Research Topic

New Actors in Peace and Democracy

About this Research Topic

At the global systems level significant change is underway. The unipolar era, characterised by a liberal global order led by the United States, is waning. It is still uncertain what may replace it, but the next stage in the transition seems to be a multi-polar era, where several states have access to networks and forms of power that is sufficient to constrain any of the others from dominating the global order.

These shifts in the global order coincides with the emergence of a number of “new” state-actors, that challenge or, on the contrary, support peace and democracy, such as, for example, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, South Africa and Turkey. States like China, India and others are considered as “old” and established actors, but they also can be considered as “new” in the sense that they have recently reached a point where they have the ambition and means to influence global and regional peace and democracy processes. Therefore, in this Research Topic, we will refer to them as “new” state-actors in world politics and global economy.

Many of these “new” actors have established development cooperation agencies that mirror some of the practices of traditional western donors, but they also have their own interpretations of and approaches to developmental cooperation, peace and democracy. One of the things they have in common is that they see their approach as different from the conventional Western liberal peace-democracy paradigm. For example, these new actors emphasize Global South solidarity rather than North-South philanthropy; they stress that their cooperation is unconditional on political regime type, as opposed to the EU and the US. “New” actors also highlight the importance of mutual pragmatic gain that parties derive from cooperation with each other as opposed to Western development aid which is presented as a politically neutral act of goodwill that is aimed at benefiting the recipient.

“New” actors also have a different approach to interpretation of peacebuilding and democracy. Where the West emphasizes political freedom, democracy, freedom of speech, non-discrimination and human rights as the basis for peacebuilding and democratization, many of the “new” actors focus on economic development and stability as priority values, and they take a more long-term approach to peacebuilding. For the same reasons, many of the new actors opt to work mainly with governments, which they see as a way of ensuring national ownership, whilst western peace and democracy initiatives often focus on civil society, which they see as a way of enabling local ownership.

Therefore, the approaches of “new” actors to democracy at national level and to democracy promotion at international level are also different. Some of the “new” actors like China are authoritarian regimes that encourage political participation, but only within a controlled single-party structure. Others, like Brazil, India and South Africa, are multi-party democracies. Yet, another group of “new” actors, like Brazil, India and Turkey, currently have governments that are criticized for authoritarian-like behaviour. These “new” actors shy away from promoting democracy and oppose using democracy as a conditionality for development cooperation.

Another issue the “new” actors have in common is a rejection of western hegemony and the idea that one type of ideology (liberalism) and political system (democracy) should be the global norm. In its place they want to see a rules-based global order that governs a commons where more than one ideology and political system can peacefully coexist.

This Research Topic raises the following questions:
• How do “new” actors interpret, understand and implement peace and democracy in their foreign policy?
• What are the implications of the approaches of new actors for the “old” or conventional peace and democracy actors?
• How may these developments change the structure, purpose and focus of the global governance and multilateral peace and security architecture?

This Research Topic aspires to address these intriguing questions and to shed more light on the nature of these new actors of world politics. To this end, we welcome papers addressing these issues across the world and with different methodological approaches and a variety of theoretical perspectives.


Keywords: peace, democracy, global order, global governance, development


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

At the global systems level significant change is underway. The unipolar era, characterised by a liberal global order led by the United States, is waning. It is still uncertain what may replace it, but the next stage in the transition seems to be a multi-polar era, where several states have access to networks and forms of power that is sufficient to constrain any of the others from dominating the global order.

These shifts in the global order coincides with the emergence of a number of “new” state-actors, that challenge or, on the contrary, support peace and democracy, such as, for example, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, South Africa and Turkey. States like China, India and others are considered as “old” and established actors, but they also can be considered as “new” in the sense that they have recently reached a point where they have the ambition and means to influence global and regional peace and democracy processes. Therefore, in this Research Topic, we will refer to them as “new” state-actors in world politics and global economy.

Many of these “new” actors have established development cooperation agencies that mirror some of the practices of traditional western donors, but they also have their own interpretations of and approaches to developmental cooperation, peace and democracy. One of the things they have in common is that they see their approach as different from the conventional Western liberal peace-democracy paradigm. For example, these new actors emphasize Global South solidarity rather than North-South philanthropy; they stress that their cooperation is unconditional on political regime type, as opposed to the EU and the US. “New” actors also highlight the importance of mutual pragmatic gain that parties derive from cooperation with each other as opposed to Western development aid which is presented as a politically neutral act of goodwill that is aimed at benefiting the recipient.

“New” actors also have a different approach to interpretation of peacebuilding and democracy. Where the West emphasizes political freedom, democracy, freedom of speech, non-discrimination and human rights as the basis for peacebuilding and democratization, many of the “new” actors focus on economic development and stability as priority values, and they take a more long-term approach to peacebuilding. For the same reasons, many of the new actors opt to work mainly with governments, which they see as a way of ensuring national ownership, whilst western peace and democracy initiatives often focus on civil society, which they see as a way of enabling local ownership.

Therefore, the approaches of “new” actors to democracy at national level and to democracy promotion at international level are also different. Some of the “new” actors like China are authoritarian regimes that encourage political participation, but only within a controlled single-party structure. Others, like Brazil, India and South Africa, are multi-party democracies. Yet, another group of “new” actors, like Brazil, India and Turkey, currently have governments that are criticized for authoritarian-like behaviour. These “new” actors shy away from promoting democracy and oppose using democracy as a conditionality for development cooperation.

Another issue the “new” actors have in common is a rejection of western hegemony and the idea that one type of ideology (liberalism) and political system (democracy) should be the global norm. In its place they want to see a rules-based global order that governs a commons where more than one ideology and political system can peacefully coexist.

This Research Topic raises the following questions:
• How do “new” actors interpret, understand and implement peace and democracy in their foreign policy?
• What are the implications of the approaches of new actors for the “old” or conventional peace and democracy actors?
• How may these developments change the structure, purpose and focus of the global governance and multilateral peace and security architecture?

This Research Topic aspires to address these intriguing questions and to shed more light on the nature of these new actors of world politics. To this end, we welcome papers addressing these issues across the world and with different methodological approaches and a variety of theoretical perspectives.


Keywords: peace, democracy, global order, global governance, development


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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Submission Deadlines

15 September 2020 Abstract
08 December 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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Topic Editors

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Submission Deadlines

15 September 2020 Abstract
08 December 2020 Manuscript

Participating Journals

Manuscripts can be submitted to this Research Topic via the following journals:

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