens and organisations, not just government, could bring peace. It was not until the 1970s, three decades ago, that Joseph V. Montville, a former foreign officer, first coined the term Track Two diplomacy (T2) and brought together the overarching discipline (Homans 2011). The actual practice of Track Two conflict resolution pre-dates its 1981 penning; founded in the 60s by the likes of Burton, Kelman and  Fisher as well as Diamond and Macdonald, based on ideas and observations that private individuals, in unofficial meetings managed by a neutral third party, could build common ground and possibly come up with solutions to shared conflict that official negotiation streams and government actions could not (Jones 2015). This blog post looks at the recent emergence of the Track Two field of study and how its existence has legitimised civil society action, in conjunction with official diplomatic streams (Track One diplomacy) to bring about peace talks. As such, the structure of this short paper will outline the (a) context, in terms of the prior research in the field and the history of the official coining of Track Two diplomacy, (b) objective, in defining the field  and its reception, and (c) brief analysis, the fields application.



    At the end of 1979, then U.S. President Jimmy Carter cut off communication with the Kremlin in response to Soviet union military tanks driving into Afghanistan (Homans 2011). The following year, the Esalen Institute hosted a conference to promote informal exchanges between Americans and Soviet citizen (Homans 2011). One of the attendees of this event was no other than  Joseph Montville, a foreign service officer as well as a member of the ongoing APA’s Arab-Israeli meetings, who famously stated to the conference guests “I suppose you could say what I do is Track One diplomacy, and what you do is Track Two diplomacy” (Homans 2011). It is not until a year after those comments that Montville, in partnership with prominent political psychologist William Davidson, featured the phrases Track One and Track Two diplomacy in academia, in their article "Foreign Policy According to Freud" published in the Journal of Foreign Policy (Davidson & Montville, 1981). The underlying premise of the article “is “that actual or potential conflict can be resolved or eased by appealing to common human capabilities to respond to goodwill and reasonableness” (Homans 2011). In their research, the authors define Track One diplomacy as formal agreements between powerful actors and states conducted by trained diplomats, while Track Two diplomacy is used to refer to conflict resolution work lead by expert non-governmental practitioners (Davidson & Montville, 1981). The objective of Track Two is to reduce the impact of conflict through decreased harm or resolution by lowering tensions through communication and a better understanding of all aspects of the dispute (Davidson & Montville, 1981). This practice, led by conflict resolution professionals in universities or non-governmental organisations came out of the observation that formal official government-led diplomacy is not necessarily able, due to economic, political or historical reasons, to bring on the most effective means of international cooperation (Davidson & Montville, 1981).

    Although the term and field did not gain prominence until the 1980s, social scientists researched and applied similar ideas and practices long before. This was particularly the case in the conflict resolution community, where similar projects were pioneered such as citizen diplomacy, public diplomacy, unofficial diplomacy, nonofficial mediation, and analytic problem solving (Kaye 2007). The earliest acknowledged case of Track Two was conducted by former Australian diplomat John Burton’s arbitration in a Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia boundary dispute. This very first ‘facilitator-led conflict resolution process’ was the inspiration for building the model of the ‘workshop method’, typically managed by an impartial third party, a core aspect of classical Track Two diplomacy. During the Cold war, initiatives such as the World 4 Affair, Pugwash Conferences on Science, and the Dartmouth Conferences have facilitated discussions among leading figures of the dispute on security and stability (Fraser 2012). Since its preliminary applications, conflict resolution agents developed broader processes in the field to guide the roles of actors and different segments of society (Fraser 2012). A possible explanation of the rise in acceptance and appreciation of alternative models of peacemaking such as Track Two is due to the changing nature of non-state armed groups, who in recent years have evolved to be more resilient, adaptable and complex, making them more complex actors with whom to communicate. Certain armed groups, such as militias in the Lebanese civil war, have learned to diversify their financial resources through 'taxations', extortion and creating illicit businesses. Negotiation with these types of actors demands much more than just demilitarisation; it also necessitates a response to overarching national issues as well as a reintegration and reconciliation plan (Hottinger 2005). As such, Diamond and McDonald (1991) have even suggested that the field of Track Two is more than just a peacemaking model for conflict resolution; instead, it is about planetary healing (Kaye 2007).



    Currently, there are no publications that discuss specifically the intent of Montville in creating the term Track Two diplomacy and its conception as an umbrella title for the whole ‘unofficial academic conflict resolution’ field. Montville’s many publishings communicated his determination to create a suitable environment where relationships build outside of the agenda of the state (Hottinger 2005).  

    Both the Foreign Policy According to Freud (1981) article, in which the term Track Two diplomacy was first published in academia, as well as its following essay The Arrow and the Olive Branch: A Case for Track Two Diplomacy (1987) discuss the dilemma of how the government leadership function often becomes more nationalistic and tribal in times of conflict (Davidson & Montville, 1981). Concrete political or economic grievances, compounded by historical and cultural factors, often lead to misperception and thus to lost opportunities to resolve differences before the fighting starts (Davidson & Montville, 1981). Therefore civil society created a secondary diplomatic track in order to supplement the apparent shortcomings of official relations, especially in times of tension (Davidson & Montville, 1981). In a later publishing, A diplomat among psychoanalysts (1986), Montville states that his intent in legitimizing the Track Two diplomacy approach was to try “to create an environment in public opinion that makes it safer for political leaders to take risks for peace”, which, according to Montville is the most neglected and promising aspect for real peacebuilding (Montville 1986). In the same article, Montville also highlights the power of communication under a cohesive term and field (Track Two diplomacy) in “[making a] valuable contribution towards a more peaceful world and build a solid foundation from which relationships with others can be mended” (Montville 1986) — encouraging in the same line of thinking that “Research and programs that seek to recover from the past evidence of great achievements and cultural distinction are important for reconstructing a good sense of self for peoples and nations who have been battered by history and are burdened by a psychology of victimhood” (Montville 1986).

    As is  apparent in the name, as well as in the explanation offered by Montville and Davidson, Track Two diplomacy, both in title and practice, is not to be considered a substitute for Track One diplomacy but rather a partner in conflict resolution, compensating for the limitations of leaders, nations and formal dialogue settings (Hottinger 2005). Before the coining of the phrase, there were many names and concept terms such as Burton's Controlled communication, Kelman's Interactive problem solving and Fisher's Interactive conflict resolution, but no term before Track Two diplomacy actually encompassed within its title the duality of the practice (Jones 2015); the name Track Two diplomacy emphasises the need for a Track One approach and that it is not a stand-alone framework (Hottinger 2005). As this section has highlighted, Montville coined the title of  Track Two diplomacy in order to bring together and legitimise the prior disconnected Track Two diplomacy field as well as gain support from government and organisations.


    In Application

    Within its initial application, governments were quite critical of this ‘freelance diplomacy';  it was known for being, at its best, a feel-good exercise and at its worst, a genuine threat to ‘real’ work (Homans 2011). In 1986,  McDonald and Bendahmane tried to publish a book entitled Conflict Resolution: Track Two Diplomacy, which compiled the thoughts of several Track One and Track Two professionals endorsing the necessity for the government to encourage, support and work with Track Two. The  State Department refused to allow the book to print for over a year due to the potential undermining influence the content could have on the government's' ability and authority to handle conflict resolution (Fraser 2012). On the flip side, academia, who had already been playing with the idea of Track Two diplomacy for decades started coming together as a field under this umbrella term and adopted the wording of Track Two diplomacy as well as addressing challenges in officialising its conception. Major challenges the field has been trying to address include (1) determining whether the proper role and function of Track Two processes is to assist governments in reaching agreements, or rather is it to advance or foster dialogue, (2) questioning the criteria by which to measure the “success” of Track Two processes or even whether success can be measured at all, (3) transferring Track Two processes to translate into a political agreement, (4) addressing the issue  of Track Two independence (Jones 2008, Fraser 2012).

    Thirty years later, governments and organizations are coming around in embracing Track Two diplomacy work and offering more support to academics and non-profit organizations, allowing multiple Track Two initiatives to gain prominence such as West African Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), European Centre for Conflict Prevention (ECCP), Search for Common Ground and many others (Mapendere 2005). Though many scholars had already developed the field that came to be known as Track Two diplomacy, the coining of the term helped introduce the practice as legitimate and official, allowing for easier support and partnership in bureaucratic and academic spheres. As its prominence grows, people are starting to understand that in an era of unconventional conflicts there is a need for unconventional solutions (Homans 2011).


