Sophie Schulz

University of Greifswald

Sophie Schulz

Actors in Peacebuilding – The Neglected Role of Middle Powers

International peacebuilding measures have come under increasing criticism in recent years. Critics have been accusing the international community of following a liberal democratic model in shaping peacebuilding activities, which promotes western interests in crisis regions rather than addressing the root causes of violent conflict. Consequently, a focus within the peacebuilding literature has been placed on the role of external or third party actors. These critiques have mostly reflected upon the world’s super powers and largest peacebuilding providers, in particular the United States and the European Union. However, over the years an increased number of middle powers have become very active contributors, especially within humanitarian assistance and development aid.

The current literature lacks systematic comparisons and analyses of the role of middle powers regarding their contribution to peacebuilding efforts. Therefore, the overall objective of this project is to analyze significant actors in peacebuilding by looking explicitly at the role of middle powers as the intervening or donating actor. This research focuses on two main aspects. First, it questions if and how middle powers shape, influence and affect international peacebuilding. Second, it examines why such middle powers decide to engage in peacebuilding. In this regard, a strong emphasis is placed on the middle powers’ soft power capabilities, in particular neutrality, diplomacy and mediation; and on how middle powers cooperate in order to realize their own ambitions. As middle powers are expected to have important but limited influence on the international stage, they increasingly get involved in cooperative efforts in order to implement their aims. As such, they have been defined by their internationalism and a specific political approach of cooperation and coalition building in international institutions. Yet, closer analysis reveals that the strengths of middle powers have largely been untouched in practice, as their ability to employ soft power tools in peacebuilding activities is often undermined by their comparative lack of hard power resources. Thus, the aim of this project is to demonstrate the potential positive effect that middle powers bring to international peacebuilding, and to understand why western industrialized states intervene into the domestic affairs of sovereign countries in conflict-torn areas.