14 June 2006

Security in Europe Requires Sustainable Peace in Post-Conflict "Hot-Spots" in Other Parts of World, Security Experts Say at UN Symposium in Vienna

Cooperation between International Players, Holistic Approaches to Security and Freedom of the Media Discussed

VIENNA, 14 June (UN Information Service) -- What are the connections between international security and domestic security? How do post-conflict areas impact on security in Europe? What are the links between drugs, organized crime, terrorism and ethnic conflict? What are the international and regional responses to peacebuilding, terrorism and crime? What issues confront the media in reporting on emerging security challenges? What concepts of security and what initiatives have emerged from the 2005 World Summit? Can more be done for security?

These questions were addressed at a public diplomacy symposium titled "Meeting Emerging Security Challenges", hosted jointly by the United Nations Information Service (UNIS) Vienna, and the Permanent Mission of Slovenia to the United Nations (Vienna) and NATO Contact Point Embassy in Austria, at the Vienna International Centre today..

The symposium explored the scope of activities in meeting emerging security challenges in the 21st century, as identified by world leaders in the outcome document to the 2005 World Summit, including peacebuilding, organized crime and terrorism. Particular attention was paid to the Central European context, examining the role of the United Nations, regional organizations such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the European Union (EU), and other actors in responding to these challenges.

Seven panelists, including representatives of different international organizations and Central European countries, as well as the media, engaged on these issues. The symposium was opened by Nasra Hassan, Director, UNIS Vienna, who drew attention to human security, and the Permanent Representative of Slovenia to the United Nations (Vienna), Ambassador Ernest Petrič. "The security environment has changed, and is now marked by challenges like terrorism, organized crime and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, rather than the threat of a world war. In response, international organizations have adapted to meet new challenges and coordinate their activities," said Ambassador Petrič.

 "The main common denominator of international crises in the recent past is their complexity," stated Professor Anton Grizold, former Defence Minister of Slovenia and now Vice Dean and Director of the Institute of Social Sciences at the University of Ljubljana, speaking as a panellist. As an example of the links between international and domestic security, Professor Grizold highlighted how the wars in the Balkans in the 1990s had increased the threats of organized crime and smuggling of migrants in the rest of Europe. As other examples he stated that the attacks of 9/11 had adversely influenced the world economy, and relations with minorities in Europe and North America, while the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina had influenced crime levels in the afflicted regions. These connections required new solutions. As a result, international organizations were increasingly sharing responsibilities, and new concepts of creating sustainable peace had emerged.

"It seems to be possible to have peace in Europe, against a background of war, civil war and poverty ravaging parts of the developing world, but it is not possible to have security," said Dr. Wilhelm Sandrisser, Head of International Affairs, EU-Coordination, Public Relations, Procurement at the Austrian Federal Ministry of the Interior, speaking on initiatives of the Austrian European Union (EU) Presidency in the security field. Most threats to European internal security were international threats, argued Dr. Sandrisser. For instance, 90 per cent of heroin sold in Europe came from Afghanistan, of which 80 per cent was trafficked via the 'Balkan route'. The Austrian EU Presidency had taken several initiatives in the external dimension of justice and home affairs, resulting for instance in the Vienna Declaration on Security Partnership, defining concrete measures in combating terrorism, organized crime and corruption, and in the area of migration/asylum. Another action had been the "Vienna Initiative", the first ministerial meeting of the kind between the European Union, the Russian Federation and the United States  in the field of internal security, held in May 2006 in Vienna. "Our concept is not war against insecurity, but partnership for security," Dr. Sandrisser emphasized.

Speaking on security sector reform and the role of the United Nations Security Council, Ambassador Marcel Peško, Head of the Coordination Unit for Security Council Matters, Slovak Ministry for Foreign Affairs, shared the experiences of his country, as member of the Security Council since January 2006. "Prioritization of security issues is the wrong approach, as security should be seen as a complex and holistic concept," said Ambassador Peško, in response to a question on international security priorities, and introduced the security sector concept, uniting all aspects of post-conflict rehabilitation. Peacebuilding had become a prime concern in international politics, reflected in the recent creation of the UN Peacebuilding Commission. Though each crisis was different, there were similarities between the issues that the international community was confronted with in conflicts such as those in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, Haiti, and Cote d'Ivoire, such as the coordination between internal and external actors, and the division of labour between different stakeholders and international players.