    Davidson, W. D., & Montville, J. V. (1981). Foreign Policy According to Freud. Foreign Policy,45, 145-157. doi:10.2307/1148317

    Fraser, R. (2012). Track Two Diplomacy - A Distinct Conflict Intervention Category. University of Victoria Master's Thesis,1-60. Retrieved from http://dspace.library.uvic.ca:8080/bitstream/handle/1828/4278/Fraser_Robin_MA_2012.pdf?sequence=1

    Homans, C. (2011). Track II Diplomacy: A Short History. Foreign Policy. Retrieved from https://foreignpolicy.com/2011/06/20/track-ii-diplomacy-a-short-history/

    Hottinger, J. (2005). The relationship between track one and track two diplomacy. Retrieved from https://www.academia.edu/1833871/The_relationship_between_track_one_and_track_two_diplomacy

    Jones, P. (2015). In Theory. In Track Two Diplomacy in Theory and Practice (pp. 1-256). Stanford University Press. Print.

    Jones, P. (2008). Canada and Track-Two Diplomacy. Canadian Foreign Policy in a Changing World,1-32. Retrieved from http://www.opencanada.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/05/Canada-and-Track-TwoDiplomacy-Peter-Jones.pdf

    Kaye, D. D. (2007). Rethinking Track Two Diplomacy. In Talking to the Enemy: Track Two Diplomacy in the Middle East and South Asia. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/mg592nsrd.8

    Mapendere, J. (2005). Track One and a Half Diplomacy and the Complementarity of Tracks. Culture of Peace Online Journal, 2(1), 66-81. Retrieved from https://peacemaker.un.org/sites/peacemaker.un.org/files/TrackOneandaHalfDiplomacy_Mapendere.pdf.

    Montville, J. (2006). Track Two Diplomacy: The Work of Healing History. The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, 15-25. Retrieved from http://abrahamicfamilyreunion.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Track_Two_Diplomacy__Whitehead_Journal.pdf

    Montville, J. V. (1986). A diplomat among psychoanalysts. Psychoanalytic Inquiry,6(2), 247-250. doi:10.1080/07351698609533630

    Montville, J. (2006). Track Two Diplomacy: The Work of Healing History. The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, 15-25. Retrieved from http://abrahamicfamilyreunion.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/Track_Two_Diplomacy__Whitehead_Journal.pdf

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  • Could transitioning from Petroculture lead to political disruption?


    Oil and the centrality of non-renewable resources as the source and supplier of daily modern life is often used without a second thought as people go about their daily lives. Flicking on the lights, turning on the stove, or dropping off family members at engagements are all habits and activities that have become second nature that people in modern society have become accustomed to and expect. The reliance on these necessities and the foundation and manifestation of petroculture is so deeply embedded in habits and norms that their ease of use and immediacy are not only expected but relied on, and are what has propelled the rapid advancement of society at speeds that are historically unprecedented and thus difficult to compare. Petroculture, defined as the ways in which post-industrial society today is an oil society [1], and the way that fossil fuels are “defining modernity” [2] are all attributes of the phenomenon. The way in which major energy sources present themselves through disruptions, habits and norms, is something that can also be seen through water and wind to eventually coal in the UK during the 19th century, according to Malm. [3]. The Petrocultures Research Group speaks to the multiple ways in which the forms of energy which a society depends on shape that society in fundamental ways as they speak to the critical role in determining the shape, form, and character of our daily existence, and that the “dominant form of energy in any given era…shapes the attributes and capabilities of societies in a fundamental way.” [1]. Thus, changes from non-renewable resources as the dominant energy supply would heavily impact and disrupt current norms and ways of life. The transcendence of oil into all aspects of daily modern life is one which should be incorporated further into public discourse if not to amplify the growing body of research on the topic but also to greater reflect on the potentially challenging political disruption that could arise from improperly managing and mediating challenges that will arise from dealing with and transitioning through petroculture.

    Stephanie LeMenager states that petroculture is today’s modern, normative culture that is the way of life in wealthier parts of the world [4]. It is manifest in all aspects of life from highways and infrastructure, to fillings in people’s mouths, to the suburban dream in North America [4]. LeMenager’s focus on petroleum and petroculture is situated on the foundational role that it has played in the (American) imagination while cognizant of the fact that the narrative of petroleum continues to shift [11]. From exploring the motivations to switch to oil as partially motivated by lessening the workload and adding to the quality of man’s life [11], to reflecting on the boom of the middle class  in the mid-twentieth century and the social adjustments and movements that came with it such as the cultivation of public education, social movements such as feminism and antiwar activism, and the replacement of back-breaking labour associated with coal, LeMenage brings social considerations of enhanced entrepreneurial individualism and social movements into the greater conversation of petroculture [11]. Perhaps one of the best displays of the centrality of petroculture and oil in everyday life is shown through the Enbridge campaign “Life takes energy” [5] in which the company exemplifies the ready and reliable source of energy coupled with notions and imaginations that non-renewable energy has in fueling all aspects of a comfortable modern lifestyle. By taking E=mc2 and equating non-renewable energy with all aspects of modern life the campaign elevates the consciousness of the foundational role of non-renewable resources and dependence on petroleum. Not only is an unconscious reliance raised but an emotional response is aroused in each poster and film in the campaign, effectively mounting support for non-renewable energy and the social norms and actions that surround it while indicating that shifting away from the source would threaten to disrupt these comforts and norms.

    A prime example of a video from this campaign shows scenes of a father cooking a meal for his young daughter and ending with the message “E=best dad ever” [6], showing a memorable and heart-warming scene. While another video example of the campaign appeals to the wonders and imaginations of childhood dreams as it shows a young boy practicing magic tricks with his brother and grandfather lounging near him in their comfortable home with the lights off.  Simultaneously and seamlessly as the young magician ushers a spell his grandfather flicks on the lights which triggers immediate joy and belief in the boys own magic. The scene is immediately followed with a focused shot of the young magician gazing in wonder at the lights above him with the message “E=believing” laid over top [7]. Here not only is the utility of lighting a home shown but also the emotional response of a grandfather bringing joy and belief to his young grandson who is mystified. Both of these videos, as well as other pieces in the campaign, end with the same adage from Enbridge as a narrator states that when the “energy you invest in life meets the energy [they] fuel it with, beautiful things happen.” [7]. With petroculture in a broad and simple definition referring to the “social imaginaries constituted by knowledge, practices and discourses resulting from the consumption of and subsequent dependence on oil” [8] it is evident that this campaign engages in displaying not only the materiality of oil in modern society but also employing the social imaginaries that it provides and shapes.

    A large body of research exists on the reality and embedded prevalence of petroculture. Contributing to the advancement of this field, the Petrocultures Research Cluster at the University of Alberta focuses on and supports research that is focused on the “social and cultural implications of oil and energy on individuals, communities, and society” [9]. In the Canadian context, a significant amount of political and media discourse has been dedicated to issues concerning energy politics and the oil industry but the broader concept of “petroculture” has all but been left out of these broader conversations, having yet to permeate mass media and public discourse. The dominant, hegemonic form of energy at present is petroleum [10], and the concept of petroculture ascertains that the current way of life has been shaped by oil in physical and material ways, through influence on values, practices, habits, and beliefs, and that overall it is difficult to isolate the ideals of autonomy and mobility from this entity. Essentially, the capacities and freedoms of modern life have been shaped by the role of fossil fuels and the social aspect of oil. As Szeman says, the way in which systems “go” is not only a result of “raw stuff of fossil fuels” but also the “ideas and ideals” that drive our agreed upon freedoms [10]. This includes, but is not limited to the ability of individuals to travel where and when they like, as well as international trade and cultural exchanges. Further to this Szeman points out that modernity has rarely had the “massive expansion of socially available energy” (in this case fossil fuels), and the “redefinition” of practices, behaviours, and beliefs as a result. Overall, the omission of petroculture in the discourse and consideration surrounding modern life could be argued as resulting in a “lack of a full understanding” of energy and the politics, culture, and social norms that surround it [10].

    With the source and driver of modern society being a finite resource it is clear some major shift in energy supply will be needed in the future. In June 2015 G7 nations declared that “the era of fossil fuels would end by 2100” [1]. In this short period of time the goal is daunting with the scope being the whole of Earth’s population, and the scale impacting global infrastructure [1]. The movement towards this goal indicates a faster replacement of the primary energy source and social transformation that would outpace the speed at which fossil fuels and petroculture came to fruition (if measured starting in the 1850s). This would constitute a bigger economic, political, and social shift than that which ushered in petroculture. With daily reminders and activities embedded in the culture of petroleum and transnational commitments to move off of fossil fuels in less than one hundred years the viewpoint of the Petrocultures Research Group that this is an ambitious social transformation which lacks historical precedent is not far from the mark.

    The intent of this article is not to argue one way or another in terms of the direction that thought leaders, politicians and government and industry should act on the energy industry but rather to speak to the research underway and the scientific realities as well as imminent political disruption. While the job losses that are directly dependent on the fossil fuel industry in Canada and the economic disruption and direct political impacts as a result of this may be a clearly visible impact of shifting away from fossil fuels are may be the most clear and evident impacts, what will be more difficult to quantify however are the social disruptions that will arise as a result and impact aspects of daily life that are not commonly spoken of. With campaigns such as the one highlighted in this article, it is clear to see that material dependency and emotional associations are part of this current petroculture and that shifts in the industry and thus culture are likely to impact norms and ways of being and comfort that could ultimately result in high levels of political disruption. Just as fossil fuels reshaped and redefined who had access to what capital, freedoms that we associate with the liberal world view and order, and norms and cultures shaped in the modern world in unprecedented ways, an impending energy source shift will likely engage in similar adjustments and disruptions. The shift in energy supply and transformation of the dominant energy source will shift these parameters and norms. Regardless of if the transition is smooth or littered with hurdles, the limited value of the resource dictates that a new energy source must eventually take over,and in a petroculture in which citizens are not only materially dependent on the good but also have it embedded in their norms, practices, and in some cases emotional responses (as is shown by the Life takes energy campaign), politically it is bound to be disruptive in one way or another.

    Lhori Webster is an undergraduate student at the University of Ottawa pursuing her Joint Honours BA in Political Science and Communications.


    [1] Petrocultures Research Group (2016) After Oil. Petrocultures Research Group. Department of English and Film Studies. University of Alberta. Edmonton, A.B., Accessed February 6, 2019.

    [2] Wilson, S. (n.d.). Petrocultures: Oil, Politics, Culture. MQUP.

    [3] Malm, Andreas. (2013) “The Origins of Fossil Capital: From Winter to Steam in the British Cotton Industry,” Historical Materialism 21.1 (2013): 31

    [4] Hartman, Steven., Norman, Peter., Birgersson, Anders., LeMenager, Stephanie. (2017) “What is Petroculture?” Bifrost Insights. Accessed April 22, 2019. Accessible here: https://bifrostonline.org/what-is-petroculture/

    [5] Enbridge (2019) “Life takes energy” Enbridge, Home, About us. Accessed April 22, 2019. Accessible here: https://www.enbridge.com/about-us/life-takes-energy

    [6] Enbridge (2019) “E= best dad ever” Enbridge, Home, About us, Life Takes Energy. Accessed April 22, 2019. Accessible here: https://www.enbridge.com/about-us/life-takes-energy

    [7] Enbridge (2019) “E=believing” Enbridge, Home, About us, Life Takes Energy. Accessed April 22, 2019. Accessible here: https://www.enbridge.com/about-us/life-takes-energy

    [8] Baptista, Karina. (2017). “Petrocultures.” Global South Studies: A Collective Publication with The Global South. Accessed April 22, 2019. Accessible here: https://globalsouthstudies.as.virginia.edu/key-concepts/petrocultures

    [9] Petrocultures Research Cluster (2018) “Petrocultures” Petrocultures Conference. University of Alberta.  Accessed April 22, 2019. Accessible here: https://petrocultures.com/

    [10] Szeman, Imre (2017) “Conjectures on world energy literature: Or, what is petroculture?” Journal of Postcolonial Writing. 53(3) p. 277-288.

    [11] LeMenager, Stephanie. (2014) Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century. Oxford University Press.

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  • The Classification of Armed Conflicts by Jillian Hawley



                War is a fundamental element of the human condition. Hans Magnus Enzensberger put it best in saying that “Animals fight, but they don’t wage war. Only man – unique among primates – practises the large-scale, deliberate and enthusiastic destruction of his fellow creatures,” (Armitage, 2017, 8). Even while many in the world today, specifically those living in the developing world, have been living in what is commonly referred to as the “Long Peace” since 1945, the world remains a very violent place (Armitage, 2017). War, or rather armed conflict, is woven into the history and identity of the human nation, and so it is crucial to understand what it is and how it is classified in our modern world.

                In simplified terms an armed conflict is understood to occur when one party uses force against another, though even this determination is a point of contention (Kolb, 2014; Sriram et al, 2014). Traditionally, for example, the supposed parties of such conflicts were assumed to be states, but this has changed in the contemporary period (Gantzel and Schwinghammer, 2000). The two main distinctions between actors in armed conflicts are as either combatants or non-combatants; that is, those who participate in the armed conflict and those who do not (Kolb, 2014). While this distinction can often seem ambiguous, as will be discussed later in this blog, it is crucial in identifying the certain rights of those involved and the laws which can be applied (Wilmshurts, 2012). International laws serve to define and regulate the conduct during considered armed conflicts (Abass, 2014). These laws include the Four Geneva Conventions of 1949, and the two Additional Protocols from 1977, as well as a number of other supplementary treaties (Sriram et al, 2014). These treaties are the foundations for International Humanitarian Law (IHL) (Kolb, 2014). Within this legal framework, the two main classifications of armed conflicts are international and non-international armed conflicts, in addition to cases where both are present simultaneously (Duxbury, 2007; Kolb, 2014). I will discuss these three cases below.

    International Armed Conflicts

    International armed conflicts (IAC) are conflicts which are solely between two or more states (Kolb, 2014). For this reason, international armed conflicts are also referred to as inter-state conflicts (Sriram, 2014). As an example, we can consider the wars between India and Pakistan (Sharma, 2012). These wars, as the name implies, were a series of conflicts between the countries of India and Pakistan which took place in 1947, 1965 and 1971 (Ganguly, 1995). Here we have a clear example of two international actors, i.e. states, engaging in an armed conflict with one another, thus making it an international armed conflict.

    The laws concerning IACs specifically are much more refined than its counterpart because this form of armed conflict is the one which IHL was based upon (Kolb, 2014). International Humanitarian Law is predominantly concerned with regulating the behaviour of those who participate in armed conflicts, which was traditionally understood to be only a state’s military (Wilmshurts, 2012). Paramount among its rules is the principle of distinction, which concerns distinguishing between combatants, such as soldiers, and non-combatants, namely civilians (Bissonnette, 2016). Thus civilians are to be protected at all times from attack and are to be excluded from hostilities (ibid).

    Non-international Armed Conflicts

                In contrast, a non-international armed conflict (NIAC) is an armed conflict that is “…between governmental forces and insurgents or between armed groups” (Kolb, 2014, 22). This means that a NIAC occurs when non-state actors, that is, individuals who are not representing the state’s government or military forces, also engage in the conflict. Legally, this is encoded in Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions (Paust, 2016). A historical example of a NIAC is the American Civil War. The war began in 1861 with two factions within the country, the Southern Confederacy and the Northern Union, engaging in the conflict (Carroll, 2012). Rather than two sovereign nations waging war against one another, this situation involved members of the same political unit, a country, fighting against their fellow citizens (Armitage, 2017). As one can imagine, this situation is much more complex than IACs. Combatants are traditionally understood to be a part of a state’s military forces, but when those who are participating in hostilities are not all a part of state forces, the line which is necessary in order to practise the principle of distinction can be blurred. Thus innocent people can be targeted and lose their lives without proper legal recourse to protect them. Additionally, under IHL an important protection is combatant immunity, where combatants are immune from the consequences of what would otherwise be considered murder because their actions are legally sanctioned (Kolb, 2014). Conversely, members of armed groups who are not a part of state forces are not afforded this same protection because they are not acting on behalf of a state government (ibid).

