From within and without: Sustainable security in the Middle East and North Africa
The Middle East and North Africa is a region of great diversity. It encompasses Arab and many other ethnic populations, theocratic and secular states, democracies and authoritarian regimes. A region of immense wealth and crippling poverty; it is blessed (some might say cursed) with vast resources, not least oil, but has not always proved able to manage them for the benefit of ordinary people. While it is often viewed from the outside as a source of terrorism and conflict, the regional perception is one of foreign occupation and other external interference.
This report is based on the outcomes of a consultation that Oxford Research Group (ORG) and the Institute for Peace Studies (IPS) held in Egypt in October 2008. Bringing together security experts, academics, government officials and civil society leaders from across the Middle East and North Africa, the two-day meeting explored the implications of the sustainable security framework for the region (see Appendix I for a list of participants). All the participants attended in a personal capacity and this report does not necessarily represent a consensus view or the view of any individual participant, organisation or government. The Ford Foundation-funded consultation was the second in a series of six regional meetings to be held over 2008-09 as part of ORG's Moving Towards Sustainable Security programme.
In many ways, the Middle East and North Africa defies clear definition, and is not a label readily recognised within the region. It cannot be described as the Muslim world, for that would include Indonesia, Pakistan, India, Bangladesh and other countries outside the region with large Muslim populations. Nor can it rightly be described as the Arab world, for that would exclude Iran, Turkey, Israel and other non-Arab countries, as well as the Berber, Assyrian, Kurdish, black African and other populations found throughout the region. But for the purposes of this report, the Middle East and North Africa is taken in a broad sense: from Morocco in the west and Afghanistan in the east, to Turkey in the north and Yemen in the south. There will, however, be clear overlap with related countries that, rightly or wrongly, have been included in other consultations, such as some of the countries of sub-Saharan Africa and Central and South Asia.
As each of the regional consultations take place, a set of coherent proposals will emerge that can be fed directly into the policy-making processes in Europe and the United States, as well as inform the development of regional security policies that can be promoted by partner organisations around the world.
2) SUSTAINABLE SECURITY
As in much of the world, the current security discourse in the Middle East and North Africa is dominated by what might be called the 'control paradigm': an approach based on the premise that insecurity can be controlled through military force or balance of power politics and containment, thus maintaining the status quo. The most obvious global example of this approach has been the so-called 'war on terror', which essentially aims to 'keep the lid' on terrorism and insecurity, without addressing the root causes (an approach that has negatively impacted on the region). Such approaches to national, regional and international security are deeply flawed - particularly if not complemented by diplomatic efforts - and
are distracting the world's politicians from developing realistic and sustainable solutions to the non-traditional threats facing the world.
In contrast, this report explores an alternative approach, that of 'sustainable security'. The central premise of sustainable security is that you cannot successfully control all the consequences of insecurity, but must work to resolve the causes. In other words, 'fighting the symptoms' will not work, you must instead 'cure the disease'. Such a framework must be based on an integrated analysis of security threats and a preventative approach to responses.
Sustainable security focuses on the interconnected, long-term drivers of insecurity, including:
- Climate change: Loss of infrastructure, resource scarcity and the mass displacement of peoples, leading to civil unrest, intercommunal violence and international instability.
- Competition over resources: Competition for increasingly scarce resources - including food, water and energy - especially from unstable parts of the world.
- Marginalisation of the majority world: Increasing socio-economic divisions and the political, economic and cultural marginalisation of the vast majority of the world's population.
- Global militarisation: The increased use of military force as a security measure and the further spread of military technologies (including CBRN weapons).
All of these trends are present in the security dynamic in the Middle East and North Africa, as demonstrated in the next section of this report. The sustainable security analysis makes a distinction between these trends and other security threats, which might instead be considered symptoms of the underlying causes and tend to be more localised and immediate (for example terrorism or organised crime). It promotes a comprehensive, systemic approach, taking into account the interaction of different trends which are generally analysed in isolation by others. It also places particular attention on how the current behaviour of international actors and western governments is contributing to, rather than reducing, insecurity.
Sustainable security goes beyond analysis of threats to the development of a framework for new security policies. It takes global justice and equity as the key requirements of any sustainable response, together with progress towards reform of the global systems of trade, aid and debt relief; a rapid move away from carbon-based economies; bold, visible and substantial steps towards nuclear disarmament (and the control of biological and chemical weapons); and a shift in defence spending to focus on the non-military elements of security. This takes into account the underlying structural problems in national and international systems, and the institutional changes that are needed to develop and implement effective solutions. It also links long-term global drivers to the immediate security pre-occupations of ordinary people at a local level (such as corruption or violent crime).
By aiming to cooperatively resolve the root causes of threats using the most effective means available, sustainable security is inherently preventative in that it addresses the likely causes of conflict and instability well before the ill-effects are felt. In doing so, it incorporates and builds upon many elements of previous important attempts to reframe the way we think about security, including:
- Common security: Security is dependent on cooperation, demilitarisation and mutual trust.
- Comprehensive security: Security must go beyond military defence, and take into account the other social, environmental and economic issues that are vital to national stability.
- Human security: A people-centred, rather than state-centred, view of security is necessary for national, regional and global stability.
- Just security: Security is dependent on international institutions and the rule of law.
- Non-traditional security: Governments must move beyond defining security in terms of relationships among nation states and address newly developing trends and transnational security threats.