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Contemporary Challenges in International Relations

26-Contemporary Challenges in International Relations  - Juan Pablo Soriano

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We live in an increasingly complex, interconnected, and rapidly changing world, one which generates many challenges. We want to help students to be better prepared to understand our world, analyse it, explain it and, intervene on those matters which they care about the most. The agenda of contemporary challenges in International Relations is vast, but we have selected some issues to offer a comprehensive overview of key topics, such as polarization in contemporary democracies, peace and security, human rights, and the multidimensional global geopolitical competition. And we will study this with cases from Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia. The sessions will include lectures, in-class debates, small-group projects, and presentations by the students. 

China’s international relations in the Xi Jinping Era: Grand strategy, Foreign Policy and Great Power Competition (lecturer: A. Peña González). Since President Xi Jinping came to power China’s global engagement through its grand strategy and foreign policy have peaked strategic adjustments to meet China’s growing power aspirations, and project a more proactive and leading international profile. These adjustments have resulted in a more self-directed and forward-looking foreign policy, the launching of unprecedented global policy initiatives, and the growing strategic competition with the U.S. Throughout the sessions, students are expected to engage with the fundamentals of these topics and understand the implications they have on the dynamics of contemporary international relations. 

Latin America: regional and international challenges in an emerging international order (lecturer: J.P. Soriano). Students will identify and analyse contemporary regional and international challenges for Latin America and the Caribbean. This will be done from a multidimensional perspective, but special attention will be given to political and economic regional integration; regional security and transnational crime; Latin America’s relations with the United States, the European Union, and China; and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the region. 

Middle East and North Africa: Energy, Governance and Globalisation (lecturer: R. Aarab). Analyses of the role of energy in the evolution and transformation of international relations, and the processes of cooperation and conflict in the Mediterranean and MENA region. Students are introduced to the concept of energy and its transdisciplinary nature, governance, and globalisation. The sessions will address the key events of the 20th century related to energy in the MENA region. Also, there will be identified the factors that influenced the conflict processes and cooperation as: “the Seven Sisters” oligopoly, the 1973 oil embargo, OPEC’s Control Policy, and the Cooperation between the energy companies and states.  

Polarization: endemic problem of contemporary democracies (lecturer: P. Aguiar). Conflicts are part of human nature. To transform them and move forward, they must be managed in a peaceful and constructive manner.  This requires dialogue, debate, and the confrontation of ideas. 

This exchange of ideas can take place based on extreme positions: this is polarization and is part of democratic culture. However, for some time now, we have been encountering a perverse dynamic by which dialogue and debate have lost part of their meaning. It is a growing phenomenon in many consolidated democracies, affecting coexistence and social cohesion. It is what we call “toxic polarization”. In addition, we are going to learn why this is happening, how we can identify it and different ways to tackle it.  

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