The CSS Blog Network

CSS Analysis: Progress in Biotechnology as a Future Security Policy Challenge

The next frontier of security policy? photo: Krystian "Krane" Schneidewind/flickr

In the newest CSS Analysis, Progress in Biotechnology as a Future Security Policy Challenge, Sergio Bonin examines how biotechnological advances might impact security policy in the future.

He notes: “If the synthetic construction and modification of bacteria and viruses should become a reality, a broad range of useful applications in medicine, environmental protection, and other fields would be facilitated. At the same time, however, constructing biological weapons could become easier, and the necessary skills would be available to a larger spectrum of actors. It seems advisable to explore preventive countermeasures at an early stage.”

For more, check out our Digital Library resources on biotechnology.

The Revolution Will be Televised (Tweeted and Streamed)

Cleaning up after the protests, but what then? photo: sierragoddess/flickr

As new “days of rage” are announced across the Middle East and as the ‘Jasmine revolution’ spreads across the Maghreb and some of the most entrenched autocracies in the Middle East and Arabian peninsula, the word ‘revolution’ seems to be on everyone’s lips. Although the rest of the world, Europe included, has seen such people power-driven revolutions in the last years, this latest wave really caught the world by surprise.

How is it that decades of authoritarian oppression finally resulted in largely peaceful uprisings that are spreading like wildfire across the region? Did it come as a result of the Bush era’s democracy promotion ‘campaign’, as some right wing American politicians have argued (with just a little congratulatory tap on their own back)? Or should social media tools like Twitter and Facebook be seen as the true champions of this new media-driven process? Perhaps Julian Assange and WikiLeaks should get credit as revelations of the extravagant lifestyle of Tunisia’s first couple drove angry protesters to the streets in the very early stages of this collective Arab revolt against oppression?

Clearly the latter two both played into the complex equation that toppled the regimes of Ben Ali and Mubarak and has put many more regional despots under significant pressure to reform. Ultimately though the credit, and indeed responsibility as these revolutions turn into democracy-building exercises, lies with the people and the leaders of the opposition movements who were brave, daring and ingenious in the timing of the protests and in the way social media platforms and other tools from the handbook of peaceful revolutions were used to an impressive effect. The largely peaceful nature of these infectious uprisings has garnered a lot of praise from around the world, and rightly so. The jubilation on the streets of Tunis and Cairo was an inspiring sight when streamed on iPhones and computer screens around the world.

This is a new age of revolutions against oppression and a new age for global solidarity. The outcome of these revolutions may not yet be known, but there is no doubt that these past weeks have changed Arab and indeed world history for good.

Here are a few select publications from our Digital Library that provide context to these momentous events:

  • From Dictatorship to Democracy, a seminal handbook by Gene Sharp on how to conduct nonviolent resistance against autocracies and a manual that many Egyptian protest leaders cited as an inspiration. » More

Food Crisis Looming?

Food crisis looming? photo: Peter Casier/WFP/flickr

A review of commodities reports and price indices over the last six months seems to point to a ripening of conditions that will likely spark a food crisis later this year.

The specific causes of the 2007-2008 food crisis are still debated, but it is clear that a combination of high oil prices, low food stocks, a low value of the US dollar, and market speculation, drove world food prices to an unprecedented level, sparking riots and unrest around the world. There are important similarities between observable conditions then and now.

Since the summer of 2010, there have been several important crop failures around the world and among major global grain producers, including: Argentina (drought), Australia (heavy rains may impact output), Canada (heavy rains); EU (dry conditions), Kazakhstan (drought), Pakistan (flooding), Russia (drought), Ukraine (drought), United States (drought). Moreover, South America experienced drought and dry conditions as result of La Nina, while China suffered from severe dry conditions and the rest of Asia experience delayed and erratic rains. In Southern Africa severe rains and flooding continue to cause problems.

According to the International Grains Council, “World production is expected to decline by 3.8 percent, to 1,726 million tons: the wheat estimate is lifted […] but the maize total is cut. By far the biggest fall in grains output was in drought affected Russia, with big reductions too in the EU, the US, Kazakhstan and Ukraine.” » More

You Can Run – Or You Can Hide

Fighting a losing battle? photo: Peter Vlam/flickr

On 26 January of this year, David Kato Kisule, a prominent gay rights campaigner from the east African nation of Uganda, was beaten to death with a hammer in his house near the country’s capital of Kampala, shortly after winning a lawsuit against a magazine which had published his name and photograph identifying him as gay and calling for him to be executed.

The story goes back to October of last year, when a weekly Ugandan tabloid newspaper, the Rolling Stone (with no affiliation to the iconic American music magazine), published the names and photos of 100 suspected homosexuals next to a banner that read “hang them”, which led to those listed being singled out, threatened, attacked, and – as in the case of Kato – killed.

Kato’s funeral was held on 28 January in Nakawala. Tears flowed as family members and human rights activists wailed. A statement from President Barack Obama was read, condemning the killing and urging authorities to bring swift justice. However, the presiding Anglican pastor shocked the mourners when he called on gays to repent or else be “punished by God” and made comparisons to Sodom and Gomorrah, before the bereaved managed to grab the microphone from him. During the resulting scuffle, the onlooking villagers, refusing to bury Kato within their parish, sided with the preacher. » More

ISN Insights: Look Back, Week Ahead

The new ISN Insights week starts today, photo: Kirsty Hall/flickr

Last week, ISN Insights looked at:

  • Sports and politics and FIFA’s recent, controversial decision to award World Cups to Russia and Qatar in a piece by Gerard DeGroot.

This week we’ll be looking at: so-called green weapons, US policy toward the LRA in Uganda, Japanese defense policy, security in the Gulf region and corruption. Stay tuned.

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