Making Sense of the Arab Spring

Arab spring, not flower revolution: Fawaz A Gerges (LSE) and Volker Perthes (SWP) on the opening panel of the 2011 International Security Forum. Photo: Tim Wendel/ISN

On Wednesday, 1 June, the 9th International Security Forum closed its doors to three days of intense political debate and passionate shoulder rubbing. The highlights were many and varied, yet the 450 participants will surely keep the fondest memories of the event’s first panel discussion, which put the conference on the right track, and set the tone for the following days.

“‘Let’s import a new government’ labor activists joked. This was after the regime threatened to import workers from Bangladesh, if we asked for higher wages”. Nehad Abul Komsan from the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR) described the Egyptian revolution on the opening panel last Monday. Hosni Mubarak is gone but problems remain. According to Yossi Alpher from bitterlemons publications the socio-economic troubles, which are partially responsible for the upheaval in Northern Africa and the Middle East, will continue to pose a big challenge for any new leadership.

John W Limbert from the US Naval Academy examined Iran’s role in the Arab Spring in his statement. As in the past, Iran seems to be excluded from progressive developments taking place in its neighborhood. “Tunisia could, Iran not” is a slogan among Iranian progressives, who are again frustrated by their country’s backwardness. Ambassador Limbert went as far as to say that Iran’s leadership is humiliated by regional developments. It did not even manage to protect its Shiite fellows in Bahrain.

UN Summit for the World’s Poorest

Just a Drop in the Bucket? photo: rogiro/flickr

The Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC-IV) opened its doors on Monday in Istanbul. Before its close on Friday, it aims to approve a new action plan to improve the situation for the world’s least developed countries. As the world’s poorest states are today at risk of falling even further behind, politicians and development experts are calling urgently for more investment and an unhindered access to global markets.

In accordance with the UN General Assembly resolutions and the note of the UN Secretary-General outlining the modalities of the conference, the objectives of the conference are (1) to comprehensively assess the implementation of the 2001 Brussels Program; (2) to share best practices and lessons learnt; (3) to identify new challenges and opportunities for LDCs; and (4) to mobilize additional international support measures and action in favor of the LDCs.

It has now been 40 years since the international community first recognized the category of the Least Developed Countries as a group of states with a distinct set of problems. Today, qualification for the list includes a per-capita annual income of less than $905, assessments of malnutrition, child mortality and education levels, as well as an economic vulnerability rating based on population size, remoteness and instability in exports and production. The category does not include large economies, and the populations of its members must be below 75 million.

CSS News

Meeting Tomorrow’s Security Challenges

Theme International Security Forum (ISF)
Theme of the International Security Forum (ISF) 2011, courtesy of Tim Wendel, ISN

Can the world find a new blueprint for collective action to resolve global, regional and national challenges, or will shifting power patterns lead to further fragmentation? This challenging question is at the core of the upcoming International Security Forum (ISF) 2011.

The biannual conference’s topic is “Regional and Global Security: Meeting Tomorrow’s Challenges Today”. During the three days, speakers and participants will discuss the implications of the economic and geopolitical shifts for the international security agenda on the global and regional level.

  • On the first day, the sessions will look at the future handling of nuclear weapons, at migration and security, and at challenges and opportunities associated with public-private cooperation in security governance.
  • The 24 panel sessions on the second day will explore five different themes: 9/11 Plus Ten, Regional Security: Local Dynamics – Global Impact, Present and Future of Conflict, Human Security, and State Failure / State Building.

ISNetworking in Washington

Talking to Roland Schatz (left) of Media Tenor, an ISN partner; photo: Patricia Moser/ISN

The program of the American Political Science Association‘s (APSA) 2010 Annual Meeting & Exhibition is 400 pages thick. It features hundreds of panels, plenaries, poster sessions and workshops covering topics from women and political research to international security and arms control.

More than 90 exhibitors populate the halls of the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC. Among publishing houses and research institutes present there is also the ISN. We explain our services, talk to old acquaintances and discuss future partnerships. This is where the International Relations and Security Network really becomes tangible and personal.

I decided to start the day with a panel. Overwhelmed by the choice, one topic caught my interest: The Future of Blogging. Does political blogging have a future at all? Haven’t blogs been replaced already by still newer media such as Twitter, which require less time and allows for more instant communication?

Seven experts, political scientists as well as long-time bloggers talked about their research and experience, but didn’t quite manage to tell the future of blogging. Three ideas I picked up:

  • Even though the Obama campaign managed to raise millions of dollars with its social media strategy, the Obama administration was disappointed about how little money it got through its health care reform campaign. This disappointment shows that the power of social media in politics had been overestimated.
  • Blogs seem to be a very popular tool among the political opposition (progressives before Obama’s election, conservatives now), but not so much within the ruling camp. They are a medium for political criticism and protest.
  • Two interesting developments can be observed in the US: Politicians are hiring staff to manage their ‘blogger relations’; politicians invite bloggers to press conference-like events, where they ask questions and are expected to kick-off fundraising campaigns.

If you happen to be at the APSA Annual Meeting visit us at booth 1102 in Exibit Hall B at the Marriott Wardman Park. We look forward to meeting you.

Rethinking Nuclear Non-Proliferation

New York. The 2010 Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is underway at the UN Headquarters. Hundreds of representatives from states, intergovernmental and nongovernmental organizations have come together on the banks of the East River to discuss the regime that governs the containment of nuclear weapons on the one hand and the promotion of civil nuclear energy on the other hand.

How to save the non-proliferation regime? photo: Jean-David et Anne-Laure, flickr

Zurich. The International Relations and Security Network (ISN) presents hundreds of news articles, policy briefs, scholarly publications, weblinks and primary resources on the NPT and related topics. A few highlights:

  • In “Cost of War: NPT Enmity” Shaun Waterman comments for ISN Security Watch on the showdown between Iran and the US and the long-term impact of the review conference.
  • In the ISN Special Issue newsletter from March 2010, David Cliff asks whether the elimination of nuclear weapons is desirable, achievable and sustainable.
  • Nuclear Dangers“, an ISN Special Report from April 2009, examines two pressing perils standing in the way of a nuclear-free world: acquisition of nuclear weapons by emerging powers and smuggling of nuclear material out of former Soviet states.
  • Reviewing the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty“, a new book by the Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College (SSI), an ISN partner,  clarifies the NPT’s ambiguities by following its structure article by article.
  • NPT Briefing Books” published by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), another ISN partner, offer comprehensive background and reference material on the NPT and its associated regime.