Smaller States and Peacemaking – Leveraging a Foreign Policy Tool

Familiarity with the study of smaller states depends very much on where you live. Consideration of small state problems and challenges is commonplace for Lithuanians, Icelanders, New Zealanders and Qataris – not so much in the United States however. In the Fall of 2017 I offered a course, Smaller States and Peacemaking, as a vehicle through which students at Georgetown University could engage on the international problems faced by smaller states. Being in Washington, DC meant we could draw on a wide range of resources. Not least was the active participation in our course by the ambassadors from New Zealand, Norway and Switzerland. For their participation we are enormously grateful.

A starting point in the class focused on the definition of small state. It is one that becomes enormously complex and challenging and in the end we opted for a definition derived by comparison. Rather than think of small state in isolation, we considered small states in comparison. Small depends upon where you sit. New Zealand is a small state in comparison to China and the US, but it is a large state in comparison to Samoa. Perspective is everything.

The students engaging in a workshop to identify best and most the interesting examples found 33 possible cases for examination and selected eleven. Working in pair students developed their cases that were later presented to the class as a whole, and the class then allocated editorial roles. It was a truly a collective effort, one to which the students responded with enthusiasm and interest. 

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