Resources > Glossary

Non-state actor, Non-state actors, Actors
An individual, group, or organization whose actions affect the distribution of assets and resources on a global scale. The state has long been considered as the main actor on the international scene, but the number of non-state actors has increased and diversified (businesses, non-governmental organizations, special interest groups, mafias, religious actors, etc.) over the past few decades. Contemporary globalization has made the relationships between these actors more complex.
Adaptation policies work to implement measures that will help societies adapt to new climatic conditions and the harmful effects of climate change (climate variations, natural disasters, rising sea levels, etc.). Social adaptation to climate change has, since 2009, been favored by an international climate regime which, until then, had been dominated by the principle of mitigation. It was nevertheless the first solution put in motion in the 1970s to justify environmental economic policies preserving fossil fuels. Today, states implement national plans for adapting to climate change in order to limit its effects.
The growing proportion of old and very old individuals in the population of a country or region (initially in the countries of the North, now increasing in those of the South) can be explained by the growth in the number of older people (extension of life) and/or a reduction in the numbers of younger people (lower birth rate), combined with a low rate of migration (younger populations not arriving).
Agenda 2030
2030 Agenda
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is an action plan adopted by the UN in September 2015. Its purpose is to eradicate poverty and protect the planet by the year 2030. It includes 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) shared by all states and focusing on five areas: people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnerships. On a voluntary basis, each state gives an annual account of progress achieved. Agenda 2030 replaced the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) (2005-2015).
Organic farming, Ecological farming
As a farming practice, agroecology includes organic farming within a wider ecological management of cultivated space (composting, complementarity between species, hedges and groups of trees, mound and deep-bed gardening, etc.) so as to improve biodiversity and water use, encourage reforestation and combat erosion. As an interdisciplinary scientific approach combining agronomy, ecology, economics, sociology, agroecology relies on exchanges between farmers, scientists, social and environmental activists, and political decision-makers. Debates about agroecology interweave themes such as energy transition, peasant farming, demands for food sovereignty, the circular economy, and short supply chains, re-forging the link between producers and consumers (“consum’actors”). Organic farming is characterized by the refusal to use chemical inputs (or else limiting them strictly to exceptional and temporary cases) and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and attempts to reintroduce traditional farming methods that require a larger workforce than intensive agriculture (recycling of organic matter, crop rotation, non-intensive rearing, traditional irrigation, and local crops).
An alliance is a commitment between two or more states that are seeking to ensure cooperation in the areas of international security and defense. Its purpose is to create a deterrent in the face of a third-party state, to increase the power of its members when there is the prospect of war, or to prevent allied countries from forming other alliances. Alliances may be institutionalized or more informal, permanent (NATO) or ad hoc (coalitions in Middle-Eastern wars). They can be appeasement factors when the deterrent effect comes into play, but they also create instability when rigid alignments can lead to military escalation, as in 1914.
Anti-globalist, Alter-globalists
Someone who favors fairer and more human globalization that does not only take into account the economic interests of the most powerful businesses and states. Most alter-globalists are not opposed to the globalization process itself, but to its present liberal and commercial version. They therefore try to persuade public opinion of the need for sustainable development, fair trade, and alleviation of debt for the poorest countries. The alter-globalist galaxy includes local, national, and international groups, and makes abundant use of the internet to conduct its activism. The regular meetings of the World Social Forum, where experiences can be exchanged, ideas discussed, and proposals formulated are just one example among others.
Otherness, Other
Alterity is the state of being “other,” outside of what is represented by an individual’s characteristics or those of a given socio-political or cultural environment. It is used here mainly in a cultural and political sense.
Understanding the world, whether consciously or not, from the basis and viewpoint of human beings of the male sex. The idea was developed by Charlotte Perkins Gilman in The Man-Made World: Our Androcentric Culture (1911), and has since been used by sociologists and anthropologists (when talking about patrilineal societies, for example) as well as by feminist movements.
Etymologically, it means “the human era.” Many scientists have confirmed the advent of a new geological era replacing the Holocene (the era covering around the last 11,500 years), which is characterized by the far-reaching effects of human activity on natural ecosystems and terrestrial geology, considered by some to be irreversible. The date when this era began is still a matter of debate, varying between the Industrial Revolution (in the early 1800s) and the atomic era (starting from the 1950s).
Big data
A corpus that is constantly being supplied with highly varied digital data in such large quantities that the tools currently available are only partly able to process them. They represent scientific and commercial challenges, as well as problems for security, democracy, and basic human rights. The data are stored in data centers spread all around the globe and processed by algorithms or sets of instructions programed to resolve problems.
This notion originated during the preparatory work for the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. It describes the diversity of the living world in the strictest sense, emphasizing the unity of all life, and the interdependency connecting the three elements of biological diversity: genes, species, and ecosystems. The concept takes the living world out of the restricted field of natural sciences and places it at the center of international debate. Today, biodiversity is a global heritage to be protected and a source of potential revenue that is hotly disputed between states, multinational companies, and local communities.
Liquid fuel produced from cultivated plants. The first-generation biofuels were obtained from oils or from alcoholic fermentation of oil-producing plants (palm oil, rapeseed), cereals (corn, wheat), and sugar cane. The second generation uses the whole of the plant or cellulosic biomass (wood, grass, or other plants, such as jatropha or miscanthus which are not food plants). These have been criticized for competing with food production (the sudden rise in the price of cereals in 2008, for example, with dramatic consequences for populations for whom they were basic foodstuffs).
Multipolarity, Apolarity, Unipolarity
These terms refer to the division of power in the international system. According to the number of dominating powers (one, two, or several), the configuration is described as unipolar, bipolar, or multipolar, respectively. In contrast to these notions, discussed particularly among realist currents in international relations, the idea of apolarity has emerged, which stresses the irrelevance of seeing global space in terms of power centers, because of the way these have been transformed.
A common notion to describe the set of states gathered around one or other of the two poles (the United States and the USSR) during the Cold War. It has since been used to talk of the regional groups now known as “commercial blocs.” This term puts the emphasis on closure and confrontation without expressing the internal diversity or dynamism of these states.
The line that marks the limit of state sovereignty, as distinct from the hazy boundary zones or limits of empires. In no way natural, these long-term historic constructs, which can be more or less endogenous and more or less subject to dispute and violence, are being profoundly altered by contemporary globalization processes. Regional integration processes are transforming and diminishing them – even erasing them, and pushing them back; transnational actors are crossing them or bypassing them; at the same time, they are being closed to migration, while new borders (social, cultural) are being constructed.
Brain drain
The deterioration of state universities in Southern countries, resulting from weak public policies, high numbers of new generations coming through, and the attractiveness of universities in the North, is causing Southern students to travel abroad to study. They are then able to enter the labor market of the country where they have studied, or that of another Northern country. However, the brain drain of doctors, teachers, researchers, engineers, technicians, and so on, long considered as harmful and even disastrous for their countries of origin, needs to be reconsidered. Now set against it is the notion of brain gain (skills gain), based on the idea that well-educated individuals contribute to the spread of knowledge when they return, definitively or intermittently, to their country of origin; furthermore, they generate sizeable remittances.
Brain gain
Market economy, Capitalist
An economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and the free market (free enterprise, free trade, free competition, etc.; the foundations of liberalism). In this system, the capital holders (as distinct from employees who form the workforce and who, according to Marx, are exploited) seek to maximize their profits (accumulating capital). After the end of feudalism, the system took hold during the Industrial Revolution. Now adopted by all countries (with the exception of communist ones), it takes multiple forms, and still includes state intervention (to a greater or lesser extent), for the purpose of regulation (notably in the Rhineland model or the social market economy in Scandinavian countries) or as actor and planner (Japan, Singapore, France, etc.).
Circular economy
A recent concept arising from a growing awareness of the limits of our planet’s resources and the need to conserve them, the circular economy breaks with the dominant economic model of wealth creation. It encompasses environmental, economic and social issues that are crucial to sustainable development, impacting all sectors (raw materials and energy sources, industrial and agricultural production, consumer goods), all actors (states, companies, towns and cities, individuals) and all our conceptions of social activity (environmental impacts, sharing, use rather than ownership, energy sobriety, repairing, waste management and recycling, etc.).
Freedom of movement, Movement, Circulations
People, merchandise, services, capital, information, ideas, values, and models are being transferred and exchanged in ever-increasing numbers. The expansion, diversification, and acceleration of movement typify the ongoing process of globalization. Circulation connects economic and social spaces through networks which, depending on their density, fluidity, output, and hierarchy, can differentiate them considerably. Of all types of circulation, information in the broadest sense is experiencing the most rapid growth, whereas the circulation of people is the one encountering most obstacles.
Citizenship, Citizens
The origin of citizenship goes back to Antiquity, and it denotes the enjoyment of civic and political rights within democratic regimes (right to vote, right of eligibility, exercise of public freedoms). By granting rights and obligations to citizens, popular sovereignty provides the foundation for the state’s legitimacy. Citizenship is an element of social cohesion, with citizens forming a political community (theory of the social contract) to which they owe primary allegiance. Depending on the period and country, it has been refused to some sections of the population: women, slaves, the poor, the illiterate, soldiers, foreigners, or minors. The Maastricht Treaty (1992) created a European citizenship within the European Union.
Civil Society
Civil Societies
At the national level, civil society refers to a social body that is separate from the state and greater than the individuals and groups of which it is formed (social classes, socio-professional categories, generations, etc.). The notion of a global civil society emerged in the 1970s (John Burton, World Society) and refers to social relations formed in the international arena and beyond the control of states, when citizens of all countries take concerted action to demand regulations that may be supranational or infranational. However, the term conceals a great diversity. The notion of world society emerged among geographers in the 1990s and refers to the more all-encompassing process of creating a social space at the planetary level.
Civilizational, Civilizations
The notion of civilization appeared in the eighteenth century. It must be used with caution as it is often exploited and generally used to discriminate by being contrasted with non-civilization. In the way it is currently used today, it denotes a very large-scale collective identity, a system of social, economic and political organization shared by a substantial number of societies and characterized by specific achievements designed to control living conditions (techniques for governing nature, writing, arts and sciences, organization of society, and so on).
Clash of civilizations
The expression “clash of civilizations” has passed into common vocabulary. It was popularized by an article published in 1993 by Samuel Huntington, who was seeking to identify new global “fault lines” following the collapse of the Soviet bloc. Huntington’s thesis, strongly contested on account of the vague nature of the “civilization blocs” he identified, involved the emergence of regional blocs divided around identity issues and a purely culturalist vision.
Climate changes
Climate change
The UN defines climate change as “a change of climate which is attributed directly or indirectly to human activity that alters the composition of the global atmosphere and which is in addition to natural climate variability observed over comparable time periods” (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change [UNFCCC], 1992). The expression is used to describe global warming of the Earth’s surface, whose extent and rapidity are without precedent in the planet’s history, and results from the increase in anthropic greenhouse gas emissions (principally carbon dioxide and CO2, but also methane, nitrous oxide, perfluorocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride).
Club of Rome
An international group of economists, scientists, and industrialists, founded during the 1960s for the purpose of encouraging reflection on the economic, political, social, and natural aspects of the global system. In 1972, their report titled The Limits to Growth (or the Meadows report) gave rise to numerous debates on global limits with regard to population growth, food production, and use of resources.
Cold War
Period of ideological, geopolitical, economic and cultural confrontation between the United States and the USSR from the late 1940s through the end of the 1980s. Vigorous debate is still ongoing among historians regarding the precise dates of its beginning (the 1917 Russian Revolution? 1944? 1947?) and end (the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 or the collapse of the USSR in 1991?). These two superpowers formed two blocs of varying degrees of cohesion around them. This bipolarization of the world to some extent masked other political, economic and social dynamics.
Collapsed state
Failed state, Weak state, Weak states
A state incapable of ensuring its population’s security (ending the social contract) and controlling its territory (end of sovereignty). At this point the country is ungoverned and the violence this generates can precipitate collapse (as in Congo, Somalia and Afghanistan, for example). However, the use of this designation by the international community can be arbitrary, too, masking strategic interests and power politics.
Colonial empire
Colony, Colonial, Colonies
A historical process by which Europe established deep links with the rest of the world. From the late fifteenth century (the Age of Discovery), a vast movement began for economic, political, and cultural domination of the world, first by Spain and Portugal and then by England, France, and Holland, which from the late sixteenth century started to compete for possession of colonial wealth. A second wave of colonization took place in the nineteenth century, when all the countries of South America that had been under the first two empires were already independent. The Industrial Revolution encouraged the search for new markets, and France and England jockeyed for a share of part of Asia and Africa. The colonized territories had different statuses (dominions, protectorates, or direct rule).
A notion formed from the word “commodity,” used in economics to denote standardized goods available in large quantity on the world market (raw materials, basic agricultural and chemical products, electronic components, etc.). Commodification means the process of transforming certain common or immaterial goods, such as forests, water, genes, public services, and culture, into consumer goods. This trend has raised questions and concern among both individuals and NGOs, which organize in reaction to it.
Common Agricultural Policy
The Common Agricultural Policy is a cornerstone European integration that was set out in the 1957 Treaty of Rome and came into force in 1962. It promotes the development and modernization of agriculture (food security and self-sufficiency, modernization, increased productivity, stable markets and the development of exports). It represents a third of the total EU budget (compared to 70% in the 1970s) and has made the EU a global agricultural power. Criticized for being expensive, favoring large-scale operators and agribusiness over small producers, encouraging productivist agriculture at the expense of the environment and distorting markets (protectionism and export subsidies to the detriment of developing countries), it is frequently called into question, despite being endlessly reformed over the years.
Common goods
Common goods of humanity, Global common goods
Goods considered as the common property of humanity, for which each of us is responsible for the survival of all. This notion comes from two philosophical traditions: the ancient concept of community, taken over by the Catholic Church, and the liberal and utilitarian idea of individual responsibility. It enables the general interest of societies, such as the protection of common goods, to be defined. On the global scale (global commons), the concept invites indivisible control of humanity’s common heritage, both material (health, environment) and immaterial (peace, human rights, transcultural values). Some goods are therefore beyond the limits state jurisdiction (the high seas, space) or beyond sovereign claims (Antarctica).
Communitarianism, Community
Notions that appeared in the late 1970s on the political science, denoting the development of identity, a sense of belonging, and allegiance on ethnic, linguistic, religious, or sociological grounds, aside from or even against the state and the social contract it is supposed to guarantee. Contemporary globalization is profoundly altering the role of states and individuals, as well as the complex relationships between the universal and the particular, thus opening up spaces for multiple forms of communitarianism to emerge.
