CTS Archived Event-Herman Salton

Event: CTS Seminar Series
Topic: BUREAUCRACY, POWER, AND TRAGEDY IN INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
Speaker: Dr Herman T. Salton, Associate Professor of Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE), AUW
Schedule: Wednesday, 22 March ’17; 12:40 pm (PAST EVENT) | Venue: H402, AUW

Summary of the presentation:

Although bureaucracy is essential to the modern state, its role within it is contested. Even more controversial is the relevance of bureaucracies within international organizations. Bureaucracies are supposed to guarantee certain standards of transparency and fairness, and even the smallest organization cannot function without them. At the national level, bureaucracies are part of the state and are staffed with civil servants bound to each other by links of hierarchy and rank. National bureaucrats are accountable to their bosses and, ultimately, to the state’s courts.

International bureaucracies (such as the UN, IMF, World Bank, etc) present a number of peculiar traits, starting with the fact that they have been under-studied. While the impact of bureaucracy at the state level has attracted the attention of scholars since the nineteenth century, international bureaucracies have only recently become objects of academic study. This reflects the recent rise of international organizations but also a growing awareness that, far from only  executing the wishes of governments, international bureaucracies can be independent actors.

This seminar looks at the relationship between power and bureaucracy in international relations by assessing a number of case studies where such link has resulted in tragedy, defined as the loss of human life. Through examples like the UN involvement in Sri Lanka, Rwanda, the Balkans, I will argue that while international bureaucracies are essential to the smooth running of international relations, they can also be dangerous when they are driven by the agenda of certain member states, rather than by the values of the international organization they are supposed to serve.

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