Conflict, competition and cooperation in an interconnected world

19 June 2018 - 09:00 - 20 June 2018 - 20:00
Maureen Achieng , Stefanie Babst, Christian Friis Bach , Franziska Brantner, Tobias Feakin , Sasha Havlicek , Leo Hoffmann, Shamil Idriss , Raimundas Karoblis, Gilles De Kerchove , François De Kerchove d'Exaerde, Joanne Liu , Robert Muggah, Annalisa Piras, Wayne C. Raabe, Marietje Schaake , Jamie Shea , Nathalie Tocci , Vaidotas Verba , Lassina Zerbo

You can register for the debate here

Debating Security Plus (DS+) is a unique global online brainstorm that aims to yield concrete recommendations in the area of security and defence. Gathering several thousand participants from around the world, it is the only platform that permits a truly global whole-of-society consultation providing innovative recommendations for some of the world’s most pressing security challenges.  

For the sixth time, the 2018 brainstorm will bring together senior international participants from the military, national governments, international organisations and agencies, along with voices from NGOs and civil society, business and industry, the media, think-tanks and academia. Their involvement in our security policy brainstorm will help bridge the gaps between experts and citizens, and their recommendations will aim to inform the implementation of the EU Global Strategy, as well as the policies of national governments and other international institutions as they shape their approaches to peace, security and defence. 

From 19 June, 09:00 CEST to 20 June 20:00 CEST, the international security community will debate ideas relating to six different themes where challenges and policy solutions will be discussed by VIP debaters. The discussions will be moderated by leading international think tanks and organisations that will steer discussions towards concrete recommendations.

Click here to download the programme

Related content:

2017 recommendations and executive summary 
2017 Debating Security Plus report

DS+ is an unique global online brainstorm which gathers thousands of participants from the world of peace, security and defence—and beyond—to develop sustainable solutions to some of the biggest security challenges facing the world today. The 6th edition will take place from 19-20 June.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks signalled a seismic shift in global security and the emergence of a fluctuating multipolar system. Military endeavours must be combined with economic, judicial and democratic capacity-building to build sustainable peace.

The digital revolution has yielded both opportunities and challenges. The global financial crisis shook the economic system and harmed citizens’ trust in institutions. Now there are major questions about the European project, transatlantic relations and the future of NATO.


The online brainstorm will be set up across six discussion themes that will run in parallel from 19 June, 09:00 to 20 June 20:00. Leading personalities from the sector will contribute video messages before logging in to engage live with the thousands of participants throughout the exercise, sparking lively discussion and pushing this global security community to put forth policy recommendations.

Conversations will be moderated by leading think-tankers from around the world and to steer the discussions towards concrete recommendations by the end of the 36h online event. 

All timings are Central European Summer Time (UTC+2)

Theme 1

Countering hybrid threats in the cyber age

From cyber-espionage and disruptive attacks on critical infrastructure to interference in elections, propaganda, and disinformation campaigns, institutions around the world are increasingly under threat from state or non-state operations. These (mostly digital) risks – if unmitigated – have raised fears of serious breakdowns in states’ economies and societies, increasing the risks of conflict and threatening societal resilience. 

The past decade has witnessed a significant increase in hybrid tactics, notably cyberattacks, on businesses—including banks and energy companies- and states with highly developed digital infrastructure, carried out both directly by hostile states and through supposedly independent hackers, often used as proxies for states’ to project power at home and abroad. In particular, beyond the international limelight thrown on Pyongyang’s progress in developing a nuclear weapon capable of striking North America, countries like China and North Korea are significantly increasing their offensive capabilities in cyberspace. What can governments, companies and citizens do to strengthen their resilience to cyberattacks? The ability and willingness to respond to cyber-attacks is instrumental to a credible deterrence by actors such as the EU and NATO—should they be developing the use of offensive cyber capabilities in the face of malicious attacks? One of the key recommendations coming out of the 2017 edition of DS+ was to create a global cyber convention to set out international definitions and rules in cyberspace – what obstacles stand in the way? 

Increasing digitalisation has enabled Artificial Intelligence (AI) to flourish, and has been seen by policymakers as a development which can help to enhance civil and military capabilities and services. However, the international community has raised concerns over the lack of human control in modern warfare. Where do we draw the line on autonomy and warfare? How prepared are military forces, including NATO, for AI warfare? Is the West already losing the AI arms race to China and Russia?

