Alternative Security

Another world is possible - a world where damaging military interventions are seen as a last resort - not a first response.

Non-Military Solutions to Security in Europe

The UN world summit in 2005 agreed a "responsibility to protect" populations from genocide or mass atrocities, which includes, as a last resort, the use of armed force.

banksy piece However, a glance at the records of the interventions undertaken in the last few years by NATO/the US show that all too often, over reliance on military solutions causes more harm than good. In each of the invasions of Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq, ethnic or sectarian killing has increased and whole regions have been destabilised.

In the rare examples with a positive outcome, a limited military intervention was either invited by the sitting government (Sierra Leone), undertaken in enforcement of an explicit multilateral agreement (East Timor) or both (Congo's Ituri district).

Too frequently, little is done to prevent conflict as it begins, with peace-keeping organisations underfunded and under resourced, NATO leaders only to happy to await the point at which rising tensions can justify military engagement. Civilian protection is proffered as a motivation for military intervention, but the truth is a more complex web of geo-political concerns. After all, there was no military intervention to prevent the massacre of a million people in Indonesia, the expulsion of the Kurds from Turkey, or any number of humanitarian disasters.

Providing basic human security should be within the capabilities of the global powers, such is their technological sophistication and relative wealth and access to resources. It is a question of priorities and choice.

NATO has a common funding budget of nearly £1.8 billion, and the US spends $16bn a month on running costs alone (i.e. on top of the regular expenses of the Department of Defence) in Iraq and Afghanistan. Britain alone spends £1 billion a year just on maintaining its nuclear weapons. In contrast, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the largest regional organisation for conflict prevention in the world, had a budget in 2007 of only £129 million.

challenge Imagine instead that world leaders had wanted to increase the capacity for civilian conflict-management, had wanted to finally realise the UN Charter's finest norm: peace by peaceful means. Imagine that the international community and leading security organisations had spent energy, money and creativity on adapting the global system to civilian conflict-management, that the UN had had a pool of thousands of civilians – social workers, psychologists, economists, police, lawyers, teachers etc., - on standby for rapid deployment in post-war regions.

Imagine that the OSCE and the UN had been given just a fraction of the funds NATO has at its disposal. Imagine, in short, that the civilian aspects and the human dimensions of security and conflict resolution had been nurtured and new civilised tools had been given priority including early warning to prevent wars and violence in the first place.

Genuine security for everyone cannot be provided by nuclear weapons, by a strengthened military, by increased spending on armaments and the arms trade. It can only be achieved by ending our commitment to NATO, reducing the influence of the military industrial complex in Europe, restoring the conflict prevention role of the UN, and investing in the OSCE and other NGO and civilian peacekeeping organisation.


See below for more information on the OSCE:

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  • BASIC - Source:
    The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is uniquely positioned to deal with the conditions that breed terrorism in Europe and Eurasia. Having transformed itself following the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, the OSCE has some 4,000 people in field missions in 19 countries of the region. These missions have helped to end civil war in Tajikistan, constrained conflict in Ukraine, Macedonia, Moldova and Georgia, and played a major role in building civil society in post-conflict Bosnia and Kosovo.
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