    At first glance it may seem strange that such inconsistencies still exist. The main reason that there remains this distinction between IAC and NIACs, however, is because states are the main players in international law and internal conflicts threaten their sovereignty (Abass, 2014). Sovereignty is the founding principle of international law, and holds that state governments are in control of their territory and that territory cannot be breached or taken over by another state (Haj, 2013). When armed groups rise up against the state, or mobilize outside of the state’s control, this puts its own authority in jeopardy. For this reason, states do not have an interest in legitimizing armed groups that participate in internal conflicts with legal status comparable to IACs, and specifically armed groups who participate in them, because this would presumably undermine the states’ governments’ ability to treat such conflicts as unlawful (Wilmshurts, 2012). These kinds of conflicts, however, also referred to as intra-state conflicts, not only are the most common form of armed conflict today, but also last longer than conflicts between states (Sriram, 2014; Wilmshurts, 2012; Armitage, 2017). So while NIACs are lacking in legal representation, they are the most pervasive in our modern world.

    A “Mixed-Bag” Conflict

                The two classifications above are understood as the “two basic types of armed conflicts,” but in practise this distinction is not so clear (Kolb, 2014, 22). For example, during the American Civil War there was a threat of British intervention in the conflict, which would have also added an international element (Carroll, 2012). There can also be cases where within the same state borders there exists both an internal armed conflict and an international one, such as the Syrian Civil war, for example (Kolb, 2014). While its name may be misleading, the Syrian conflict in fact includes both an IAC and NIACs within the same borders. The conflict began in 2011, and since that time the country has seen a multitude of actors take up arms (Seeberg, 2014). There was the conflict between the Syrian government, led by Bashar al-Assad, and the Syrian rebels (Corstange, 2018). This would appear to be a textbook example of an internal conflict, except for the fact the involvement of states such as Russia and the United States in supporting groups in order to secure their own interests, which also adds an international component to the war (Erlich, 2014). Additionally, the conflict became more convoluted with the participation of armed groups, such as the Islamic State, who are not necessarily fighting for the rebels or the government, but for an entirely different set of interests (Bennis, 2016). Thus this brings the war on terror into the fore, involving world powers in the conflict as well as Syria’s regional neighbours (ibid). This is a simple snapshot of an incredibly complex issue, but shows just how these classifications can overlap.


    In this brief explanation it is clear that inconsistencies exist within these classifications and their relationship with international law. Thus, while it is vital to understand these classifications, it is also important to be aware that they are simply meant to serve as a stepping stones, and are not perfectly comprehensive. However, by shedding some light on the devices that are used to understand these concepts and how their roots are imbedded in the human narrative, this will help us to also understand ourselves.



    Abass, Ademola. (2014). International Law: Text, Cases and Materials. Oxford University Press, United Kingdom.

    Armitage, David (2017). Civil Wars: A History in Ideas. Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

    Bennis, Phyllis. (2016). ISIS and Syria: the new global war on terror. Oxford, United Kingdom

    Bissonnette, Camille Marquis (2016). The Definition of Civilians in Non-International Armed Conflicts. Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies, Vol.7 (1), pp.129-15

    Carroll, F.M. (2012) The American Civil War and British intervention: The threat of Anglo American conflict. Canadian Journal of History, Vol. 47 (1), pp.87-115

     Corstange, Daniel; York, Erin A. (2018). Sectarian Framing in the Syrian Civil War. American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 62 (2), pp.441-455

     Duxbury, Alison (2007). Drawing lines in the sand - characterising conflicts for the purposes of teaching international humanitarian law. Melbourne Journal of International Law, Vol. 8 (2), p. 259 (14)

    Erlich, Reese W. (2014) Inside Syria: the backstory of their civil war and what the world can expect. Prometheus Books, NY

    Ganguly, Sumit. (1995). Wars without End: The Indo-Pakistani Conflict. The Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Vol. 541(1), p.167-178

    Gantzel, Klaus Jürgen; Schwinghammer, Torsten. (2000). Warfare Since the Second World War. Transaction, New Brunswick

    Haj, Ayman Abu Al. (2013). Principle of the state's sovereignty and the phenomenon of humanitarian intervention under current International Law. Canadian Social Science, Vol. 9(1), p.116(19)

    Kolb, Robert. (2014). Advanced Introduction to International Humanitarian Law. Edward Elgar Publishing, Massachusetts

    Paust, Jordan J. (2016). NIAC nonsense, the Afghan war, and combatant immunity (non international armed conflict). Georgia Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol. 44 (3), pp.555-575

     Sharma, Ashok. (2012). The enduring conflict and the hidden risk of India-Pakistan war. SAIS Review, Vol. 32 (1), pp.129-142

    Seeberg, Peter. (2014). The EU and the Syrian Crisis: The Use of Sanctions and the Regime's Strategy for Survival. Mediterranean Politics, p.1-18

    Sriram, Chandra Lekha; Martin-Ortega, Olga; Herman, Johanna. (2014). War, Conflict and Human Rights: Theory and Practise. Routledge, New York.

    Wilmshurts, Elizabeth. (2013). International Law and the Classification of Conflicts. Oxford Scholarly Authorities on International Law, Royal Institute of International Affairs.


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  • The impacts of Communism on Russia by Sahar El-Zaylaa



    Communism is a theory and social practice that was theorized by Karl Marx, a German economist and sociologist, and Friedrich Engels, a German social scientist and journalist, in the 18th century. In order to fully understand the theory and impacts Communism has had on people living under such a state, it is crucial to familiarize oneself with the social context in which Communism derived. After being exiled from Germany because of his controversial writings, Marx fled to London and continued to develop his writing in collaboration with Friedrich Engels. During the 18th century many events took place that inspired the duo to write their infamous document The Communist Manifesto; the world’s most influential political document which explains the philosophy of Communism (Musto, 2008). One of the most important events that took place in the 18th century was the Industrial Revolution that began in London and made its way around the globe. The Industrial Revolution was a new way of producing goods and products that used new technologies to dramatically increase productivity. It had major features including the creation of factories, cities, new technologies and the consumption of more stuff; new technologies mass produced products and were accessible to many people (Engels & Marx, 2007). The Revolution dramatically changed almost every aspect of life by increasing standard of living, giving new roles to women, forming new social classes, developing new ideas and new sources of power for countries. Of these changes, Marx and Engels were mainly concerned with the impacts the Revolution had on the formation of socioeconomic classes and the repercussions that came with it (Kemp, 2008). The economic system that gave rise to the Industrial Revolution was Capitalism; an economic system based on the private ownership and supply and demand. Private ownership and the formation of factories led to apparent social stratification, in other words, it led to a system of social rank where groups of people had more status, wealth, and control than others (Lehman, 2014). This type of hierarchy was not new to Marx and Engels, to the contrary, it was evident throughout history between the bourgeoisie (wealthy class) and proletariat (working class). With Capitalism, Industrial Revolution and social inequalities amongst workers, Marx and Engels wrote The Communist Manifesto to influence and create social change with the vision of closing socioeconomic gaps in society. However, is important to note that although Marx and Engels theorized Communism, they never got a chance to witness its application.


    As previously mentioned, The Communist Manifesto sets out the goals of Communism. This section will objectively explain the theory according to Marx and Engels. According to The Communist Manifesto, throughout history, there has always been class struggle where the bourgeoisie control the means of production i.e factories, land, agriculture etc. and become the most powerful group and oppress the proletariat by keeping the profit to themselves. In order to stay on top, the bourgeoisie expand across the globe, acquire resources and make the working conditions for the proletariat miserable and unbearable causing conflict between the classes.

    According to Marx and Engels, Communism sets out to get rid of private property by putting the means of production in the hands of the community. Communism calls the proletariat to strip the bourgeois of their wealth and abolish inheritance until class distinctions completely vanish. Marx and Engels call to the unification of all workers around the world and criticize other social movements that want to reform Capitalism. Marx and Engels believe that capitalism as a system needs to be overthrown completely and not reformed. The method to overthrow the bourgeois was to be through a forceful revolution.  This revolution will end oppression against the working class by destroying anything that perpetuates inequalities amongst classes including: family organization, religion, morality and the like. Communism aims to rid society of family organization because of the hierarchy and oppression found within the system, more specifically the patriarchy; men are the most powerful and rule the family. Likewise, religion and morality are seen as oppressive tools since one gives the ruling class power by promising the poor eternal bliss in the afterlife while the other sets out guidelines and limitations that restricts individuals from climbing the socioeconomic ladder (Engels & Marx, 2007). Other characteristics of Communism includes heavy progressive income tax, free education, and the abolition of child labor. Communism is known for its command economy whereas capitalism is known for its market economy. Command economy is where a central government follows a 5 year economic plan on behalf of the people, the government is the center of all economic practices and owns and controls property and businesses. Market economy relies on supply and demand to direct the production of goods and is open to free choice, self-interest, competition and limited government control (Weeks, 2013).