"No country can respond to challenges such as weapons of mass destruction and terrorism on its own," said Dr. László Botz, Deputy Head of Department, Office of the Deputy State Secretary for International Affairs, Hungarian Ministry of Justice and Law Enforcement, adding that the international community had recognized that it was not enough to deploy only military resources to respond to crisis situations: also the rule of law, and the normal operations of governments in post-crisis situations had to be assisted. He provided examples of concrete steps that Hungary had taken, such as law enforcement  assistance and training programmes in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The martial rhetoric of the public debate on security, shown in terms such as 'war on terror' or  'war on drugs', was addressed by Walter Kemp, Senior Public Information Expert, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). A key question related to these 'new wars' was how long these would take and how they would end. As 'new wars' were difficult to win, they were also long wars. Furthermore, 'new wars' needed new strategies. As interstate conflict receded, and states did not always control the full territory of their countries, the role of non-state actors must be given more attention. For instance, did non-state actors represent popular interest or self interest? Many so-called ethnic conflicts had little to do with ethnicity, but with the protection of self-interest.  On the links between ethnic conflict and organized crime, Mr. Kemp pointed out that "the networks we are up against are masters of multilateralism, sometimes better at it than the international community. They are not just surviving, but prospering on the proceeds of organized crime". In response, the international community was adapting its responses, and Mr. Kemp highlighted tools such as the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime and the UN Convention against Corruption. Mr. Kemp also raised the issue of the privatization of wars, including outsourcing by governments and organizations to private military companies.

"Peacebuilding and nation building are central tenets of modern security management and require an unprecedented level of international civilian and military cooperation," said  Jonathan Parish, Deputy Head of Policy Planning and Speechwriting Section at NATO. The work of NATO had changed dramatically in terms of its geographical range and the type of operations it undertook. In the post cold war era, security was radically different from the time when it was solely a military matter. Countries and organizations could not act on their own to defend values such as liberty, rule of law and democracy - proactive and cooperative approaches were required in concert with the wider international community. NATO was active on three continents - Europe, Asia and Africa, including Kosovo, Afghanistan, Iraq and Darfur, where NATO was airlifting African Union troops and assisting with training for that force. NATO was also providing assistance to Germany during the World Cup. Mr. Parish noted that different international organizations were facing similar problems in getting their messages across to the public, and suggested two reasons:  peacebuilding was a complex business and it exceeded the attention span of the public; and the average citizen did not understand that their security depended on what was happening a long way away in Afghanistan or in Darfur.

"There has been a big change in the environment for journalists since the 9/11 attacks. More importance is now attached to security at the expense of press freedom," said Dr. Rubina Möhring, President, Reporters Without Borders (Austria), Vice-President, Reporters Without Borders (International), and senior producer at ORF-3Sat television. In some instances, journalists trying to report objectively were seen as enemies. The work of journalists was dangerous: in 2005, 63 journalists and five assistants had been murdered, the largest number of victims being in Iraq. Over 800 journalists had been arrested, and over 1,300 attacked. As a result, journalists were not only journalists, they were sometimes pawns in a political game, for instance when taken as hostages. The danger for journalists in reporting from conflict areas, and in reporting objectively, had a negative impact on the ability of the public to keep informed on developments in conflict areas. The right to freedom of opinion and expression and seek, receive and impart information, however, was enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. In the endeavour for more security, these rights should be protected, and not taken for granted, urged Dr. Möhring.

The symposium was very well attended, with an audience of diplomats, including military attaches from numerous diplomatic missions, senior government officials, journalists, non-governmental organizations and civil society, experts and academia and students, engaging in a lively discussion with the panellists.

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For information contact:

Sonja Wintersberger
Associate Information Officer, UNIS Vienna
E-mail  : sonja.wintersberger@unvienna.org
Telephone : +431 260 60 3430