This Week in ISN Insights…



It’s week 22 on our editorial calendar, Photo: Leo Reynolds/flickr


The ISN is pleased to offer you a special, expanded edition of ISN Insights this week, dedicated specifically to coverage of the International Security Forum (ISF) taking place 30 May-1 June 2011, in Zurich:

* On Monday, we take a closer look at the stalled state of US-Iranian relations, and envisage a world without nuclear weapons, with articles, respectively, from Dr John Limbert, Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the US Naval Academy, and Alyson JK Bailes, Visiting Professor at the Univeristy of Iceland and former Director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

* Tuesday’s focus on the ten-year anniversary of 9/11 offers selections from Dr Paul Pillar, Visiting Professor and Director of Studies at the Center for Peace and Security Studies, Georgetown University, and Dr Lorenzo Vidino, Visiting Fellow at the Center for Security Studies (CSS), ETH Zurich.

* We’ll offer up on Wednesday an article on managing China’s rapid rise by Dr Kerry Brown, Head of the Asia Program at Chatham House, and a piece by the CSS’ Dr Myriam Dunn Cavelty, on developing a more realistic cyberthreat assessment.

And in case you missed any of last week’s coverage, you can catch up here on: the 20-year anniversary of Operation Solomon; opinion polls and IR; the challenges facing the new European External Action Service (EEAS); and understanding Pakistan’s nuclear rationale.


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”.

International Relations Human Rights

Serbia’s Bid for EU Candidacy

Wall with graffiti: Never, EU!
EU, never? Wait and see. Photo: Limbic/flickr

The timing could not have been any better. A few days from now, the chief prosecutor to the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) will release a report which was expected to paint a damning picture of Serbia’s co-operation with the ICTY, thereby destroying Serbia’s chance of getting EU candidacy status this year. Considering today’s historic arrest of war criminal Ratko Mladic and his expected extradition to The Hague, some people at the ICTY will now have to work overtime to correct the draft report, .

Serbia’s move towards EU accession began back in 2008, with presidential elections and a parliamentary vote both demonstrating the appeal of the EU perspective to Serbia’s electorate. Even after Kosovo unilaterally declared its independence, a majority of Serbians continued to resist nationalistic demagogy. Of course the nationalist ideology had not disappeared, but its political significance started to diminish.

Serbia officially applied for EU membership in December 2009, after seeking to secure the broadest possible support among member states. In October last year, the EU member states referred Serbia’s application for membership in the EU to the European Commission, while reiterating that further steps toward membership would depend on Serbia’s “full co-operation” with the ICTY. The Netherlands in particular took a tough stance, reiterating that their consent was dependent on the arrest of General Mladic and Goran Hadzic.


100% Green Electricity: the Battle over Investment

Countries look forward to attract investment. Photo: Tim Snell/Flickr

Scotland and Albania want to produce 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Their commitment, both prime ministers argue, is not only a huge step towards a more sustainable society but will also comprise the creation of thousands of “green collar” jobs. This is good news for the environment and also for their respective populations. But with little more than 8 years to go, isn’t this target too ambitious for the nations’ actual capacities?

The governments’ announcements come at a crucial moment. Investors have started to shift their business to China, and last month a report by the group CBI warned that the United Kingdom was not attractive for investment in renewables. But the recent disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plants and the long-standing urge for clean energies have shifted public opinion in Europe to make way for a new reality. A second green revolution is building as European countries renew their commitment to clean energies as the way forward.

Security Health Human Rights

Nobel Women’s Initiative 2011

Survivors of sexual violence at a women’s centre. photo: Amnesty International/flickr

Yesterday, 23 May, the third international gathering of the Nobel Women’s Initiative opened its gates in Quebec, Canada. This year it carries the title Women Forging a New Security: Ending Sexual Violence in Conflict. For three days, over 120 civil society activists, corporate and security sector leaders, military and peacekeeping personnel, academics from around the world, and numerous Nobel Peace Laureates are convening to discuss strategies for tackling sexual violence in conflict.

Sexual violence in times of war or turmoil is not at all a new phenomenon. Rape has shadowed war for as long as armies have marched into battle. In the past four decades, however, the scale of sexual violence has come to reach almost surreal proportions. While “traditional” warfare was, in the past, characterized by a clash of armed forces, wars have developed more and more into internal armed conflicts. The targets are increasingly often civilians, turning rape and sexual attack into useful forms of war and a core military strategy in conflicts around the world, from Sudan to Burma to Colombia.

Rape is the most intrusive of traumatic events. Sexual violence is as damaging as a bullet. It destroys not only the body of the victim, but the basic social fabric of the community. Where sexual violence has been a way of war, it destroys the way of life. Rape shatters traditions that anchor community values, disrupting their transmission to future generations. Children accustomed to rape and violence grow into adults who accept them as the norm.