International community, Communities
According to the German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies (1855-1936), community (Gemeinschaft) is the opposite of society (Gesellschaft) and denotes any form of social organization in which individuals are linked by natural or spontaneous solidarity, and driven by common goals. According to current usage, it applies to any social grouping that appears to be united, whatever its mode of integration (international community, European or Andean Community, or adherents of a religion). The ambiguous term of international community describes an ill-defined set of political actors (states, international organizations, NGOs, individuals, etc.) based on the idea of that humanity is united by common objectives and values or an allegiance to central political institutions, which is far from being the case.
Conflict situations
See War
Corporate Social Responsibility
A set of procedures and strategies concerning corporate governance and activities, which businesses adopt voluntarily (in other words they are not compelled to do so, but generally do under pressure from civil society actors) in order to meet social expectations in relation to environmental protection, human rights, the fight against corruption, etc. In practice, CSR is manifested through a series of commitments made by businesses (codes of ethics, codes of conduct, etc.) and by funding a few local development projects. However, it is criticized for often being used as a communications tool, known as “greenwashing,” and for turning self-regulation into a pretext for delaying the establishment of legal obligations.
Counterfeiting, Counterfeit goods
Counterfeiting means the reproduction, imitation or total or partial use of an intellectual property right without the authorization of its owner (brand, model, patent, copyright, software, etc.) and for the purpose of cheating the buyer. It involves all sectors of the economy and is now further stimulated by e-commerce. It forms a high proportion of international crime (500 billion dollars in 2016) in which Chinese manufacturers have a dominant place. The populations of developing countries are particularly exposed to dangers from the sale of counterfeit medicines, especially in Africa.
This notion was first used in linguistics and social and cultural anthropology, and then in social sciences and literature. It is the opposite of the idea of exclusive identity. Originating in the West Indies to describe a composite society, it was largely developed by Edouard Glissant who extended it to the entire world. Similar to the concepts of mixed race, hybridization, or the melting pot, creolization describes how the mixing of different peoples produces a new language and society – one that is different from the sum of societies of origin – and new ways of life to be adopted that are free from inherited traditions and identities assigned by geography.
Crime against humanity
A crime that is considered imprescriptible, and targeting acts such as murder, extermination, deportation, enslavement, persecution for political, religious or racist ends, and any other human act committed against civilian populations before or during an armed conflict. The concept of a crime against humanity originated in the late nineteenth century, during deliberations intended to establish humanitarian international law. It was first used for the Armenian genocide perpetrated by Turkey in 1915, before being legally ratified by the Nuremberg International Military Tribunal in 1945, set up to judge the atrocities committed during the Nazi regime. The definition of a crime against humanity has since been constantly extended by various international declarations, including the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court in 1998.
Cultural, Cultures
Culture is what distinguishes human existence from the natural state, that is to say it denotes the processes through which humans use and develop their intellectual capacities. According to Clifford Geertz (1973), culture is a system of significations commonly shared by the members of a social community, who use them in their interactions. Cultures are therefore not immutable but change according to social practices, incorporating processes of both inclusion and exclusion. Culturalism is a concept which considers that supposed collective beliefs and membership of a particular culture predetermine social behavior.
Post-carbon, Decarbonization
Decarbonization or post-carbon are expressions used to describe the reduction of carbon dioxide emissions to zero. Used by environmental NGOs in their appeals to combat climate change, they also refer to the wider social project to abandon fossil fuels.
The empires that resulted from the two great waves of colonization were called into question by colonized countries during the inter-war period. They subsequently collapsed after World War II. The United Kingdom relied on the Commonwealth to make a relatively smooth exit from colonialism, whereas France lost two wars, one in Indochina, the other in Algeria. In 1955, the Bandung conference brought together representatives from twenty-nine countries to mark their support for independence struggles. Spain and Portugal were the last European states to cling to their empires, which nevertheless collapsed in 1975. Although the colonial empires have all disappeared, they have left their mark on territories that are claiming their independence. The last half-century has witnessed the ongoing Israeli colonization of Palestine.
Deforestation results from the exploitation of wood resources (boards and planks, paper, fibers, charcoal production, etc.) and tree-felling to use the soil for other activities. It is often done with the aim of replacing forests with different types of farming (monoculture, fodder production, and so on) or for developing infrastructures. Until the mid-twentieth century, it mostly concerned temperate forests, but it then extended to tropical forests. Since the 1990s, private-sector actors have replaced states as the persons mainly responsible for deforestation. In 5,000 years, 1.8 billion hectares of forests have disappeared.
Faced with audience erosion and a concomitant reduction in earnings from advertising, television channels are encouraging replay, a type of delinearized program consumption (as opposed to direct consumption), which can be carried out on demand, via the internet, thus guaranteeing new sources of revenue for TV channels.
Democratic, Democracies
A political system based on sovereignty of the people, in which the right to govern depends on acceptance by the people. Inspired by the model set up in Ancient Greece and the individual liberties promoted by liberalism, democracy today is mainly representative and based on the principle of citizens’ equality (elections by universal suffrage). It cannot be dissociated from respect for fundamental human rights, which include freedom of speech, freedom of association, freedom of information, and so on. While it has gradually become universalized and is tending to become the norm, it does not refer to a single model since it always depends on the social and cultural context in which it is implemented, which varies from one place to another and according to time period.
Demographic Transition
Since the 18th century, humanity has moved from a demographics of high fertility balanced by high mortality to one of low fertility and low mortality. An initial period of economic growth and improved health brought mortality down while fertility remained high, leading to rapid population growth as there were more births than deaths. This was followed by a second period of declining birth rate, leading to generations not being replaced and populations tending to shrink unless bolstered by migration. This theoretical model, developed based on the observation of the evolution of the European and North American populations, indicates that all the world’s populations will develop in a similar way.
This is a process that consists of relaxing, or even abolishing, the legal framework and norms in force, particularly in the economic and financial spheres. This underlying trend has been at work throughout the world since the 1970s, and has an ideological basis. It is defended by the proponents of economic liberalism, for whom government regulation of economic and financial activities is seen as undesirable because it impedes the proper functioning of markets.
Developed Country
Developed Countries, Underdeveloped Country, Underdeveloped Countries, Less developed country (LDC), Less economically developed country (LEDC), Rich Country, Rich Countries, Poor Country
At point 4 of his Inaugural Address of 1949, American President Harry S. Truman outlined a program of aid for “underdeveloped areas. This phrase refers to all the countries regarded as “lagging behind” in progress toward what thus becomes the model set by the developed, industrialized countries, which at that time had stronger growth and higher standards of living. The evolution of the terminology from underdeveloped to developing and developed countries has not altered the linear, evolutionist aspect of the overall vision. Nor has it in any way nuanced the homogenization and reification of the groups so described.
Developing Country
Developing Countries
Definitions of development and its opposite – underdevelopment – have varied considerably according to the political objectives and ideological positions of those using these words. In the 1970s, Walt Whitman Rostow conceived of it as an almost mechanical process involving successive stages of economic growth and social improvement, whereas Samir Amin analyzed the relationships between center and peripheries, seeing the development of the former as founded on the exploitation of the latter. In Latin America, the dependency theory condemned the ethnocentrism of the universal view that the “periphery” of underdeveloped states could simply catch up through modernization. Talking of poor or developing “countries” masks the inequalities that also exist within societies (in both Northern and Southern hemispheres) and individuals’ connections to globalization processes.
A set of communities that are often dispersed over very considerable distances, but remain linked by economic, financial, and cultural exchanges, and refer to a land and culture of origin. Acceleration of the globalization process and the increased number of migrants have given new life to former diasporas (Jewish, Greek, Armenian, Chinese, Indian) as well as creating new ones (countries of the Southern hemisphere). The ability to preserve cultural references from one generation to another and independently of distance is a function of the dense international networks they construct. By extension, the term diaspora is used by governments of the South to talk about their migrant workers in the North, whose remittances to the home country contribute to GDP.
The existence of two distinct forms of the same human, animal, or vegetable species. Research in feminist anthropology undertaken since the 2000s highlights the extent to which primordial dimorphism between men and women has been accentuated by social practices dividing the two sexes (food rationing, marriage selection, sartorial customs, division of labor, and so on).
This subject has occupied the internal agenda since the nineteenth century (The Hague Conferences of 1899 and 1907). Disarmament is a process that aims to reduce or remove a state’s weapons and armed forces. It is different from arms limitation or control, which is about restricting their quantity, nature, and use. Disarmament may concern certain categories of weapons (conventional, light, chemical, biological, nuclear, antipersonnel mines, cluster bombs, etc.) and apply to certain regions (definition de denuclearized zones, bi- or multilateral treaties).
Enduring inequalities between individuals or groups in their ability to access goods and/or exert their rights. Discrimination may be unintentional when the political authority, state or society concerned does not pay sufficient attention to certain sections of the population (older people, for example); or it can be based on an intention to discriminate according to criteria such as origin, sex, age, handicap, physical appearance, language, opinions (political, trade-union, religious, etc.), joblessness, or social mores (apartheid, racial segregation, homophobia, etc.). The battle against discrimination now involves protection and compensation policies (reserved access to housing, employment, education, etc.) and/or punishment for discriminatory behavior.
Displaced persons, IDPs [Internally Displaced Persons], Displacement
According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the term describes persons or groups who have been forced or obliged to flee or leave their homes or their habitual place of residence, in particular because of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters, or to avoid the effects of these, but who have not crossed an internationally recognized state border. These are known as IDPs (internally displaced persons).
East-West polarization
Ecological footprint
Environmental footprint
Pressure exerted on ecosystems by human societies. This indicator measures the impact of human activities by assessing the total biologically productive area necessary for different types of lifestyle, in order to produce the resources they consume and absorb the waste they generate. The values obtained (measured in global hectares per capita) vary substantially from the more predatory to the less predatory societies (between 5 and 10 gha for North America and some European countries, to less than 1 gha for India, Indonesia and part of Africa). This indicator is also used more broadly to measure the impacts of actions by an individual or institution (private companies, international organizations, specific projects, etc.) in terms of environmental degradation.
Dynamic interactions connecting a biotope (biological environment presenting uniform living conditions) to the living beings that cohabit it. Developed by a British botanist, Arthur George Tansley, during the 1930s, the ecosystem concept progressively replaced the concept of “natural environments” that preceded it, emphasizing the interdependency of living beings (including humans) and their environment. In consequence, it underscores how damage to an ecosystem also impacts the human communities living in it. A biome (also called an ecozone or macroecosystem) is a group of ecosystems characteristic of a geographical area and named in accordance with its predominant vegetation and animal species. Anthromes (or anthropogenic biomes) are biomes that have been modified by sustained direct human interaction with ecosystems.
Electronic commerce
On-line commerce, E-commerce
A form of commercial transaction developed from the 1990s together with the expansion of internet use. It includes advertising, sales and the distribution of products and services through communication networks. Largely dominated by rapidly-expanding global businesses, electronic commerce means that all sorts of products can be offered on a worldwide scale – but its clientele is also global and unequally divided, reflecting the inequality of internet access. Its rapid spread has helped redraw the map of companies and jobs in the retail trade because of the competition inflicted on neighborhood stores (leading to the desertion of town centers) and even urban peripheries (involving a crisis for large food retailers).
Emerging Country
Emerging Countries, Emerging Economies, Emerging Markets, Emerging Power
This term arose in the 1980s among economic and financial actors, who used the adjective “emerging” to describe markets where investment was risky but profitable. With its emphasis on growth and suggestion of rising movement, it reflects a linear, Western-centered understanding of development. As adopted and challenged by political actors, the label refers to the international, economic, political and/or diplomatic integration of some countries. It invites us to interrogate the way it is used both by actors who adopt it and those who reject it.
An empire, a political system based on the dissemination of a political structure with universalist pretensions, is controlled by a central power that subjugates the populations located at its periphery following military conquests. It often comprises several different national, ethnic or religious entities (examples: the Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Napoleonic, Russian, Austro-Hungarian empires, etc.). Empires generally persist over time by means of economic exploitation, especially in the case of colonial empires. Empires can be distinguished from states in that they are bounded by hazy frontier areas (such as the marches, or the limes of the Roman Empire) rather than borders clearly framing a specific territory over which the political authority exclusively operates.
Energy Transition
A move away from the current energy model based on fossil fuels to one based on renewable and sustainable energy (which excludes nuclear power). Made necessary due to climate change and the foreseeable exhaustion of fossil fuels, the energy transition requires political will on the part of governments, leading to the establishment of targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the increase of renewable forms as a proportion of the energy mix.
Energy mix
Breakdown of the various primary energy sources (coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear, etc.) used to produce energy consumed in the form of electricity, gasoline, etc. Each country’s energy mix reflects its available energy sources along with political and industrial choices favoring particular energy sources – as with the emphasis on nuclear energy in France. Fossil fuels still largely dominate the global energy mix.
In broad terms, the environment is understood as the biosphere in which living species cohabit, while ecology studies the relations between these organisms and their environment. The environment encompasses very diverse natural areas from undisturbed virgin forests to artificialized environments planned and exploited by humans. In a more limited definition of the term, “environmental” issues are those relating to natural resources (their management, use and degradation) and biological biodiversity (fauna and flora). As a cross-cutting public concern, the environment encompasses issues of societal organization (production models, transport, infrastructure, etc.) and their impacts on the health of humans and ecosystems.
Environmental costs
Environmental costs, or environmental externalities, refer to the costs of the environmental consequences (pollution, soil depletion, contribution to climate change, etc.) of production and extraction of primary resources. As the costs of environmental degradation are sometimes difficult to calculate, they are not included in the calculation of primary resources and their by-products, which are undervalued as a result. The environmental costs of producing primary resources are unequally divided between the exporting countries of the Southern hemisphere and the importing countries of the North.
Environmental justice
The concept of environmental justice is based on the realization that poor and minority populations are disproportionately exposed to environmental risks and to the harmful effects of environmental degradation (urban pollution, impacts of climate change, etc.). It implies recognition of each individual’s environmental rights, especially with respect to participation. In the context of climate change, climate justice refers both to intragenerational justice, especially between developed and developing countries, and to intergenerational justice, considering the actions, rights and needs of current and future generations.
Environmental migrant
Environmental migrants, Climate refugee, Climate migrant, Environmental migration
Environmental migration describes the movements of populations, voluntary or forced, short-term or permanent, over greater or lesser distances, driven by environmental conditions in their place of origin (progressive degradation, sudden natural disasters, etc.). The International Organization for Migration defines environmental migrants as “persons or groups of persons who, for compelling reasons of sudden or progressive changes in the environment that adversely affect their lives or living conditions, are obliged to leave their habitual homes, or choose to do so, either temporarily or permanently, and who move either within their country or abroad.”