Theme 2

Europe as a global security actor

With its emphasis on soft/smart power and multilateral diplomacy, the EU appears to be out of step with a multipolar world increasingly characterised by hard power, great power rivalries and zero-sum games. With the US no longer ready to continue its lead on global security issues, Europe is looking more carefully at its own defence capabilities and role as a global security actor.  

The resuscitation of meaningful defence cooperation through Permanent Structured Cooperation (“PESCO”) could have a significant impact on European collective defence in numerous ways which largely depend on the leaders and policymakers steering the project. Given uncertainty over the future direction of US foreign policy, the EU has illustrated genuine political will and a sense of urgency in seeking to up its game as a security provider. Is there a credible European alternative to US leadership, in NATO or through the EU? With the United Kingdom one of only two true military powers in Europe, what impact will Brexit have on the security and defence of Europe, and the EU’s global operations? 

Despite the EU’s efforts to build up collective defence – which risks being challenged by a rapidly deteriorating environment in its Eastern and Southern neighbourhoods – the EU’s diplomatic and security performance on the global stage is often questioned by the international community. Towards the Western Balkans, is the EU doing enough on security, radicalisation and the fight against organised crime? What role should Europe play in bringing peace to Syria, given the growing involvement of Iran, Russia and Turkey? How should Europe respond to China’s growing power, especially in the South China Sea and as regards the security implications of the Belt and Road Initiative? Is the EU seen as a credible security actor by the rest of the world, and especially in Asia?

Theme 3

Regional approaches to global migration

Responses to global migration- caused by a multiplicity of interrelated factors including conflicts, resource scarcity and climate change- remains largely uncoordinated at the global level. The UN recognises the need for a comprehensive approach to human mobility and is working on adopting global compacts on migration and refugees in 2018. But such initiatives face many obstacles on an international level. As such, learning from local challenges in different parts of the world can help us better understand and address the linkages between migration, security and development. 

Although overall numbers are down, migration flows to Europe have not stopped. The 2017 DS+ report proposed to instigate a better dialogue between the EU and member states on the urgent need for legal migration pathways. How can the EU improve its responsiveness and preparedness for migrants arriving at its borders? How robust has Europe’s approach been in managing the migration influx, particularly with Turkey?  

In the Middle East and Africa, economic weakness as well as instability, insurgency and conflict are persistent. What are the lessons learned from countries in the region as regards the mass waves of migration? How important is the role of development aid in addressing migration in this region?

In Asia, the persecution of the Muslim Rohingya population in Myanmar and the inadequate response of local and regional authorities to the crisis has brought to the fore the weaknesses of Southeast Asian responses on refugees and migration. How can regional organisations such as ASEAN become more actively involved in migration policies? How can the region’s states prepare for a growing risk of ‘sinking islands’ and migration driven by climate change?
US President Donald Trump’s tough policies on migration are also casting doubts on the long-standing migration flows to the US from its southern neighbours. Moreover, emerging economic and political issues such as those currently witnessed in Venezuela can further escalate and cause a violent conflict, increasing the number of migrants. Is Latin America prepared to deal with instability and migration?

Theme 4

Fraying arms control regimes

The global nuclear order has been changing in recent years. Energy security, fluctuating oil prices as well as uncertainties caused by climate change have contributed to a renewed interest in nuclear power as an energy source for the future. At the same time, there are growing concerns about current nuclear non-proliferation regimes overseeing nuclear affairs. 2017 witnessed some progress on the issue of nuclear proliferation as 122 states voted for the adoption of a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, a first global and legally-binding agreement banning nuclear weapons, and an alliance of nongovernmental organisations fighting for the same cause received the Nobel Peace Prize.

However, states continue to modernise their strategic arsenals and in practice the reality suggests arms control agreements are far from ideal - North Korea’s recent testing of a nuclear weapon and missiles claimed to have the ability to reach the US is one of such examples. Enforcement of international arms control regime continues to struggle, failing to discourage states that seek to acquire their own nuclear capabilities.

