The 2017 Nextgen Essay Contest Winners

The EastWest Institute (EWI) is pleased to announce the winners of this year’s Nextgen Essay Contest, which generated entries from around the world.

Participants submitted their essays to examine and recommend viable ideas to address challenging issues facing the world today. Based on the results from our three esteemed judges, these three winning essays prove to be well-argued, creative and viable.

Congratulations to:

First Place

“Tackling the Underrepresentation of Women” by Kasey Robinson

Second Place

“Participation, Policy, and Technology: The Changing Face of Millennial Engagement in Politics” by Haley Silverstein

Third Place

“CRISPR-Cas9: Are We Entering a Genetic Revolution?” by Artemis Tapliga

Check out the complete list of finalists and their essays, here.

Gendering Foreign Policy: Where are the Women?

By Khadija Sufi

The area of ‘foreign policy’ is significantly shaped by ‘masculine’ interests, and so it is no surprise that ‘gender’ is not centralized in foreign policy theorizing and decision-making. In both discourse and practice, there exists a hierarchy of foreign policy issues in which ‘masculine’ areas including war, security, defense, economics and trade are valorized, and ‘feminine’ areas including gender-based violence, women’s rights, health and education are marginalized.

Notice that many of the leading stories on established foreign policy websites or general news outlets, or even think tanks are all skewered towards ‘masculine’ topics such as: the militaristic aspects of the Syrian war, Trump’s policies and implications, the US- South Korea alliance, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Sino-Indian nuclear rivalry and North Korea economic sanctions.

The prioritizing of foreign policy concerns by mainstream media and think tanks is also replicated in political practice. For instance, since the beginning of the Syria crisis, policy- makers have focused on the militaristic violence perpetuated by the extremist group, Islamic State (IS) and have substantially ignored the systematic sexual violence that is also rife in the region. It is not discussed in “intelligence assessments” or used as “justification for counterterrorism against the group”, as former CIA analysts, Peritz and Maller say. The Syria crisis, as is the case with many conflicts, has consistently and dominantly been framed as a (military) security and defense issue.

Gender issues are essentially rendered invisible and considered non-issues within the realm of foreign policy. Despite the rape campaign in Syria, the discriminative effects of the TPP agreements on women, the abuses of Burmese government forces against Rohingya women, the preponderance of child marriages in Africa, gender issues are trivialized and not regarded as foreign policy priorities. The mainstream media, think tanks, and practical decision-makers all play a role in entrenching ‘masculine’ topics as the primary areas of foreign policy.

To some extent, the dominance of such a ‘male’ agenda in foreign policy discussions and practices can be attributed to the underrepresentation of women in leadership positions. Women are seldom seen as the core theorizers or implementers of foreign policy because they do not occupy the top jobs. Figures calculated in 2015 show that women comprise 24 percent of people working in policy-related positions and 33 percent of total leadership staff in the top U.S. foreign policy think tanks. Moreover, in U.S. diplomacy and development, women form only 30 percent of State Department senior officials and only 35 percent of USAID mission directors. Thus, the argument that foreign policy concerns (at least, in the U.S.) reflect a male agenda due to the lack of women in leadership is credible.

However, it would be more plausible to argue that it is a combination of female underrepresentation, ingrained gender stereotypes, and the difficulty to reconcile a feminist foreign policy with ‘national interest’ which uphold certain ‘masculine’ foreign policy concerns. We can see this when individual women who wield significant power have internalized embedded masculine norms, (that is, they have continued to view ‘masculine’ foreign policy issues as ‘normal’) and have also divorced gender issues from foreign policy decision-making (involving war and security). One such woman is Hillary Clinton.

Although Hillary Clinton can be seen as a champion of female empowerment, she was also a key supporter of various military interventions in the Middle East that had disastrous humanitarian effects, particularly on women. Clinton’s foreign policy direction can thus be seen as inconsistent with ‘feminism’. Clinton voted for the use of military force in Iraq in 2002 which gave rise to sectarianism; she supported the Honduras coup in 2009 which put in power a regime that had been killing women; she was a proponent of violent intervention in Libya which caused a number of setbacks for Libyan women in the aftermath and there is much more.

Clinton complied with the ‘masculine’ traits supposedly required to conduct foreign policy (in accordance with ingrained gender stereotypes) and in doing so, she effectively reproduced the ‘male’ agenda by prioritizing a foreign policy focused on war, defense and security, which was divorced from gender issues and implications.

Clinton’s policies also reflect how it was difficult to reconcile her separate women’s empowerment programs, most of which targeted Africa with mainstream foreign policy in the Middle East and North Africa which were motivated by national interests.

All hope, however, is not lost. Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Margot Wallstrom introduced a “feminist foreign policy ” in 2014 and it indicates one way in which ingrained stereotypes can be fractured, and also how a state might marry a ‘feminist foreign policy’ with national interests. Wallstrom implied that her ‘feminist’ policy would be holistic and would systematically penetrate deeper into foreign policy areas, rather than constitute a disparate, “single-issue focus”. States like the U.S. should adopt a similar approach.

To aid the incorporation of gender issues into foreign policy, it is not only the representation of women in foreign policy that needs to be considered, but also the ways in which ‘masculinist’ agendas can be diminished and, the roles the mainstream media, think tanks and dominant policymakers must pursue to realize this goal.

CRISPR-Cas9: Are We Entering a Genetic Revolution?