     In 1917, the rise of the Soviet Union, the new Communist state, was the successor to the Russian Empire and the first country to be influenced and based on Marxism. All levels of the government were controlled by the Communist party. In addition,  industry was owned and managed by the government, and agricultural land was divided into state-run collective farms. Lenin, the leader of Russia at the time, aimed to rid the country of old symbols and structures that enforced inequalities such as: noble titles, ranks and government departments. Private property was to be abolished. Property that were once owned by rich nobles and landlords , would be given over to the peasants. It aimed towards civil rights and improved conditions for workers. Women were given equality and voting rights, healthcare and literacy programs were to be introduced. These plans stirred optimism among the people. Although Russia's command economy built up the military might to defeat the Nazis, civil war and economic deprivation prevented the Soviet State from fulfilling many of its promises. The State became one of the most oppressive in the world. The government determined the  careers of students, assigned housing locations and abolished free markets. This lead to an oppressive state and the deaths of millions due to suicide, starvation and execution. Over 70 years of Communism passed since the revolution, yet people lacked adequate housing, harvest would rot due to a shortage of equipment for harvest and transport and factories were poorly maintained (Maltsev, 2017). Anyone who practiced religion and opposed Atheism and Communism would be killed. The conditions worsened as Communist Atheists began to destroy churches, and valuables within them were stolen and sold. By 1921, 11,000 religious leaders were arrested and 9,000 of them were executed. Following that year, 2000 church hierarchs were shot. By the end of the world war, hundreds of thousands of believers in religion were sent to labor camps. Their children died of starvation and disease due to exile and murder. In 1935, Article 12 of the USSR Criminal Code introduced by Stalin, permitted the imprisonment and death of children twelve years and over. This law was used to rid the nation of the orphans of victims in case the children turned out like their parents. The children who were sent to jail were abused and raped by the guards. Furthermore, individuals such as Nikolai Vavilov were killed because they adhered to the science of genetics (Maltsev, 2017). The dissolution of Communism occurred in 1991, with the crumbling of Russian economy and the state the country was in, the Communist party handed over its power after the declaration of the Supreme Soviet of the Soviet Union.


    According to many economists, one of the biggest reasons Communism has failed in Russia and continues to fail elsewhere is because of its command economy.  Ludwig von Mises was one of the first people to predict the failure of Communism due to the abolishment of free markets. The abolishment of free market led officials to have no market prices to guide them in planning production (Von Mises, L., & Greaves, B, 2005). Russia’s plan was launched with high hopes, its goal for planning was to be done by a central committee. This way the state would ensure there was plenty for everyone. Mises noted the raw materials, tools, machines as well as the labor used within a socialist production were outside of the market. They’re owned and controlled by the planners within the government. Consequently, the market prices cannot develop because they are not exchangeable. To make any planning decisions, planners would need to know the relative values of products involved. When the factors are solely government owned, there would be no trade, leading to no market prices. Lack of these prices leaves planners clueless about relative values (Von Mises, L., & Greaves, B, 2005). The poor maintenance of housing, harvest and factories was because they were not privately owned. Prices are not able to develop without the offers of private ownership. Furthermore, prices that reflect their relative market values are not able to develop as well. Finally, without the market prices, it would be impossible to allocate production activities so that goods/services will be readily available to consumers. Other factors make Communism more of a dictatorship such as enforcement of ideological beliefs on the people. In order to establish true equality, Communism calls for the abolishment of religion, morality and other belief systems, even scientific ones that individuals may identify with. Forcing a specific  lifestyle leads to the oppression of many and execution of those who do not abide with the state (Lehning, 1957).


    Engels, F & Marx, K. (2007). The Communist Manifesto.

    Kemp, A. (2008). THE RISE OF POP ECONOMICS. Review - Institute of Public Affairs, 60(3), 28-29.

    Lehman, D. (2014). Capitalism. Harvard Review, (46), 56-57.

    Lehning, A. (1957). Buonarroti's Ideas on Communism and Dictatorship. International Review of Social History, 2(2), 266-287.

    Maltsev, Y. (2017). Mass Murder and Public Slavery: The Soviet Experience. The Independent Review, 22(2), 183-189.

    Musto, M. (2008). Marx in the years of 'Herr Vogt': Notes toward an intellectual biography (1860-1861).(Karl Marx)(Essay). Science & Society, 72(4), 389-402.

    Von Mises, L., & Greaves, B. (2005). Liberalism : The Classical Tradition (Von Mises, Ludwig, 1881-1973. Works. 2005). Liberty Fund, Incorporated.

    Weeks, K. (2013). The critical manifesto: Marx and Engels, Haraway, and utopian politics.(Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels' 'The Communist Manifesto' and Donna Haraway's 'Manifesto for Cyborgs')(Critical essay). Utopian Studies, 24(2), 216-231.


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  • Understanding Post-Conflict Aid and its Importance? By: Sapphira Thompson-Bled


              So long as conflict continues to exist and nations free from conflict remain in the position to help, post-conflict aid should be offered to those in need and to support conflict-stricken nations in their re-entry as participating states in the international sphere. To qualify for post-conflict aid there must first be a conflict to respond to. As such, there would be an intra-state conflict, a conflict within the country between the government and another armed group also referred to as a civil war, or an inter-state conflict, also known as a war between states.

               While both of these conflicts are threatening to a state’s security and their populations’ safety, academics specify that civil wars lead to large scale destruction and dislocation (Suhrke, Villanger, Woodward, 2005, p.340). Similarly, the World Bank identifies intra-state conflicts as a form of ‘development in reverse’ because they suggest that conflicts have the capability of inciting results that directly contradict the core purpose of aid (Donaubauer, Herzer & Nunnenkamp, 2019, p.721). As such, the term ‘development in reverse’ is applicable because during conflicts there is a decrease in non-military expenditures to develop social and economic infrastructure. Moreover, social and economic funding are reallocated for military purposes which consequently affects infrastructure negatively (Donaubauer et al., 2019, p.721).

             The need for post-conflict aid appears to have become more applicable in contemporary society based on the increase in aid given to conflict-affected and fragile states (Donaubauer et al., 2019, p.732). The need for post-conflict aid also correlates with the amount of funding allocated towards these areas. In the 1990s, it was reported that a total of $100 billion was spent on aid for 3 dozen nations following the conflicts that occurred (Kang & Meernik, 2004, p.152). Likewise, foreign aid has been implemented at an increasing rate shown in statistics from the 1996-1998 time period compared to the 2006-2008 time period (Donaubauer et al., 2019, p.720). In response to the ability for post-conflict aid to have a positive and lasting impact in war torn countries, this blog will elaborate upon the importance of post-conflict aid and what motivates states to offer it.

    What is Post-Conflict Aid?

                Post-conflict aid differs from development aid in that the latter contributes to domestic savings and boosts long term investment and growth, it also helps lower poverty (Demekas, McHugh & Kosma, 2002, p.3). Similarly, development aid is more stable and occurs at lower costs than post-conflict aid, for example according to official development assistance statistics from 1995-2000, aid for low-income countries was between 2.5% and 3% of their Gross National Income (Demekas et al., 2002, p.3). Meanwhile, at its core post-conflict aid seeks to fulfill humanitarian and development goals in former combat zones. The humanitarian goal relates to providing assistance during humanitarian emergencies, examples of which are displacement and the loss of shelter(p.3). On the other hand, the reconstructive goal refers to donor contributions to repairing and rebuilding infrastructure which may include roads, waterways, energy, communication networks, or public services like security, law enforcement, or public health (p.3). This also relates to the idea of road rehabilitation which advocates for the need to invest in infrastructure so the private sector can recover and to create employment (Donaubauer et al., 2019, p.723). Furthermore, academics suggest that conflict nations with an open economy adjust better to foreign aid because their familiarity with international aid and international markets increases their ability to accept and adapt to the aid. So, it is suggested that these nations generally receive more assistance from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (Kang & Meernik, 2004, p.155).

    Why is Post-Conflict Aid so Important?

