Rethinking Security

Steps to Sustainable Peace with Justice


~1,400 words


Last modified: April 6th, 12,022 HE

I recently attended an online course at Woodbrooke entitled Rethinking Security: Steps to sustainable peace with justice, delivered by Johanna Frew, Outreach Coordinator at Rethinking Security, and Philip Austin, Coordinator for the Northern Friends Peace Board (as well as a member of Rethinking Security).


Hi all, I’m Ben from the North West of the UK. I’m not a Quaker, but I’ve been interested in and exploring it for several years and I am an occasional attender at my local Meeting.

I’m interested in this course for several reasons: I work in (cyber) security…so I’m coming from something of a different perspective and have (hopefully) some helpful insider insight into the realities of securitised and militarised logics and their influence. I’m keen to learn about viable, effective ways of both a) challenging those logics and b) presenting more positive alternatives in their stead.

Back when I was at university I was part of a reading group that focussed on armed conflict in the 21st century, and some of the papers we read made a lasting impression on me (particularly The impotence of conventional arms control, which unfortunately doesn’t seem to be easily available for free). Another piece of writing that I have found very influential, this time from a Quaker source, is A Quaker in the Military (thank goodness for 20-year-old Web sites that never seem to go offline!).

I’m also of an age where practically my entire life has been lived in the post-9/11 era, in which things like continuous engagement in Afghanistan just seemed like unavoidable facts of life until suddenly, last year, they weren’t. Combined with some other things that were going on around the same time, I was motivated me to reclaim some agency and to learn how I can get involved in challenging those the same disastrous patterns of decision-making that the IR shows are still so dominant.

Session 1: What is Sustainable Peace with Justice

The readings for the first week were an article from Conciliation Resources on their work in Ethiopia, the executive summary and part 2 of the Rethinking Security discussion paper, the article Lessons from the UK: The Urgent Need to Redefine Security Post COVID-19 from WCAPS’ Redefining National Security and an article defining human security from the UN Trust Fund for Human Security.

In the first live session we explored what was meant by the term human security and the links to Quaker values, as well as reviewing the Rethinking Security discussion paper (a.k.a. the Ammerdown document) to lay out the backstory of how Rethinking Security came into being. We also heard from Hudo Ahmed, Conciliation Resources’ Project Manager in Ethiopia, about how her work contributes to human security.

We also considered the following questions:

Session 2: Why Rethink Security?

The readings for the second week were Paul Roger’s 2021 talk at the Bradford Literature Festival on his book Losing Control: Global Security in the 21st Century, part 1 of the Rethinking Security discussion paper, the overview of Global Britain in a Competitive Age: the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy (a.k.a. the Integrated Review), Richard Reeve’s blog post about the Review and two briefings from Rethinking Security: Human Security and the Integrated Review and Open Society, Closed Conversations: External Consultation and the Integrated Review.

The live session was all about understanding the content and priorities that govern the UK government’s security policy, and the Integrated Review that they have most recently culminated in. We explored the values that underpin alternative approaches.

We also considered the following questions:

Session 3: Applying Human Security

The readings for the third week were an introduction to Turning the Tide Kenya and a report on their work, the UN Trust for Human Security’s video gallery, the New Zealand government’s wellbeing budget, the Welsh Assembly’s Well-being of Future Generations Act, a pre-invasion pair of articles about peacebuilding efforts in Ukraine, the Power for People and Poverty Truth Commissions campaigns in the UK and the programmes of Rethinking Security partners Saferworld and Conciliation Resources.

We were also asked to read the summary of the UNDP’s 2022 report New threats to human security in the Anthropocene: Demanding greater solidarity and associated interview with Heriberto Tapia, a commentary piece by Open Democracy, an analysis of methods to demilitarise responses to climate change and another Richard Reeve article, this time on the progress that has been made towards human security despite government resistance.

Finally, for the really keen, we were given a copy of Turning the Tide East Africa’s Practical Peacebuilding Handbook and an LSE report titled People, Profits and Peace.

In the live session, we explored many of these successful and ongoing human security initiatives, and heard from Benard Lisamadi Agona from Turning the Tide Kenya.

We also considered the following questions:

Session 4: Creating a Human Security Strategy

The readings for the fourth week were a Richard Reeves blog post, a Westminster Hall debate on Global Human Security and Rethinking Security’s proposal for an Alternative Security Review.

We were also given one of four themes to read into. The themes were Migration and Reponses in Britain, Global Security Concerns, Climate and Energy Security and Inequality.

The readings for the Migration and Responses in Britain theme were a report from HOPE not hate on UK attitudes towards refugees and migrants and research into the reasons communities are hostile towards the other, an explainer on the UK’s hostile environment and the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM) Charter.

The readings for the Global Security Concerns theme were a Rethinking Security resource pack, Richard Reeve’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine and some additional Rethinking Security resources for communicating issues to the public.

The readings for the Climate and Energy Security theme were the Power for People campaign (again), a Policy Exchange article on energy security, the Transition Towns movement and the Cumbria Coal Mine Campaign.

Finally, the readings for the Inequality theme were a government report on health inequalities during the COVID-19 pandemic, a series of videos on the same topic, the Hopeful Towns initiative from HOPE not hate, the aforementioned Poverty Truth Commissions and Rethinking Security members MedAct and their work on health equality within a green new deal.

We also considered the following question:

Session 5: Introduction to Research Methods with CTPSR

The readings for this week were an as-yet-unpublished literature review for the Alternative Security Review, the articles Human security of urban migrant populations affected by length of residence and environmental hazards, Citizen Social Science for More Integrative and Effective Climate Action: A Science-Policy Perspective and Citizens and Security Threats: Issues, Perceptions and Consequences Beyond the National Frame and this video about protecting cultural heritage.

We also considered the following questions: