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UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 3 | Feb. 7, 2002

Centre to zero in on human security

Annual report on global violence among goals

by Michelle Cook staff writer

Mapping the incidence, severity and consequences of global violence will be the major focus of UBC's new Centre for Human Security.

Part of the Liu Centre for the Study of Global Issues, one of the centre's major goals will be the production of an annual Human Security Report, modeled in part on the United Nations' high profile Human Development Report.

"The Liu Centre's strong stress on interdisciplinary research and the fact that its director, Lloyd Axworthy, pioneered the concept of human security as Canada's foreign minister, makes it an ideal place to focus on human security issues," says the centre's director, Andrew Mack.

"The traditional goal of national security has been to protect the physical integrity of states, but secure states do not necessarily mean secure citizens. Indeed, for most of the 20th century far more people were killed by their own governments than by foreign armies."

Protecting states from external attack by other states is decreasing in relevance in a world where more than 90 per cent of armed conflicts take place within countries, not between them, he adds.

In addition to mapping global violence -- criminal as well as political -- the report will chart policy responses to that violence -- from preventive diplomacy missions to strategies for addressing the root causes of violence.

While the report will commission new research in a number of areas, a major objective will be to "translate" academic research to make it more accessible to the policy community -- including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) -- and to educators, the media and the interested public.

After three years working at the UN as Kofi Annan's strategic planning director, Mack says he was surprised at how little influence academic research had on the policy community.

"This is mostly because officials rarely see the findings that conflict researchers produce, let alone the data on which they are based," he says. "Few UN diplomats, for example, believed that there had been a large upsurge of ethnic conflict around the world in the 1990s. In fact the number of armed conflicts declined by more than 35 percent. Finding out why this reduction took place will help us understand how to reduce global violence in the future."

Too often, Mack says, governments and NGOs design policies for preventing violence without access to the best research on prevention.

"It's a bit like a prescribing medicine without diagnosis," he says.

The first report is scheduled for release in 2003. The centre will work in partnership with institutions worldwide, including the developing world, to produce it.

Mack comes to UBC from Harvard University's Program on Humanitarian Policy. Prior to joining the UN in 1998 he held the chair in International Relations at the Australian National University.


Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

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