                Post-conflict aid plays an important role in the world’s reaction to conflict because it has the ability to address humanitarian concerns and to contribute to the redevelopment of another nation that will eventually participate in the international community in ways that may also benefit donor countries. First, as a positive contribution, post-conflict aid contributes to repairing and rebuilding the economy to function at a productive level, and this may also include an efficient level where resources are not wasted and are instead employed to the maximum (Demekas, 2002, p.4). Aid also has the ability to encourage foreign direct investment (FDI) amongst other forms of investment where states simultaneously demonstrate good governance and the potential for financial market development (Garriga & Philips, 2014, p.283). Although, investors also search for information about the country’s economy and aid concessions that may have been made because this also indicates how credible the government is (Garriga & Philips, 2014, p.283-285). Moreover aid serves as an expensive example of the donor state’s dedication and trust in recipient states and governments (Garriga & Philips, 2014, p.283-285).

            As a preventative contribution, post-conflict aid has the ability to intervene when citizens are arguably most desperate and thus willing engage in criminality, some of which would comprise of rent-seeking behaviour, a form of behaviour that includes engaging in bribery in reaction to the scarcity of resources (p.3). Likewise, post-conflict aid has the ability to discourage a relapse into conflict and the threat of terrorism by supporting education, health care, civil society, and conflict prevention (Kadirova, 2014, p.888). Academics also explain that post-conflict aid promotes peace, but unfortunately this occurs at decreasing returns to scale, which suggests that the inputs will eventually be greater than the results (Donaubauer et al., 2019, p.723). Along similar lines, in some cases donor states offer aid to force parties to end the conflict and negotiate peace (Meininghaus, 2016, p.1457).

            The need for post-conflict aid is also reemphasized in the World Bank’s World Development Report on Conflict, Security and Developmentwhen they describe conflict torn countries as more likely to experience malnourishment, unsanitary water, inadequate education and higher child mortality rates (Donaubauer et al., 2019, p.721). Furthermore, some academics reiterate the importance of restoring heritage to ensure societal reconstruction. As such, they argue that reconstructing churches, temples, mosques and other historical buildings protects the community and helps move towards reconciliation (Higueras, 2013, p.95-97). An example of this is the importance of reconstructing the Ottoman bridge of Mostar in Bosnia-Herzegovina for Muslims, the Turkish state and the international community (Higueras, 2013, p.97). While aid had previously conformed more to the Western idea of aid and neoliberal development, which is often in favour of free-market capitalism, aid is now beginning to adapt to different cultures and regions in response to the influence of different religions and other major donors, like China and Russia (Meininghaus, 2016, p.1457).

    What Motivates States to Provide Post-Conflict Aid?

                Although states provide aid based on good intentions, they are also influenced by state interests. Subsequently, humanitarian aid is used for military purposes or to gain support in certain regions (Meininghaus, 2016, p.1466). To the United States of America (US), like with many other states, national security goals offer strong explanations for their decision to aid or not, such as with cases related to military presence in the country, a country bordering a communist country, or a US ally (Kang & Meernik, 2004, p.151-152). This behaviour is also described as representing geostrategic reasons, which refers to global security concerns, however, because of the US’s status as the world’s hegemon and their international military presence, this standard is particularly important (Garriga & Philips, 2014, p.286). It is also suggested that the US uses aid to buy votes in the UN Security Council where non-permanent members get 59% more US aid (Garriga & Philips, 2014, p.286). Nevertheless, in spite of their intentions being questioned, the US remains the world’s highest aid contributor (p.286).

            Moreover, it is suggested that OECD states are more likely to offer aid when there is a chance to spread democracy, and they expect democratic countries to offer more economic opportunities to their private sector (Kang, 2004, p.155). Notwithstanding, some donor states expect recipients to meet certain criteria to qualify for aid because this better supports its successful implementation.


                Syria will soon be in need of post-conflict aid because of the large-scale damages that have resulted from the war. It is suggested that 13.5 million people require aid, 1.7 million people live in shelters or camps, and in addition to this there are also reports of malnourishment, wide spread disease, lack of sanitation, and many people are developing mental illnesses as a result of the trauma (Meininghaus, 2016, p.112). Additionally, because citizens were traditionally so reliant on government social services, being without these services has only contributed to the extreme poverty where now more than half of the population live in poverty (Meininghaus, 2016, p.1460 & 1466).


                Without post-conflict aid, the pain and suffering that result from conflict would be prolonged for many people and may even incentivize more conflict. One of the academics claims that “[t]he goal of humanitarian aid cannot be to resolve the crisis, but it is to safeguard the survival of those in need. A credible claim to neutrality is its only means to protection” (Meininghaus, 2016, p.120) and this suggests the importance of aid being provided without discrimination and equally. As such, although state interests are important when deciding whether or not to provide aid, states should still prioritize humanitarian rights and providing post-conflict aid is one way this can be done.



    Demekas, D.G., McHugh, J., & Kosma, T. (2002). The Economics of Post Conflict Aid. International Monetary Fund Working Paper. Working Paper. Retrieved from https://www-elibrary-imf-org.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/doc/IMF001/06909-9781451860078/06909-9781451860078/Other_formats/Source_PDF/06909-9781451905434.pdf

    Donaubauer, J., Herzer, D., & Nunnenkamp, P. (2019). The Effectiveness of Aid under Post-Conflict Conditions: A Sector-Specific Analysis. The Journal of Development Studies, 55(4), 720-736. Retrieved from https://journals-scholarsportal-info.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/pdf/00220388/v55i0004/720_teoaupcasa.xml

    Garriga, A. C., & Philips, B.J. (2014). Foreign Aid as a Signal to Investors: Predicting FDI in Post-Conflict Countries. Journal of Conflict Resolution, 58(2), 280-306. doi:https://doi.org/10.1177/0022002712467937.

    Higueras, A. (2013). Aid and Reconstruction of Heritage in the Context of Post-Conflict Societies. Journal of the World Archaeological Congress, 9(1), 91-105. doi: 10.1007/s11759-013-9224-5

    Kadirova, D. (2014). Implementation of Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development Aid Initiatives: Evidence from Afghanistan. Journal of International Development, 26(6), 887-914. doi: 10.1002/jid

    Kang, S., & Meernik, J. (2004). Determinants of Post-Conflict Economic Assistance. Journals of Peace Research, 41(2), 149-166. Retrieved from https://journals-scholarsportal-info.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/pdf/00223433/v41i0002/149_dopea.xml

    Meininghaus, E. (2016). Humanitarianism in intra-state conflict: aid inequality and local governance in government- and opposition-controlled areas in the Syrian War. Third World Quarterly, 37(8), 1454-1482. Retrieved from https://journals-scholarsportal-info.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/pdf/01436597/v37i0008/1454_hiicaioaitsw.xml

    Suhrke, A., Villanger, E., & Woodward, S.L. (2005). Analysis: Economic aid to post-conflict countries: a methodological critique of Collier and Hoeffler. Conflict, security, development, 5(3), 329-361. Retrieved from https://journals-scholarsportal-info.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/pdf/14678802/v05i0003/329_eatpcamcocah.xml


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  • Speciesism: does it exist and should we care?


    By: Alyssa Austin


    In short, yes it exists and it certainly is an issue we should care about. However, the more difficult question to answer is can and should we be taking steps to eliminate it from our society? Is it our moral duty as humans to eliminate the social hierarchy of living things that places nonhuman animals beneath humans? Or can we allow animals to continue living in an oppressed situation because they are just animals and they provide benefits to us as a species?

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  • A Call for Anarchism: Beyond Neoliberal Capitalism and Communism as Modeled by the EZLN By Noah Goslin


        Following the National Zapatista Liberation Army's (EZLN) struggles against the neoliberal Mexican State it becomes clear their ability to build autonomy in the realms of governance, economics, and international affairs demonstrates success for alternative governance models. By reviewing the philosophical and radical ideological underpinnings of the Zapatista struggle, it illuminates the wealth of historical presence of Anarchism in Mexico and perhaps suggests Anarchism is a successful praxis for social struggle requiring further serious inquiry.

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  • “Getting an IUD means I have a tool in my body that the government can’t touch": Contraceptive health and the War on Women


    In 1989, feminist Andrea Dworkin wrote in a book introduction about a “war on women”; twenty-one years later, the term became common in American political discourse following the 2010 congressional election, in relation to the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act (Nadler & Lowery, 2018). As the term suggests, women’s bodies have long been a battleground for ill-conceived, unsolicited, and often dangerous political ideologies to be played out. It was largely used to criticize certain Republican Party policies and legislation as a wide-scale effort to restrict women’s rights. But the most important question is perhaps how have women interacted with this war? And how have they come to weaponize emerging contraceptive rights to fight back?

