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Talking Security in Zurich: ISF 2011 Starts Monday

Old warrior Hans Waldman watches over Zurich while security experts discuss the future of conflict. Photo: courtesy of Zurich Tourism/flickr

Zurich is famous for its bankers. But next week a different crowd will also populate the city: more than 400 academics, civil servants, military officials and journalists from dozens of countries are expected to gather at the Kongresshaus for the International Security Forum (ISF 2011, 30 May – 1 June). Ueli Maurer, Switzerland’s minister of defense, will open the conference on Monday.

The organizers of the ISF’s ninth edition, entitled “Regional and Global Security: Meeting Tomorrow’s Challenges Today”, have reacted to recent world events and dedicate the first plenary session on Monday to the revolts and revolutions in North Africa and on the Arabian Peninsula.

Will Egypt regain its natural role as the prominent regional leader? How would a change of regime in Syria affect the regional picture? Will the move towards more pluralistic political systems strengthen or weaken US influence? These are some of the questions that will be adressed by the keynote speakers John W Limbert (US Naval Academy), Volker Perthes (German Institute for International and Security Affairs, SWP), Yossi Alpher (bitterlemons publications) and Fawaz A Gerges (London School of Economics and Political Science).

Nuclear weapons, the migration-security nexus and public-private cooperation are on the agenda for Monday afternoon. The Forum will get more intimate on Tuesday: Invited participants will join one of several thematic tracks, ranging from “9/11 plus Ten” to “State Failure / State Building”.

On the last day of the conference, again larger panels will discuss UN targeted sanctions and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, Western security as well as the the rise of China. The final plenary on Wednesday on power shifts and international order fittingly features Brazil’s former minister of foreign affairs, Celso Amorim and the former director of India’s intelligence bureau, Ajit Doval.

At the margins of the Forum there will be plenty of opportunity for participants to engage in informal talks. Several research institutes, companies and other organizations will present themselves at an exhibition. A Swiss national chapter of Women in International Security (WIIS) will be launched at a side event. Also, the UN Association of Germany, Jungle Drum and the ISN will get a chance to present their new project, ResolutionFinder.org, to the security community.

As co-organizers of the ISF 2011 together with the Center for Security Studies, we are excited about the conference and are glad Zurich will become a forum for international security dialogue, at least for three days.

In case you are participating at the ISF, don’t forget to pick up a printed copy of our ISN Insights special edition each morning of the conference.