By Artemis Tapliga

The idea of a ‘genetic revolution’ is no longer reserved for the realm of science fiction. In 2012, Dr. Jennifer Doudna and Dr. Emmanuelle Charpentier published their alteration of a molecular mechanism, called CRISPR-Cas9, to become the cheapest, simplest, and most accessible genome-editing tool in the market. This cutting edge technique resulted in an explosion of diverse research projects that have already utilized CRISPR-Cas9 in ways that have made us realize its applications and impact are almost immeasurable and surpass the idea of ‘designer babies’.

To understand the potential of this tool, it is important to first provide a brief overview of how CRISPR-Cas9 generally works. CRISPR-Cas9 originally refers to a bacteria’s immune system against viral attacks. Cas9 is an enzyme that attacks viral DNA and splices it into the bacteria’s own DNA to create new sequences called CRISPR, or Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats. The bacteria then makes RNA copies of these viral sequences so that specific viral DNA can be recognized and dismantled in future attacks – in some ways similar to how our immune system operates. However, Dr. Doudna and Dr. Charpentier realized that by providing the Cas9 enzyme a certain sequence or guide RNA, scientists have the potential to accurately cut and insert parts of the DNA into any section of a given genome – in other words, making it possible to alter any organism’s genome with impressive precision and even create “gene drives” to eliminate diseases carried by pests (i.e. malaria found in mosquitos).

Perhaps one of the first large-scale applications of CRISPR-Cas9 technology will be directed towards tackling the issue of feeding a growing world population that is nearing the eight billion mark. This will come with special consideration towards developing countries riddled by hunger and famine that are not only induced by poverty, but also by climate change. Rising temperatures across the world have made crop yields prone to the increasing presence of drought conditions, like extreme heat and low rainfall. For countries shaped by poor institutions and governance, the negative impact of such natural disasters is even more severe.

In 2016, four African countries falling under such criteria had a total of 21.6 million food insecure people largely due to droughts – a statistic expected to grow as a result of climate change increasing the frequency of droughts. Vulnerable countries, like many in Africa, are then left not only with a malnourished population, but also increased rates of unemployment, high food prices, and a negatively impacted export sector and GDP. CRISPR-Cas9 can help revolutionize the agriculture industry in developing countries by altering plant genomes in order to encourage them to adapt to low-water conditions. In fact, this idea has already been experimented on one of the most important staple crops in Africa – maize. By increasing the expression of ARGOS8 – a negative regulator of natural ethylene responses to regulate stress under drought conditions – maize production experienced a successful increase in yields during drier periods.

Moreover, CRISPR-Cas9’s cheap and accessible characteristics make it a much more viable and sustainable option for solving agriculture crises in developing countries than most other tools. And this is only one potential application. Identifying and manipulating genes in crops opens the door even for developed countries to create plants resistant to insects and diseases, thus eliminating the need for harmful pesticides, and decreasing flowering times for plants to become relatively independent of sunlight in order to substantially increase individual crop yields.

However, the very attributes that make CRISPR-Cas9 an exciting new tool to implement can also make it very dangerous. In 2016, the Director of National Intelligence for the United States, James R. Clapper, stated that genetic editing tools like CRISPR-Cas9, present “far-reaching economic and national security implications” for the world due to their potential for creating harmful biological agents or products. The accessibility and low cost of CRISPR-Cas9 lowers the barrier for untrained personnel and ambitious non- state actors to experiment with various pathogens. In fact, do-it-yourself kits already exist, in some cases, for less than 500 USD and include various pathogen-specific components, as well as manuals. This opens up the possibility for almost anyone, even terrorist organizations, to develop sophisticated and dangerous biological weapons via selective genetic engineering of pathogens to target food supplies, populations, individuals, and even specific races.

Regardless of the pros and cons of this genetic engineering tool, however, CRISPR- Cas9 has implications that surpass the biotechnology world and will undoubtedly lead us into a ‘genetic revolution’. Thus, this requires educating citizens about CRISPR-Cas9 so they understand, at least in large, that this is a sophisticated technology. Without internalizing the fact that CRISPR-Cas9 has nuanced applications, people can easily fall prey to black and white solutions regarding its purpose and regulation.

This essay is the Third Place winner in the 2017 EWI Nextgen Essay Contest. Artemis Tapliga is a senior at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, double-majoring in Economics and Government and minors in International Relations, Fine Arts, and European Studies. Upon completing her undergraduate degree in 2018, Artemis hopes to pursue further education and a career in international economic development, anti-corruption, Eastern European politics, and public policy.

The Reports of Liberalism’s Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

By Yashodhara Varma

Periods of populism inspired by strongmen are inevitable but do not offer any conceivable threat to the status quo of liberalism in international relations. In fact, despite the hostile relationship between the two ideologies, populism’s tendency to support direct democracy can support and coexist with liberalism.

Over the past two years, globalism has been harshly challenged by a wave of populism. In 2016, the United Kingdom held a referendum in which voters, fueled by economic and nativist incentives, decided that the country should leave the European Union. In the time immediately following the event, tumult in worldwide markets demonstrated the uncertainty surrounding this decision, dubbed “Brexit.” In 2016, Donald J. Trump, a political outsider, was elected the President of the United States of America, promising to put “America first.” In France’s 2017 presidential election, moderate Emmanuel Macron narrowly beat out populist and nativist opponent, Marine Le Pen.

