Security in Transition: An interdisciplinary investigation of the security gap

In December 2010, Mary Kaldor, leading a team of junior and senior researchers, was awarded a large grant from the European Research Council (ERC) for a five-year research programme entitled Security in Transition: An Interdisciplinary Investigation into the Security Gap.| 

The twentieth century model of security, based on the rule of law and policing within nation-states and conventional military forces externally, is no longer applicable to twenty-first century global security risks. The security gap refers to the fact that millions of people live in situations of intolerable insecurity as a consequence of armed conflict, organised crime, terrorism, financial crisis, poverty and inequality, environmental degradation, vulnerability to natural disasters to name but some of these risks, and yet  current public security provision is not designed to address these sources of insecurity and, indeed, as recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown, sometimes makes things worse.

'Security in transition' is about investigating and identifying the nature of the security gap and tracking the ways in which public and private agents are adapting. It has five components: narratives; indicators; rules; tools; and geographies. The programme is ground-breaking in that it puts forward a new analytical frame for understanding contemporary security challenges and will use an innovative interdisciplinary methodology. It also has considerable public significance because security is so closely bound up with legitimacy and and because its findings, including a database of indicators of insecurity, are expected to have great relevance for policy-makers.

Civil Society Dialogues on Transnational Justice

This project is premised on the insight that the impact of international justice and transitional justice instruments in conflict-affected states depends to a large extent on the engagement of civil society with these processes and mechanisms.  How civil society actors use, adapt, develop, and contest justice norms and structures is an important factor for the success or failure of such instruments in advancing their immediate objectives and broader socio-political goals.  These questions are particularly important in the Great Lakes and the Balkans, regions that have been marked by persistent conflict and insecurity but also by significant international justice interventions over the past two decades.

The project aims are twofold.  First, to engage civil society actors in the Great Lakes and the Balkans in a dialogue on the role of civil society in transitional justice, which encourages self-reflection, knowledge transfer, and networking at two levels: a) between civil society actors from the two global regions; and b) between activists from Kenya and Uganda.  Second, to harness the insights from the civil society dialogue in advancing the ‘Security in Transition’ research programme at the LSE, which seeks to assess the impact of novel instruments of international justice and transitional justice by examining how civil society interacts with them and with what implications.

Strategic governance of Science and Technology Pathways to Security

The world is in the midst of a profound transition in the way that we understand and practice security with a range of competing security discourses- for example, counter-terror, geo-politics or human security.  The Strategic Governance of Science and Technology Pathways to Security aims to assist the design and implementation of effective government security policy by improving our understanding of how the pathways and trajectories taken by science and technology shape, and are shaped by, these changing discourses on security. Investigating the ‘direction’ as well as the ‘rate’ of technical change, the interdisciplinary research sees innovation in non-linear terms, recognising diverse counterfactual options that are neglected as socio-technical systems become ‘locked-in’ to possibly undesirable configurations. The programme aims to understand which discursive pathways of security are being realised in technological innovation and infrastructure and to identify options to diversify and improve public policy, technology and practices.  This will be done through  a series of case studies about the way in which different technological pathways relate to different security discourses. These include Neuroscience, Advanced Robotics, Social Media, Geoengineering, Bioinformatics, and IED technologies. Methodologically, the research incorporates ESRC-STEPS ‘pathways’ approaches, scientometric mapping, and ‘Q-method’ techniques, with inbuilt outreach and dissemination strategies.

Crowdsourcing conflict and peace 'events' in the Syrian Conflict

This project aims to create a database on the conflict in Syria, capturing both instances of violence and of peace-making. This database will include ‘events’. An ‘event’ is defined as an instance of (1) the use of violence; (2) a local negotiation or cease-fire; (3) the formation or disbandment of armed groups. These are gathered through crowdsourcing. This involves creating a web-platform where people in Syria with a mobile phone (text-messaging) or internet connection can report these events, as they see them happening. The project has made contact with a network of local civil society organisations, many of which are involved in negotiating cease fires, and will encourage members of these networks to participate in the crowd-sourcing effort. The result is a database that records instances of the use of violence and attempts at peace-making, and that details the date and location at which these happened, and what parties were involved.

The database can be used to analyse patterns (e.g. why certain areas are more violent than others, or what contributes to the success of a local peace agreement) and it is intrinsically important to record instances of human suffering as a matter of historical record.

Economic and Environmental Transitions 

With the input of Mary Kaldor and Visiting Fellow Robin Murray, LSE Centennial Fellow Carlota Perez is developing the work that she started in her highly regarded 2002 book, Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital: The Dynamics of Bubbles and Golden Ages.  As a result of a lecture she gave at the LSE back in 2010, a dining club was established involving academics, company executives, green activists and local government officials to develop her ideas on a potential 'green' golden age; subsequently, this is being developed into a substantial research project.

Subterranean Politics in Europe

Since 2011, when a series of ‘new’ protests and political initiatives bubbled up across the continent, the unit has been researching 'Subterranean Politics in Europe'. We use the term 'subterranean politics' to describe emerging forms of protest and debate; the term is close to our interpretation of civil society not as NGOs but as a medium through which individuals challenge, resist, reconceptualise, and/or reconstruct the centres of economic and political authority. The aim of the first stage of this project was to map the debate about the future of Europe, elucidate the emerging political dynamics and to identify key nodal points where change is possible. Our initial report was published in 2012 and is available here|; a book on the project was published by Palgrave Macmillan|

During the second phase of our research, we are focusing on one of the primary findings of that report: namely, that there is a fundamental mismatch between the portrayal of the crisis in Europe by policy makers and in the mainstream media and the concerns of the groups and individuals engaged in subterranean politics. In collaboration with the LSE Euro Crisis in the Press team and with the contributions of academics from across Europe, we are examining the narratives of the crisis that dominate the so-called ‘public discourse’| across Europe, attempting to highlight key features of this mismatch. Both phases of this project have been carried out with the support of the Open Society Initiative for Europe (OSIFE).



 Security in Transition

Security in Transition