Towards preventing conflict and building a more secure world
In a world of rapidly changing threats and conflict dynamics, state and non-state actors have had to rethink their approach to conflict - and each other. Faced with drawn-out, asymmetric campaigns in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, military leaders, policy makers and humanitarian agencies have begun to explore an 'integrated approach' in which the primary declared goal is securing populations and their political, economic and security needs. At the same time, attention has begun to shift from intervention to conflict prevention.
However, whether the aim is to prevent, intervene or stabilise, simply strengthening state structures to make insurgency or terrorism impossible without addressing underlying human security concerns is not enough, since increased coercive power often exacerbates security concerns. Equally important is to increase responsiveness to local communities' needs, strengthen conflict resolution mechanisms and democratic oversight, and adapt international governance models and local dynamics to each other. Success will be determined by how well local and international defence, development and diplomacy agencies (state or non-state) work together and with local power-brokers.
Academia has an important role to play in this process. Through area expertise, empirically-tested research and historical, comparative and critical perspectives, it can help to inform - and challenge - the practices for preventing future conflict, stabilising violent situations and responsive post-conflict reconstruction. It can critique from its position of independence and give voice to marginalised, subaltern and non-state perspectives. Yet, few universities have taken up the challenge of systematically exploring the interface between all three elements of the defence-development-diplomacy triad and their impact on not just national and international but especially human security.
In response to this challenge, Durham University is establishing the Durham Global Security Institute (DGSI) for Defence, Development and Diplomacy. Located in a world class university, spanning seven Departments, and drawing on a remarkably diverse global network of leading scholars and practitioners, DGSI provides an inter-disciplinary framework within which to critically examine the interplay between defence, development and diplomacy in the contexts of conflict prevention, humanitarian intervention and post-conflict stabilisation and peacebuilding.
DGSI's core mission is to offer a neutral and independent environment in which military personnel, diplomats, civil servants, NGO and IGO staff, academics, and stakeholders can meet and learn from each other's perspectives. Uniquely, DGSI situates itself at the intersection between war and defence, peace and diplomacy and development studies, within a framework in which critical and subaltern perspectives can interact with problem-solving and traditional approaches.
To meet tomorrow's challenges, and to do so with integrity and sensitivity, we must break out of our existing paradigms and practices, and forge new ones out of the cross-fertilisation of these disparate perspectives. DGSI is pledged to play a decisive role in bringing this about.
Director, Durham Global Security Institute