While some have referred to these actions as unprecedented novelties, this perspective does not account for historical context. Spikes in populist sentiment are reactionary and inevitable. Immediately following times of great international upheaval, economic crisis, influxes of immigrants, and what is perceived to be a disproportionate focus on minority sentiment, there has been populist backlash. At these times in history, the working class individual feels forgotten by elite lawmakers. In the United States, such periods led to the populist accession of George Wallace, Ross Perot, and Donald Trump. In the twenty-first century, there exists a “globalistic populism;” populist movements are inwardly focused but outwardly inspired.

President Trump applauded Brexit, encouraging Americans to put their country first just as the UK had.

In many cases, populism can affect positive change. Thus, liberalism stands to benefit from populism. The rise of populism engenders greater civic engagement and an advocacy for direct democracy. Amendment XVII to the United States Constitution provides for the direct election of US Senators and was a result of populist movements. Periods of populism display a strength of governmental systems. Citizens are often concerned about their perceived lack of representation in government or the potential of devolution into oligarchy. A reform-minded citizenry that believes in its power to affect change is a sign of a healthy democracy.

International laws should serve all people, not just those of prominent stature and social standing. If the working class is fearful of free trade programs, their concerns should be accounted for.

Any international systems that only benefits elites should be reexamined.

Certainly, the recent populist elections and referendums throughout Europe paint an image of a base which rejected globalism and liberalism. Nonetheless, those who stand by the liberal agenda should not be concerned about the future of the international order. Populism and, by association, nativism and protectionism, ebbs and flows, so the fundamental system of international relations is not in danger. The populist momentum behind Brexit is beginning to slow. British Prime Minister Theresa May’s approval ratings decreased 11 points within the last month, compared to the growing upswell of support for her opponent, democratic Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Despite the political ascent of men like Donald Trump, support of globalism and free trade is bipartisan and wholly uncontroversial. Most major employers in any country have significant financial interests abroad. Roughly fourteen percent of the United States’ GDP is held abroad by American companies. Thus, the twenty-first century economy is inherently globalized. With international alliances such as the United Nations and North Atlantic Treaty Organization, as well as a plethora of international deals, nations in the modern world are intertwined. A few strongmen leaders cannot change that. In the case of Brexit, the United Kingdom remains interconnected politically with the other member states of the European Union. Nearly a year after the referendum, there are hundreds of negotiations to complete before the UK is no longer an EU member. President Trump’s executive order that temporarily suspended immigration from some Muslim-majority countries was struck down by a federal judge. Existing frameworks, from international groups to checks and balances within a Constitution, provide a robust barrier to protectionism, isolationism, and nativism.

In name and in practice, populism is a rejection of liberalism, elitism, and globalism. The protectionist and nativist aspects of populism are short-lived and of relatively low impact. Yet, they are inevitable. Instead of dismissing or being fearful of populism, liberals should listen to the concerns of the “silent majority” and harness the democratizing power of populism when possible.

Yashodhara Varma is a sophomore at Maggie Walker High School in Richmond, Virginia, where she is involved in and leads Environmental Club, the Model Congress Club and the Varsity Swim Team. She has worked with multiple legislators from across the state to support bipartisan legislation.

A Truly Historic Moment: The Stuxnet Cyber Attack on Iranian Centrifuges

By Max Sterling

As B-29 bombers flew from Tinian Island on August 6 and August 9, carrying the nuclear payloads to be dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world witnessed decades’ worth of scientific innovation. The dropping of atomic bombs reflected the terrible and awesome capability of mass destruction, and these critical moments have shaped military strategy, public opinion, pop culture and of course foreign affairs from 1945 through the present day. The nuclear timeline continues to run its course, but in 2010 this history intersected with another: the timeline of cyber warfare.

In the 2010 Stuxnet cyber attack, the United States and Israel launched the first major offensive cyber action between state actors, a massive supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) attack on Iranian nuclear centrifuges. This cyber action yielded kinetic results, physically damaging Iranian nuclear facilities. Stuxnet comes at the intersection of the ongoing saga of nuclear proliferation and the new frontier of cyber warfare, a not-so-distant horizon silhouetted by cyber soldiers, codes, and keyboards.

The dropping of atomic bombs on Japan demonstrated the horrific potential of nuclear weapons, leading both to mass fear about nuclear war and states’ dogged pursuit of these weapons in the years to follow. In the cyber era, the Stuxnet attacks demonstrate the similarly awesome destructive potential of cyber attacks. SCADA attacks can, quite literally, turn off an electrical power grid, or disrupt the production of military supplies and weapons, or halt public transportation. State or non-state actors could use these capabilities to great effect in war or as tools of terror, and the Stuxnet attacks provide a blueprint for fighting in the cyber domain.

Furthermore, the Stuxnet attacks highlight three particularly worrisome aspects of the cyber era. First, these attacks were not easily attributed, and although they have now been attributed to Israel and the United States, future attacks may be similarly difficult to place at first. Attribution issues will continue to characterize the cyber world, and the Stuxnet episode demonstrates this concept. Second, the Stuxnet attacks could have easily impacted targets not originally intended to be harmed, and distinguishing civilian and military targets on the Internet will continue to be problematic. Third, what is an appropriate response to a cyber attack? The Iranian government has, according to an Atlantic Council report, launched counter cyber attacks as a result of Stuxnet and drastically increased the Iranian cyber budget. Would sanctions or military action, for example, have been appropriate responses to being the target of a major cyber attack? This question has yet to be resolved, and will persist in the cyber era.