Environmentalism of the poor
Highlighted in the works of the economist Joan Martinez Alier, the environmentalism of the poor encompasses all maneuvers in defense of the environment implemented by populations in insecure situations, in both rural and urban environments. In this way the poor, i.e. the most underprivileged people, who constitute the majority in the countries of the South and a marginalized minority in the countries of the North, are actively involved in protecting ecosystems while striving to preserve their means of subsistence.
Ethnicity, Clan, Tribe, Ethnocentrism, Ethnocentric, Ethnic, Ethnicization, Ethnicities
Ethnicity is a descriptive category that appeared at the end of the 19th century, constructed by anthropologists and disseminated by colonial administrations. Unlike “race” it does not reference biological criteria but designates a group of individuals with the same origin, the same cultural tradition, whose unity is based on language, history, territory, beliefs and the awareness of belonging to an ethnic group. Ethnicity, which some have claimed to be a natural phenomenon, is in fact a social construct, externally imposed or claimed, at once arbitrary and evolving. Proposed as an exclusive identity, it becomes all the more powerful as an instrument of political mobilization when the state is in difficulty. Ethnocentrism consists in understanding the world exclusively through the lens of one’s own culture and seeking to impose this interpretation.
European Neighborhood Policy
This policy was launched in 2004, when the European Union was enlarged to include the countries of central Europe. It was intended to provide a framework for relationships with the new non-member neighbors to the East and South that had not plans to join (Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Moldavia, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia and Ukraine). With an annual budget of some 2 billion euros, its aim is to extend European policies to these neighboring states and to promote their democratic and economic modernization, without bringing them into the institutional framework of the EU. Russia, which would like to be treated as a special partner by the EU, has refused to be part of the ENP.
Federated, Federate, Federal
At national level, federalism is a mode of government that grants a high level of autonomy to the political communities federated within it. The allocation of responsibilities between federal and regional levels of government, in principle strictly defined, often remains flexible in practice (e.g. the paradiplomacy conducted by the province of Quebec, the German Länder, the Swiss cantons and the states of Brazil). Internationally the federal model is defended within the European Union by advocates of greater political integration, opposed by defenders of the sovereignist model which is more intergovernmental, inter-state in its approach.
Financial market
Financial markets
Meeting place of investors (owners of capital) and economic actors (companies, households, states) seeking finance. The financial markets host the issuing (primary market) and trading (secondary market) of financial and other assets – debt securities, bonds, equities, commodities, currencies, derivative products, etc. – establishing their price in accordance with supply and demand (quotation). By extension the term refers to all the financial actors (commercial and investment banks, investment funds, etc.) operating in these markets.
Vegetarianism, Veganism
Flexitarianism is a dietary practice that involves reducing the amount of meat and fish consumed without giving them up entirely. The term describes a flexible application of vegetarianism, a diet that excludes foods derived from animal slaughter (meat, fish, shellfish, gelatin). An exclusively plant-based (or vegan) diet also excludes all products of animal origin not directly involving slaughter (eggs, dairy products, honey) while ethical veganism also opposes animal exploitation and cruelty in the production of food, clothing (leather, wool, fur), hygiene/personal care products (wax, dyes), leisure businesses (bullfighting, circuses, zoos) and animal testing.
Increasing flows of goods and assets, tangible and intangible, of capital and of people are characteristic of the globalization processes currently underway. This cross-border mobility constitutes a spatial phenomenon that geographers and cartographers, focused as they have been on territory, have been relatively slow to examine. These flows are organized in networks of varying degrees of density, not because territories and places are similar and interchangeable but because they are different and interdependent. They presuppose infrastructures (submarine cables, oil and gas pipelines, routes via land, sea, river and air) and logistics businesses (intermodal ports, freight airports, e-commerce warehouses, data hubs, etc.).
Food Security
Food Insecurity
The notion of food security emerged at the World Food Conference of 1974 and has developed since then to include various aspects – access, availability, quality, stability – which were summed up as follows at the World Food Summit of 1996: “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” It is one of the seven dimensions of human security set out in the United Nations Human Development Report (HDR) of 1994.
Foreign direct investment
Any investment motivated by a company’s aim of acquiring a lasting interest (shareholding exceeding 10% of voting rights) and significant influence in the management of a company based in another country. The transaction, implying a long-term relationship (unlike speculative investments), can involve the creation of a new company or, more usually, the takeover of all or part of an existing company via acquisition or merger. FDI, which mostly concerns flows between countries of the Global North, underpins multinational corporations’ globalization strategies.
Fossil fuels
{alias} Fossil energies
Free trade
Economic doctrine and practice that advocates a reduction in and removal of barriers to trade (both tariffs and other barriers) between states in general, and – in the case of a free trade area – between states within a regional grouping. After the Second World War, free trade was seen as a way of promoting peace and development, based on the belief that protectionism can lead to war.
Free-Trade Zone
Foreign-Trade Zone, FTZ
An area within a country in which businesses benefit from tax advantages or freedom from regulation, such as investment aids and tax exemptions. There are hundreds of such zones across the world, in both developed and developing countries. Operating in accordance with the international division of labor, they are set up to attract investors who will support economic activity in and around the zone and increase employment opportunities (usually low or unskilled). China launched its development by creating free-trade zones (special economic zones) along its shoreline in the 1980s.
Appeared among evangelist protestants in the United States in the early 20th century and exists in most religions. This mode of religious practice is to a large extent a reaction against a modern age that marginalizes the religious. Amalgamating elements of religious tradition and technical modernity, it is characterized by its attachment to a literal interpretation of a religion’s texts or fundamental principles. Messianism is a religious movement that promises a glorious future for the poor and unfortunate and opposes the institutions currently in place. Fundamentalism thrives in a context of inequalities and frustrations, which opens up a channel between the religious and political spheres.
G20 (The financial G20)
G20, Financial G20, Group of 20
Club comprising the G8 members, 11 other developed states (South Korea, Australia) and emerging states (South Africa, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Brazil, China, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Turkey) and the European Union. These countries’ finance ministers and central bank governors have been meeting since 1999, following a number of economic crises. Since 2008 it has become a summit meeting (heads of state and government), addressing financial, trade and development issues.
G20 Developing Country Coalition
G20 Group of Developing Countries
A coalition created at the Ministerial WTO conference held in Cancún in 2003. The G20 label here refers to the 20 states who signed the alternative agriculture framework proposal – alternative to the one put forward by the United States and the European Union – of September 2, 2003 (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, India, Mexico, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Venezuela). This group, with Brazil and India as its leaders, brings together very disparate countries in terms of both their economic and political trajectories and their diplomatic strategies and interests (including those relating to agriculture).
G7, G8
Following the informal meetings of the Library Group (comprising representatives of the United States, Japan, France, the Federal Republic of Germany and the United Kingdom), French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing brought together the heads of government of six states in 1975 (Italy being added to this list). Becoming G7 (Canada) in 1976, then G8 (Russia) in 1997, the group has now become seven again following Russia’s suspension (due to its annexation of Crimea). Initially focused on economics and finance, the G7-G8 agenda has since expanded to address security, political and social issues. This club of the major powers appears to lack legitimacy and representativeness; its summits regularly give rise to demonstrations.
The G77 is a coalition of more than 130 nations, presenting itself as a group of “developing countries.” Their solidarity emerged during negotiations at the first United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in 1964. Initially mobilized around development issues, today the G77 is also active in other negotiations – such as those relating to climate change, for example.
Genetically Modified Organisms
Genetically modified organisms are the result of investment, research and development in genetic engineering. They are obtained when one or more genes are deliberately inserted into an organism’s genome (transgenesis). Modification of the genetic heritage of some plants (chiefly soy, corn, cotton and rape) makes them more resistant to insects and more tolerant of herbicides. The Monsanto company is the primary producer of GMOs. Their use, which is requires authorization and is banned in some countries, is growing rapidly worldwide and becoming increasingly controversial.
Historic, social, cultural and psychological construction of a binary categorization between sexes (men/women) and between the values and representations associated with them (masculine/feminine). Arising from the feminist works of the 1970s, the concept of gender spread through the United States during the 1980s and then in Europe from the 1990s before being taken up in the literature on sexual minorities. The gender concept views relations between the sexes as a power relationship (historically constructed around the material and symbolic subordination of women compared to men) that cannot be isolated from other power relationships such as social class, race, age or disability.
Crime codified by the international Genocide Convention of December 9, 1948. Its definition specifies acts committed “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such: a) Killing members of the group; b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”
Geographic Information System
A geographic information system combines a database, software, hardware and human skills in order to gather, analyze, manage and represent georeferenced information and data (in other words, having latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates). GIS are used both by public actors to manage a territory or network and by private actors to optimize their activities (marketing).
Political geography, Geohistory, Geographical, Geographic
Geography: social science devoted to studying the production and organization of space. This space, which is differentiated and organized, serves social reproduction. Political geography: study of the spatial dimension of political organization, generally within states. Geohistory: geographic study of historical processes (diachronic).
Geopolitical, Geostrategy
Study of power struggles for territory, generally involving states in competition for space, with the direct or indirect use of organized violence as its mode of operation. Translation of the German term Geopolitik (1897), with definitions and uses that have varied over time. Friedrich Ratzel and Rudolf Kjellén examined the relationships between state politics and geographic data; Karl Haushofer wrote about the relationships between land, blood and race and defined the Lebensraum (living space) that formed the basis of Nazi propaganda (in consequence of which the term subsequently fell into disuse); and Halford John Mackinder spoke of the “geographic” foundations of military power, contrasting the continental heartland with the maritime periphery. More recently, Yves Lacoste emphasized the importance of representations, the idea of the nation being for him the most powerful form of geopolitical representation. Geostrategy is geopolitics directed toward action (military or economic).
Gini index
{alias} Gini ratio
Global public goods
Public good, Global public good
These are material and symbolic goods which are under the guardianship of each one of us for the survival of all. Their functions are threatened by shared sovereignty (ozone layer, biological diversity, the cultural heritage of humanity, cultural diversity, scientific knowledge, health, food, financial security, and so on). This concept was set out in the report of the 1999 United Nations Development Program and has since been widely adopted by many international organizations. The term “club goods” is used when administering and consuming these goods is limited to a small number of participants.
The term globalization refers to a set of multidimensional processes (economic, cultural, political, financial, social, etc.) that are reconfiguring the global arena. These processes do not exclusively involve a generalized scale shift toward the global because they do not necessarily converge, do not impact all individuals, and do not impact everyone in the same way. Contemporary globalization means more than just an increase in trade and exchanges, an internationalization of economies and an upsurge in connectivity: it is radically transforming the spatial organization of economic, political, social and cultural relationships.
Global governance
Inspired by management and entrepreneurship, the expression global governance refers to the formal and informal institutions, mechanisms and processes through which international relations between states, citizens, markets and international and non-governmental organizations are established and structured. The global governance system aims to articulate collective interests, to establish rights and duties, to arbitrate disputes and to determine the appropriate regulatory mechanisms for the issues and actors in question. Governance takes various forms: global multilateral governance, club-based governance (restricted to members, e.g. G7/8/20), polycentric governance (juxtaposition of regulatory and management mechanisms operating at various levels), and so on.
Green Revolution
The rapid transformation of agricultural production launched in the countries of the South (notably Asia) in the 1960s by governments, development organizations and agribusiness to combat malnutrition, poverty and the spread of communist revolution. It involved the use of fertilizers, pesticides, the sowing of selected seeds, mechanization and highly increased yields, and led to a global quantitative reduction in malnutrition. It also had major consequences for social organization (debt-induced eradication of family farming) and the environment (pollution and deterioration of soils and water, reduction of biodiversity). The subsequent step has been the widespread use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
Greenwashing, also called “green sheen, describes an action designed to mislead consumers with regard to a company’s environmental practices or the environmental benefits of a product or service. It can make use of evasive language, suggestive images and/or irrelevant claims. More broadly the aim is to distract attention by foregrounding minor actions on behalf of the environment while covering up more serious environmental damage and the deeper causes of environmental degradation.
Gross Domestic Product
An economic indicator measuring a country’s wealth as generated by investment and expenditure on consumption by households, businesses and the state (not to be confused with gross national income, which measures total wealth created exclusively by national economic actors). Much used by economists (notably per capita GDP), it is biased in a number of ways: it considers only commercial activities, does not include negative externalities (such as environmental destruction), avoids the issue of social and geographical inequalities and (wrongly) postulates the existence of a correlation between wealth and degree of development. Other statistical tools have been developed to counteract these shortcomings (Human Development Index, Gini Index, etc.).
A long-term, sustained increase in a country’s production of economic wealth, in other words, its GDP. Economic growth is not synonymous with development. Measuring it with purely economic and monetary tools is becoming increasingly unsatisfactory because of the deterritorialization and internationalization of economic activities, as well as the failure to take account of any wealth creation that cannot be monetized (elimination of illiteracy, gains in scientific or cultural knowledge, etc.). This implies special emphasis on high productivity despite the potential destruction (especially ecological) caused by growth that is seen exclusively from the angle of economics and financial profitability.
Hard power
See Power
Gendered construction of society based on dividing people into two and only two categories (bicategorization) by sex (man or woman), derived from biological sexual duality (male and female) and accompanied by a normative emphasis on heterosexual reproduction. Heteronormativity presupposes an alignment of biological sex, sexuality, gender identity and gender roles and can encourage heterosexism (discrimination against LGBT people).
Human Development Index
Concept inspired by Amartya Sen, the Indian economist and winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics. In 1990, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) introduced an annual report on human development using this new development analysis tool. HDI is a composite indicator comprising three components: GDP per capita (at PPP – purchasing power parity), life expectancy at birth and education level. The value calculated indicates the development and social well-being of a country’s population, expressed in a number between 0 and 1, from low levels of development at the lower end of the scale to very high development at the other extreme. The Gender Development Index (GDI), introduced in 1995, reflects disparities between men and women in the HDI calculation.
Human Poverty Index
This Index exists in two versions. The first, HPI-1, focuses on developing countries and reflects five criteria: the probability of not surviving to age 40, illiteracy, percentage of population without access to healthcare services, percentage of population without access to drinking water, percentage of underweight children under five. The second, HPI-2, looks at developed countries and comprises four criteria: probability of not surviving to age 60, percentage lacking functional literacy skills, percentage below the poverty threshold, percentage of long-term unemployed. The Gini index, developed by Italian statistician Corrado Gini, measures inequality of distribution (of income, for example) in a given society, expressed in values ranging from 0 (complete equality) to 100 (extreme inequality).
Human Security
Developed over the course of the 1990s, the concept of human security is based on an expanded vision of security, going beyond state security and military threats. The United Nations Human Development Report (HDR) of 1994 sets out seven categories (food security, health security, environmental security, political security, economic security, personal security and community security) and defines security as follows: “It means, first, safety from such chronic threats as hunger, disease and repression. And second, it means protection from sudden and hurtful disruptions in the patterns of daily life – whether in homes, in jobs or in communities.” Criticized as lacking operationality, it remains a key notion in contemporary international relations.
