Wageningen meeting on New Challenges to Human Security 

On 16-18 June 2006, Pugwash Meeting No. 321 was held in Wageningen, The Netherlands.

1st Pugwash Workshop on New Challenges to Human Security: Empowering Alternative Discourses

A Pugwash Study Group Initiated by Pugwash Netherlands and International Student and Young Pugwash (ISYP). (Pre-workshop organised by ISYP 14-16 June 2006.)

Final report by Prof. Georg Frerks, Chairman Pugwash Netherlands and Dr. Berma Klein Goldewijk, Vice-chair Pugwash Netherlands

  1. Background project

Developments in the field of current conflict, terrorism and the war on terror, threats emanating from environmental and other hazards, and changes in current policy practice, have put the ‘classical’ risks arising from armament and especially weapons of mass destruction into a larger framework of human security and human development. Whereas during the Cold War the focus had been nearly exclusively on the contradictions and (military) power balances between the two superpowers – it is these that inspired the establishment of the Pugwash Movement fifty years ago –  the political, military, humanitarian and academic attention now focuses on threats linked to ‘new’ and other conflict causes, motives, actors and strategies, though the nuclear threat obviously remains at an alarming level. Building on the legacy of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto, this conference organised with the support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, addressed contemporary threats to human security and explored their implications for the agenda of Pugwash. The reason for Pugwash’s involvement is its history in dealing with the issue of nuclear armament and more widely its concern about humanity.

The issue of non-traditional threats has been on the Pugwash agenda for a number of years, but it was felt that a further impetus was needed, especially at the present juncture, where attempts to deal with those issues seem to be stagnating. The reason for this is that just as during the Cold War, imaginative attempts to resolve the issues at stake often seem to become ‘frozen’ and sidelined by dominant discourses and an intransigence to consider alternative solutions. Pugwash Netherlands sees this happening for several of the new security challenges, too. Whether we talk about the war on terror, climate change, environmental pollution or backgrounds to intrastate conflicts, there is a marked tendency to reduce the issues to simple and often rigid explanatory schemes in terms of ‘black-and-white’ or ‘us-versus-them’. When policy measures are devised on such a basis, they tend to exacerbate problems rather than contribute to their solution. Frequently, deeper insights on the problems are available, but political powers with the backing of associated hegemonic discourses do not wish and do not attempt to engage with available alternative approaches to reach more effective solutions. This often is combined with an increasingly intolerant position towards criticisms and alternative views. Discourse and power are in effect closely related, and define how we perceive and talk about these problems.

Therefore, not only the scientific debate about particular substantive arguments per se matters, but also, and even more so, how issues, approaches and solutions are framed and discourses about them are disseminated and take root. An exchange of existing and new approaches, of mainstream and critical views, and of established and opposing discourses is needed to reach effective solutions; a limitation to hegemonic discourses and the associated solutions is inadequate for addressing the current problems.

  1. Aims and target group

These workshops aimed at addressing contemporary threats to human security and explored their implications for the agenda of Pugwash. In this connection, Pugwash Netherlands brought together both senior, authoritative scholars and young, promising students/professionals to address these new challenges to human security.

We found it crucially important to involve a younger generation of scholars to present their informed perspectives. In order to facilitate this, a pre-workshop was organised by International Student/Young Pugwash (ISYP) to raise awareness and stimulate debate among ISYP members about the socio-economic, environmental, political, and policy determinants of complex political emergencies. ISYP aims to identify and further develop expertise among the future generation of scientists, experts and policy makers to contribute to conflict resolution and peace building efforts. Besides a discussion involving selected academics and lecturers, a role-play in the context of conflict resolution was part of the pre-workshop programme. Nine student/young participants of the ISYP pre-workshop also participated in the subsequent Pugwash Workshop. In addition, the senior workshop included experts from the Netherlands and abroad.

The subsidy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has covered both the senior and the junior pre-workshop meeting. The costs of the organisation of the activities and part of the workshop costs have been covered by Pugwash Netherlands.

  1. Project implementation

The pre-workshop and the working group have taken place from 14-18 June 2006 at the conference centre ‘Hotel De Wageningse Berg’ at Wageningen. The programmes of both the pre-workshop and the senior conference are attached as annexe 1 and 2. Annexe 3 and 4 provide the lists of participants of both workshops. The programmes also indicate the different workshop sessions and the titles of the papers presented by the participants respectively.