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  • Conspiracy Theories: New World Order and Knowledge


    There have been many theories about who and what makes a conspiracy theory stick in the minds of some and not others. The competing and often contradictory evidence is clear: we don’t know what “type” of individual is more susceptible to being a “believer.” Conspiracy theories are not just the metaphorical middle finger to the stressful and uncontrollable nature of our world today, but a refusal to accept the monopoly of science over knowledge production.

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  • Boosting the economy while decreasing emissions: How Canada’s local urban policy and light rail projects can help achieve its international Paris Agreement carbon emissions goals


    Canada’s commitment to the Paris Agreement is a huge advancement for its future environmental policies and global reputation, but it is easier to make a promise than it is to fulfill one. A localized, urban transportation policy may help Canada meet its international commitment.

    It is commonly accepted that the health of the economy and environment are not mutually exclusive. If this is the case, Canada should attempt to reach its carbon emissions targets and simultaneously improve its economy. The challenge, of course, is how? Could a reduction of automobile use, by developing light rail transit in Canada’s metropolitan areas, be part of the solution?

    Much of the difficulty of reaching the carbon targets is that restructuring the economy towards fewer carbon intensive-endeavours, such as funding research and development for clean energy, may be too time-consuming and financially costly since the return on investment is often ambiguous. It could also be politically devastating for governments that choose to mitigate  natural resource industries in the economy where the industry is quite prevalent, such as in Canada.


    Since 2000, Canada’s oil and gas extraction industry hovered at around 6% (Figure 1) of its total GDP. The oil and gas industry brings several benefits to Canadians and helps improve their standard of living, but the industry’s magnitude certainly complicates achieving the Paris carbon emissions targets. The situation is even more complex since a significant portion of the oil and gas extraction industry has typically accounted for more than 70% of its total mining and quarrying industry (Figure 2). Additionally, according to a report from Environment and Climate Change Canada (2017), the oil and gas sector was the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions followed by the transportation sector (p. 8-9).

    Figure 1


    Source: Statistics Canada. Table 379-0031 - Gross domestic product (GDP) at basic prices, by North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), monthly (Canadian dollars). Seasonally adjusted. Prices changed to 2007 dollars.

    Figure 2


    Source: Statistics Canada. Table 379-0031 - Gross domestic product (GDP) at basic prices, by North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), monthly (Canadian dollars). Seasonally adjusted. Prices changed to 2007 dollars.

    Considering the sheer size, importance, and recent politically charged discourse of Canada’s oil and gas industry (e.g. pipeline disputes between indigenous groups and the provinces of British Columbia and Alberta), it may be more feasible to mitigate carbon emissions from the transportation sector, especially in urban regions, through local transportation policy. Local policy could achieve this if it were to incentivize the financing, construction, and use of public transportation like light-rail, but it will take a dedicated effort considering Canada’s long history with the automobile.

    During the post-war era, Canadian urban planning and development policy regularly prioritized the construction and maintenance of automobile-friendly transportation infrastructure (Simmons et al., 2011, p. 93). Increased automobile-friendly infrastructure to improve commute times seemed to be a logical solution to combat the issues related to rising populations, such as congestion and gridlock. Unfortunately, the incentive to drive more resulted in a higher number of cars on the roads, which in turn increased congestion, gridlock, excessive carbon emissions, and urban sprawl and suburbanization. These issues continue to plague many of Canada’s major metropolitan centres.

    Considering Canada’s past planning policies, it is unsurprising that Canada is the second largest producer of carbon emissions per capita amongst the G8 countries (Figure 3). Aside from the previously discussed oil and gas industry, it is important to acknowledge that part of Canada’s addiction to carbon emissions is due to Canada being a large, cold landmass with low-density populations. The demands for electricity, heating, and transportation are therefore much higher in comparison to other developed societies.

    Figure 3


    Source: Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, United States. Note that carbon dioxide emissions are those stemming from the burning of fossil fuels and the manufacture of cement. They include carbon dioxide produced during consumption of solid, liquid, and gas fuels and gas flaring.

    If increasing the amount of automobile infrastructure does not resolve civic transportation demands and only results in more carbon emissions, gridlock, and inadequate urban dynamism, Canada’s urban policy should emphasize other modes of transportation. A multifaceted solution like light rail could combat high carbon emissions, gridlock, and inadequate urban dynamism.

    Currently, many Canadian cities are undergoing light rail projects – Waterloo, Ottawa, and Surrey, to name a few. Many of the cities face similar issues with respect to growing populations and exhausted public transportation infrastructure. Canada’s population is expected to grow to between 40 million and 63.5 million by 2063, according to Statistics Canada (2015, p. 3). Growing populations generally require greater and more efficient access to jobs, housing, and various other amenities. Growing populations also mean larger ecological footprints for cities. To help reach their carbon emissions goals, Canadians must be able to move efficiently between their place of work, home, and various other points of interest via public transportation, which is achievable with electrical, non-carbon emitting light rail.

    Implementing light rail projects would not only resolve transportation demands, road congestion, and high carbon emissions, but it would also be advantageous to local Canadian economies. Simply put, the planning and construction of public transportation infrastructure projects would create jobs across multiple industries like construction, engineering, science, and public policy. This is because infrastructure projects generally require government bureaucracies to contract out work to the private sector, creating a public-private relationship known as an organization-based policy instrument (Howlett, Perl, and Ramesh, 2009, p. 133). These organization-based policy instruments are advantageous because they offer more flexibility and precision when delivering goods and services. This is useful since private entities involved in these efforts are generally more familiar with the requirements and recent developments within their industry than governments. Essentially, this means public funding but private administration for leaner policy implementation.

    Aside from the public-private relationships, light rail construction would also help to rebalance the transportation market by providing commuters with additional, more environmentally friendly modes of commuting. Recent data highlights a declining demand for vehicle ownership, in which the trend in the units of passenger vehicles sold amongst Canada’s most populated provinces and territories (Figure 4) has decreased in the past few years. Determining the cause of this trend is difficult, but The Conference Board of Canada (2018) suggests that the demand for vehicles will continue to ease in 2018 and onward. This is largely due to changing market demographics amongst aging baby boomers and millennials who may have greater interest in ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft, in addition to the advancements in automobile technology which has extended the life of current vehicle ownership. Thus, the need to purchase a car is reduced. Canada’s auto-industry will suffer if this trend were to continue, but the trade-off would mean less carbon emitting vehicles on the road and a greater likelihood of reaching Canada’s Paris Agreement targets.

    Figure 4


    Source: Statistics Canada. Table 079-0004 - New motor vehicle sales, Canada, provinces and territories, seasonally unadjusted, annual.

    Based on these trends, it is unsurprising that some of these advantages of light rail transit have caught the attention of the federal government. On 16 June 2017, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, acknowledged the various economic and ecological benefits of Ottawa’s light rail transit system, and pledged an additional $1.09 billion in funding for its extension to suburbs outside the city.

    Light rail projects, despite their complexity and costs, are probably, a more feasible solution to help reduce Canada’s carbon emissions rather than completely altering the natural resource industry. Urban and local policy should therefore not be glossed over when considering Canada’s global commitments. Light rail is multifaceted in its approach to appeal to several demographics, assist transportation demand, and simultaneously improve the economy and environment without radically altering current industries. Thus, light rail construction is a politically feasible public infrastructure solution to tackle Canada’s Paris Agreement targets.

    It will take serious dedication, but, in time, local Canadian urban policy may prove to be vital for Canada’s global standing and commitments. Cities matter, and it would be short-sighted to ignore them.  

    About the author

    Usman Khan is a fourth-year political science and public administration student at the University of Ottawa. He has a keen interest in the relationship between Canadian politics and its relation to urban planning and development policy.


    Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Environmental Sciences Division, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, United States.

    Environment and Climate Change Canada. (2017). Canadian environmental sustainability indicators: greenhouse gas emissions (En4-144/18-2017-PDF). Ottawa, ON: Minister of Environment and Climate Change. Available at: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/eccc/migration/main/indicateurs-indicators/f60db708-6243-4a71-896b-6c7fb5cc7d01/ghgemissions_en.pdf

    Howlett, M., Perl, A., & Ramesh, M. (2009). Studying public policy: policy cycles & policy subsystems. Toronto, ON: Oxford University Press.