Human development
This concept appeared during the 1990s, putting individuals once more at the heart of development processes and analyzing a society’s capacity to create an environment in which individuals can develop their full potential and lead a creative and productive life in line with their needs and interests. In order to measure this, and to compare situations and evolutions, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) devised the Human Development Index (HDI).
Human rights
Rights of Man, Human right
These are the fundamentally inalienable and universal rights and duties of human beings, which are indefeasible and universal. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, these were limited to “natural rights” (basic freedoms considered to be allied to human nature) but human rights have now been expanded to include civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights on the basis of human freedom and dignity. Human rights have been enshrined in the constitutions of most democratic regimes. They are also subject to many protective provisions at both regional and international levels.
Humanitarian action
Humanitarian aid, Humanitarian crisis
Humanitarian action is a response to the need to alleviate human suffering and to protect and save lives in emergency situations (armed conflict or natural disasters, for example). By convention, it complies with the principles of impartiality and non-discrimination toward its beneficiaries. International humanitarian law, notably the Geneva Conventions (1949) and their additional protocols, govern humanitarian workers’ access to theatres of war and their protection there. Historically linked to the International Red Cross movement (ICRC, National Societies and Federation of National Societies), humanitarian action is now being carried out by a growing number of local, national, and international NGOs, states and international organizations (European Union, UN, Organization of Islamic Cooperation, for example).
The act of mixing two varieties of a single species, which can, by extension, be applied to the formation of any political, religious, institutional, economic, cultural (etc.) system synthesizing different influences.
Hybridity, Hybridized, Mixing, Mixed, Population mix
The phenomenon of hybridity or mixture, biological and/or cultural, may be happening at a faster rate in the contemporary world but is evident throughout the history of humanity. Only an obsession with the model of the territorial nation-state, closed to all circulation and homogeneous in terms of identity and culture (even of ethnicity or race in some cases) obscures a characteristic present in virtually all societies of the world. Some periods of increased population mobility have been drivers of hybridization (“discovery” of the New World, colonization in the 19th century and increased population movements since the late 20th century). Some political regimes have attempted to deny and resist it or are doing so now (obstacles to “mixed” marriages, marginalization, ghettoization, population displacements, ethnic cleansing, exterminations, genocide).
Hydro-hegemony describes the dominant position of an actor, generally a state, over shared water resources. Hegemons maintain asymmetrical relations between riparian states through their relative advantages in three areas: physical access to resources (upstream and downstream), power (hard and soft power), and material capacity for capturing and conserving the resources. A combination of these three attributes confers hydro-hegemony. While Thailand is an example of an upstream hydro-hegemon (sharing the river basin with Vietnam), India (sharing with Nepal) and South Africa (sharing with Lesotho) illustrate downstream hydro-hegemony.
Identity, Identities, National identity
The concept of identity is ambiguous, multifaceted, subjective, and frequently exploited and manipulated. No identity is foreordained or natural – so it is better to talk of identity construction, or of the processes of constructing self-representations developed by an individual or group. These constructions are neither stable nor permanent, defining the individual or group from multiple perspectives: on its own terms, in relation or opposition to others, and by others. The way individuals and groups use identity varies according to their interests and the constraints inherent in their specific situation: identity, therefore, is a construct based on interaction. This combination of affiliations, allegiances and internal and external recognition is a complex process, involving various degrees of awareness and contradiction, constantly being amalgamated and reconfigured.
Immaterial goods
Intangible goods
Used in the fields of economics, commercial law, and sociology, the notion of immaterial or intangible goods (services, knowledge, skills, education) contrasts with material or tangible goods (raw materials, manufactured and agricultural products). Since the 1980s, we have witnessed the commercialization of immaterial goods, which continues to grow with the development of information technologies. In 2003, UNESCO extended the idea of cultural heritage (monuments and objects) to include immaterial heritage (knowledge and know-how) to protect it from disappearing or becoming commercialized, because it plays a part in social cohesion, individual responsibility and cultural diversity.
Imperial, Imperialist
Initially denoting a political strategy or doctrine of colonial expansion, imperialism establishes a relationship of political, economic or cultural domination of one state over one or more others. More recently the term has also been used to describe economic, cultural or legal domination by one international actor (not necessarily a state) over another (North-South relations, cultural hegemony, etc.). Concept used in particular by Marxist analysts, for whom imperialism is linked with the capitalist mode of production.
Import Substitution
A notion and practice developed by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (UN/CEPAL) with the aim of industrializing a country by promoting the development of production enabling it to replace imports with home-produced goods. This policy usually goes hand in hand with protectionist measures in order to protect national producers against external competition.
Indigenous people, Indigenous community, Native peoples, Autochthonous
Although there is no universally accepted definition to describe indigenous or first peoples, the UN has declared that “indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live.” The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted in 2007. According to the UN, indigenous peoples represent 370 million individuals, forming over 5,000 different groups, present in around 90 countries on five continents and speaking more than 4,000 languages, most of which are becoming extinct.
Individuals, Individualism, Individuation
The individual, as a basic social actor, is playing an increasingly important role in the processes of globalization for multiple reasons, including the ever-faster circulation of ideas, values and information; the ability to build networks for sharing and solidarity without physical proximity; the networking of international expertise; and human rights movements and demands for democracy.
The process of industrialization developed from the Industrial Revolution onward – in Western Europe then in the United States, and in their colonies. It is constantly changing (structure, production and location). Companies are restructuring their operations on a global scale (new international division of labor). FDI and delocalization are at the crux of this deindustrialization/industrialization pairing a withdrawal from traditional industrial areas on the one hand (plant closures, job losses, dissolution of subcontracting networks) and the creation of facilities in emerging countries and the global South on the other. Value added is growing in manufacturing industries thanks to productivity gains (innovation and R&D) and the outsourcing of corporate services (maintenance, transport, logistics, research, IT, advertising).
Inequalities, Unequal
Unequal distribution of goods, material and/or non-material, regarded as necessary or desirable. Beyond income inequality (national, international and global), cumulative inequalities can also be measured with respect to accessing public services (healthcare, education, employment, housing, justice, effective security, etc.) and accessing property and natural resources more generally, and also relative to political expression or the capacity to respond to ecological risks. When these inequalities are based on criteria prohibited by law, they constitute discrimination.
Informal economy
Informal sector
The concept of the informal sector (International Labor Office, 1970s) initially designated specific types of employment then widened to describe a phenomenon affecting all economies. Between 50 and 75% of the labor force in developing countries works in the informal economy (excluding agriculture) in businesses that are unregistered and unincorporated, producing goods or services for sale or barter (International Labor Organization). Insecure, poorly paid and lacking social protection, informal workers belong to the most vulnerable groups (poor women, children, rural or international migrants). The people employing them evade legislation, taxes and inspections to some degree. Home-based labor, unreported subcontracting and second jobs connect the formal and informal sectors. The illegal nature of the informal economy prevents any measurement of its contribution to national GDP.
Institutional dismantling
Institutionalization refers to the process by which society’s workings are organized on a long-term basis. It includes the creation and implementation of systems of rules, standards, routines, roles and beliefs shared by a social group. This process concretizes generally held values in the form of enduring institutions, generally formal and codified (law, courts, parliament, currency, church, marriage, etc.). The term is also used of the creation of organizations charged with implementing a political decision. Conversely the permanence of institutionalized practices can be challenged by a process of institutional dismantling in which the codified system is transformed, replaced or abandoned.
Institutionalism, Institutionalized, Institutional
The term institution refers to social structures (rules, standards, practices, actions, roles) that are long-lasting, organized in a stable and depersonalized way, and play a part in regulating social relationships. An institution can be formalized within organizations (international or otherwise). In political science, institutionalism tackles the objects of political analysis by studying their structural basis and their organizational model rather than thinking about how they relate to society.
Concept with multiple uses. The opposite of “segregation,” with reference to the incorporation of foreigners within host societies, “integration” means more than just inclusion by juxtaposition (multiculturalism) but is different from assimilation. Spatial integration refers to the progressive incorporation of peripheral, marginalized spaces within a central spatial system. The problem of social disintegration occurs when groups experience multiple types of exclusion at once: economic, social, political and spatial. The globalization processes that are connecting societies but maintaining or deepening social, economic, health and cultural disparities between and within these societies, are creating and reproducing a global social integration deficit that is increasingly apparent to those excluded.
Intellectual Property
This term covers the rights of use of an “intellectual creation” such as copyright in literary and artistic works and industrial property rights, such as trademarks and geographic origins, the protection of inventions (patents) and industrial models and designs. At a time when ideas and knowledge constitute a growing proportion of the added value of goods sold throughout the world, these rights are intended to protect investment in research and development and ensure long-term funding. The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), signed in 1994 as part of the foundation of the WTO, harmonizes these protections in internationally recognized laws that oblige member states to combat counterfeiting and pirating.
Intensive agriculture
Industrial agriculture
Agriculture characterized by the massive use of synthetic inputs (plant protection products such as chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, etc.), extensive mechanization (for plowing, processing, harvesting, treating animals), varietal selection and now also genetic engineering (GMOs). It increases agricultural yields over the short and medium terms, at the cost of harming biodiversity, the environment and health (soil contamination, groundwater and underground water courses, erosion, and desertification). Alternatives include sustainable agriculture, organic farming, agroecology and permaculture.
Interdependencies, Interdependence
Mode of relationship based on dense, continuous interaction between social and political entities, leading to reduced autonomy for each of them individually as they are partially reconfigured in relation to each other. Used of states primarily in the context of globalization, implying a reduction or modulation of sovereignty as well as a relativization of power: after all, interdependence goes both ways, implying a reliance of the strong on the weak just as much as of the weak on the strong.
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is the UN body of scientific expertise with respect to climate change. Established in 1988 by the United Nations Environment Program and the World Meteorological Organization, it is tasked with providing “internationally coordinated scientific assessments of the magnitude, timing and potential environmental and socio-economic impact of climate change and [formulating] realistic response strategies.” Divided into three Working Groups, the panel publishes an Assessment Report every five to six years (the last one dates from 2013-2014) accompanied by a Summary for Policymakers approved by governments.
International Criminal Court (ICC)
International Criminal Court
The Rome Statute, adopted on July 17, 1998, was the treaty establishing the ICC. The Court has the power to judge war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and, since 2010, aggression committed after the Statute entered into force on July 1, 2002. Crimes can be referred by the Security Council, the public prosecutor, or a state party, and the court function according to the principle of complementarity (i.e. it does not replace national legal systems and only intervenes in cases where the latter are unable or unwilling to act). The ICC has been bypassed (particularly by the United States), criticized (for its inefficiency, or because of the high number of African cases), and has received notifications of withdrawal. By spring 2018, only Burundi had left (withdrawal of the Philippines comes into effect in March 2019).
International Organization
IO, International Organizations
In the words of Clive Archer, an IO is “a formal, continuous structure established by agreement between members (governmental and/or non-governmental) from two or more sovereign states with the aim of pursuing the common interest of the membership.” Marie-Claude Smouts identifies three characteristics of IOs: they arise out of a “founding act” (treaty, charter, statute), have a material existence (headquarters, finance, staff), and form a “coordination mechanism.
International Regime
International Regimes
This notion used in international relations has been employed by different theoretical currents (realist, liberal, constructivist) since the late 1970s to designate “systems of functional cooperation” that operate internationally. According to Stephen Krasner, international regimes are “sets of implicit or explicit principles, norms, rules, and decision-making procedures around which actors’ expectations converge in a given area of international relations” (International Regimes, 1983, p. 2). Whether or not they are institutionalized (intergovernmental organizations), they usually involve state and non-state actors (NGOs, companies, experts, etc.) in specific areas of international cooperation (trade, health, environment, human rights, etc.).
International System
Key concept of the realist approach to international relations, the international system is a term referring to all the actors that are interconnected in such a way that “the behavior of each is a necessary factor in the calculations of the others” (Hedley Bull). Built by the actors’ perceptions, it consists of subsystems that can be geographic or functional (strategic, commercial, energy-related, etc.) that interact with each other.
International division of labor
The technical, social, and spatial division of labor within production processes across the world. It stems from the revolution in sea and air transport and the development of information technologies. In company production costs, transport by large vessels and container ships has diminished, while labor costs remain high and the cost of research and development (R & D) is rising. Unskilled work is therefore done in countries with the lowest labor costs, with semi-finished products being moved for assembly to regions with more skilled labor, and R&D and market research to regions with the highest skills. Some countries show great ability to move up the chain (South Korea, Taiwan and, to a certain extent, China).
International financial institutions
International financial institution, IFI
Arising from the international Bretton Woods Conference of July 1944, which proposed the creation of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, these institutions were shaped by a liberal agenda, working to ensure monetary stability via a system of exchange rates and to support the post-war reconstruction process. The United States and the industrialized nations are a dominant force within the IMF – which took on an increasingly important role following the debt crisis of 1982 onward, promoting structural adjustment policies in Africa and Latin America and then (post-1989) in the former communist countries. Economic and/or financial crises (in the 1990s and 2000s) forced countries to evolve (into stable states, free of corruption, able to pursue policies to combat poverty, and including civil society organizations).
International humanitarian law
This seeks to mitigate the suffering of victims of armed conflict and to protect civilian populations, imposing obligations on states toward one another and toward their populations. It is also called the “law of war” or the “law of armed conflict” and has evolved along with the changes in these. Codified by the International Committee of the Red Cross (created in 1863) and the first convention in 1864, it is based on the principles of neutrality, the prohibition of certain inhumane weapons, and immunity for non-combatants. The 1949 Geneva Conventions (protecting the sick and wounded in the armed forces, prisoners of war and civilians in times of war) were completed by Additional Protocols in 1977 and 2005. The International Criminal Court (ICC) judges war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.
International intervention
Intervention, Intervene
For James Rosenau, intervention is a break with the conventional mode of relations which aims to affect the political authority of the target actor. For Hedley Bull, it refers to the coercive interference, by an external actor, in the affairs of a political entity. Pascal Vennesson draws on both sources when he sees international intervention as a coercive action undertaken by one international actor which affects the political authority of another. International interventions can be direct or indirect, overt or clandestine, and can involve armed force or other types of force (economic sanctions). Interference is a specific case of intervention without the consent of the authorities on whose territory the interference occurs.
International law
The set of legal rules governing relations between states or private persons in an international context. International law is traditionally made up of two branches: public international law, pertaining to rules between states and/or international organizations, whether these rules are explicit in international agreements or treaties or remain unwritten (customary law); and private international law, which refers to the rules applicable between private persons of different nationality, serving in particular to settle disputes where there are conflicts of jurisdiction. However, this distinction is tending to disappear with the increase in cross-border rights, in environmental matters for example.