  1. Project results

The projects results include the following:

  • The ISYP workshop was held and attended by 21 participants from eleven different countries. It was devoted to international peace and conflict issues in the context of human security. Seven senior experts in the field of conflict and peace studies gave lectures or moderated sessions during this workshop. A separate report on the ISYP workshop is attached as annexe 5. The ISYP Yearbook 2006(waarin opgenomen het ISYP Journal on Science and World Affairs, Vol. 2) that is scheduled to appear in November 2006 will be largely devoted to the outcomes of this ISYP workshop.
  • The Senior Pugwash workshop was held and attended by 26 international experts from eleven different countries, including nine student/young participants that also participated in the ISYP workshop. It focused on issues of international security and sustainable development. The workshop featured 15 substantive paper presentations and there were possibilities for debate and discussions in or after each session.
  • Wageningen Academic Publishers has agreed to publish an edited volume bringing together a selection of the papers at no additional cost to Pugwash or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The labour input by the Pugwash editors is pro bonocontribution and Pugwash Netherlands intends to buy and distribute about 200 copies at its own cost. Though not officially part of the workshop goals, this is seen as an important contribution to further disseminate the results of the workshop. It is hoped that the book can be launched at the 56thInternational Pugwash Conference held at Cairo in November 2006.
  • The project and its subject matter has gained further visibility and legitimacy within the international Pugwash movement, especially by the presence of the Pugwash President, Prof. M.S. Swaminathan (India), and the Pugwash Council’s Chair, Prof. M. Muller (South-Africa).
  • The conference also has facilitated new contacts and links, especially between younger and more senior Pugwash members, as well as a number of international experts.
  1. Assessment of activities/programmes

As indicated under session 3 and 4 the project has been implemented according to the project application, and the results have been according to the projects goals and expectations. There have been not any significant deviations from the planning in terms of timing, substance and total budget.

Though the edited volume will include the full text of the presented papers at the conference, below we highlight a few of the most significant substantive issues discussed and conclusions arrived at during the workshop:

  • The shift from state to human security is a significant trend that implies a broadening of the notion of security to include wider political, environmental, and development concerns. Poverty, environment and development are cross-cutting themes that link human and state security and also are related to issues of governance, as well as subject to varied and alternative discourses.
  • The notion of global terrorism and the associated war on terror need to be deconstructed, as the general usage of those notions is not only misplaced, but also misleading and dangerous, as several case studies discussed during the conference showed. The dominant ‘war on terror’ discourse focuses solely on problems of law and order and is symptomatic rather than diagnostic. To combat terrorism effectively, investigation in grievances, political exclusion and socio-economic inequalities is required, moving beyond state security only, and based on the values of ‘voice’ and democracy and appropriate and culturally adapted conflict resolution mechanisms. With regard to the Middle-East more attention is needed to the region’s unique political, economic, cultural and religious characteristics on the one hand, combined with a critical analysis of the international system’s policies in dealing with those regional issues on the other.
  • This necessitates the adoption of integrated policies based on a fine-grained analysis of the conflict-development nexus. The emergence of integrated and comprehensive international policies represent an irreversible trend, and a ‘rejectionist’ position thereof is deemed unhelpful and leaves the initiative to the powers-that-be. However, a critical and politically informed discourse is needed to relate to these, with the involvement of development practitioners and civil society.
  • Analysis of multiple discourses is also needed in the religious, political, moral, legal and scientific domains. In all those domains participants distinguished the existence of hegemonic and alternative, heterodox discourses. It was for example argued, how the notions of a secular state and the issue of sovereignty were re-appraised at present, as a definite trend toward a religious resurgence and an associated societal de-secularisation is discernable. The discourses analysed during the conference covered a variety of issues such as the role of Islam, fundamentalism and religion in society at large, terrorism, HIV/AIDS and sustainable development. Case studies showed the existence of hegemonic and alternative discourses and how these were created, reproduced and/or deconstructed by a variety of actors and mechanisms.
  • Also in science, the existence was noted of particular discourses and approaches, as for example exemplified by the role of ‘strong’ and ‘weak’ knowledge in public discourse. Attention was paid to the interplay between knowledge and values, the need to bridge global science and local experience, and expert and non-expert views. The limits of science were described as anti-reflexive and autistic scientism, little room for uncertainty, error or evil, and the prevailing hostility, contempt and derision of the ‘ sacred space’. However, also counter-currents were described in terms of doctrinal religion, craft and personal experience, humanistic learning and lived experiences. Science had to face several challenges, including uncertainty and incorporating values (moving from stories via scenarios to models and vice versa), issues of spatial, functional and temporal interdependence and daeling with extreme effects, and finally the bridging of natural and social sciences.
  • A central issue was coined as the link between problématiqueand résolutique, how to move from understanding to action. The problématiquewas described as complex with factors mutually interfering, as multidisciplinary, border-crossing, dynamic and transformative, requiring a particular approach to solutions such as a orientation on the future, living-with-uncertainty, the adoption of precautionary principles, change management, public-private partnerships and the need to “think globally and act locally”. The raison d’ état, the raison du marché, and the raison de l’ humanité were identified as alternative markers for future action. A deeper discussion was devoted to the required overall governance architecture needed to deal with what was termed the sustainability transition. Based on a combination of earth system analysis and governance research, critical elements identified included an adaptive state, but also agency beyond the state, addressing issues of accountability and allocation. Also in the field of contemporary conflict a number of particular approaches and guidelines were outlined, as indicated above.
  1. Conclusion

