Bridging the Gap Between Intellectual Excellence and Civic Initiatives
[Think Tank image]
- A forum to develop possible solutions for current, environmental issues.
- A multidisciplinary discussion series hosted by the CEU NGO.
- See below for details on the Think Tank involving students, staff and faculty from
Environmental Science and International Relations and European Studies Departments!
Should the Environment Be on the International Security Agenda?
Case Study: Since the 1970s, political rhetoric has begun to expand the traditional concept of security from an exclusively military concept to incorporate more broad-based concerns and social issues, such as drug-trafficking, terrorism, poverty, disease and environmental degradation. Nations, such as the United States, have begun to formalize an environmental security agenda. However, we would like to pose the question: does the environment belong on the International Security agenda, and if so, how does it effect traditional understandings of "security" and "environment?"
Paul Benjamin, the Co-ordinator of the CEU's International Relations and European Studies (IRES) Department, outlined arguments for and against coupling security forces and environmental issues. As a basis for the discussion, he suggests that one must consider the following questions:
- Are environment and security linked? How?
- Are environmental research, management, and control appropriate issues for a security force's involvement?
- Who should be involved with drafting and enforcing responses to significant regional and global environmental problems?
- How would environmental research and management change if it were controlled by a security alliance?
- How would the traditional concept of security change? Would it?
- What potential benefits might a traditionally crisis-response, secretive, and polluting industry like a security force have on environmental issues, if any? Limitations?
What Can Be Done? On 24 March 1999, Think Tank most of the 28 students, 9 faculty/staff present seriously doubted whether a traditionally military body could legitimately and meaningfully participate in environmental resources conflicts. Primarily, the group was skeptical of a large, international, command and control body's ability to manage itself and environmental issues efficiently. Most agreed that "ambiguous enemies and end-points" such as drought and long term strategies needed to achieve sustainable forestry would not fit with the crisis resolution thinking of a security force.
In addition, increased integration of world markets has altered the traditional power structure in which international security forces traditionally played. Roughly, this structure viewed other states, individuals, or small groups of individuals as threats to national sovereignty. However, with corporations playing increasingly powerful roles at the international level the revaluation of "security threat" may come to include challenging the role of corporations as well.
Should an international security force address these issues? What form would such a body take? The group agreed that they expected the traditional security forces would not rise to meet new challenges creatively, but persist in applying military strategies to a wider range of problems. In light of this skepticism, the main challenges to placing the environment on the international security agenda were:
Participants put forth several areas where cooperation among traditional security forces and environmental scientists may be productive, but remained skeptical, maintaining that combining the two areas too closely would be dangerous and counterproductive. Areas for consideration include:
- nationalism / national interest
- lack of creative, non-militarized approach
- how to respond to a faceless or non-existent enemy, i.e. drought, sustainable practices
- required transparency does not exist
- lack of public participation
- how to address non-military bodies, i.e. corporations
- defense organization as a source of environmental pollution
- invites military escalation of a conflict
- unpredictable reallocation of resources for military purposes
- gain public trust undercover of "green issues"
- opening military budgets to environmental spending
- potential access to extensive data archives
- potential access to specialized equipment for deep sea and ozone research
- use of security personnel to work on civil projects, such as forest, water issues.