The Group of 8 and global peacekeeping, 2004-2010.

Author:Yamashita, Hikaru
Position:GLOBAL INSIGHTS - Essay

PEACEKEEPING HAS BEEN A RELATIVELY NEW AGENDA ITEM FOR THE GROUP OF 8 (G8). (1) The group's attention to peacekeeping can be traced back to three movements from the late 1990s that were in and around the G8. The G8's active role in conflict prevention and management, especially in the Kosovo crisis, highlighted the potential role that it could play in this field. In the same period, several G8 countries also started global initiatives to organize peacekeeping capacity-building programs. And from the early 2000s, the G8's outreach to African leaders and their discussion of problems of peace and security in the continent led the group to lay out an action plan for assistance to African peacekeeping. All of these movements prepared the ground for a landmark action plan adopted at the 2004 Sea Island summit--G8 Action Plan: Expanding Global Capability for Peace Support Operations (hereafter, PSO Action Plan). Furthermore, the years between 2004 and 2010 saw G8 members actively discuss diverse aspects of peacekeeping on a regular basis.

In this article, I examine the G8's contribution to global peacekeeping. There is, however, something counterintuitive about the relationship between peacekeeping and the G8. This arises from the fact that the G8 is not the sort of international institution that has been and perhaps ever will be equipped with necessary powers and resources to organize, deploy, and maintain actual peacekeeping missions. Major peacekeeping organizers such as the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU), and African Union (AU) as well as troops contributors (states) all draw such powers from their formal decision-making processes (e.g., the UN Security Council) and institutional machineries (Departments of Peacekeeping and Field Support). In contrast, the G8 does not have a standing secretariat, nor is it founded on a charter or some equivalent document that could make its decisions binding on its members. The G8 is an official (Track 1), and yet essentially informal, international institution that lacks necessary rules and supporting structures for authorizing, organizing, and deploying peacekeeping missions.

The question here, then, is how can the G8 be said to make an impact in the field of peacekeeping even though it lacks the very institutional foundation that enables peacekeeping activities? This question has not been addressed in the academic literature. Indeed, though mentioned in G8 research (2) and studies that look at major peacekeeping capacity-building programs, (3) the whole issue of the G8 and peacekeeping has received little scholarly attention on its own. (4) The dearth of academic analysis, in turn, suggests a broader assumption: only formal operational institutions matter in peacekeeping. This is evidenced by recent debates on peacekeeping partnerships that focus almost exclusively on such institutions. (5)

However, the fact that the G8 is not an operational peacekeeping actor does not diminish its role altogether. Instead of assuming that the lack of operational capability disqualifies the G8 as a peacekeeping actor, I argue that seeing the G8 as an informal international institution enables analysis of its role in global peacekeeping. Political processes, whether domestic or international, are not confined to formal institutions like state organs and intergovernmental organizations: they do play important, even central roles, but a diverse range of informal institutions and networks are also increasingly relevant. (6) Given that formal institutions continue to be central in global peacekeeping, one way of measuring the G8's contribution and potential role is to examine its relations with the formal institutions that organize and deploy peacekeeping missions.

Drawing insights from comparative politics literature on informal institutions, I discuss what sort of relationship the G8 has formed with formal peacekeeping institutions. I argue specifically that the G8 plays a potentially useful role complementary to formal operational actors by facilitating peacekeeping capacity-building efforts on the global scale, but that the record of its activities shows this potential has been only partially realized. In the next section, I briefly summarize the changing nature of the G8 in the post--Cold War period and articulate the group as an informal institution. After reviewing the emergence of the peacekeeping agenda at the G8, in the rest of the article I examine the ways that the G8 has supported formal peacekeeping institutions. To conclude, I summarize the key findings and suggest areas for further research.