Internet of Things
Global interconnection of local IT networks facilitating the exchange of texts, images, sound and video by means of a standard protocol (TCP/IP). Invented by researchers and the military in the US in the 1960s, the network has been steadily growing, spreading and innovating ever since. At the start of the 1990s, browsers made the internet accessible to the general public. High-speed connections have permitted increasingly large data transfers, driving a proliferation of online activities and the transition from an information storage approach to a logic of continuous flows. The community-based and interactive Web 2.0 stimulates interactions between users, changes social behaviors and alters forms of engagement by giving them instant visibility. Internet censorship is regularly practiced by non-democratic states. The Internet of Things (IoT) refers to the connection between this network and connected objects of various kinds.
Intersectionality illustrates the interplay of multiple structures of domination and the cumulative impacts of inequalities relating to gender, class, race, age, disability and sexual orientation. Research undertaken on intersectionality during the 1990s, analyzing the discrimination experienced by black women in the United States, demonstrated the cumulative effects of a combination of social relations – showing that economic relations were not ultimately the sole determining factor. By extension, an intersectional approach reflects the connections between these inequalities – their entanglement – in developing strategies of resistance and mobilization.
Islamist, Islamists
Islamism refers to various currents of thought based on a political interpretation of Islam, providing both a blueprint for its institutions and a guide for action. Contemporary Islamist movements generally view themselves in oppositional terms, drawing energy from their critique of institutions that are corrupt or incapable of fulfilling their promises, especially in the human development sphere (as with the parties inspired by the Muslim Brotherhood movement, for example). Yet Islamism should not be seen only through this narrow prism: diverse interpretations of the founding texts of Islam (the Quran and the Sunnah) have seen them mobilized for causes that are conservative in nature (Saudi Arabia) as well as revolutionary (Iran).
Kyoto Protocol
The Kyoto Protocol is an international treaty on climate change negotiated by states signing up to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in 1997. It came into force in 2005. It is the first such agreement to be legally binding and requires signatories to fulfill targets to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. It mainly affects industrialized countries, which can use the flexibility mechanisms set out in the protocol (tradable permits, joint implementation, clean development mechanisms). The refusal of the United States Senate to ratify the treaty and Canada’s withdrawal in 2011 have seriously undermined its credibility.
Liberal Theories
Liberal, Liberalization
Arising from Enlightenment philosophy, Liberalism refers to a corpus of political philosophy that places the preservation of individual rights at the center of its conception of society and the political order. Devolving from this, on the one hand, are mechanisms to safeguard the individual against the arbitrary use of state power, which mostly translate into a preference for a democratic political order; and, on the other, an emphasis on respecting private property, which leads in turn to a preference for minimal state involvement in the economy – restricting the state’s role to matters of sovereignty. Behind this consensus are many debates around the level of state involvement in the economy, or around protection of individuals vs. that of a political order and given social norms, which translate into different variants of liberalism (such as German-style ordoliberalism, libertarianism, or liberal conservatism).
Liberalism (in international relations)
Group of theoretical currents in international relations that regard the individual as the fundamental actor of international politics, with states operating solely as intermediaries between them. Fashionable during the inter-war period, it focuses on strategies for achieving cooperation between conflicting interests, on ways of resolving conflicts peacefully, in particular by legal means, and on the role of free trade.
Lobbies, Lobbying
Pressure or interest group whose aim is to influence political authorities so that they make decisions in the interest of that group’s members. Lobbies are recognized and accepted in varying degrees within the political cultures of different countries – and their methods and actions can involve varying degrees of transparency and legitimacy. Given the increasing technical complexity of trade negotiations and the intricacy of decision-making levels and processes, today lobbyists are amassing funding proportional to the interests they are defending and using high-level experts to prepare their dossiers. They play an important role in legislative development processes in the United States, in the institutions of the European Union and in the WTO.
See Scale
Organized crime, Organized criminal, Criminal organizations, Mafias
Term originally referring to Italian criminal groups, it is now applied generically to all illegal economic networks based on organized crime (drugs, rackets, prostitution, counterfeiting, etc.). These groups, the least well-known of all transnational actors, are highly organized, strictly hierarchical and growing fast in states that either tolerate them or cannot control them (Russia, China, Mexico, Colombia), where their role within the economy can be considerable.
Malnutrition results from an ongoing dietary imbalance in terms of the quantity and/or quality of food eaten (encompassing both obesity in wealthy countries and people whose diet is inadequate due to poverty). Famine is defined as a critical food supply failure affecting entire populations, a situation that will quickly lead to deaths in the absence of remedial measures. Between malnutrition and famine, undernourishment is caused by reduced access to nutrition due to economic circumstances (price spikes), periodic shortages (especially in the hunger gap between two harvests) or chronic shortages (long-term conflict situations).
Market economy
An economic system organized around the market in which economic activities are regulated by price level adjustments reflecting the balance between supply and demand. Conditions of production and sale are freely determined by economic actors, therefore, without state intervention. However, a pure market economy excluding any form of state regulation – via the definition of standards, for example, or establishing a legislative framework, or even some degree of price fixing – does not exist. Regulation by the public authorities takes various forms – from the social market economy operative in Scandinavian countries to planning in Asian countries such as South Korea and Singapore.
Marshall Plan
Launched in 1948, the Marshall Plan was a vast program of aid for the reconstruction of Europe. At the time nearly 13 billion dollars (equivalent to some 100 billion dollars today) were distributed to the European countries that were members of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC). Beyond the need to help European countries rebuild their economies, the Marshall Plan also sought to provide an outlet for American industrial output (after military spending dropped with the end of the war) and to prevent the rise of communist parties in Western Europe by combating poverty (Truman’s policy of containment).
Peaceful mode of resolving disputes involving the use of an intermediary, the mediator, to help the conflicting parties find an outcome negotiated through mutual concessions. Mediators are expected to operate impartially and with complete independence. Regulated internationally by the Hague Convention of 1907, mediation was used by the League of Nations (LoN) and has since been deployed, in particular, by the UN. Mediation is also practiced within democratic states in order to resolve minor disputes (i.e. family mediation, judicial mediation, etc.). Cultural mediation is used, for instance, in providing support to migrants.
Medical coverage
Universal coverage, Universal medical coverage, Universal health coverage, Universal health care coverage, Universal healthcare
Concepts relating to urban environments are neither stable nor standardized between different disciplines and countries, which offer varying statistical definitions. Metropolization describes the trend for populations, activities and value to be concentrated in large-scale urban areas (key issues: economies of scale, accessibility vs sprawl, congestion, pollution, socio-spatial fragmentation, etc.). The major global conurbations constitute the architecture of globalization processes (hubs of decision-making and of physical networks). We are witnessing a dual dynamic in which production activities are dispersed (driven by increasing physical and information mobility), while innovation is over-concentrated in urban areas. The rapid growth of the global urban population and the densification of interrelations between urban areas suggest abandoning hierarchical analysis altogether and instead speaking of a global urban network.
Melting pot
A metaphor and founding myth in the United States, a country built on immigration, the “melting pot” expresses the principle that immigrants, whatever their various origins, come together and are assimilated around common values. The process requires them to leave behind their former allegiances and be “born again.” In reality, this myth never really held true – especially for the black people who were the country’s first minority, brought by the slave trade in a violent, forced immigration. The term was denounced, therefore, by the civil rights movement, from the 1960s onward. Since then, the diversification of migratory flows and the Hispanicization of the United States have yielded other metaphors, such as salad bowl or mosaic, which emphasize the coexistence of separate communities rather than their fusion.
Loans of small sums granted to individuals or companies lacking adequate resources to access the traditional banking system. Although the term originally described informal practices, today microcredit is promoted by international institutions. In 2006, the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Muhammad Yunus and the microfinance organization he founded, Grameen Bank. Other semi-formal microcredit and collective savings schemes have existed across all continents – including “tontine” schemes in French-speaking cultures where group members benefit from the accumulated funds on a rotating basis.
Migrant, Migrations, Migrate, Migratory, Migrants
Movement of people leaving their country of origin permanently (emigration) to relocate to another country (immigration), which might be voluntary or forced (war, poverty, unemployment, human rights violations, climate factors, etc.), and which often involves temporary stays of varying duration in several transit countries. Migratory flows, which are an integral component of humanity’s history, give rise to a range of public policy measures linked to specific political, economic and cultural contexts and understandings of nationality. Host states seek to organize immigration, sometimes to attract it (need for labor, exploitation of specific territories, naturalizations, etc.), and most often to restrict it (border controls, quotas, residence permits, etc.). In most cases the states of origin seek to maintain relations with their nationals and diaspora communities living abroad.
Millennium Development Goals
MDG, MDGs, Sustainable Development Goals, SDG, SDGs
In 2000, UN member states adopted eight MDGs for the eradication of extreme poverty and in response to other major humanitarian issues (hunger, access to education and health, sexual equality, etc.) in the countries of the South by 2015. These goals were very unevenly met and widely criticized on different grounds, including the lack of human rights goals, the lack of civil society involvement in negotiating the goals, and the fact that they related solely to the countries of the South. The SDGs that replaced the MDGs in 2015 have in part answered these criticisms. They comprise 17 goals and 169 targets to be met by all countries by 2030, and relate to a range of sectors, including poverty, hunger, health, education, sexual equality, social justice, infrastructure, environment, climate, etc.
Any social group which finds itself in an inferior situation relative to a dominant group in a given society. This situation can be expressed quantitatively, but can also be defined with reference to qualitative data of a cultural nature (linguistic, religious, ethnic, national, even social minorities). Membership of a minority can be a matter of self-identification or an ascribed identity; it may bring with it various kinds of discrimination. The presence of minorities can give rise to social engineering policies (positive or negative discrimination), or demands for protection and recognition.
Mitigation policies seek to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in order to limit global warming. These goals were given priority in the international global climate program from 1992 to 2009, and were based on the principle of shared but different responsibilities: All countries had to take part in the combat against climate change, but according to their historical contributions and respective capacities. This distinction is increasingly being contested by industrial countries because of the rapid growth of emerging economies such as China.
Modernity, Postmodernity, Postmodern
Modernity, characterized by the increasing importance of the economy, of technical innovation, of Western-type democratic regimes, and of rational-legal bureaucracy, is defined from an evolutionist perspective according to the model prevalent in the most industrialized countries, and is a trend toward which all the so-called less advanced societies are seen as converging. This viewpoint, widely denounced for its naïve evolutionism, remains nonetheless implicitly present in much political discourse and within a good deal of research. “Postmodern” is used of artistic and philosophical currents of the second half of the 20th century that critique and deconstruct the concept of modernity.
Multiculturalism, in its standard socio-political meaning, refers to a principle of managing linguistic, cultural, religious or ethnic diversity within a single political entity. It allows the groups concerned to interact on the basis of a platform of shared principles, without having to abandon their characteristic identities and while continuing therefore to function as distinct communities. Canadian multiculturalism was originally intended to integrate the Quebec identity within the nation and bring an end to calls for independence. Multiculturalism is often contrasted with the French concept of universalism, which refuses to treat citizens in a differentiated way. Both models are controversial and their political representation remains a source of division.
To see multilateralism as international cooperation involving at least three states reduces it to a mere technique. In fact, it also has a qualitative, normative aspect which has been evident since the time of the League of Nations. According to Franck Petiteville, this makes multilateralism a form of international collective action which aims to produce “norms and rules seeking to establish a cooperative international order governing international interdependencies.” The adjective “multilateral” first appeared in the late 1940s which is when awareness of the concept began to emerge.
Multinational corporation
MNC, MNCs, Multinational corporations, Transnational enterprise (TNE), Transnational corporation (TNC), Global corporation, Global corporations, Multinational companies, Multinationals
Company that has undertaken foreign direct investment (FDI) giving it access to facilities that it owns fully or in part (subsidiaries). The first MNCs date from the late 19th century; corporations of this kind have become widespread in the early 21st century. The majority of FDI takes place between industrialized nations. Such companies are now transnational rather than multinational, the largest among them tending to evolve into global corporate networks.
Nations, National
Political community based on an awareness of shared characteristics and/or a will to live together. It is common practice to contrast political and cultural concepts of the nation – which in practice are mutually influential and tend to converge. In the political concept, the nation is invented and produced by a state: the territory precedes the nation and defines its contours (this is known as the French concept, based on the republican melting pot and jus soli, right of the soil). In the cultural understanding of nation, a shared common culture produces the nation. The national project consists in bringing this population together on a single territory (the cultural or romantic or German concept of the nation, based on jus sanguinis, right of blood). The latter concept intrinsically produces conflicts and can lead to ethnic cleansing or genocide (Nazi Germany, Greater Serbia, etc.).
National state, Nation-states
Neonationalism, Nationalists, Nationalist
Attitude or political doctrine in which a social group asserts the primacy of national interests and the right of forming a sovereign nation. Nationalism can take the form of a struggle for independence and for “the right of peoples to self-determination” which can be irredentist (annexation of territories sharing the same culture and/or language), separatist (constitution of a new state on the margin of an existing one) or anti-imperialist (struggle against a colonizing power). It can also become hegemonic when based on an ambition to extend the influence and interests of a nation and its state(s) beyond existing borders (reunification, quest for security and/or power, xenophobia, etc.). Nationalist movements are diverse in nature: they can be identified across the political spectrum, evolving in accordance with specific historical contexts. When tinged with populism, nationalism produces a “national populism” combining the primacy of the national interest with a call for people to contest existing elites.
In legal terms, nationality expresses an individual’s legal status of belonging to a state in accordance with the rules issued by that state. Nationality derives from parentage (jus sanguinis – right of blood), or from birthplace (jus soli – right of the soil), or is acquired by naturalization. The concept of nationality is linked with the development of the nation-state and the concept of citizenship, even though the status of a national and of a citizen do not necessarily overlap (non-democratic regimes, discrimination against some population categories based on ethnic, religious, linguistic or social criteria).
Natural Resources
Natural disaster
Natural disasters
A generic term used to describe a meteorological, climatic or geophysical event that has consequences for human societies (victims, economic losses and physical damage). The disaster depends on the cause of the event and the society’s degree of vulnerability. The term is used to describe both sudden phenomena (earthquakes, hurricanes, storms, etc.) and those that evolve slowly (drought, desertification, ocean acidification, etc.). The term of “natural” disaster is often criticized for concealing the structural causes of crises and the political responsibilities involved, both in triggering the disaster (poor management of resources, absence of preventive policies, etc.) and in the responses made to it.