In 1945, the global community was introduced to the nuclear weapon, a weapon of mass destruction that would inform the next fifty years of strategic thinking. In 2010, a Belarusian security firm unmasked the next weapon to shape strategic thinking in the form of the Stuxnet cyber attack. The next fifty years of cyber attacks will be measured against the Stuxnet. Strategists and operatives will break new boundaries of cyber warfare as states look to bolster defenses against SCADA attacks. As it did in the Cold War, pop culture will dream of the impact cyber weapons can have on civil society. We have witnessed the convergence of two critical timelines—the history of nuclear weapons and cyber weapons—and the Stuxnet attack will be remembered as a truly historic moment in the coming age of cyber warfare.

Max Sterling is a rising senior at the College of William and Mary, majoring in International Relations. Max is also a cadet in Army ROTC and will be commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Army upon graduation. His interests include counterinsurgency, nuclear and chemical weapons proliferation, military strategy and the impact of cyber capabilities on these topics.

Participation, Policy and Technology: The Changing Face of Millennial Engagement in Politics

By Haley Silverstein

Millennials around the world are utilizing social media and technology as a medium for political engagement instead of entering formal politics. We voice our opinions in Facebook statuses, post photos of ourselves at rallies to Instagram, call out leaders on Twitter, and watch protests unravel and reconstruct societies before our very eyes on Youtube. Social media has become a forum for political discourse, a means for political engagement. Technology has transformed the way millennials participate in politics and furthermore, it has changed the way we shape policy.

According to findings from CIRCLE, only half the number of eligible millennial voters (18-29) in the United States voted in the 2016 election. However, this is not signaled that millennials are politically inactive. Instead we are choosing to participate in a different way and in our own way. In the same report, “about 58% of millennials chose community involvement as a method to make major positive changes in our society, rather than political involvement at the local, state, and federal level (32% chose this option).”

In her study for the Brookings Institute, Sara Yerkes talks about millennial engagement in Tunisia. “While one would have expected young revolutionaries, among others, to flood the political space following the uprising, Tunisia has actually witnessed a steady decline in formal political participation by youth since 2011. That is, Tunisian youth are politically engaged, yet they are increasingly eschewing formal politics (voting, joining political parties, and running for office) in favor of informal politics (starting or joining a civil society organization, protesting, or signing a petition).”

Only 13% of millennials the United States have ever seriously considered running for office, despite the surging numbers of digital political engagement. As of 2016, only 5 members of Congress are millennials. If Congress were proportionate to generational divide, there would be a total of 97 members.

This avoidance of formal politics in both Tunisia and the United States may be attributed to social media. Some researchers see the use of social networking sites as a form of participation and engagement in and of itself. If this is the case, how will millennials continue to change policy if they are not in the vital decision- making positions to do so? As a consequence, there is a gap between those governing us and what we believe.

However, technology has the ability to close this gap. In Tunisia, and more broadly throughout the Arab Spring of 2011, technology, and more specifically Facebook, proved to be a powerful tool in grassroots organizing and created powerful networks of activists. We saw images of young people mobilizing in the city centers, smartphones in hand, protesting authoritarian regimes in Egypt and Tunisia. Although the success of the revolution can be debated, there is no doubt that technology and youth activism were able to successfully bring awareness to the cause.

Yet, there is still a widespread sense of disillusionment, certainly in Tunisia but in the United States as well. If millennials are feeling that political change is too far out of reach, its not. Technology makes us ever more connected, informed, and able. Platforms like Facebook and Twitter give us a seat at the table. When every policy advisor, political pundit, even the President himself is on Twitter, the platform gives us a direct line - typed from our fingers to their ears. Technology has found a way to open the floor to people who may not have been able to voice their opinion before. For anyone who felt disillusioned with his or her government, technology and social media is a tangible way to have his or her voice heard. For youth, social media can act as a megaphone or a rallying cry; it can bring needed attention to injustices or mobilize a movement for change.

We’re using social media and technology to build political communities, and are using it as a means for organizing and proposing policies. Furthermore, technology is shaping politics and policy beyond social media. There are apps that let users swipe left or right, agree or disagree, through given policy proposals until they match with a candidate that best suits their policy preferences. In Iran, where popular social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are banned, these apps allow users to circumvent censorship and get an accurate read on candidates without the propaganda of traditional media outlets.

This app helps constituents fine-tune their policy preferences. Millennials can use the technology as tool of empowerment, to help constituents better understand their options, and in turn make better policy choices that reflect their needs. And if millennials themselves aren’t going to participate in formal politics, they can use the tools readily available to them to elect leaders who will best represent them. 

This essay is the Second Place winner in the 2017 EWI Nextgen Essay Contest. Haley Silverstein received a B.A. in Political Science from Binghamton University where her studies focused on international affairs and conflict resolution. Haley currently works with technology start-ups in New York City.

World Order 2.0

By Miloš Milivojević

The liberal international order created after World War II is going through inevitable changes. However that doesn’t mean liberal order itself will disappear. Neither it means necessary developments will alter core principles on which liberal order is based on. Simply those changes of the system must reflect on contemporary distribution of power in order to ensure better function of it by making the system more inclusive. Speaking of that, first thing that comes to our mind is China and role it has in contemporary order, benefits it had from the system and eventual incentives to try to modify or replace liberal order. Finally if China decided to launch initiative to create a new international order, the question would be does China has what it requires.