    Prime Minister of Canada. (2017, June 16). Prime Minister announces significant funding to extend Ottawa’s Light Rail Transit system. Retrieved February 22, 2018, from https://pm.gc.ca/eng/news/2017/06/16/prime-minister-announces-significant-funding-extend-ottawas-light-rail-transit

    Simmons, J. et al. (2011.). Political Economy, Governance, And Urban Policy In Canada. In Canadian Urban Regions: Trajectories of Growth and Change (1st ed., pp. 81-98). Don Mills, ON: Oxford University Press.

    Statistics Canada. (2015). Population projections for Canada (2013 to 2063), provinces and territories (2013 to 2038) (91-520-X). Ottawa, ON: Minister of Industry.

    Statistics Canada. Table 379-0031 - Gross domestic product (GDP) at basic prices, by North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), monthly (dollars). Seasonally adjusted. Prices changed to 2007 dollars.

    Statistics Canada. Table 079-0004 - New motor vehicle sales, Canada, provinces and territories, seasonally unadjusted, annual.

    The Conference Board of Canada. (2018). Canadian Auto Industry to Gear Down in 2018. Retrieved February 25, 2018, from http://www.conferenceboard.ca/press/newsrelease/2018/01/09/canadian-auto-industry-to-gear-down-in-2018?AspxAutoDetectCookieSupport=1

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  • 'Kids These Days': The Politics of the iGeneration


    The iGeneration had the luxury of a childhood without bomb drills done in schools or conscription like the Baby Boomer generation beforehand. However, they have grown up with the looming fear of possible terrorist attacks, school shootings, and economic collapse. In addition, they played games like Candy Crush on iPads instead of toys like Connect Four because, the seismic technological shift impacted their childhood and education directly. The combination of ingrained fear and a deep connection with technology, has created a generation of upcoming voters who are untrusting of the democratic process and increasingly conservative.

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  • Student Government: Political Science’s Missing Piece


    By: Justin Patrick

    In the field of political science, the topic of political education is often approached with a focus on the educator and the state while end-user perspectives of the students themselves are almost completely missing. If academics do not think student government is important enough to write about, what impact does this have on how student government is viewed in society?

    Though there was some small progress in theory development in the beginning of the 20th century with John Dewey’s works such as Democracy and Education, a perspective that draws from aspects of Rousseau to present the idea that students should contribute to the formation of their curricular learning and have opportunities to apply what they learn in practical settings, it would not be until Robert Hart’s 1992 essay, Children’s Participation: From Tokenism to Citizenship, was published by UNICEF that such notions would be widely accepted as a guiding document for more practical study and policymaking (Dewey, 1997, Ch. 1-11; Hart, 1992, p. 1-14). However, even these works have limits to legitimizing student participation in education’s decision-making processes, since they do not examine the potential that democratic student organizations such as student governments can impact policy development in education and other aspects of society.

                In field research, student government is even more neglected, with most articles consisting of a unique case study or an autoethnographical piece, and all of which tend to be small scale with minimal numbers of research subjects (Golden and Schwartz, 1994, p. 19-30; Densford, 1926, p. 879). In these scant studies, students are portrayed as learners as opposed to policy contributors with the focus being on students’ personal development (Koller and Schurgurensky, 2011, 350-360). While it is important to gauge students’ learning experiences in order to evaluate education systems, solely focusing on this topic ignores students’ capability to be rational political actors and at worst, can portray students as seemingly incapable of tangible political action. Koller and Schurgurensky’s 2011 study of Ontario student trustees reveals that this bias pervades to a contemporary context, as they primarily focus on what the student leaders learned from their experience as opposed to their ability to influence the province’s education policy as elected representatives of over 2 million Ontario elementary and secondary students (355-360).

                Despite the near-disregard for student government structures as political institutions, contemporary academics are not entirely to blame, since the bias is woven into the history of education itself. Despite a handful of researchers like Helen Lefkowitz Horowitz and Nigel Moses who have studied the history of student institutions and student cultures, much of the information lies untouched in university archives and dates back centuries (Horowitz, 1988, p. 115-220; Moses, 1995, p. 1-30). Even in cases where students orchestrated significant political change like in Brazil in the 1960s or more recently, the Arab Spring, the role of student governments is reduced to a mention of their names without any information about their organizational structures or internal operations (Langland, 2013, 1-15; Naser-Najjab, 2012, 279-291). Today, literature on student government that is not related to developmental education seems to have gained little ground in terms of both content and prevalence in academic circles, with 21st century student government researchers like Titus Gregory resorting to publishing essays and theses on personal blogs that occasionally crash for months at a time due to a lack of funding (Gregory, 2010, p. 1-30).

                While an overview of key literature on student government, or rather the absence of it, provides qualitative evidence to suggest that an expansion of thought in political science is needed, the existence of quantitative data can really drive the point home as to exposing the shortage. To illustrate this, I consulted the Google Books Ngram Viewer, a feature of Google Books that allows searches to be conducted on the frequency of words in all the text sources in the Google Books database with publication dates ranging from 1500 to 2008. I searched for the phrases “student government”, “student politics”, “student council”, “student union”, and “political education” in books published between 1800 and 2008. The results confirmed what I had experienced in my own research.


                A key initial observation is that political education has almost consistently surpassed all of the other terms in frequency, yet that was expected. What really startles me is that the frequency of political education has also been decreasing for decades, which makes the crisis of student government literature all the more urgent. By not writing about student government, its legitimacy becomes weaker, making it more difficult for student representatives to contribute to education policy development, or to put it simply, make their voice heard in contemporary society.

                So how can this gap in political science research be alleviated? I believe the first step is to expand current research perspectives to include the policy contributions of student governments and treat them like any other democratic institution. This would allow various political theories to be applied in a uniquely student government context. Furthermore, the study of social movements should place extra focus on how students make decisions collectively and should understand that democratic organizations of students exist and have existed for a long time within education systems, laying the kindling for the sparks of student activism that attract researchers’ attention. Thirdly, there need to be more historical works on student government using existing primary sources in order to provide a grounding for political science research and theory. On a final note, it must be understood that students are not only able to enact political change, but are capable of organizing themselves to make collective decisions democratically. Students are not only the future of politics, they are part of the now.


    Densford, K. (1926). Student Government in Schools of Nursing. The American Journal of Nursing, no. 11, p. 879.

    Dewey, J. (1997). Democracy and Education: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Education. Retrieved from http://www.gutenberg.org.proxy.bib.uottawa.ca/ebooks/852

    Golden, D., and Schwartz, H. (1994). Building an Ethical and Effective Relationship with Student Government Leaders. In Melvin C. Terrell and Michael J. Cuyjet (Eds.), Developing Student Government Leadership, (19-30). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

    Google Ngram Viewer. (n.d.). Retrieved March 3, 2018, from https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=student+union%2Cstudent+government%2Cstudent+politics%2Cstudent+council%2Cpolitical+education&year_start=1800&year_end=2018&corpus=15&smoothing=3&share=&direct_url=t1%3B%2Cstudent%20union%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cstudent%20government%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cstudent%20politics%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cstudent%20council%3B%2Cc0%3B.t1%3B%2Cpolitical%20education%3B%2Cc0

    Gregory, T. (2010). Solidarity for Their Own Good: Self-determination and the Canadian Federation of Students. studentunion.ca.

    Hart, R. (1992). Children’s Participation: From Tokenism to Citizenship. UNICEF ICDC, 1992. http://www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/childrens_participation.pdf  

    Horowitz, H. (1988). Campus Life: Undergraduate Cultures from the End of the Eighteenth Century to the Present. New York: University of Chicago Press.

    Koller, D., and Schugurensky, D. (2011). Examining the Developmental Impact of Youth Participation in Education Governance: The Case of Student Trustees. Journal of Research on Adolescence, 21(2), 350–360. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-7795.2010.00673.x

    Langland, V. (2013). Speaking of Flowers: Student Movements and the Making and Remembering of 1968 in Military Brazil. Durham: Duke University Press.

    Moses, N. (1995). All that was left: student struggle for mass student aid and the abolition of tuition fees in Ontario, 1946 to 1975. Academia.edu. Retrieved from: https://www.academia.edu/2025011/All_that_was_left_student_struggle_for_mass_student_aid_and_the_abolition_of_tuition_fees_in_Ontario_1946_to_1975

    Naser-Najjab, N. (2012). Palestinian youth and the Arab Spring. Learning to think critically: a case study. Contemporary Arab Affairs, 5(2), 279–291. https://doi.org/10.1080/17550912.2012.672000


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