Tag Archives security

Addressing threats to scholars on the ground demands proactive measures from Academic institutions: Notes from fieldwork in Kashmir

Addressing threats to scholars on the ground demands proactive measures from Academic institutions: Notes from fieldwork in Kashmir

Fieldwork is the most critical, and perhaps, the most demanding component of research, especially in difficult and hazardous contexts such as active conflict zones or nations with authoritarian regimes.I started ...

Border communities in Nigeria continue to remain unsafe: Are border security forces to blame?

Border communities in Nigeria continue to remain unsafe: Are border security forces to blame?

Imeko border town remains a significant border area in Nigeria, due to the sizeable economic activity that is carried out there, which contributes to the country’s revenue base. However, despite ...

The War in Ukraine: Is this the End of the Liberal International Order?

By Posted on

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought war back to Europe. The international ramifications of the war are clear, for instance now that President Putin talks about nuclear deterrence and the United Nations has condemned the invasion. This blog argues that a proper assessment of the war in Ukraine should take into consideration the dimensions of international order and the European security order.

The world woke up to hear the news of the Russian invasion into Ukraine in the early morning of 24 February 2022. The invasion followed on weeks of military build-up of Russian troops on the eastern, northern, and southern borders of Ukraine. Many commentators doubted the intentions of Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade Ukraine, and had hoped for a peaceful ending to the confrontation. Putin’s televised speeches on 21 and 24 February attempted to justify the Russian attack of Ukraine on the basis of alleged activities of western countries to expand their grip on the Eastern European country, and ultimately include it in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) military alliance, as well as the domination of the Ukrainian government by hostile (‘Nazi’) rulers.

Around the world, people are currently following the horrors of the war in Ukraine with growing anxiety. Putin’s announcement that Russian nuclear ‘deterrence’ forces would be put on special alert, allegedly in response to statements by the UK’s Foreign Secretary about a possible clash between NATO and Russia, seem to forebode a return to the days of the Cold War. A resolution in the United Nations General Assembly, demanding the unconditional withdrawal of Russian forces from Ukraine, was adopted on 2 March 2022 by a 141 to 5 majority, with only Russia, Belarus, North Korea, Syria, and Eritrea voting against it. A proper understanding of the international ramifications of the war in Ukraine needs a focus on deeper-lying processes related to the international order and the European security system.

The post-World War II period has been characterised by what many call a liberal international order. This order applied mainly to the US and its allies during the period of the Cold War, as the Soviet Union managed to build a parallel order. The collapse of the Soviet Union and its military alliance created a so-called unipolar moment, with the US as the only remaining great power. During the unipolar moment, which is usually dated between 1990 and 2005, the Western alliance assumed growing pretensions regarding the spread of liberal political and economic principles. It is now well recognised that the liberal international order is under attack, and may be giving way for a more pluralistic order, where different principles are embraced by rising powers such as China. The statement issued by China and Russia on the opening day of the 2022 Winter Olympics referred to ‘international relations entering a new era’. The statement provided a clear vision for a new ‘polycentric world order’, where China and Russia would challenge the ‘attempts at hegemony’ of ‘certain states’, which try ‘to impose their own “democratic standards” on other countries, to monopolise the right to assess the level of compliance with democratic criteria, to draw dividing lines based on the grounds of ideology, including by establishing exclusive blocs and alliances of convenience’. Russia, however, may have overestimated the pledge, contained in the Chinese-Russian statement, that there would be ‘no limits’ regarding their friendship and cooperation, as China did not support Russia in vetoing the UN Security Council’s resolution on Ukraine, while it also abstained from voting in the subsequent General Assembly session.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine signals an attempt at overturning the European security order. The order of the past 30 years followed on the Cold War, during which an ‘iron curtain’ separated the Western and Eastern parts of Europe, and the Soviet Union’s military intervened in several member states of the Warsaw Pact. In the post-Cold War period, various countries in Central Europe as well as the Baltic states became members of NATO, a move that was seen as an expansion of democracy in the West. In 2014, the so-called Maidan revolution in Ukraine, which led to the eventual departure of the Russia-backed President, was embraced by a range of West European politicians – something that was questioned by some so-called realist scholars of international relations. Over the years, the legitimacy of the European security order was attacked by a variety of Russian commentators. For instance, the honorary chairman of Russia’s Council on Foreign and Defence Policy, Sergey Karagavov, referred to the ‘Putin doctrine’ that is aimed at ‘constructive destruction’ of the relations between Russia and the West. This doctrine aims at a ‘pivot to the East’, and the prioritisation of Eurasian relations over those with the West, alongside ‘a new kind of relations between Russia and the West, different from what we settled on in the 1990s’. As a clear reflection of Russia’s revisionism, the latter position includes a repudiation of the agreements that were signed by Soviet Union and Russia’s Presidents Gorbachev and Yeltsin, including the Charter of Paris (1990) and the Budapest Memorandum (1994), which provided clauses on freedom of association for previous member states of the Warsaw Pact and security guarantees for Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine. The proposed security treaty that President Putin presented to the US and NATO in December 2021 similarly put in question the post-1990 security order in Europe, as it specified that Ukraine would not be offered NATO membership, and that NATO forces should be withdrawn from Central and Eastern Europe.