We have been witnessing tremendous development of China. Vast amount of that development should be credited to the globalization processes, which are taking place within the liberal order. After opening itself to the outside world in the 1980s, China’s share in global economy grew from to 2% to the 17.8% today while leaving behind U.S. who currently sits on 15.5%. Bringing up vast amount of people from poverty throughout the years one could argue that China is a primary and the biggest beneficiary of existing order and liberal capitalism. Besides, after financial crisis broke out in 2008. China had given substantive help to stop its spreading as well overcoming it, knowing its in their interest to ensure that global trade and economy function properly. Unlike Mao’s China that saw international order as destructive and took isolationistic approach while offering revolutionary model to replace it, Xi’s China has ambitions to lead existing one. That point has been made at the 2017. World Economic Forum in Davos where Chinese president reflected on new American government focusing more on itself and domestic problems, EU having to deal with its internal problems and Brexit while underlining ambition to fulfill eventual vacuum in global leadership.

However there are some problems with this kind of arguments. One could argue that China is undermining and delegitimizing liberal order by going around existing institutions, like IMF, and establishing new ones, such is Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB). We must not overlook a fact that many institutions of liberal order doesn’t fairly represent world as it is today. Development of others and relative decline of Western countries have put this subject on agenda. China has been asking regularly for a revision of distribution of voting shares in IMF, which is dominated by U.S., who has greatest share of votes. When that motions were ignored in 2015. China decided to pursue another path launching AIIB and tip the balance in its favor. Still launching AIIB isn’t just in spite of USA because there is real need for investments in infrastructure around the Asia estimated at trillions of dollars. So the real challenge here lies in how to incorporate this initiative into system because it has ability to bring progress where existing institution can’t or lack resources to do so.

Nevertheless, does China have potential to create and be a leader of international system at the moment? I don’t hold that opinion. First, it lacks soft power to attract others who will trust China enough and therefore legitimize their leadership. Numerous strains with neighbors have resulted in reputation where Chinese intentions aren’t always welcomed with approval. Second, China’s military power and capability to project power around the globe are still very far from necessary level for eventually being leading authority of the system. Even if China had those requirements its questionable would it pursue construction of new order because that kind of initiative is highly expensive. Right now China benefits much more than it contributes to the system.

On the other, challenge to the liberal order and demand for transformation is coming from citizens around the world. This is understandable due to number of reasons. After financial crisis we have been witnessing the case where the poor are getting even poorer while top 1% of rich people is increasing their wealth. GINI index is growing. Globalization affected enormous amount of people leaving them without job and unprepared to face the world as it is today. By survey from Pew Research Centre, 57% of Americans wants the U.S. to deal with own problems first and let others deal with theirs. Therefore it is not such far from truth that ruling elites are living in some kind of “liberal bubble”. However, if liberal order is to survive those concerns and effects must not be ignored in order to rollback growing demand for mercantilism, isolationism and authoritarianism.

Instead of considering is the international liberal order over or not, we should focus more on how we could make fundamental improvements so it could bring more benefits to all, be more inclusive and fair, trying to reach consensus as wide as possible. If that has been assured, desires and requests for different order would’ve been prevented.

Miloš Milivojević, 24, is a young professional in international affairs from Belgrade, Serbia, with a bachelor's degree in International Relations from the Faculty of Political Science, University of Belgrade. He also has a strong interest in global governance and economic development.

Tackling the Underrepresentation of Women

By Kasey Robinson

As women constitute 50% of the population, their underrepresentation in most fields, including in diplomacy and as ambassadors is disappointing. Historically, one’s gender seems to play a role in appointing and hiring in the diplomatic field, a field traditionally dominated by men.

Women in Leadership

Women have held leadership roles in history: Margaret Thatcher, Indira Ghandi and Golda Meir being a few recent examples. However, these women displayed similar leadership styles than their male counterparts and their policies didn’t reflect the fact that they were female: they were as likely to engage in military conflict, no more likely to promote women within their government, and didn’t display so-called female leadership traits. To be effective and lead to policy changes, female participation must therefore emerge at grassroots level.

Certain countries, specifically in Scandinavia, are committed to achieving gender equality. Policies do not necessarily translate into having a female leader but in including women at all levels of decision-making. While the current Swedish Prime Minister is male, his team is gender-balanced3 and it is under the impulsion of its foreign minister, Margot Wallstrom, that the Swedish government declared a feminist foreign policy, aiming to strengthen women's Rights, Representation and access to Resources, with consistent Reality checks (4 R’s). Sweden’s policy led to a strain in its relations with Saudi Arabia, when Margot Wallstrom openly criticized the Saudis and challenged their human rights records.

Women at the Negotiating Table

Gender-influenced foreign policies become particularly impactful in post-conflict reconstruction. During a UNSC meeting, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Austria and Slovenia cited data showing that women’s participation in peace processes increased by 20% the likelihood of a peace agreement lasting at least two years, and by 35% the probability of it lasting 15 years. UN Women further notes: “making women’s participation count is more important than merely counting the number of women included in peace processes.” I other words, giving women a meaningful voice is key to developing and implementing better policies for all, not just for women.

The adoption of UNSCR 1325 constituted a landmark in countering gender imbalance at the negotiating table and recognizing the key component of including women at all stages of the peace-making process. Tackling and punishing sexual violence crimes, which affect women disproportionately, became a central feature in establishing long-lasting peace.