The project was carried out according to the plan presented in the funding request to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The expected results were achieved. In addition, work is progressing on the publication of an edited volume of the conference papers by Wageningen Academic Publishers.


Dr. Gerald Barney, Chair, Our Task, Inc., Arlington, VA [formerly: President, Millennium Institute, Washington, DC], USA

Dr. Kayhan Barzegar, Assistant Professor International Relations, Islamic Azad University, Tehran, Iran

Prof. Frank Biermann, Professor of Political Science and of Environmental Policy Sciences, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Ms. Bénédicte Borel, Political Analyst & PhD Student, Institute 4S, Brussels, Belgium & Political Sciences University, Clermont-Ferrand, France

Dr. Tom Børsen Hansen, Lecturer Philosophy of Science and Ethics, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark

Mr. Adam Breasley (Australia), Foreign Expert Teacher & Columnist, Beijing-USA College of English & National Chinese Consumer Rights Protection Magazine, Beijing, China

Prof. Bas de Gaay Fortman, Professor of Political Economy of Human Rights, Utrecht University, The Netherlands

Mr. Rens de Man, PhD Student, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands

Prof. Bert de Vries, Professor of Global Change and Energy, Utrecht University & Senior Policy Adviser, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Bilthoven,The Netherlands

Mr. Pyt Douma, Independent Consultant, The Hague [formerly: Netherlands Institute of International Relations], The Netherlands

Dr. Eric Ferguson, Secretary of Pugwash Netherlands; Consultant on Energy and Development, MacFergus bv, Zeist [formerly: Senior Scientist, Philips Research; Liaison Scientist to IIASA], The Netherlands

Prof. Georg Frerks, Professor of Conflict Prevention and Conflict Management, Centre for Conflict Studies, Utrecht University & Professor of Disaster Studies, Wageningen University; Chairman, Pugwash Nederland [formerly: Senior Policy Advisor, Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Head, Conflict Research Unit, Netherlands Institute of International Relations], The Netherlands

Dr. Sonika Gupta, Post-doctoral Fellow International Strategic & Security Studies Program, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore, India

Dr. Antoinette Hildering, Consultant, MeerKeuze/MultipleChoice, Arnhem, The Netherlands

Dr. Berma Klein Goldewijk, Director, Cedar International, Centre for Dignity and Rights & Vice-chair Pugwash Netherlands, The Netherlands

Mr. Rian Leith, History Teacher, [formerly: Research Assistant, International Relations and History, University of Pretoria], South Africa

Prof. Marie Muller, Chair of the Pugwash Council; Dean, Faculty of Humanities, University of Pretoria, South Africa; [formerly: (Founding) Chair, Pugwash South Africa Group; Director, Centre for International Political Studies, University of Pretoria; Council Member, Academy of Science of South Africa], South Africa

Dr. Arthur Petersen, Programme Director, Methodology and Modelling Programme, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency, Bilthoven, The Netherlands

Prof. Paul Rademaker, Chair, Club of Rome Netherlands, The Netherlands

Dr. Jerry Ravetz, Associate Fellow, James Martin Institute for Science and Civilization, Oxford University, UK

Prof. Paul Richards, Professor of Technology & Agrarian Development, Wageningen University, Wageningen, The Netherlands

Dr. Elena Suvorova, Program Head, Civil Society and Human Rights & Assistant Professor, International Federation for Peace and Conciliation & Moscow State University, Moscow, Russia

Prof. M.S. Swaminathan, Chairman, National Commission on Farmers, Govt. of India; President, Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, Chairman, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai, India

Dr. Irna van der Molen, Lecturer Technology and Development, University of Twente, The Netherlands

Prof. Paul van Seters, Professor of Globalization and Sustainable Development & Executive Director, Globus, Tilburg University, Tilburg, The Netherlands

Amb. Bozorgmehr Ziaran, Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the Netherlands & the OPCW