A key recommendation from the 2017 DS+ has been to engage regional powers to de-escalate nuclear tensions. While the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a significant achievement, the response of the international community to nuclear proliferation remains constrained by complex political issues and dilemmas. How can this global community, including NATO and the UN, improve the capability of regional players—such as China—to approach and manage nuclear proliferation? Thinking beyond nuclear, can we encourage progress in arms control regimes in areas such as chemical weapons, as well as in new areas such as cyber and artificial intelligence?

Theme 5

Realigning the crime-terror nexus

Over the past year, the Islamic State has sustained increased pressure and further military defeat of the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq is expected. However, the severity of the threat in Europe, Southeast Asia and Africa must not be underestimated, and may even increase. Continuing instability in the Middle East and North Africa, including the establishment of new footholds by the Islamic State into the Maghreb, is a major security challenge. The last years have also seen an increase in terrorist attacks by extreme right, left-wing and anarchist groups, causing a significant threat to governments in the West. 

In Europe, cooperation between law enforcement and governments with relevant actors is getting better: governments have improved their information system and police forces are increasingly working with financial institutions and tech companies to track organised crime and disrupt the means by which terrorists finance their operations. How can the relationship between the police and the judiciary be reinforced to tackle the connection between human and drugs trafficking and the financing of terrorism? 

However, flaws in counter-radicalisation and terrorism strategies remain. The international community should develop a comprehensive response to the rehabilitation and reintegration of former jihadi radicals and returning terrorist fighters while also tackling violence by far-right groups and anarchists. A key recommendation from DS+ 2017 is the need to involve communities, families, schools and community policing in counter-radicalisation strategies. Do local entities, including community police have the right training and resources to tackle radicalisation and violent extremism? How can we ensure that intelligence sharing between local and national police and security actors is more efficient? What role can the police play in developing better early warning systems by harnessing the intelligence within local communities?

Theme 6

Russia, Europe and the US  - scenarios of the future in a turbulent time

What will the world look like in 2028? What effect will the political decisions made by today’s leaders have in ten years’ time? Are we moving towards ‘the end of history’, a new Cold War, or even World War 3?

Cascading and unpredictable crises are becoming the new normal. With relations between Russia and the West at the lowest point in decades, and at a time of fundamental change not only in the West’s relations with Russia but also within the EU and in the transatlantic partnership, now is the time to think ahead and consider what future relations between Russia, Europe and the US could – and should – look like.

In partnership with the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies and the Robert Bosch Center at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), the 2018 DS+ brainstorm will test out different “scenarios of the future” for Russian-European-American relations.

Four alternative futures of Russian-Western relations in 2028 - some more likely than others- will be presented, with participants asked to work through the implications and consequences of such scenarios, and how we might anticipate and/or address them. How did we get to that particular future and how could we avoid it? Or alternatively, how did we get to that future and how could we make sure we do get there in 10 years?

Based on the feedback from participants on these scenarios of the future, we will come up with policy recommendations to be presented to key decision-makers, enabling them to reflect on the potential ramifications of the choices and policy decisions they are faced with today.

