The program specification document explains that the vision of the Bachelor of Arts (PNG Studies and International Relations) program is to create global citizens who think creatively about the challenges facing PNG in the 21st century.
To be a global citizen, one has to know what is happening around the globe. Not only does one need to know but one has to be equipped with a systemic way to analyze what is happening. This is where international relations as a field of study fits into the program.
International relations as outlined in the program specification document is one of the major streams in the program. The other streams are politics, culture studies and community development. All four streams form a lethal cocktail and are studied together.
The curriculum is organized this way because the four streams complement each other. As a global citizen, one needs to firstly understand their own culture. Culture forms the basis of understanding politics and our community.
From a political science point of view, international relations is a subfield. Other subfields are comparative politics, political theory, political economy and area studies. This means that students must understand the theories that define politics among human beings before they can fully understand the theories that define politics among nation-states.
Understanding the domestic political system and the theories that define it will help us to understand international relations. That is why the introductory unit in politics is studied before the introductory unit to international relations.
For example, in the international relations theory of commercial liberalism, the government has to adhere to the principles of GATT. These principles come into conflict with protectionist politicians who are pushing the rice policy agenda. The protectionists would like to establish a quota system to help develop the domestic rice industry. This move had prompted Australia to send a stern warning to the PNG government on behalf of Trukai Rice.
The monopoly enjoyed by foreign companies in the rice industry pose a challenge to the development of the domestic rice industry and the potential rice farmers. Domestic policies like the rice policy will definitely have international impact on foreign multinational companies like Trukai Rice and governments of nations like Australia.
The root political theory is liberalism. The Oxford Dictionary of Politics defines the theory as the belief that it is the aim of politics to preserve individual rights and to maximize freedom of choice.
Many Papua New Guineans today have a shallow understanding of politics. We think politics is about service delivery, representation or elections. Others think politics is a means to acquiring a huge amount of money.
You will rarely hear someone explaining the theory of democracy or communism in detail during their campaign. Also it is rare to listen to someone outlining whether their policies swing towards the right or left of the political spectrum.
Political parties do not use political theories to appeal to voters. Whichever political theory that forms the basis of the party is reflected in whatever policy the party puts forward. If a party has a more liberal view and is formed by individuals sharing the same political view then its policies will be more liberal.
Citizens become a member or vote for a party based on the type of leader they have and his or her popularity. Apart from personality politics, ethnic politics is also being advocated by many on social media.
The ‘KK for PM’ campaign by Simbus is an example. Simbu supporters of Kerenga Kua, the sitting member for Sinasina Yongomugl and leader of National Party are urging all Simbus to vote for candidates contesting under the Party banner. A vote for the party will result in the party having enough members to form the next government so their leader can become the PM.
Furthermore, we do not know who came up with the idea of separating power between the judiciary, legislature and the executive arm of government. Also we have not asked the philosophical question of why we need a government in the first place.
The works of political philosophers are fundamental to our study of politics. The concept of anarchy in international relations cannot be understood with out reference to the works of philosophers like Thomas Hobbes. His book explains why we need a government or a central form of authority to regulate the behaviour of citizens and provide public goods.
All theories of international relations note the fact that the international system is anarchic in nature. There is no dominant state controlling all the other states. All states are sovereign and are equal in strength.
In the English School Theory, Hedley Bull acknowledges the absence of an overarching sovereign in his explanation of order and the international society of states. Andrew Linklater also mentions anarchy in his description of the theory.
The knowledge of international relations theories provides a systemic platform for analyzing the behaviour of states and non-state actors in the international system.