As the war in Ukraine is now in its third week, and the devastation of the country is increasing, the full implications of Russia’s military action are still unclear. What is clear, however, is that the war will seriously impact the international order of the years and decades ahead. At a minimum, one could expect a new Cold War to characterise political and military relations in Europe, certainly now that the war in Ukraine has led to the resolve of the German government to increase its military spending, and the indications by Finland and Sweden that they may consider NATO membership. Next to this, the call for revision of the principles of the post-World War II global order will continue, with clear support by China, but one can only hope that this will take a less violent turn, unlike the tragic events over the past weeks.

Opinions expressed in Bliss posts reflect solely the views of the author of the post in question.

About the author:

Wil Hout is Professor of Governance and International Political Economy at the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam. He teaches on issues of international order in the Erasmus Minor Evolution of International Order and in the Masters course Politics of Global Development: Debating Liberal Internationalism. Together with Michal Onderco, he is currently co-editing a special issue of the journal Politics and Governance, vol. 10, no. 2 (2022), on ‘Developing Countries and the Crisis of the Multilateral Order’.

Are you looking for more content about Global Development and Social Justice? Subscribe to Bliss, the official blog of the International Institute of Social Studies, and stay updated about interesting topics our researchers are working on.

#AbolishFrontex: On World Refugee Day, we call on the EU to end its border regime

#AbolishFrontex: On World Refugee Day, we call on the EU to end its border regime

More than 700 people have drowned in the Mediterranean Sea this year alone while attempting to reach Europe. This article shows how EU border agency Frontex has been complicit in ...

Can technology ‘decode’ developmental problems? by Oane Visser and Manasi Nikam

Can technology ‘decode’ developmental problems? by Oane Visser and Manasi Nikam

This article presents an interview with Dr. Oane Visser, Associate Professor in Rural Development Studies, at the International Institute of Social Studies. It shows ways in which technology can be ...

When the going gets tough: duty of care and its importance by Siena Uiterwijk Winkel

Safety and security for students and staff traveling in complex, remote and hazardous areas is important but often taken for granted at universities. In order to create an embedded, inclusive and efficient policy, it is key to have more exchange of good practice examples among universities and to talk about what is needed in this respect. This article argues these points through discussions that happened in a seminar organised by the ISS on ‘Safety and Security Abroad for Universities’ in cooperation with the Centre for Safety and Development (CSD).

The death of Giulio Regeni, a PhD student at Girton College, Cambridge, in 2016 had a major effect on safety and security policies at the universities in the UK and beyond. Giulio was murdered whilst conducting research in Egypt. There is a growing awareness that universities not only have a legal duty of care towards their students and staff but also a moral obligation as an employer and an educator to provide appropriate support, assistance, training, and to create safe working conditions. Calamities that befall staff and students, such as traffic accidents, muggings, hotel fires, kidnappings, terrorism and natural disasters, not only affect the individuals concerned but they can have an impact on the entire institution. Whether it is academic staff doing research in complex regions or going on visits to partner institutions, students writing their research papers in remote areas or support staff visiting projects in hazardous places, an inclusive safety and security policy should assist staff and students by guiding them to keep risks at minimum.

The ISS organized a seminar on ‘Safety and Security Abroad for Universities’ in cooperation with the CSD. During this seminar, the University of Amsterdam, the University of Copenhagen and the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) shared their experiences and ongoing work to create safer working conditions for researchers in the field. During the discussions, we wrestled with the question of how can we limit risks and provide appropriate support to our researchers without interfering with academic freedom.

Marlies Glasius, a professor at the University of Amsterdam, responded to the lack of existing literature on working safely in countries with authoritarian regimes by collaborating with others to put together a much-needed, co-authored and freely downloadable volume on the topic. The book deals with the importance of good preparation, risk assessment and clear instructions for field work. It also touches on the possible mental impact of working in complex and potentially hazardous research arena.

Daniel Thomas Mosbæk Jensen of the University of Copenhagen works as a mobility officer and focuses on the road towards creating an inclusive safety and security policy. He shared that in order to create support for such a policy in the organization, one should involve different internal and external partners. Clear agreements about each department’s responsibilities concerning risk assessment and insurance should be discussed and formulated in order to make the policy effective.

