2022: the year of insecurity – Ukraine, Taiwan, Ethiopia, happening against a background, as my last blog post set out, of record military spending, with refugee numbers already at a record high. It is tempting to think that this means we need to junk woolly thoughts about human security and suchlike and get back to old-style basics, in which security lies in a strong defence, in power, to be blunt, and more of it than any adversary has. It’s what is called realism in the study of international relations and the realist temptation today seems strong.
It is the direction in which the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the confrontation between China and the USA over Taiwan seem to be pushing us. A return to realism, hardening up NATO against Russia, though it’s worth acknowledging that the demand to get Western policy ‘back to realism’ is a long-standing idea . But why ever and whenever, it’s all about recognising that, if you get into trouble, only the exertion of power will get you out and that’s how it’s been for thousands of years.
Mm-hmm, except that 2022 is also the year of climate change: drought in China and Europe, floods in Pakistan, both in the Horn of Africa, unfolding in a context of several other aspects of serious environmental deterioration, as my last blog post also set out.
And since this means that the mix of challenges on today’s security horizon is not only complex and worrisome but also unprecedented, it suggests there is a need to think hard about what we mean by security – the security of whom or what, and against what – and, indeed, to be ready to rethink.
The Conflict, Security and Development Conference is run by students at King’s College London. This year they asked me along to give the closing keynote and thoughtfully interviewed me beforehand so I could run through some of my main points. The interview falls into three sections: the first is on the central importance of institutions in building peace, the second on the role of NGOs like International Alert, and the third on the sort of challenges to peace and security that lie ahead, the compound risks we face in the coming decade and beyond.
Scanning forward across the conflict horizon reveals looming risks after two decades of growing peace. Connecting people and connecting issues, drawing on what we have learned over the past 20 years or so of peacebuilding, can renew the growth of peace. Continue reading
Over the past two decades the world has become more peaceful. Today, rising pressures are generating increased conflict risk. We have learned a lot. Now, can we take advantage of that? Because we will need to. Continue reading
EU High Representative and EC Vice-President Catherine Ashton steps down from leading the European External Action Service in late 2014. She has presented her review of the organisation and how to make it more efficient. But despite her best efforts the basic case for the EEAS remains unclear to many. Winning that case depends not on efficiency alone but on whether the EEAS meets an important need. Continue reading
For a developing country facing high poverty levels, a growing population with high expectations despite a poor revenue base and weak institutions, but with an abundance of natural resources, exploiting them looks like the path to glory. Experience from a range of countries shows that, to put it mildly, it’s not so straightforward. The World Economic Forum has published a report on the topic – Natural Riches?. Continue reading