Peacefulness and Domestic Violence

Research has shown that the best predictor of a state’s peacefulness, including in democracies, is its level of violence against women: societies with higher levels of domestic violence are more likely to rely on violence and be involved in militarism and war than societies displaying lower levels of domestic violence. The way a society functions, including how it treats women, influences its level of peacefulness and likelihood to engage in international conflict.

Moreover, states with higher levels of gender equality display lower levels of violence when becoming involved in international disputes, and are less likely to use force first. Hence, addressing domestic violence through gender equality will directly impact a state’s peacefulness.

Combating Stereotypes

Combating deeply-held stereotypes strengthens gender equality. For instance, traits often associated with leadership, such as assertiveness, confidence or boisterousness have traditionally been associated with men and are perceived as necessary skills to be a good states person. Those beliefs go back to childhood stereotypes where girls learn to be ‘kind’ and ‘patient’, and confident girls are called bossy, while boys are ‘assertive’ and ‘loud’. Hence, behaviors, which are tolerated in boys, are often reprimanded in girls. Only by challenging harmful stereotypes early, can we take the necessary step of making politics and international affairs a more inclusive space.

What’s Next in Store?

To address the gender imbalance, we first need to be aware of it. Making gender visible to men and women will benefit all and stress that it’s not a battle against men. Steps to a more balanced foreign policy include: addressing how women are portrayed in the public space; ensuring more equal parental leave; enforcing policies to combat domestic violence; addressing company culture and underlying sexism; and encouraging mentorship and role models for women. With such policies, societies become more peaceful, less likely to engage in military conflict and it has a direct effect on foreign policy.

This essay is the First Place winner of the 2017 EWI Nextgen Essay Contest. Kasey Robinson holds a BA in English Language and American Studies. She completed an internship for the U.S. government in the summer of 2012 and currently in London as an MSc Gender candidate at the London School of Economics and Political Science. This fall Kasey will begin her new role as Project manager for Monaco-based NGO 'shecanhecan.

The Liberal World Order in Peril: A Story of Winners and Losers

By Benjamin Rasmussen

Over the past year, populism has become one of the media’s hottest buzzwords. With the rise of Donald Trump and the Alt-Right, Marine Le Pen and the National Front, and Brexit, it certainly seems the world is fast approaching the end of the liberal order that has governed international affairs for decades. However, populism is but one symptom of a much more serious disease; the tensions inherent in the liberal system that guarantee its proclivity towards collapse. Following this disparaging trend, it is clear that supporters of the liberal agenda have reason to be very concerned.

When we speak of the liberal world order, we are speaking of the system of international laws and norms, alliances and stability, and free economic markets that emerged after World War II and has been evolving ever since. As Ulrich Speck argues in the American Interest, the liberal world order is characterized by “liberal democracy and market economy on the state level, complemented by close cooperation of governments and the build-up of a transnational space in which people, goods, capital, and information could flow unhindered.” Through these features, the liberal system creates more stability in an increasingly interconnected world.

However, the system is not without fault; it creates winners and losers at the macro and micro levels, naturally producing tension. Starting with the macro level, it is intuitive to see that some powers stand to benefit more from the liberal order than others. For instance, while western European nations praise the stability of the liberal system, revisionists in Moscow likely decry how the deterrence backing this stability prevents Russia from achieving its revanchist aims in the post-Soviet space.

The liberal order pushes the losing states to operate outside of the system and adopt Machiavellian grand strategies backed by force instead of international law, as this is the easiest way for such powers to improve their position. Cunning strongmen are best equipped to implement these subversive strategies, making the emergence of such figures in losing states normal and expected under the liberal order.

This winner-loser dichotomy of the liberal order extends to the micro-level within nations as well by creating jobless, dissatisfied masses. The main mechanism at play is globalization and its liberal economic foundations, which shift low-skill jobs from the West to the Global South, leaving westerners jobless and dissatisfied. This widespread frustration is only augmented by the billions of tax dollars spent on foreign aid, which places other nations “first” from the perspective of those globalization has left behind. From here all it takes is a charismatic leader to ignite the populist powder keg, placing the liberal order under attack from within the Western nations that stand to benefit the most from it.

Therefore, the system is doomed to be attacked by both the internal and external losers it creates. And while the liberal order’s survival has never been preordained, it is all the more imperiled today because of the emergence of subjective truth and craftier strongmen.

First, the death of fact has caused both sides of the liberal order debate to talk past one another and fail to reach meaningful conclusions, edging the system closer to demise. Misinformation campaigns and slander are not new, but with the rise of populism we have seen the emergence of a distinct era that redefines the meaning of truth. Accusations of fake news from both sides of the aisle have reached a fever pitch in recent months, leaving many Americans questioning what sources and stories they can trust while creating an environment where opposing arguments can be written off as false. Therefore, rational debates on the merits of the liberal agenda and any chance of consensus have become all but impossible.

Second, today’s strongmen are better equipped to undermine the liberal system than those of the past. For instance, when used skillfully, new methods of hybrid and electronic warfare play on the micro-level fractures and populist dissatisfaction already present in the liberal system, manipulating these weaknesses to the strongman’s benefit. President Putin’s support of Le Pen in France and Russia’s hacking of the 2016 U.S. election are just a few examples of how the Kremlin’s strongman is cheaply projecting his influence and undermining the liberal order’s institutions more efficiently than ever before.

In conclusion, the liberal world order is under attack and the elites should be concerned; the classic threats to the system have become stronger and new challenges have emerged. Yet these developments should not come as a surprise; they are an inevitable feature of the winners and losers inherently created by the order itself. The liberal agenda may still be salvageable, but those who stand to defend it need to act fast, for if they do not and the adversaries of liberalism prevail, a violent, bleak, and unstable future awaits.

Benjamin Rasmussen is a senior at Yale University, majoring in Global Affairs with a concentration in International Security. Benjamin's academic interests include the evolution of U.S.-Russia relations since the end of the Cold War, transatlantic security cooperation, and U.S. grand strategy. Upon completion of his undergraduate degree, he hopes to pursue a career in international relations.

The House of Cards of Liberal World Order

By Máté Mátyás

“The older I get, I learn that assumptions are dangerous,” says Claire.

Though a product of artistic imagination, House of Cards presents very real issues. Many watch the show for its supposed revealing lewdness, others dismiss it as an exaggerated caricature of US politics ignoring the values and virtues of the American democracy.

I think we should embrace it—not for its values, but its perspective.

We inherited from venerated thinkers of international relations theory from Thucydides to the late Zbigniew Brzezinski the romantic assumptions that states are real, living, acting, individual “persons” making deals, wars, and peace, vying for power, befriending each other. All current major schools of international relations theory teach us that. “Realism” says that states act in order to maximize their security. “Liberalism” believes international organizations and cooperation make countries better off. “Social constructivism” thinks ideas and identities shape the way states interact. While all offer interesting lenses, due to their naïve conceptual oversimplifications, they have often failed. Often “bigly.” From failure to predict (or avoid) the Second World War through many conflicts of the previous century to the momentous end of the cold war, the collapse of the Soviet Union, we are now standing before an era of complex global uncertainty more confused than ever.

Had had the voters of the state of Florida and Wisconsin, in their infinite wisdom, turn out for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump on 8 November 2016, would our world look different today? Absolutely. There is nothing inevitable in politics—domestic or foreign. But if we are still to treat global politics, the “world order,” organizations, alliances, states as unitary, person-like institutions and structures—instead of products of individual and collective human agency, interactions, and decisions disregarding people’s psychology, specific socio-political contexts, options and constraints, people’s intentions, interests, values, behavior, and communication—we are going to ask the wrong questions, offer the wrong analyses, and arrive to the wrong conclusions.

The “liberal world order,” or democratic political systems for that matter, are gentlemen’s agreements: vast collections of commonly agreed upon social rules and norms. They are alive and functioning as long as they are being upheld by their people. There is nothing inevitable in politics. Realizing this has been the most important propeller of the “populist” wave: an assumed agreement could be, instead, a coalition of the willing. Targeting the right voters with dubious information and promises, forging economic and political factions can make dishonest goals come true. Many of the powerful can profit from such arrangements, but many more can suffer gravely from opportunistic politicking. Indeed, we know that a vast variety of systems based on lies, intimidation, force, violence, and terror is possible. We have taken frankness, transparency, progress, and common values for granted.

Meanwhile the world has changed tremendously, becoming more technologically advanced minute by minute. But as generations of smartphones and software followed, generations of people are still receiving largely the same curricula in schools. This is not just about technological skills. The stunning proliferation of media and the ensuing new media economics require the much desired skill of “critical thinking.” Moreover, in our time of ever-specialized jobs and diversely unique life experiences, the ability to engage in constructive debate, respectful and effective communication is more needed than ever. The alternative is alternative facts and media, fake news, and deception of vulnerable people. In the current political and media climate, you may make the best, most detailed and well-supported argument backed up by years of research—if the counterargument is a brief message of fear, you’ll most likely lose.

“It is amazing how ready people are to be afraid,” realizes Claire Underwood just one episode earlier. Our susceptibility to ear is a well-known phenomenon; we are wired this way. (In fact, throughout this writing, I have appealed to fear one way or the other in almost each paragraph). But we should embrace this—for we fear the most the things that we do not know.

Therefore, education with an explicit emphasis on constructive, effective non-violent communication, its psychology and structural, critical thinking is key. Abandoning romantic ideas of large, collective identities and characteristics of states and orders in social sciences, and focusing instead on the understanding of delicate complexities of policy processes, competition of vast multitude of personal, corporate, organizational, agency, etc. interests, different personalities and their individual beliefs and values show us a way how to navigate in our interconnected world. It gives us a better way to comprehend, analyze, predict, and explain events more precisely to people with different expertise and views. This is the way to rebuild our agreement—and return from alternative realities and echo-chambers.

In the meantime, watch House of Cards. Or, for more light-hearted—and hopefully more accurate—entertainment, Yes, Minister.

Máté Mátyás graduated in International Relations from the Cornivus University of Budapest, Hungary, in 2016 after spending an exchange semester at University College London's School of Slavonic and East European Studies. He is currently a graduate student at Shanghai Jiao Tong University.

The March of Populism

By Lewis Smart

In the 1997 James Bond Film Tomorrow Never Dies, Judy Dench utters the words “Christ, I miss the Cold War.” Having seen the rise of populists over the last few years who seek to overturn the liberal order I can see why indeed she missed the Cold War so much. The Cold War was the sustaining and animating ideal of western liberal values that gave us a strength and certitude as a society that our liberal way of life was worth defending against the scourge of totalitarian communism and its attendant poverty and miseries.