From IDS, having worked on this topic for many years, important issues were discussed by Tim Catherall and Mustafa Roberts. One key point was that in the UK, universities have a legal duty of care. It is illegal not to abide by the duty of care as an employer. This is also applicable in The Netherlands, although there is less awareness about the implications of such a duty than seems to be the case in the UK. IDS have a university safety and security strategy that is embedded in the organization. The various departments such as the project support teams, risk management sub-committee, the executive board and external travel booking partners have their own set responsibilities.

These range from being responsible for risk assessments and filling in travel notification forms to providing security reports and real-time alerts about safety and security. As every department within the organization has its own responsibilities, it is relatively easy to outline expectations to traveling staff. IDS’s safety and security strategy is based on corporate risk management policy and on a risk register. This risk register involves risk assessment as part of the proposal-writing phase of any project. All the steps within a project that involves travel are based on the outcome of the risk register. This means that if a high-risk level is identified, additional training is provided, previous academic experience in hazardous areas is considered and the necessity for the travel is carefully scrutinised. The policy includes a travel notification procedure that results in a clear overview of who is where and when. So in situation of crisis, the university can find out fast and easily who is in the specific area and who might be in danger.

During the presentations and discussions at the end of the seminar, several key questions came to mind. Whose duty of care is it? What could be the role of donors in enhancing risk awareness? Where does the duty of care stop? What is the right balance between limiting risks and providing appropriate support without interfering with academic freedom?

In the end, we need to be more risk aware. It is time to take sensible and proportionate action within universities to ensure that our staff and students are well-trained, supported and equipped to do the work we ask of them. The duty of care is as global in its implications as is any aspect of university business. The fact that both students and staff operate ever more internationally and thus venture increasingly into potentially hazardous, complex and remote environments in the course of their work and study, brings new challenges to the university in terms of ensuring that the infrastructure provided matches the evolving needs. Are we doing enough in this respect?

Do you have an opinion on this or an experience to contribute? Please share your thoughts in the comment section!

Image Credit: John Payne on Flickr

sienaAbout the author:

Siena Uiterwijk Winkel is an AMID trainee working as a policy officer at ISS. Her background is in Peace and Conflict studies with a specialization in Child Development and Protection. At ISS she works on Outreach, Engagement and Impact of research.

IHSA Conference 2018 | How to defend a common humanity? by Khaled Mansour

IHSA Conference 2018 | How to defend a common humanity? by Khaled Mansour

In a gripping account of his witnessing of the gross human rights violations inflicted on others, Khaled Mansour asks why aid workers are becoming apathetic toward the crimes against humanity ...

IHSA Conference 2018 | Aid behind walls? A spatial view of humanitarian security by Janine Bressmer

IHSA Conference 2018 | Aid behind walls? A spatial view of humanitarian security by Janine Bressmer

The humanitarian aid community in reaction to security risks facing its staff is slowly but surely building a Fort Knox around itself. This article details only some of the risks ...

Human security and migration in Europe: a realistic approach by Ali Bilgiç

Human security is not a moralistic utopia but a realistic approach to migration, which takes European citizens’ insecurities seriously by focusing on human security of migrants. It is now time to bravely and innovatively rethink Europe and migration, and by extension, what kind of European political community can be imagined.


Today, many individuals, whether European citizens or migrants in(to) Europe, live under fear and anxiety. These two types of insecurity are different, but inherently connected. Both are lives under fear, because Europe’s migration (mis)management dichotomise these two lives—these two insecurities. However, European migration (mis)management policies dichotomise the security of European citizens and migrants from the global South. This dichotomy leads to the three dialectics of European migration (mis)management:

  1. Limited Legal Migration Channels and ‘Criminalisation’ of Mobility: The reduction of legal migration routes, combined with continuing high demand for many types of labour from abroad, has led to higher irregular migration and to the flourishing of the smuggling business.
  2. Mutual Distrust: The European border management system operates based on distrust towards migrants. Such distrust by Europe towards migrants feeds into distrust from migrants to Europe.
  3. Mutual human insecurity: The condition of ‘illegality’ is a source of human insecurity for both migrants and European citizens. Each group’s attempts to secure itself cause insecurity for the other.

Human Securitising Migration in Europe

There have been several renditions and implications of human security. In my understanding, which matches that adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2012, human security broadly refers to each individual’s freedom from fear (threats such as physical and direct violence), from want (meaning unemployment, poverty, sickness), and from indignity (exclusion, exploitation, and discrimination). It imagines communities in which political, economic and social systems do not inflict physical and structural violence on individuals.