The G8 as an Informal International Institution

Debates on the nature of an informal institution and what makes it distinct from formal institutions often revolve around different understandings of formality. While institution is usually understood as including both rules and procedures, formality is explained with reference to diverse factors such as the involvement of the state, degree of enforcement, or existence of "officially sanctioned channels." (7) For the present purposes of articulating differences between the G8 and operationally capable peacekeeping actors, however, it would be useful to start by the definition of formal intergovernmental organization (FIGO) supplied by Thomas J. Volgy, Elizabeth Fausett, Keith A. Grant, and Stuart Rodgers. (8) Their definition consists of three components: institutionalization of state decisionmaking and oversight in governance whose "procedural requirements are typically set out in the charters/constitutions/treaties of organizations"; bureaucratic organization; and evidence of autonomy in organization and the execution of collective decisions. In short, to qualify as a FIGO, an organization needs to have routinized, rule-based decisionmaking, bureaucracy, and autonomy. Operational peacekeeping institutions such as the UN, EU, and AU all possess these components, which are the essential prerequisites for organizing successful peacekeeping missions. Since peacekeeping requires the mobilization of human and financial resources from national contributors, the decision to organize such missions is a high-stakes one that must be based on clear rules and procedures. Mission organizers are also responsible for day-to-day management of mission activities for which a standing bureaucracy and a degree of autonomy are essential.

The G8 is an informal international institution in that it lacks each of these traits. The G8 does not have standing rules or a secretariat, and it is completely dependent on its members for policy implementation. These also marked the Concert of Europe with which the G8 is often compared. (9) Like the Concert, the G8 has existed as an informal, flexible forum for consultation and consensus building among major powers on issues of common concern. Beyond this, however, there are at least two features that distinguish the G8 from its historical predecessor. One is its extensive outreach: in the post--Cold War period, the G8 has evolved into a global institution through its abilities to network with other international organizations, groups, and arrangements and to interact with global civil society. (10) Another is the G8's capacity to reconcile domestic and international pressures. (11) Whereas the Concert was a product of the age of empires in seeking to resist trends toward greater nationalism and liberalism in the wake of the French Revolution, the G8 operates in a world where nationalism and popular sovereignty are the established norms. The capacity to reconcile domestic demands and international pressures is therefore important. As Nicholas Bayne suggests, however, the way in which this reconciliation takes place tends to be oriented toward members' external policies rather than domestic ones. (12) Instead of being a forum where domestic demands and pressures are presented and subject to direct negotiation among the members, the G8 enables its members to obtain endorsement for their external policy initiatives by dint of the weight of their collective powers. Recognizing these two attributes (especially the former), and the potential it displayed as a conflict management actor during the Kosovo crisis (see below), Risto E. J. Pennila describes the future role of the G8 as a " meta-institution that facilitates and guides the work of other organizations." Writing soon after the Iraq War, he points out that the G8 could play a vital international security role when other, more formal and institutionalized decisionmaking fora are incapable of effective response. (13)

While the Group of 20 (G-20) is increasingly seen as having replaced the G8 as a premier forum of major powers on international financial issues, (14) the post--Cold War developments thus highlighted the G8's potential contribution to issues of international peace and security. (15) In the peacekeeping context, then, how does the G8 as an informal institution relate to formal, operational peacekeeping organizations? Does it serve, as Pennila suggests, to facilitate and guide the work of such organizations? Or, instead, has it left no impact or even been a complication for emerging partnerships among operational peacekeepers?

The four typologies of informal institution developed by Gretchen Helmke and Steven Levitsky are helpful in articulating the potential roles of the G8. Drawing on two dimensions (degree of convergence between formal and informal institutional outcomes and effectiveness of formal institutions), they argue that informal institutions can serve complementary, accommodating, substitutive, or competing roles vis-a-vis formal institutions. (16) Seen from this angle, the G8 as an informal peacekeeping institution is likely to function as a complementary institution, for two reasons. First, the lack of operational capability in the G8 framework precludes it from playing substitutive or competing roles against operational...

To continue reading