Maureen Achieng
Chief of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) Mission in Ethiopia
In her current role, Maureen Achieng ensures effective IOM support to the Ethiopian government as well as the broader Horn of Africa region in responding to migration challenges. She is also the IOM Representative to the African Union, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), helping to formulate policies and implement initiatives that uphold the rights and needs of migrants, promote effective migration management, and mitigate migration-related risks. 
Stefanie Babst
Acting Assistant Secretary General for Public Diplomacy at NATO
Stefanie Babst leads a team that advises the NATO Secretary-General and Chairman of the NATO Military Committee on strategic and global security challenges and risks to NATO. Having served in various capacities at NATO throughout her career, Babst is an expert on international security policy and maintains close working relationships with policy planners and strategic analysts in NATO governments, the private sector, think tanks and NGOs. She has written many analytical articles for various outlets and think-tanks on this topic, which she also discussed at numerous security conferences. 
Christian Friis Bach
Secretary-General of the Danish Refugee Council (DRC)
Christian Friis Bach leads Denmark’s largest international humanitarian organisation, which works in more than 30 conflict-affected countries worldwide. The organisation has developed a strong reputation as a leading actor in insecure environments and in assisting refugees along every phase of the displacement cycle. Prior to joining the DRC, Friis Bach served as Denmark’s Minister for Development Cooperation and as UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). 
Tobias Feakin
Ambassador for Cyber Affairs at the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Tobias Feakin leads Australia's international engagement for national security and foreign policy in cyberspace. He was a member of the panel that supported the Australian Cyber Security Review to produce the 2016 Cyber Security Strategy. He was previously the Director of National Security Programmes at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, where he established the institute's International Cyber Policy Centre. He has also held a number of research and advisory positions, including with the Royal United Services Institute, Oxford University and the Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace.
Sasha Havlicek
Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Strategic Dialogue (ISD)
As ISD’s founding CEO, Sasha Havlicek leads the organisation’s pioneering programmes, advising governments and working with businesses and civil society to deliver solutions to conflict, extremism and terrorism. She has spearheaded the largest global network of former extremists (AVE) in partnership with Google’s Jigsaw; the Strong Cities Network, the first global counter-extremism cities network; and the Innovation Hub, a partnership with Facebook, Google and Twitter to counter extremists’ online efforts. She recently launched with Sheryl Sandberg the Online Civil Courage Initiative, aimed at challenging hate speech and extremism online.  
Leo Hoffmann
EU representative of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons
Working on the implementation of the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Leo Hoffmann has co-founded the Nobel Peace Prize winning International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) in Germany. In addition to his current position at ICAN, he is also a Research & Advocacy Coordinator at Transparency International, and has previous experience from the European Commission's Joint Research Centre and the DG Economic and Financial Affairs (ECFIN). Hoffmann has also previously served as a disarmament attaché for the pacific island Republic of Nauru at the UN in New York.
Shamil Idriss
Chief Executive Officer of Search for Common Ground
As Chief Executive Officer of the world’s largest dedicated peacebuilding organisation, Shamil Idriss has led Search’s efforts to end violent conflict in more than 35 countries globally, including some of the most devastating conflict zones in the Middle East and Africa. Previously, Idriss was the Deputy Director of the UN Alliance of Civilizations, supporting high-level political and religious leaders to improve cross-cultural relations between Western and Muslim-majority countries, before, during, and after the Arab Spring revolutions.
Raimundas Karoblis
Lithuanian Minister of Defence
A seasoned Lithuanian diplomat, Raimundas Karoblis’ distinguished career in the Foreign Ministry includes such high-level positions as Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, Permanent Representative to the European Union and to the World Trade Organisation, and Director of the Foreign Trade Policy Department. Appointed Ministry of Defence in 2016, he has actively participated in international security conferences speaking on the topic of the security and defence cooperation between the Baltic States, NATO and the EU.
Gilles De Kerchove
Counter-Terrorism Coordinator at the Council of the European Union
Gilles de Kerchove has been the EU’s Counter-Terrorism Coordinator since 2007, where he plays a central role in monitoring the implementation of the EU counter-terrorism strategy. Prior to this position, he served as Director for Justice and Home Affairs at the EU Council Secretariat and was also worked in national government as the Chief of Cabinet to the Belgian Minister of Justice. Kerchove was the Deputy Secretary of the Convention which drafted the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU.   
François De Kerchove d'Exaerde
Permanent Representative of Belgium to NATO
During his nearly 30-year diplomatic career, François de Kerchove d’Exaerde has held such prestigious positions as Director of Cabinet of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and European Affairs, Director for Security Policy at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador for the European Union’s Political and Security Committee (PSC), as well as various diplomatic postings in Japan, Kuwait and Berlin. De Kerchove d’Exaerde also served as Director General of the Egmont Institute.
