Global Voices

What Are Security Professionals Thinking?

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From Monday the 19th to Friday the 23rd of March, our partners at the Security and Defense Agenda (SDA) organized Security Jam 2012. Over the course of these five days, thousands of experts, representatives of national governments and armed forces, international institutions, NGOs, think-tanks, industry, academia and members of the media took part in a massive online brainstorming session focused on finding real solutions to global security issues. The numbers speak for themselves: during the event, there were 17,000 logins from some 3,000 participants and 50 VIPs spanning 115 countries.

The SDA gave its partner institutions the opportunity to submit some short questions that were published as online polls during the event.  Especially considering the high profile of some of the participants, it is interesting to see what security professionals are thinking about some of the most pressing issues on the security agenda. Below we present the results of five of the most interesting polls.

Major challenges for the EU and US

The ongoing economic crisis — and, for some states,  the recovery process– seems to be playing a major role in what security professionals consider the most important challenges on the EU and US agendas. Participants on both sides of the Atlantic realized that in order to address security issues at an international level, states must first put their domestic economic houses in order – as well as ensure international economic and financial stability. This fact also reflects the impact that the crisis has had on security issues: defense budgets were cut dramatically both in response to and in anticipation of the crisis. Moreover, NATO’s Smart Defense Initiative was also widely discussed as a means of more efficient international cooperation through the pooling and sharing of capabilities, in order to somehow balance out these national defense cuts.

NATO’s presence in Afghanistan after 2014

A lot of the discussions in the thematic forum on Afghanistan focused on what NATO’s role should be in the region after 2014. As the timeline of operations includes the withdrawal of NATO’s forces from Afghanistan, the burning question is what comes next. The majority of participants in this poll think that the best idea would be for the NATO mission to continue but in more of a consultative role, in  order to ease the transition to domestic forces being responsible for security. What is interesting, however, is that a majority thought that there should be some international presence in the country, even after 2014, either in the form of NATO or the UN. This clearly reflects the participants’ concerns about the future of the country.

Transnational threats

One impression with which the Security Jam left us was the variety and severity of transnational and hybrid threats that nations will have to deal with in the future. According to the Security Jam, states will increasingly have to secure their citizens against attacks that are non-military, not grounded in geography, and which may be beyond the capacity of local law enforcement. As our partners at Security and Defense Agenda put it, ‘’In a globalized economy, where both businesses and people move and change location more often and to more places, people depend on flows of money, goods, materials, energy and ideas. Therefore we cannot remain indifferent when external forces disrupt these vital flows’’. There were also questions, however, as to the specifics of how the efforts to combat these threats should be coordinated, such as how often leaders should meet to discuss transnational threats and how much effort they should actually put into dealing with these threats.  Most of the participants want to see leaders addressing issues of transnational threats on a frequent basis –be it monthly, or simply as often as the circumstances call for it.

On the question of what effort nations should apply to combating such threats, a clear majority called for ‘whatever it takes’, indicating that transnational threats are a security issue of primary importance.

Security Concerns vs. Privacy Rights

The poll on the issue of privacy and security was the one that attracted the most attention –in terms of the number of votes- of all the polls at Security Jam 2012. On the question of security concerns trumping privacy, the majority of ‘Jammers’ agreed that this is indeed happening, and that it happens often. The implications of this question become even more relevant in the context of cyberspace: now that cyberspace has permeated nearly all aspects of modern life, how can cyber-security be balanced with privacy rights?

For more information on the Security Jam, please visit our previous posts:
Security Jam 2012 – Be Part of the Solution!,
Security Jam 2012: Halftime,
Security Jam 2012: Make Your Recommendations to the World Leaders!,
What Did We Learn From Jamming? (Part 1)
What Did We Learn From Jamming? (Part 2),

For an overview of the Security Jam via the Security Defense Agenda’s YouTube channel, please click here.

To learn more about the The Security and Defence Agenda (SDA), please click here.

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