Human security is explicitly about problematising power relations that inflict violence on individuals and communities. Being conscious of power relations, human security reveals that the security of those who are disadvantaged and marginalised and the security of those who are more privileged in different power relations are, in fact, inherently connected. A human security perspective asks the following questions:

How does the interaction between economic and political structures in Europe produce violence, fear and anxiety for individuals?

The three dialectics of migration mismanagement result from Europe’s political and economic choices in the last five decades. A human security researcher begins her analysis by questioning political, economic, legal, and sociological consequences of these choices which constructed migration from the global South as a security problem in the first place. A migration management policy starts with turning the mirror to Europe and asks how European policies contribute to the criminalisation of migration.

How do European external relations produce or obscure human security?

Europe’s external relations regarding migration have fundamentally two dimensions. The first one targets the countries of origin to tackle ‘the root causes’ of migration. In theory, addressing root causes of migration can be praised from a human security perspective because they are supposed to address structural problems that inflict violence on individuals. However, first, ‘the root causes’ do not affect all individuals in the same way so addressing ‘the root causes’ does not provide us with a quick solution that is applicable to all. Second, the root causes approach must be a long term policy, which should be accompanied by opening legal and circular migration channels to Europe. A smart root causes approach aims to manage migration, not stop it. Otherwise, it is self-defeating.

Another area that human security researchers can question is EU relations with its North African and Middle Eastern neighbours in particular, the field I have been studying in the last ten years. In the last 30 years, Europe has developed the policy of containing migrants in the EU’s neighbourhood by transforming the neighbouring states into ‘Europe’s border guards’. We call this process ‘externalisation’ of migration management. Highly problematic deals with the neighbouring countries to keep migrants on their territories do not consider rising ethnic and racial tensions and exploitation of migrants’ cheap labour, which encourage migrants to continue their migration.

How can the human security of migrants, EU citizens and citizens of neighbouring regions be addressed together, and not opposed to each other?

Human security of one social group cannot—sustainably and successfully—be pursued at the expense of another group. This idea is known as the principle of common human security. It can be traced back at least to the foundation of the United Nations. The current migration management regime of Europe divides groups. This is not to argue that European authorities are not responsible for the security of EU citizens. On the contrary, it encourages and calls European sovereign authorities to take the human insecurities of EU citizens seriously by acknowledging that their security depends on the human security of non-EU citizens.

Against the backdrop of these three questions, several policy research areas regarding migration to Europe from a human security perspective can be thought. For example, one research area concerns developing a new language that surpasses the dichotomies of ‘good migrant’ and ‘bad migrant’, ‘refugee’ and ‘economic migrant’. Reflecting the common human security perspective and deriving from the EU Commission’s calls for developing ‘a migrant-centred approach’ in migration management, human security research explores a new language that reflects realities of contemporary human mobility.

Another research area can be how European political community can regain the trust of migrants so they do not feel the need to be ‘invisible’. A question can be asked what institutional mechanisms can be designed at the EU level, and possibly beyond European borders, to re-establish a relationship based on trust, not fear, between migrant and Europe. In my book Rethinking Security in the Age of Migration, I developed the concept of ‘protection-seeker’ and proposed an EU-level regularisation mechanism, examples of which we can observe in several South American states including Argentina, Uruguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, and Brazil.

Human security is not a moralistic utopia but a realistic approach to migration, which takes European citizens’ insecurities seriously by focusing on human security of migrants. It is now time to bravely and innovatively rethink Europe and migration, and by extension, what kind of European political community can be imagined.

This article is based on the lecture of Dr. Ali Bilgiç, presented on 12 April 2018 for his inauguration as holder of the Prince Claus Chair in Development and Equity 2017-19 in the area of ‘Migration and Human Security’ at the ISS. An interview with him (in Dutch) can be found here.

Picture credit: European Union Naval Force Somalia Operation Atalanta

ali_bilgic_op_prins_claus_leerstoel_migratie_en_menselijkeAli Bilgiç is Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Loughborough University. He has a Ph.D. from Aberystwyth University and a MA in European Politics from Lund University. He is the author of Rethinking Security in the Age of Migration: Trust and Emancipation in Europe (Routledge, 2013) and Turkey, Power and the West: Gendered International Relations and Foreign Policy (I.B. Tauris, 2016).


Deglobalisation Series | Backtracking from globalisation by Evan Hillebrand

Deglobalisation Series | Backtracking from globalisation by Evan Hillebrand

While globalisation still enjoys strong support in the Global South, major economies in the Global North now seem less enthusiastic about its purported benefits. This article explores how the United ...