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Bridging the Gap Between Intellectual Excellence and Civic Initiatives

[Think Tank image]

Think Tank:(n).

  1. A forum to develop possible solutions for current, environmental issues.
  2. A multidisciplinary discussion series hosted by the CEU NGO.
  3. 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?

 [ poster ] 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:

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:

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