Natural population change
Natural increase, Natural decrease, Net migration
{alias} Total fertility rate
Bargaining, Negotiating, Negotiations
Practice which aims to secure agreement between public or private actors, satisfying the participants’ material and symbolic interests by means of mutual concessions. International negotiations are one of the methods of peacefully resolving disputes and can be bilateral (between two actors) or multilateral (three or more actors). They often result in an official document (joint declaration, peace agreement, trade treaty, international convention). Collective negotiation (or collective bargaining) refers to negotiations within a company between the employer and workforce representatives (generally belonging to trade unions) regarding the application of labor law.
The neo-Malthusian approach asserts that planet earth is a finite system whose natural resources are limited and endangered by demographic and economic growth (which it sees as correlated). Inspired by Thomas Malthus, who examined the relationship between agricultural production and demographic growth in the 18th century, which he saw as presaging self-regulatory mechanisms (wars, famines, epidemics) to restore equilibrium. Since they reappeared during the 1960s, these theories have been widely criticized for their empirical foundations (unrealistic scenarios), theoretical basis (economic growth does not drive demographic growth – quite the contrary) and ethical and political implications (coercive birth control policies, etc.).
Neoliberalism, Neo-liberal
The term “neoliberal” is one deployed by critics and not a label attached to any self-proclaimed school of economics. It generally refers to economic policies inspired by the Chicago School (Milton Friedman, awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1976), partially applied by Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the USA during the 1980s, and subsequently recommended by economic and financial institutions such as the World Bank and the IMF. These policies translate into state-implemented privatization and market deregulation measures and differ from classical liberalism in the importance accorded to economic efficiency relative to political freedoms.
Networks, Networked
Classical geography tended to place too much importance on surface areas, territories, countries and soil, but network analysis has now become central to its approach. Networks are defined as spaces in which distance is discontinuous and consists of nodes linked by lines. Some are physical (networks for the transportation of people, goods and energy, IT cables and information super highways), others not. When they are partly virtual (such as the internet), they also involve individuals and organizations. Philosophers (Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari), sociologists (Manuel Castells), political scientists (James Rosenau), and economists use this concept to analyze the interconnected functioning of individuals.
New Deal
Vast economic and political program implemented by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt from 1933 to 1938, in order to address the economic and social consequences of the Great Depression that followed the 1929 financial crisis. Its primary aims were to support the poorest segments of the population (emergency welfare program, union protection law, agricultural subsidies, etc.), to regulate the financial markets (bank reform, creation of a regulatory authority for financial markets, etc.) and to revive the US economy. This program laid the foundation of the welfare state in the United States, an achievement that lasted until the liberal wave of the 1980s began to gradually dismantle its social and economic gains.
New International Economic Order
Concept proposed by Third World countries during the 1960s and 1970s, calling for a rebalancing of the highly asymmetrical economic and trading relations between developed countries and the developing world. The principles proposed included the right of every state to control its resources (e.g. via nationalizations), the principle of fair and stable prices for exporters of raw materials, guaranteed outlets and preferential treatment for developing countries, supervision of the activities of multinational corporations, and compensation for damages suffered under colonial rule. The NIEO also spawned a variant focusing on information issues, with the call for a New World Information and Communication Order (NWICO). These demands met with resistance from most developed countries and then collided with the neoliberal turn of the 1980s, before re-emerging within anti-globalization movements from the 1990s onward.
Nomadism, Nomadic
Nomadic pastoralism, a way of life in which “territory” is a journey from place to place, is declining in the face of state-imposed restrictions (border controls, social controls, allocation of territories and water points, route closures), political crises and conflicts, inappropriate development policies and climate and ecological crises. Sedentarization in precarious urban environments is leading to the disappearance of nomadic groups – or their rebellion (the Tuareg). Nomadism is also used to describe worldwide contemporary mobility (physical and virtual). Metropolization, residential mobility, international tourism, company relocations, migrations, and the development of information technologies are modifying our behaviors and the ways we relate to place.
Nongovernmental Organization
Use of this expression became more widespread following its inclusion in Article 71 of the United Nations Charter. NGOs do not have an international legal status and the acronym is used in different contexts to refer to very different kinds of actors. It generally designates associations formed by individuals over the long term in relation to not-for-profit goals, often linked to values and beliefs (ideological, humanist, ecological, religious, etc.) rather than financial interests. Active on a wide range of issues at both the local and global levels, NGOs now number tens of thousands, but vary greatly in the scale of their budgets, staff and development.
North and South
Global North, Global South, North-South
Relatively recent spatial metaphors which, like other labels around underdevelopment or low development levels, tend to focus on the homogeneity of each of these worlds, the oppositions between them, and the fracture lines – running the risk of overlooking the fact that flows and exchanges (economic, demographic, cultural and political) connect them and that social and political fractures are evident within both of these categories, too.
Official development assistance
ODA, Aid, Aids, Development aid
Gifts and loans granted by developed countries (bilateral aid) and international institutions (multilateral aid) to developing and less developed countries: food aid, technical assistance, military assistance, debt relief, and so on. Bilateral aid (2/3 of world aid) leads to dependency (obligation to buy goods and services from the donor’s companies). Introduced during the Cold War era and the time of decolonization, it was used by the United States and the USSR to create or maintain links with their respective blocs, as well as between former metropoles and their former empires. The target of spending 0.7% of developed countries’ GDP for ODA, which was set by the UN in 1970, has only rarely been reached. The European Union is the primary world provider of aid. Multilateral aid is conditional upon respecting economic and political “good governance” criteria.
Patrimonial state
State in which the government appropriates the administration and engages in arbitrariness and favoritism. Based on Max Weber’s definition of patrimonialism, the concept refers to a traditional type of rulership in which rulers expropriate goods and people to serve their own power (slavery, fiefdom, sultanate, etc.). The concept was forged by comparative politics analysts to describe the practices of many developing states where state consolidation remains incomplete. Characterized by a political life that lacks institutionalization, an absence of checks and balances and an underdeveloped civil society, factors which contribute to the personalization of authority, a confusion between public and private sphere and clientelist practices through which leaders attempt to secure their power base.
Payment for Ecosystem Services
A voluntary mechanism by which a purchaser pays for an ecosystem service in exchange for access to it. In the context of environmental services, the term refers to incentives aimed at private or public actors, who receive payment in exchange for implementing environmental protection measures. Developed by ecologists during the 1990s, the concepts of ecosystem services and natural capital were initially understood as metaphors in the promotion of conservation policies. They have since been transformed into innovative financial mechanisms that assign nature a monetary value with the aim of ensuring its conservation, but also risk leading to privatization and commercialization.
The definition of peace is much debated. A restrictive definition sees peace simply as an absence of conflict (negative peace). Peace Studies reinterpreted this definition to include the conditions necessary for peace – positive peace must be an integral aspect of human society. Combined with the concept of structural violence, positive peace was then defined more broadly to include social justice. Among the different theories of peace, the sometimes criticized notion of democratic or liberal peace asserts that the liberal democracies do not go to war with each other and only fight against non-liberal states (this approach qualifies Kant’s postulate in Perpetual Peace, 1795).
Peace mission
Peace operation, Peacekeeping operation
Peacekeeping operations undertaken by international organizations can take various forms. In historical terms they were first developed by the UN during the Cold War, when paralysis within the Security Council limited the implementation of other coercive measures. These missions authorized peacekeepers to intervene only with the agreement of the parties concerned and after hostilities had ceased, with the aim of maintaining the ceasefire. Other modes of operation were subsequently deployed, based on stronger mandates (peace enforcement), broader practical remits (multidimensional missions and peacebuilding) and partnerships with other organizations (hybrid mandates). These intervention tools have attracted considerable criticism with regard to both their principles and their implementation.
Peace studies
See Peace
Peaceful Settlement of Disputes
Peaceful Settlement of a Dispute, Peaceful dispute settlement
A set of legal and political mechanisms enabling an international conflict to be resolved without the use of force. The peaceful resolution (or settlement) of disputes can occur through direct bilateral or multilateral negotiation between the protagonists or through the intervention of a third party (state, international organization, international jurisdiction, private, religious or individual actor, etc.) in the form of mediation, good offices, arbitration or judicial investigation. Codified in the early 20th century, these mechanisms were developed under the aegis of the UN, whose Charter established the respective competences of the General Assembly and the Security Council, and the primacy of the second in considering a dispute.
The UN defines peacekeeping as “a technique designed to preserve the peace, however fragile, where fighting has been halted, and to assist in implementing agreements achieved by the peacemakers” (Capstone Doctrine, 2008). It is different from peacemaking, which relates to conflicts currently under way, and to peace enforcement, which involves coercive measures including the use of force. The concept of peacebuilding refers both to the complex process of creating the conditions for sustainable peace and to targeted measures designed to reduce the risk of a return to conflict and to lay the foundations for sustainable development. These are the principles that guide the conduct of peace missions – principles that have at times attracted criticism.
Peacekeeping Operation
Practices that integrate agroecology into the building and operation of sustainable, resilient human constructions, using existing interactions within natural ecosystems. Combining agroecology with renewable energies and green building, permaculture (a contraction of “permanent agriculture”) is appropriate to both rural and urban settings, whether at the individual or local level (eco-village) or on a larger scale (company, “transition” town). It is based on the three complementary ethical principles of protecting the Earth and human beings and sharing resources fairly.
Personal data
All information relating to a physical person who is identified or identifiable, directly or indirectly: civil status and photograph, postal address, telephone number, computer IP address, medical file, biometric data, movements, origin, opinions, and so on. Gathering methods (from questionnaires to the footprints left by internet or social network navigation) and their types of use (for advertising or publicity purposes or to gain influence; social control by the state, etc.) are obscure as far as individuals are concerned, but they form the basis of the economic model of web-based multinational corporations and telecommunications. These data represent a challenge for world governance, democracy, and individual freedom, but they are protected by various legal tools, either state or regional. However, these have proved inadequate and are tending to be reinforced (obligation to declare, retention period, consent, security guarantee, ability to control and sanction).
Political Regime
Political Regimes
In common usage, this term refers to a state’s political institutions, whereas the broader notion of political system includes the various political and social actors operating within them (political parties, trades unions, media, voluntary organizations, voters, etc.). The many criteria for differentiating between political regimes vary from one author and period to the next, tending to increase over time in number and sophistication (number of leaders, procedures for appointing the government, degree of separation between the legislative, executive and judiciary authorities, relations between government and governed, etc.).
Political ecology
Interdisciplinary branch of the social sciences at the intersection of human geography, sociology and political science. There is no standard definition, but it is characterized by a critical approach and addresses themes relating to the connection between environment and society. Research in political ecology seeks in particular to demonstrate the effects of dependency relations (property rights, center-periphery relations, interrelations of local, national and international scales, etc.), the social construction of vulnerabilities and power relationships in the management, appropriation and exploitation of the environment, criticizing the unequal distribution of environmental costs.
Political entrepreneur
Identity entrepreneur, Religious entrepreneur, Identity entrepreneurs, Political entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurs
An entrepreneur, as defined by Max Weber, manages an organized group that has an administrative management and pursues a specific goal. An identity or religious entrepreneur, then, is an actor who mobilizes symbols of identity or religion for the benefit of their political, social or economic capital.
Pollution Permits
Pollution permits are based on the principle that the polluter pays. They place the financial burden of environmental externalities (pollution, damage, exhaustion of resources, etc.) on those who cause them rather than on the society as a whole. Frequently used at the national level, environmental taxes exact payment for the use of resources or according to an actor’s ecological footprint, for example in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. The market in pollution rights often makes use of economic instruments enabling the sale and purchase of carbon credits, adopted under the Kyoto Protocol.
Population boom
This is a colorful expression for sudden demographic change. The so-called baby boom describes the sharp rise in the birth rate in Europe and North America after World War II, which lasted until the early 1970s. The “oldie boom” is the corresponding demographic and economic effect of those numerous baby boomers reaching retirement age, and the lower birth rate that followed the boom. Some people, exaggerating the trend and not without their own political agenda, now talk of a population explosion that is to come in those parts of the world where, despite a fall in the birth rate, the considerable size of the younger generation foreshadows strong population growth (sub-Saharan Africa).
Populism refers to different forms of political language that establish a dichotomy between the people, whom the populists claim to represent, and political and economic elites, which they accuse of appropriating the sovereignty of the people and exploiting institutions for their own benefit (the “system”). In the international arena, the different strands of populism are similar in their denunciation of globalization as solely benefitting a minority, but differ in that some (such as the Bolivarian movements) advocate a form of internationalism, while others adopt identity-based or neo-nativist language (notably European populism of the far right).
Initially referring to a lack of economic resources, the notion of poverty has broadened in recent decades to include its different components, such as appalling sanitary conditions, a low level of education, social and gender inequalities, human rights violations, environmental damage, and increased vulnerability to so-called “natural” disasters. The Human Development Index (HDI) developed by the United Nations Development Program in the mid-1990s (and its gendered variant, Gender Development Index or GDI) and the Global Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) devised by researchers at the University of Oxford in 2010, use Amartya Sen’s work on capabilities to identify the deprivation suffered by the poor in terms of health, education, and living standards.
Powers, Powerful
Ability of political actors to impose their will on others. Comparable to the notion of authority within a nation, power is never absolute but has its existence in a relationship, since power relations are a matter of each actor’s perception of the other. Power is key to the realist approach to international relations, where it is understood in geostrategic terms (hard power is based on force and coercion, especially of a military nature). The transnationalist approach offers a more diversified vision including factors of influence (Joseph Nye’s soft power exerted in economic, cultural and other terms) and emphasizing the importance of controlling different orders of power, from hard to soft (Susan Strange’s “structural power”).
Precautionary Principle
Principle of precaution
The precautionary principle is invoked when science cannot establish a degree of risk with certainty. It proposes that lack of scientific certainty should not serve as a pretext to avoid taking the measures necessary to prevent the risk or to counter its potentially damaging effects. According to the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992), the precautionary principle should only be invoked when there is a threat of “serious or irreversible damage.” However, international environmental law features several definitions of the principle, leading to variations in its interpretation, scope and implementation.
Preventive diplomacy
A theory put forward during the 1950s by the then United Nations General Secretary Dag Hammarskjöld. It seeks to prevent disputes from arising or escalating into open conflict. It had a revival of interest during the 1990s under the impetus of the United Nations General Secretary Boutros Boutros-Ghali, in view of development of international conflicts. Many multilateral organizations attempt to implement conflict prevention mechanisms which require the protagonists to accept mediators and a climate of confidence to be established – even by pressure or dissuasion. Knowledge of the local issues and the creation of early warning systems for preventing any escalation are also essential. However, these tools are proving to be of little use in today’s conflicts.
Private Security
Privatizing Security, Privatize Security
Refers to the contemporary erosion of the monopoly of legitimate physical violence, traditionally devolved to the state (Max Weber), in a broader context of the privatization of the state’s sovereign functions. The inability of some states to ensure their own security leads to the replacement of an inadequate police force by private militias and self-defense groups. When conflicts erupt within the state, competition for power and/or the control of resources leads to the formation of paramilitary groups, the involvement of mercenaries and the rise of local military leaders known as warlords, who take advantage of the sociopolitical instability of the state to increase their own political and territorial domination. Private security operators sell their services to states and companies (interventions, surveillance, information, etc.).
A method of economic organization that seeks to promote production over every other possible goal of the economy. Productivity is improved through innovation and the modification of production techniques (e.g. Fordism and Taylorism in the automobile industry). In agriculture, it involves the massive use of fertilizers and pesticides. When productivity becomes an end in itself, disconnected from any consideration of the risks of exhausting natural resources (raw materials and fossil fuels), we can speak of productivism. Global debates on this issue are particularly complex because emerging countries want to have their own opportunity to benefit, either through their own efforts or through offshoring by European, American and Japanese companies.
Protectionists, Protectionist
Protectionism is the opposite of free trade. The term describes a political doctrine and state practice that implements measures to protect national industries and services from foreign competition (chiefly tariffs and non-tariff barriers). After World War II, protectionism was seen as an aggravating factor in political hostilities and commercial rivalries that could lead to war, and free trade was adopted as a common goal in response to business needs and growth objectives. As free trade is now increasingly challenged, primarily by countries of the South but also in some developed countries, protectionism has reappeared as a doctrine, a political program or brandished as a threat (e.g. in relations between the USA and China since the election of Donald Trump).
Public Opinion
This term refers to all socially constructed representations expressed by the media, in surveys and by members of the elites, conveying what the population is said to think about current issues. Public opinion may also be expressed on international matters. Many actors, including NGOs, charities, companies and international organizations, refer to “international public opinion,” and in so doing give it a degree of social existence. However, transposition to the international level of a concept already contested at the national level is problematic. The rise of transnational activism and solidarity, expressed through protest movements and lobbies, does not necessarily express global public opinion.
Public Service
Public Services
An activity in the general interest carried out by a public or private body and overseen by the government. Public services serve a wide range of purposes, from the traditional sovereign functions (police, defense, justice, public finance, diplomacy) to the non-market state sector (education, health, social protection, culture and sport, etc.) and the industrial and commercial sectors (transport, energy, water, telecommunications, etc.). Public services are grounded in fundamental principles: equality of access and treatment for users, continuity, accessibility, neutrality and transparency of services, and their adaptability to evolutions of the general interest. The notions of services in the general interest and universal services, used in European and some international institutions, have – not without controversy – redefined the perimeters of state action in reaction to the liberalization of some of these sectors.
Public sphere
Public space
Concept defined by the philosopher Jürgen Habermas (1978), who saw politics as a subject of debate, of publicity and therefore subject to the influence of national public opinion, which in turn places substantial limits on absolutism. Transposed to international level, we can see the development of this kind of sphere in the fact that actors other than nation-states engage with questions that were formerly the preserve of national sovereignty.
Public-Private Partnership
PPP, Public-Private Partnerships
A method of financing and managing public infrastructure (hospitals, water supply, highways, etc.) through which a public body delegates the funding, building and/or commercialization and maintenance of the facility to a private operator, while retaining public ownership. In exchange, the private operator receives payment from the state (in the form of rent) or charges users for the service. While this system absolves governments from having to provide the necessary funding themselves, it is criticized for leading to the privatization of profits and, often, a significant rise in the ultimate cost to the taxpayer (total value of rents paid by the state far exceeds the sum invested, increased charges paid by users, etc.).
Purchasing Power Parity
A method for calculating and comparing the relative value of different currencies in order to identify differences in purchasing power and standards of living in different countries, regardless of the exchange rate. For example, PPP can be used to compare the relative cost (for the budget of an average household) of purchasing the same item in different countries. Several international bodies regularly calculate the GDP of different countries in terms of PPP in order to compare their living standards, although these comparisons remain unsystematic.
A homogenous biological group in the animal kingdom, distinct from the rest due to its hereditary physical characteristics. Although scientific studies have endlessly demonstrated that human beings form a single race, several political doctrines since the 19th century have used the notion to distinguish human populations, this despite the recognition of fundamental human rights and successful prosecutions in many countries and at the international level (Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948). The notion of race is now used in a very different way – which can, however, lead to confusion – in official statistics, positive law and some social science research, notably in the United States and Canada, to describe and analyze the social organization and values of different ethnic communities.
Racism is based on prejudices that assert the existence of human races and establishes a hierarchy among them. It produces, encourages or tolerates behaviors of hate, contempt or rejection in relation to people seen as belonging to different races regarded as inferior, and can be used to justify the implementation of discriminatory policies (colonial slave trade, anti-Semitism, apartheid, etc.). Contemporary forms of racism promote the idea that irreconcilable differences of culture, religion and/or civilization justify the separation of nations or ethnic and/or religious communities, either into different countries or within a country. They also object to diversity, cultural hybridity, open borders and some types of migration.
Rape is a criminal act that uses human sexuality (in all its forms) as a method of torture and destruction of the victim’s identity and physical integrity, without necessarily involving death. It has lasting long-term consequences (pregnancy, disease, psychological burden, social and/or family stigma). Sexual violence has an inherent dissymmetry linked to the conditions of human reproduction, since only rape victims who are women can fall pregnant. Rape is an extreme form of violence and a crime of violation for the social and moral individual affected (destruction of family honor in some cultures, feelings of shame among victims). The use of systematic rape as a weapon of war has been recognized since the 1990s.
A theoretical stance according to which international relations are built on a dichotomy of internal and external factors and which postulates the central role of states. These compete for power in order to ensure their own survival in an international environment lacking any supra-national authority, where war is consequently always on the cards.
The validation by an individual, group or institution of a practice, situation or identity that has been claimed. Intrinsically relational and a factor in socialization, recognition can be formal or informal, reciprocal or unilateral. Theories of recognition have an important place in philosophy (Hegel in particular) and have been more recently developed in the social sciences around the “struggle for recognition” (Axel Honneth) and the denial of recognition. International recognition is a discretionary act through which a subject in international law (usually a state or international organization) grants legal status to a situation or an act (a government’s accession to power by non-constitutional means, unilateral declaration of independence, military intervention, etc.).
A status applying to persons living outside their country of origin, who have been recognized by their host country as refugees according to definition set out in the Geneva Convention of 1951. This convention grants the protection and assistance of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (HCR) to anyone who, “owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.” The term refugee should not be confused with that of asylum seeker, which applies to people who have fled their country and have submitted a request for asylum to their host country or to the HCR in order to benefit from refugee status. A refugee has been an asylum seeker, but not all asylum seekers have their request accepted (those who have been rejected must then leave the country).
Regional integration
Regionalism, Regionalization
Regional integration is sometimes defined as a process (“the tendency toward the voluntary creation of larger political units,” Ernst Haas), sometimes as a state (“the attainment, within a territory, of a ‘sense of community’ and of institutions and practices strong enough and widespread enough to assure, for a ‘long’ time, dependable expectations of ‘peaceful change’ among its population, Karl Deutsch). Regionalism, which is “a primarily state-led process of building and sustaining formal regional institutions and organizations among at least three states (Tanja Börzel and Thomas Risse), does not necessarily seek greater integration. Regionalization refers to an intensification of interactions between actors in a specific region.
International Regulation, International Regulations, Regulatory, Regulations, Regulating
The term regulation refers to all the processes and mechanisms that enable a system to function in a normal, regular fashion. At the international level, it refers to the set of processes, mechanisms and institutions that act to correct imbalances that might threaten the global order and to ensure that actors behave predictably, thereby ensuring stability. It is closely linked to the notions of governance and global public goods.
Religion, Religions
There is no universal understanding of the notion of religion, nor is there any clear distinction between a religion and a sect. Generally speaking, a religion is a system of beliefs that makes a distinction between the sacred and the profane, manifested in a set of ritual actions that give reality to this distinction. Individuals may be described as religious if they practice or claim to belong to a religion, or if they have made religion their profession and devoted their lives to it.
Religious Syncretism
The blending of different religions, doctrines or beliefs, leading to new beliefs or practices. Syncretism can be the result of an explicit desire to combine religions (for example in the case of the “religion of light” devised by the Mughal emperor Akbar in the 16th century), but can also result from a gradual hybridization in which a new religious influence combines with existing form(s), or from the interaction of beliefs and practices present in the same place. Kejawen or Javanism, for instance, is practiced in Indonesia, is an amalgam of Hindu and Buddhist traditions with animist, Islamic and even Christian beliefs, depending on the places and communities in which it is practiced.
Financial transfers from migrants to their country of origin, made either directly by individuals or through financial transfer companies with varying costs. These remittances are identified and studied by the World Bank. For some countries they may represent a sizable share of GDP. They also enable the migrants’ families to feed and care for themselves and to be consumers at a minimum level, and/or may allow villages to finance infrastructure (schools, health centers, etc.) where government investment is lacking.
Renewable energies
Energy sources which are naturally renewable, making them inexhaustible on a human timescale, and which are not depleted by consumption. The main renewable energies used worldwide are biomass (though its renewability depends on how its production is managed), hydroelectricity, wind power, solar power and geothermal energy.
Research and Development
Investment made by businesses (internally or through outsourcing) in fundamental, applied and experimental research to develop knowledge enabling new products to be developed or to ensure productivity gains. This research is key in the context of competition between multinational companies, their global operations (more centralized than production), international negotiations (patents), links between governments and business (public-private research) and North-South relations.
The concept of resilience is understood in many different ways from one discipline to the next. In psychology, it refers to an individual’s capacity to adapt after trauma; in ecology it is the capacity of ecosystems to cope with changed states, to regain their original state or to maintain their essential functions. In describing individuals, communities, states and economic systems, resilience has shifted from a descriptive notion to a prescriptive tool directing policies of adaptation to climate change. Its use has been criticized for tending to perpetuate the existing system rather than change it, and for attributing responsibility for adaptation to individuals rather than to the governments responsible for climate change.
Responsibility to Protect
This principle, central to the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly at the global summit of 2005. It recognizes that states have a responsibility to protect their populations. If they cannot or will not provide this protection, the international community can “take collective action, in a timely and decisive manner, through the Security Council, in accordance with the Charter, including Chapter VII.”
Right of humanitarian intervention
Right to intervene, Duty to intervene
This emerged with the creation of Médecins sans frontières [Doctors without Borders] during the Biafran War (1967-1970) and the expansion of “borderless humanitarian aid.” Humanitarian NGOs demand the right to intervene and bear witness when human rights appear to be violated, thus calling into question traditional human rights which respected the principles of sovereignty, neutrality, and non-intervention. Since Resolution 43/131 was passed (in 1988) by the United Nations General Assembly, authorizing access to victims for NGOs acting with humanitarian motives, the Security Council has continually expanded the number of actors, ranging from NGOs to states and the UN, involved in humanitarian intervention. This emerging norm is not without ambiguity, particularly when it comes to reconciling humanitarian missions with military ones.
Risk refers to the perception and recognition of dangers and threats to individuals and to the environment. Having first appeared in academic and political thinking in the late 19th century, with the emergence of a welfare state whose role was to protect against the new social risks, the notion of risk developed in recent decades in the light of the globalization of trade and scientific and technological innovation. In his book Risk Society (1992), German sociologist Ulrich Beck analyzes the transition from “modern” societies built on the dogma of economic growth and technological progress to “post-modern” societies based on the production, management and regulation of risk. This is reflected in the rise of the precautionary principle, which seeks to anticipate the possible or probable consequences of natural and industrial disasters, epidemics or technological innovation, in order to protect the affected populations.
Root Server
Root Servers, Root Name Servers
A server is a machine connected to a network that provides information and services to its clients in the form of messages sent to computers. A single server provides its clients (user, computer or another software program) with several services at once. A root server (duplicated on several servers across the world) contains all the data matching the domain names and IP addresses on the internet. The thirteen root servers are managed and coordinated by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a California-based nonprofit organization. There are many calls for transferring responsibility for the regulation of the internet to an international body under the aegis of the UN.
Rule of law
Rule of law refers to a system in which the legal standards are codified, stable and transparent, so that citizens know their rights and duties, while public authority is limited by its subjection to the law. This kind of system presupposes the existence of independent courts of law and equality of all before the law.
Sanctions, which can be negative or positive, are a means by which one or more states or international organizations employ coercive measures (embargo, recall of an ambassador, visa refusal, freezing of foreign bank accounts) or incentives (economic aid) to persuade another state, or particular individuals within it, to end a current course of action, return to the status quo, or to take a particular course of action. Sanctions may exert direct coercion by targeting political leaders, or they may act more indirectly by fostering public discontent with the regime. Their efficacy is disputed. Those in favor regard them as a tool for exerting pressure without recourse to military intervention, those against emphasize their social and human cost for the most disadvantaged groups.
Term with multiple meanings designating the size of a phenomenon or the level at which it is being analyzed. Spatial scale: a few kilometers at local scale, tens of thousands at global scale. Level of analysis: scale – defined in relation to a level of government – can be local (a specific area), regional (area within a country), national (the country itself) and supranational (from regional entities to world and universal scale). Multiscale analysis, an established practice among geographers, is also a useful tool for contemporary social scientists tackling the density and complexity of connections within and between societies. The adjective “glocal,” a contraction of “global” and “local, emphasizes the local embeddedness of productive systems and the interactions between different levels of scale, refuting the popular misconception of the “end of geography.”
Collective security
A set of representations and strategies developed by an individual or collectivity to reduce the threats to which they feel exposed. At the international level, security may consist of: 1) an unstable, precarious balance between the security of different nations, underpinned by their degree of power; 2) the concerted organization of this balance (international security); 3) the establishment of a security regime imposed on all states that have signed up to it (collective security). Above and beyond any tangible threat, the language of security tends to represent objects or groups of people as dangers for the security of states, notably in order to justify particular security policies (state of emergency, military action, closing of borders, etc.).
Security Council
According to the United Nations Charter, the Security Council has main responsibility for maintaining international peace and security. It is composed of five permanent members (China, United States, France, United Kingdom, and Russia), who can each quash a resolution plan with a negative vote (right of veto), and ten members (six until 1965) elected by the General Assembly for a two-year period that is not immediately renewable. Its resolutions are legally binding upon member states.
Semiology of Graphics
Graphic semiology
Developed by Jacques Bertin in the late 1960s, the semiology of graphics relates to the graphic transcription of phenomena. It focuses on organizing data logically, highlighting homogenous sets and communicating the result as effectively as possible.
Sisterhood is the female equivalent of brotherhood, or fraternity. It emerged in feminist writing and action in the 1970s to stress the solidarity and similarity of living conditions between women in androcentric environments and contexts.
