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This article critically reflects on 20 years of efforts to prevent and punish sexual exploitation by peacekeepers and humanitarian actors through the UN’s zero-tolerance policy (‘the Bulletin’). I trace the assumptions and motivations that underpin the Bulletin’s framing of (un)acceptable sex and investigate the operational and normative implications of its strong discouragement of sexual relationships with beneficiaries. I argue that, by construing the power differential between local communities and UN/NGO personnel as inherent, singular and totalising, the Bulletin first reinforces conservative gender norms by framing women as perpetually and uniquely vulnerable and reinscribing gendered power imbalances. Second, it denies women agency in an era of Women, Peace and Security, laying the foundation for a detrimental separation between local people and international personnel. Third, it restructures paternalism in ways that entrench power imbalances between local communities and the organisations mandate to ‘protect’ them, reproducing colonial patterns of dealing with sex and sexuality. This analysis lays bare the tensions between care and control in how the international community responds to sexual misconduct by UN/NGO personnel and demonstrates the ramifications of these tensions for the practice and effectiveness of peace and humanitarian operations.

Twenty years ago, the UN adopted a zero-tolerance policy on sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) by its personnel. After prohibiting sex with children and the exchange of sex for ‘cash, food and things’, it ‘strongly discourages’ sexual relationships with beneficiaries because ‘they are based on inherently unequal power dynamics’ and undermine the UN’s credibility and integrity. Taking inspiration from critical feminist project of understanding what happens when feminist ideas and projects become institutionalised, I consider the effectiveness and unintended consequences of the policy’s discouraged relationships standard. I argue that by centring an ‘inherent power imbalance’ between peacekeepers and local people, the policy undermines the UN’s capacity to meaningfully address that imbalance in practice. Moreover, the discouraged relationships standard diminishes the policy’s perceived legitimacy among staff, with ramifications beyond the prevention and punishment of sexual misconduct. Based on research in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Timor-Leste, Geneva and New York, this article generates insights about the persistent challenges to preventing and punishing SEA and situates them in relation to broader questions around how international missions view and interact with local populations, and how this affects the integrity and effectiveness of their work.

Jasmine Westendorf. & Rebecca Strating, (2020), Australian Journal of International Affairs, Vol 74(3) pp 213-227.

This article reviews the participation of and challenges facing women in international affairs in Australia, with a focus on three sectors: the media, the civil service and the academy. We review the qualitative and quantitative data available, and share the results of a number of surveys and scans we have conducted ourselves: of the gender breakdown of undergraduate enrolments in Australian university courses focusing on international affairs; the gender break down of academic staff employed in politics and international relations programmes at Australian universities; the gender breakdown of authors published in the Australian Journal of International Affairs and the Australian Journal of Politics and History from 2000 to the present; and trends in the gender breakdown of citations in articles published in the Australian Journal of International Affairs between 2000–2001 and 2018–2019. We argue that although women in Australia are interested and engaged in international affairs in almost equal measure to their male counterparts, serious structural challenges continue to undermine their equitable representation in key fora and their career progression. This has clear implications for the future scholarship, practice and analysis of international affairs in Australia and beyond.

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Jasmine Westendorf. & Rebecca Strating, (2020), Australian Journal of International Affairs, Vol 74(3) pp 208-212.

Over the last decade, the scholarship and practice of international relations in Australia has become increasingly preoccupied with ‘great power competition’ between its long-term ally, the United States, and its biggest trading partner, the People’s Republic of China. New books and articles regularly pronounce the demise of the US-led ‘liberal international order’, reflecting the increasing power of authoritarian states and widespread concerns over American leadership and staying power. In Asia, contestation between the US and the PRC also pertains to the nature, form and purposes of the regional security order and the types of rules and institutions that support it. For Australia, the US-led order appears to be fraying, with implications for Canberra’s national interests, policies and relationships. In this context, ‘traditional’ realpolitik concerns about great power politics have re-emerged as the key determinants of Australian foreign, defence and strategic policy. Yet, at the same time, non-traditional security issues such as civil conflict, climate change and people movement continue to confound policy-makers. Domestic political dynamics drive the foreign policy orientations of Australia, as well its key partners in the United States and the United Kingdom, among others. While political leaders espouse liberal values, democracy and a ‘rules-based order’, international norms and law in key areas exist in tension with nationalist sentiments about Australia’s security and prosperity. How does a middle-sized state like Australia cope with emergent global challenges, and balance its interests, values and domestic priorities?

