On 16 May 2022, OSCE Academy DAAD Associate Professor, Dr. Anja Mihr, and OSCE Academy Senior lecturer, Dr. Viktoria Akchurina, participated in the conference „The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its impact on Human Rights compliance along the‚ New Silk Road,“ organized by Dr. Udo Steinbach, Director at the MENA Study Center of the Maecenata Foundation, together with Dr. Anja Mihr, and Dr. Brigitte Weiffen from The Open University (UK) and Chair of IPSA Research Committee 34 “Quality of Democracy.” The conference was comprised of four sessions which included a panel of two speakers each with ample time in the end for engagement with the online and in-person audience through a Q & A and discussion.
In the first session on the topic „The BRI and Human Rights in Eurasia“ Katja Drinhausen, Head of Program Politics and Society at the Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) in Berlin, and Dr. Udo Steinbach presented their research on Human Rights in Eurasia and different understanding and discourse of Human Rights. The second panel focused on the topic of „Civil Society and the BRI.“ Dr. Anja Ketels, Senior China Consultant at Marianne Friese Consulting, and Dr. Ralph Weber, Professor of European Global Studies at the University of Basel, discussed the narratives surrounding BRI, the risks of depoliticizing, and the shrinking space Chinese civil society faces. In the third session, Dr. Matt Ferchen, Senior Fellow at the LeidenAsiaCentre and Lecturer at the Institute of Area Studies of Leiden University, and Dr. Birgit Wetzel shared their insights on the impact of BRI on Europe. In the fourth session, Dr. Jorge Heine, Research Professor at the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies at Boston University and former ambassador of Chile to China, Russia and South Africa, and Dr. Viktoria Akchurina, Senior Lecturer at the OSCE Academy Bishkek, gave the perspective of Latin America and Central Asia on the BRI. This included the discussion of the fundamental trust issue that exists on the societal level showing in the population’s dissatisfaction and protest regarding China’s projects. As well as on the elite level regarding the threat to their sovereignty China poses as a strong military force with new rhetoric on how Central Asian countries aspire to return to China. The following discussion focused on topics, such as Russia‘s and Turkey‘s role in the area in comparison to China and the credibility, or lack thereof, different actors in the region possess.
The conference finished with some concluding words from Dr. Anja Mihr and a big thank you to all that made the conference possible.