Joanne Liu
International President of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
A Canadian-born physician, Joanne Liu has worked with MSF since 1996, when she took on her first field assignment: caring for Malian refugees in Mauritania. Since then, she has provided support after the tsunami in Indonesia, assisted people affected by the earthquake and cholera epidemic in Haiti, and worked with Somali refugees in Kenya. She has worked in many conflict zones, including in Palestine, Central African Republic and Darfur. She has been a staunch critic of the EU’s handling of the continent’s migration crisis.
Robert Muggah
Research Director and Programme Coordinator for Citizen Security at the Igarapé Institute
Robert Muggah is the co-founder of the Igarapé Institute, a Brazilian think and do tank working on security and justice in Latin America and Africa. Muggah is also the co-founder of the SecDev Foundation. He consults with governments, the UN, the World Bank and firms ranging from Google to McKinsey. He is known for designing award-winning interactive data visualisations that track the global arms trade, homicidal violence, fragile cities, and climate change. He has also developed open source body cameras for police accountability and predictive crime dashboards.
Annalisa Piras
Director of Springshot Productions and Director of ‘Europe at Sea’
Annalisa Piras is an award-winning Italian director, producer and journalist based in London. Her latest documentary, ‘Europe at Sea’, has gained exclusive access for the first time to the work of the EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy at a pivotal moment in time, when Europe is confronted by a changing geopolitical landscape and pressing migration and security challenges. Piras’s prior award-winning documentaries include ‘The Great European Disaster Movie’ (2015) and ‘Girlfriend in a Coma’ (2012).
Wayne C. Raabe
Director of the Interagency Partnering Directorate for the U.S. European Command (EUCOM)
As the Director of Interagency Partnering, Mr. Wayne C. Raabe leads a team that embodies a “whole of society” approach in building and strengthening sustainable partnerships with interested organisations to ensure regional security and stability to better execute EUCOM operations. Mr. Raabe previously worked for the US Department of Justice, specialising in the Criminal Division working on narcotics and drug control policy. Raabe also brings with him acute global maritime security expertise, having served a 21-year career in the U.S. Coast Guard.
Marietje Schaake
Vice-Chair of the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with the United States, Founding Member of the Intergroup on the Digital Agenda and Trustee of Friends of Europe
Marietje Schaake, a Dutch politician and Member of the European Parliament, serves on the International Trade committee and is the spokesperson for the ALDE Group on transatlantic issues and digital trade. Schaake also serves on the committee on Foreign Affairs and the subcommittee on Human Rights. With her active involvement in all things digital, she has been called “Europe’s most wired politician” by the Wall Street Journal, “rising Dutch star” by CNN and was voted one of the “40 MEPs that matter” by Politico.
Jamie Shea
Deputy Assistant Secretary-General for Emerging Security Challenges at NATO and Trustee of Friends of Europe
Jamie Shea has occupied a number of senior positions at NATO across a wide range of areas, including policy planning, external relations, press and media. As NATO’s Spokesman, he was the face of NATO during the Bosnia and Kosovo conflicts. He later worked as the Director of Policy Planning in the private office of former NATO Secretary-General Rasmussen during the preparation of NATO’s 2010 Strategic Concept. Shea is also a regular lecturer and conference speaker on NATO and European security affairs.
Nathalie Tocci
Director of Instituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) and Special Advisor to the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini
Nathalie Tocci is the architect of the 2016 European Global Strategy and is currently working on its implementation, primarily in the field of security and defence. An Honorary Professor at the University of Tübingen, she has previously held research positions at prestigious European and American research institutes. An expert on European foreign policy, conflict resolution, the Middle East and the Mediterranean, she was awarded the 2008 Anna Lindh award for the study of European Foreign Policy.
Vaidotas Verba
Project Coordinator of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine
Prior to his current role in Kyiv, Vaidotas Verba was team leader of the Odessa group of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission in 2014. A Lithuanian top diplomat, Verba previously served as the country’s Special Envoy for the EU’s Eastern Partnership, Ambassador to the Netherlands, and Permanent Representative to the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. He was also the Chief Coordinator for the preparation of the third Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in 2013. 
Lassina Zerbo
Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO)
Lassina Zerbo has been instrumental in cementing the CTBTO’s position as the world’s centre of excellence for ending nuclear testing, as well as in leading efforts towards the entry into force and universalisation of the Treaty. To further achieve this goal he created a group comprising of internationally-recognised decision-makers and experts to promote and advance the Treaty’s aims. In recognition of his work at the CTBTO and in the disarmament and nuclear proliferation field in general, Zerbo was awarded the 2013 “Arms Control Person of the Year”.

With the support of:

eucom civocracy


Moderating partners:

cari CTR




gateway hedayah hybrid ISS
HUB NATO riac    


Coalition Partners: 



Fundacji ELIAMEP
EUROMIL Research Institute for American Studies The WANA Institute


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