- By Chris Kremidas Courtney
The deadly Brussels terror attacks in March brought the dangers of today’s heightened threat levels chillingly close to home for Europe’s security community.
The need to counter the violent extremism behind the Brussels bombings and so many other attacks around the world was a key theme running through the fourth biennial Security Jam, held barely a month after terrorists targeted Brussels airport and a crowded metro station a couple of blocks from Friends of Europe’s offices.
Over the course of four days, close to 2,500 policymakers and experts from 131 countries joined this unique open forum. Friends of Europe presented the top 10 recommendations that emerged from the Jam to key stakeholders. The Jam provided input into the European Union’s new Global Strategy for Foreign and Security Policy and NATO’s Warsaw Summit, aimed at adapting the Alliance to a fundamentally changed security environment.
One common thread was prominent across the online debates: the necessity of forging stronger cooperation between state and non-state actors, for governments to work closer with civil society and the private sector.
“Nobody can predict or prevent conflict and violence all by themselves. Governments and business, NGOs and civil society need to work together,” said Bert Koenders, Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs. “An important question, therefore, is how to improve knowledge-sharing practices and collaboration between all stakeholders involved in conflict prevention.”
Jammers highlighted the value of such partnerships in areas as diverse as supporting grassroots initiatives to counter jihadist youth recruitment, working with shipping lines against piracy and detecting early signs of conflict by tapping on-the-ground knowledge from non-government organisations.
The Jam was organised around six topics: Strategic foresight and earlier-warning; Global partnerships for conflict prevention; A regional security architecture for the Middle East; Foreign military engagement 2025; Policing 2025: new strategies against transnational crime; and Answers to radicalisation and violent extremism.
Throughout the debates, Jammers stressed the importance of developing early-warning capabilities to better anticipate emerging challenges and construct effective response mechanisms. “The contemporary international security environment is growing increasingly complex, with new capabilities and new actors emerging to challenge traditional concepts,” explained Mara E. Karlin, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy and Force Development. “A key task of policymakers is to assess risk over time and space so that they can allocate scarce resources in the most efficient and effective way possible.”
Although the Jam was global in scope, the situation in the Middle East and North Africa was a clear focus given the carnage in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen, and its broader international impact through refugee flows, violent extremism and the risk of still-wider conflict.
Among the ideas to defuse regional tensions were confidence building measures through regional talks in areas such as climate change, energy or water resources. International powers could act as facilitators to help bring rivals to the table.
“The EU should play a leading role, and build on its strengths,” wrote Marietje Schaake, Member of the European Parliament, Vice-Chair of the Delegation for relations with the United States and Member of the Committee on International Trade. “Sometimes this is the role of facilitators, as in the Iran talks. This should give the EU greater access to Iranian leaders, which can and should be used to encourage reconciliation with Saudi Arabia.”
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