NATO and human security
The August 2021 Afghan debacle offers NATO a moment for serious reflection about its role in the world. Some are drawing the conclusion that NATO should not engage in out-of-area operations in the future and should instead focus on its core function of defending Euro-Atlantic territory from attack by foreign states, while dealing with the terrorist threat through long distance strikes using drones. But NATO members should draw a different conclusion, namely that in this globalised interconnected world, no one is safe from the complex combination of dangers that include war and violence, climate disasters, forced migration, pandemics or extreme poverty. It is no longer possible, if it ever was, to insulate one part of the world from what happens elsewhere. What is needed is not retrenchment but rethinking and redirecting of NATO’s role.
In this Policy Brief, I put forward the idea of a global strategy based on human security. Human security is understood as the security of individuals and the communities in which they live, in the context of multiple economic, environmental, health and physical threats, as opposed to the security of states and borders from the threat of foreign attack. Human security offers an alternative way to address “forever wars” whether we are talking about conflicts in different parts of the world, the so-called war on terror, or the geo-political competition with Russia and China. Human security implies that the security of Afghans or Chinese is just as important as the security of Americans or Europeans.
* (back) Professor Emeritus of Global Governance and Director of the Conflict Research Programme at the London School of Economics and Political Science.
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