This special issue offers critical perspectives on Australian foreign, defence and strategic policy. It is the outcome of a research workshop held in June 2019 at the Australian Institute of International Affairs, Victoria. The workshop brought together early- and mid-career experts on international relations, security studies and international law to discuss key issues that often exist at the margins of ‘mainstream’ approaches to international relations scholarship, including the ways in which certain terms and concepts are used (often uncritically) and shape both scholarly thought and policy, the treatment of refugees, domestic terrorism, the roles of civil society in shaping narratives of international affairs, and feminist approaches to foreign policy. The purpose of that workshop and this resultant special issue is to address underlying assumptions and contradictions inherent in concepts such as ‘security’, ‘order’, ‘rules’ and ‘strategic planning’ that inform foreign, defence and strategic policy planning in Australia. While the contributors use different conceptual and theoretical tools to analyse diverse issues, their articles each seek to critically interrogate the language and norms of Australian foreign, defence and strategic policy; in other words, they evaluate whether the rhetoric of Australian governments and other integral organisations match their deeds.

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Jasmine Westendorf. (2018), Australian Journal of International Affairs, 72(5), pp. 433-454.

This article investigates the implications of women’s exclusion for the nature and durability of peace processes, and whether factors that undermine peace consolidation post-settlement might be prevented through more inclusive peacemaking. It examines the Sudan-South Sudan peace process that produced the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement, the roles women played in peacemaking and their exclusion from official negotiations, and the sources of insecurity post-CPA. South Sudan’s peace process shows that the exclusion of women can be understood as a canary in a coal mine: a highly visible marker of the broader exclusivity of such processes, and the complex dynamics of elite capture in war and peace processes. Women’s exclusion was the product of the region’s political marketplace, in which power and authority is secured by elites through violence and bargaining, to the exclusion of other groups. By understanding exclusion as a deliberate strategic tactic that extends from war into peacetime, I argue that the exclusion of women is not the reason why peace processes fail in and of itself, but rather the product of elite ownership of peace processes and the structure of many peace processes that facilitates and rewards such ownership, with serious consequences for the sustainability of peace post-settlement.

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Jasmine Westendorf (2018), Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 12(2), pp. 228-252.

This article investigates whether a ‘light footprint’ approach to peacekeeping and peacebuilding by the international community more effectively addresses local drivers of conflict than the dominant model of large, multidimensional peace operations. It considers international engagement in the Nepalese peace process through the United Nations Mission in Nepal (UNMIN), and argues that the international community’s approach to local ownership became more focused on non-imposition and therefore less politically engaged over time as a result of both local and international factors. This facilitated local elite ownership of the process, which fundamentally undermined the international community’s capacity to support peace consolidation as elites moved away from key transformational pledges of the peace settlement.

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Jasmine Westendorf, (2013), Australian Journal of International Affairs, 67(4) pp. 456-74.

With the changing nature of warfare and the increasing awareness of the specific gender dimensions of war and peace, the international legal framework has been expanded to address the particular challenges faced by women in conflict and post-conflict contexts. This process culminated in 2000 with the first United Nations document to explicitly address the role and needs of women in peace processes: United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on women, peace and security. Thirteen years on, this article assesses the extent to which Australia’s stated commitment to women, peace and security principles at the level of the international norm has translated into meaningful action on the ground in the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI). The analysis shows that despite it being an ideal context for a mission informed by UNSCR 1325, and Australia being strongly committed to the resolution’s principles and implementation, the mission did not unfold in a manner that fulfilled Australia’s obligations under UNSCR 1325. The RAMSI case highlights the difficulty in getting new security issues afforded adequate attention in the traditional security sphere, suggesting that while an overarching policy framework would be beneficial, it may not address all the challenges inherent in implementing resolutions such as UNSCR 1325.

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