Now however, twenty or so years into the afternoon culture of the post-cold war world our liberalism is lazy, weak and fragmenting. Our inability as a liberal society to create an “other” to rally liberalism against has led to its internal decay and the populists are taking advantage. We should be very concerned about the future of the international order but worry is good, it gives us a chance to rally once more in liberalism’s defense.

Liberalism as a philosophy was and still is a political and economic philosophy which has generated mass wealth and wellbeing for a substantial portion of the world’s population. Its strengths however tend to be taken for granted and its weaknesses papered over which others with less liberal convictions use to slowly attack it from within.

One of liberalism’s strengths is its ability to allow humans of diverse social, cultural, religious and national differences to work together in a society without impinging on each other’s right to exercise their freedom. This has allowed our society to reap the benefits of peace and acceptance of others and has allowed us to break through the evils of bigotry and xenophobia.

However, this has happened without due regard for the human condition and has occurred so rapidly that populists are taking advantage of the fact that collective binding myths such as national identity, common social mores and shared outlooks have been completely shattered and have been replaced by a plethora of identities based around the individual or mini community.

Rather than being one society generally united against the communist/ totalitarian “other” we are now a society of hundreds, if not thousands of different identities struggling to know what collectively does or should bind us together. Again, one of the strengths of liberalism, the ability to be open minded and to accept others has been stretched too far too quickly to a point where everything means nothing and nothing means everything.

Just as strengths of character of people such as confidence and strength can turn into the weaknesses of arrogance and hubris so too can liberalism, and the strengths of liberalism have started to turn into weaknesses.

Furthering this is the West’s inability to use the past to bind its people together in the present and extends in a failure to articulate a common destiny for its people which they can rally behind. This may also be a consequence of the economizing trend of capitalist societies which have replaced god with the principle of cost benefit analysis and the bottom line. As Edmund Burke once put it:

“But the age of chivalry is gone. That of the sophisters, economists and calculators has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished forever.”

Edmund Burke was prescient when he saw how the crowning of the principles of extreme rationalism and economization would destroy the prescriptive forces of history and culture which had hitherto played such essential roles in western societies.

These two trends, the loss of collective western identity and binding mores alongside the all-encompassing rationalization of individual life has left the way open to populists within the Western world. They do not necessarily offer more wealth, what they offer is something to belong to, something which man prizes more than just nourishment and comfort, for without companionship our world to quote Thomas Hobbes would be “nasty, brutish and short.”

I believe that this challenge to the liberal world order was inevitable because the liberals sought to leave history behind and disregarded it in their hubris. This was a mistake but while it may have been inevitable that the challenge occurred it is not inevitable that the challenge succeeds.

In Macaulay’s “ The lays of Ancient Rome ” Horatius stood as an emblem of strength and duty to the Roman Republic against the hordes of Lars Porsenna. He stood his ground on the bridge to protect what he valued most, however liberals today have abandoned it and are nowhere to be seen. They have left the way clear to Republican Rome. The populists are on the march and are determined to stamp their feet on the bridge which leads to our beliefs. We need a captain of the gate before all is too late.

Lewis Smart works for a Parliamentary communications company in London, UK, and graduated with a first-class honors degree in International Relations from Plymouth University. His main interests are military affairs, the defense sector and NATO.

Part I: The Announcement

Nextgen, an EastWest Institute (EWI) initiative, is a platform that connects the next generation of foreign policy professionals with today’s leading experts. Having served as an outlet for young professionals since 2010, Nextgen grants young professionals the opportunity to share their perspective on the world of foreign policy.

We are pleased to announce the 2017 Nextgen Essay Contest, and we invite you to participate. This contest aims to harness new perspectives and solutions regarding some of the most pressing issues that impact our lives.

Last year’s installment generated entries from 14 countries across four continents! Chris Estep, the first place winner, was presented with an award at the EastWest Institute's 2016 Annual Gala in New York City.

Click for last year's competition.


This year, we are accepting essays on one of four topics. Each participant is requested to select one of the topics and prepare a single essay. This year’s topics to select from are the following:


Eligibility and Submission:

  • Open to students or recent graduates under 30 years old.

  • Essays, written in English, must be a maximum of 800 words in length.

  • Include a short bio of yourself at the bottom of your submission.

  • Send submissions to 

  • General guidelines for submissions can be found here.

  • The deadline for submission is June 2, 2017


Judging Process:

This year, our highly-esteemed panel of judges includes:

The winning essays will be judged using the following criteria:

  • Argument is well supported

  • Ideas are original and creative

  • Ideas are viable

  • Writing is clean

The winners will be announced on August 24, 2017.



So, start writing, be published and be heard!

For the latest EWI reports and Nextgen essays, follow us!

Have a question? Email Tony Bricktua at



LIMITATION OF LIABILITY. By competing in this Contest and/or accepting a prize, entrants release EastWest Institute and contest sponsors from any and all liability for any loss harm, injuries, damages, cost or expenses arising out of or relating to participation in this Contest or the acceptance, use or misuse of the prize(s). UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHALL THE RELEASED PARTIES BE LIABLE FOR INDIRECT, INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, SPECIAL OR EXEMPLARY DAMAGES, ATTORNEYS’ FEES, OR ANY OTHER DAMAGES.