Slave Trade
In the 7th century Muslim Arab merchants began trading African slaves across the Sahara and into the Arabian Peninsula. The Europeans established the third major market in slaves between Africa and the Americas from the mid-16th century. In this triangular trade, slaves were exchanged with African traffickers in return for weapons, manufactured items, textiles, etc. Those who survived the voyage were taken to the American colonies (from northern Brazil to the southern United States), and the ships returned to Europe with tropical products. Criticized by the French Encyclopedists in the second half of the 18th century, then by abolitionist societies in France and Britain, the trade and then slavery were not ended in the Americas until the second half of the 19th century.
From the start of the 17th century through to the end of the 19th century, slavery formed the basis of economic growth and societal organization throughout the New World (in the southern states of the US, the Caribbean, Brazil, etc.). African domestic and agricultural laborers, imported and traded as a commodity, drove the development of sugar, tobacco and cotton plantations and the mining of precious metals. Today, the International Labor Organization (ILO) defines modern slavery as covering all victims of forced labor in both public and private spheres (domestic labor, construction, agriculture), of sexual exploitation and of forced marriage.
Social Protection
Welfare Benefits, Social Security Benefits, Social Coverage
Payments enabling individuals to cope with life’s risks without compromising their living standards. These include maternity, the costs of raising a family, sickness and disability, unemployment, old age, etc. The three current systems have different origins and aims and influence each other. Social assistance is a minimum income intended to establish solidarity between individuals in the fight against poverty. It is means-tested rather than being based on previous contributions (for example, the welfare system advocated by Beveridge in the UK). Social insurance seeks to counteract the risk of loss of income by providing benefits funded by contributions taken from wages (for example, the system introduced by Bismarck in Germany). Universal benefits are intended to cover certain types of expenditure for all individuals and identical amounts are paid to all, regardless of income or contributions (for example, universal health care coverage in France).
Social contract
The social contract was an idea invented in the West during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It describes the agreement by which humans decide to abandon their supposedly original state of nature to form a political community. The contract marks a break with the theological concept of power and its legitimacy which had held sway since the Early Middle Ages. Henceforth it was the people, and no longer divine power, who were the source of civil power, and the power of rulers depended on the consent of those being ruled (Grotius, Pufendorf, Locke, Rousseau, Hobbes). In the eighteenth century, the theory of the social contract galvanized liberal and democratic ambitions to limit power in the name of the general will. In the twentieth century, it inspired philosophers’ thinking about justice (John Rawls) and deliberative democracy.
Soft power
See Power
This political idea was formed in the Middle Ages in order to legitimate the independence of emerging states (France, England) from the Pope and Emperor, and taken up by many thinkers (Bodin, Grotius, Schmitt). It refers to a state’s claim to recognize no authority above itself on its own territory and serves more to justify political and legal representations than to describe existing power relations. As a fundamental notion of the international system and the principles of equality between states and non-intervention in internal affairs, it is the opposite of interference. In democratic states, it is attributed to the “sovereign” people, whose votes give legitimacy to institutions and governments. Processes of regional integration involve delegating elements of state sovereignty.
A term with multiple meanings and uses and a category given far less consideration by philosophers than the concept of time. Space as a concept has long been a theoretical difficulty (lack of consensus) for geographers – for whom it should be the primary object of study. Contrary to the common representation of space as a natural expanse filled by societies, space is a social product that is constantly reconstructed by social interactions. It constitutes one of the dimensions of our social life, at once material and cultural. To speak of social space does not in itself tell us what form this space takes – whether it is territorial, or networked, or both at once.
A principle by which any initiative in an area of public action tends to overflow into other areas. This can be said of the hypothesis that any strengthening of European economic integration will automatically lead to the reinforcement of its political integration, without initiatives being taken in the political sphere.
The state is a political system that is centralized (unlike the feudal system), differentiated (from civil society, public/private space), institutionalized (institutions are depersonalized), territorialized (a territory whose borders mark the absolute limit of its jurisdiction), that claims sovereignty (holding ultimate power) and that bears responsibility for ensuring its population’s security. In public international law, the state is defined as a population living on a territory defined by borders subject to a political authority (the national territorial state).
Structural Violence
Defined by Johan Galtung, structural violence is a form of violence that “is built into the structure and shows up as unequal power and consequently as unequal life chances.” Intrinsically linked to social injustice, its indirect nature sets it apart from personal violence of a physical or psychological nature, whether deliberate or not. Structural violence may be manifest or latent and is reflected in all mechanisms and institutions that suppress human development, including economic inequalities and the unequal distribution of political power.
Structural adjustment
A situation in which one enterprise commissions another enterprise (the subcontractor) to provide an element of its production, administrative tasks or services (accounting, cleaning, call answering, etc.). The use of subcontractors can be explained by the drive to obtain low cost labor for unskilled work. For multinational companies, it is a way of outsourcing their production to countries where wages are low, usually developing countries.
Subprime Crisis
A financial crisis caused when a real estate bubble burst in the United States in the summer of 2008. Having obtained mortgages readily provided by the banks, which turned these debts into securities that could be traded in the markets (securitization), households found they were unable to pay them off, triggering a domino effect culminating in the financial collapse of several banks and financiers (Lehman Brothers, Bernard Madoff, etc.), an economic recession and fear in the financial markets that states such as Greece would default on their loans. Despite the economic and social damage caused by this crisis, it did not undermine the principles by which the financial system functions, since attempts at regulation made by the Obama administration were soon abolished by his successor.
The principle of sharing competencies and powers that confers on a competent body, institution or territory, responsibility for the main actions, so that the higher institution intervenes only in a subsidiary way, in other words exceptionally and in a supplementary way. The principle of subsidiarity has applied within the European Union since the Treaty of Maastricht (1992) in order to share out authority between the member states and the Union.
Subsistence farming
Subsistence agriculture, Peasant farming, Family farming, Self-sufficient farming
This is the most widespread type of farming as regards numbers of farms and workers, surface area cultivated, and feeding capacity. It involves growing crops and raising livestock in sufficient quantities for the farmer’s own use (with any surplus going to the local market). It plays an important role in food safety, natural resource management, and environmental conservation. Undervalued (as belonging to an outdated past) or overvalued (return to the earth, agroecology) and overshadowed by the dominant agro-industrial model, it has suffered from lack of government interest (needs in terms of land access, water, technology, credit, and training). The persistence of malnutrition, the return of famines, and criticisms of industrial food production are now encouraging NGOs and International Organizations (IOs) to put it at the center of their agricultural, social, and environmental policies.
Sustainable development
Sustainable development is a form of development which fulfils present needs without compromising the ability of future generations to satisfy their own needs. The concept is defined in the UN Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, which recognizes the compatibility between a market economy and environmental protection; as such, it has been criticized in some quarters. Based on three foundations (economic, social, and environmental), sustainable development seeks simultaneously to attain economic growth, greater social equity in order to limit global inequality, and respect for the ecological balance.
Tax Haven
Tax Havens
A territory that uses its sovereignty to establish fiscal and legal exemption regimes (banking secrecy, low or non-existent taxation, fast, flexible procedures, limited or non-existent administrative requirements, etc.) that are then used by multinational companies, hedge funds, wealthy individuals and organized crime networks to escape the tax and justice systems of their home country. Tax havens are key links in the financial globalization chain and are regarded as a threat to global economic stability. However, in practice they are treated with indulgence by large states more keen to benefit from the system than to change it, and almost all have tax havens under their control.
Tax evasion
Illegal practice in which an individual or business hides revenues and assets in a third country, generally a tax haven, in order to evade fiscal obligations in their country of residence or business activity. Tax optimization, by contrast, involves using loopholes in national legislation to legally avoid taxes.
Surface area occupied by a human group. This term has different meanings in different social science disciplines. For geographers it is a socialized, constructed space in which distance is continuous, with more or less defined borders, such as, but not confined to, states. For sociologists and political scientists, a territory is a socially constructed space confined by borders which provide the structuring principle for a political community and enable a state to impose its authority and control on the population. It is linked to the context, history and actors of its construction. For Max Weber, the modern, rational and legal state is closely linked to territoriality.
Terrorist, Terrorists
A method of violent action inspiring fear (terror) and generally used in an asymmetrical relationship (the weak attack the strong). Unlike an act of war or political assassination, where violence is aimed directly at the target (the enemy), the victims of terrorism are instrumental, the terrorists’ goal being to publicize their violence in the media in order to create a climate of fear and insecurity among those who witness it, and so to generate social, legal and political chaos that will weaken the targeted states or societies. In the absence of any unanimous definition of terrorism, the term is frequently used to delegitimize the actions of opponents who do not refer to themselves as terrorists.
Third World
Third Worldism
The term Third Word, coined in 1952 by French demographer Alfred Sauvy, has become dated since the end of the Cold War. A reference to the Third Estate of the French Revolution (Sieyès), for Sauvy the Third World comprised those countries, mainly in the South, that were “ignored, exploited, and scorned” and “also wants to be something.” The desire of these actors to promote discussions of the North-South divide (notably in relation to development) rather than focusing solely on East-West relations reveals the political dimension of their actions.
Total fertility rate
Tragedy of the Commons
Metaphor used by Garrett Hardin in 1968 to describe the inevitable exhaustion of common goods (a variant on the prisoner’s dilemma). Hardin imagines a fictional pasture that is freely accessible. It is in every shepherd’s interests to graze as many sheep there as possible (as a source of additional profit) as quickly as possible before the grass is exhausted, without taking on the cost of maintaining the pasture held in common by the shepherds. The “tragedy of the commons” explains the inevitable over-exploitation of common goods and the mechanisms underpinning environmental deterioration. This parable is a key reference for international environmental policy.
Transnationalize, Transnationalized
A relationship is transnational when it forms at the global level, whether intentionally or in practice, and exists outside the national context and at least partly beyond the control or influence of national governments (Bertrand Badie, 1999). Transnationalism is an interpretation of international relations that emphasizes the role of non-state actors and cross-border flows. It has developed since the 1970s around authors such as Joseph Nye, Robert Keohane and James Rosenau, in reaction to the dominance of realist and neorealist analyses.
Transnational actor
Transnational actors
Transnational actors function across the world space, either alone or in networks, outside the framework of nation-states. They partly escape state control and intervention.
Trente Glorieuses
This French phrase coined by economist Jean Fourastié refers to the thirty “glorious” years of strong economic growth experienced by the industrialized countries between the end of World War II and the oil crises of 1973 and 1979.
Ubiquity is the ability to be everywhere at the same time. Theological in origin and referring to divine omnipresence, it was re-used by French poet and thinker Paul Valéry to refer to art of the interwar period and is now widely used in computer science and the social and life sciences. Ubiquity is a characteristic of the digital society, its technologies, actors and habits, which the internet of things will render all the more apparent as wireless connectivity is rolled out.
Urban sprawl
A process by which populations and activities become concentrated in limited spaces characterized by the density and diversity of social activities. The long history of urbanization across the world suddenly accelerated in the second half of the 20th century, as towns and cities (large and small, notably in the new post-colonial countries) increased in both number and size (in number of inhabitants and surface area). The largest are becoming vast conurbations. The rate of growth is very uneven across the world and is fastest (due to rural exodus and population growth) in the poorest countries where public urban policy is least effective. The environmental cost of lengthy daily commuting (air and water pollution, waste management, supply of goods to the inhabitants, gradual loss of agricultural land, etc.) must now be balanced against the advantages offered by urban density in terms of the concentration of innovation, skills and exchanges of all kinds.
Patrilocal, Uxorilocal
A term used in ethnology to describe the residence of a young heterosexual couple when they are required to live in the same village as, or near to, the husband’s parents (in contrast to uxorilocal, when the couple must live near the wife’s parents). When the wife moves to live with her husband’s family, her residence is described as patrilocal.
Wars, Conflict, Conflicts
Violent confrontation between armed groups over values, status, power or scarce resources, in which the aim of each party is to neutralize, weaken or eliminate their adversaries. This organized, collective, armed violence can be undertaken by states (via their national armies) or by non-state groups; it can bring several states into opposition (interstate war) or occur within a single state (civil war). The former, progressively codified within a legal framework, have become rare, while the latter, today primarily caused by state institutional failure, are tending to become more international in scope, to last over time (sometimes decades) and to be extremely devastating, especially for civilian populations.
Washington Consensus
Structural adjustment
A term which, from 1989, covered the recommendations to states made by the economist John Williamson together with international financial institutions (IMF and World Bank), with a view to liberalizing their economies. These structural adjustment plans (discipline and fiscal reform, public expenditure reform, trade liberalization and privatization of public enterprises) had great influence in Latin America, Africa, and the post-communist countries. Their economic results were variable and the social consequences dramatic in states that already lacked any redistributive public policies.
Water Stress
According to the UN, there is water stress when annual water supplies drop below 1,700 m3 per person, water scarcity when annual supplies drop below 1, 000 m3, and absolute scarcity when they go below 500 m3.
Welfare state
Welfare state
The welfare state and its practices emerged in Europe in the late 19th century, breaking with the traditional concept of the liberal state. The crisis of the 1930s, followed by the Second World War, made its expansion a matter of necessity. The state became highly redistributive (modifying primary income distribution by redistributing funds levied via tax and social insurance contributions in the form of social benefits), especially during the “Trente Glorieuses” period, i.e. 1945 to 1975. Its role was radically challenged by the processes of globalization and the proponents of neoliberalism, just when economic crisis has made the existence of a social safety net increasingly necessary.
Treaties of Westphalia, Peace of Westphalia, Westphalian
Signed in 1648 by the countries of Europe (except for England and Russia), the treaties of Westphalia brought an end to the Thirty Years War (Sweden, France, Spain and the Germanic Holy Roman Empire). In addition to reshaping the geopolitical map of central Europe, they enshrined new political principles: 1/ a gradual secularization of politics, 2/ the collapse of the hegemonic, imperial and Catholic policies of the Hapsburgs, which were succeeded by a concept of political and religious balance to ensure peace in Europe, 3/ the strengthening of the identity and independence of states with the establishment of precise borders recognized by all, and within which the prince or monarch was sovereign, 4/ the establishment of standing armies. The terms Westphalian “order” or “model” are used in the context of these treaties.
A concept developed by Fernand Braudel and then by Immanuel Wallerstein, different from the concept of the global economy in that it references a stable geographic space over an extended time period, economically autonomous and generally organized around a center or core supplied by its peripheries. The following have been world-economies in this sense since the Renaissance: the cities of Italy, the Dutch Republic in the 17th century, Industrial Revolution Britain during the second half of the 19th century, then the United States since the First World War – to be succeeded, perhaps, by China’s coastal cities, looking forward?
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