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Podcast Episode 24
Ms Ashley Müller: Welcome to the Geneva Centre for Security Policy Podcast. I’m Ashley Muller. This week’s episode explores some of the latest global issues affecting peace, security, and international cooperation.
Ms Ashley Müller: As coronavirus continues to circle the planet, we discuss strengthening prevention measures with better anticipation strategies by looking at three case studies with Ms Emily Munro, Head of Strategic Anticipation at the GCSP. And as stability becomes more of a challenge as tensions remain high, we discuss issues facing the Indo-Pacific region with Professor Michito Tsuruoka from Keio University in Japan
Ms Ashley Müller: This interview was recorded on 1 May, 2020. Welcome Emily Munro Head of Strategic Anticipation at the GCSP, Emily thank you for joining us today.
Ms Emily Munro: Hi Ashley.
Ms Ashley Müller: Emily has recently produced a publication a strategic security analysis at the GCSP on “Strengthening prevention with better anticipation: COVID-19 and beyond” which is available on the GCSP website. My first question to you is what are the key lessons from the three case studies you mentioned in your publication?
Ms Emily Munro: Well, I look at three different ones, as you mentioned, COVID-19, the Sahel and the Arctic. And the first lesson I would draw is invest in anticipation it pays off and act on those results when you do that process. So that can mean adapting your mindset about how the future may unfold, and there's help for you for this. There's a host of tools and techniques in strategic foresight that can help you. The second one is to address the interconnections - that might seem easier than it is, it is actually hard. So that means reaching out to actors in different domains and conducting analysis that really maps out the multiple issue interconnections, and what their consequences might mean for policy. The third one is to acknowledge that vulnerabilities do exist, surprise will still occur. And you need to prepare for it in the form of building capacity and crisis management, maybe broadening your perspective on the different types of crises that can occur. But then also learning from those that do, so this buzzword of resilience - learn from different crises that can occur. I would just emphasise that it's really about an issue of acting early enough to avoid the escalation of problems and capitalise on opportunities more effectively if you can do that. So I contrast the situation in the Sahel which is acute and where the international community is really already playing catch up to the one of the Arctic where there might be still time to act on many of those consequences and the larger human or environmental consequences that are emerging. And in COVID-19, it's really a call to anticipate the implications of what's happening even within a crisis, that it's still possible to do that.
Ms Ashley Müller: Thank you, Emily. How does the COVID-19 pandemic help us in our assessment of other issues?
Ms Emily Munro: Well, I think it helps to remind us. It helps to remind us about how difficult it is to anticipate the impacts of developments across different sectors or other issue areas. We've been a bit caught off guard. Pandemics has been something that we've had knowledge of. It has been a risk, but it has caught us off guard in a number of different ways. But it has stressed how important anticipation is, you know, to prevent crises and conflicts from expanding but hopefully also from even occurring in the first place.
Ms Ashley Müller: Can you elaborate a bit more on what is the link between anticipation and prevention?
Ms Emily Munro: Yeah, thank you for that question. The link between those two is really all about time. And the idea that really investing early in many different areas, both personal and professional really pays off, but it's difficult to prioritise. It's really difficult, especially in a policy context, when there are so many different competing demands. We're a bit cloudy in the present to think clearly about those issues and how they may evolve in this short-term context, so this thinking beyond and investing in certain areas really requires a concerted effort, and time but the advantages are clear, I would argue. So when the investment is made in conflict prevention, these conflicts can either be avoided entirely or mitigated. And that's what makes these investments so powerful. But this anticipation and unknown-ness about the future and how it might unfold really makes us uncomfortable, it's a psychological issue. And so, anticipating more effectively today so that we can really invest in those prevention efforts and know where to do that. I think that's really the key point there.
Ms Ashley Müller: What are some of the principal concerns related to COVID-19 impacts on the economy and other policy areas?
Ms Emily Munro: Well, I want to say first, that this is obviously a quickly evolving and changing context. So this is some preliminary thinking on this, but this is an evolving context. I would say there's, you know, we're always pointed to this high level of connectivity, there is an advantage to that. But in COVID, we suddenly see that it can be sometimes a disadvantage, including in the economic sphere (where it?) leads to a vulnerability. And this reaction to that protectionism is the national focus. But the paradox is that the response required really requires that connection and requires that cooperation.
So we see that across a number of different areas.
I point in the paper that I've written to both the human security implications of this connection between this health sector and the economic sphere, but also the state security implication. So in terms of human security that's related to economic insecurity related to the ability for someone to really earn a wage and support their families and have access to a social safety system. So in a wide range of countries, those social safety systems might not be there. And that can lead to really individuals being at risk. If this happens, and we're speaking from the international security perspective here, if this happens in a country that is at the risk of violence, or in a conflict situation that can really lead to some concern. So those pre-existing insecurities might be amplified by this type of situation when someone can't go to work anymore, or he's caring for a relative and I think the duration, the severity of the geographical spread are really the key factors to watch to see how, how serious this becomes in what countries really will need, will need the help from the international community and the attention to, to those aspects to avoid that picture that I just painted.
The second one is on state security. So the confinement period in many countries has really had dire economic consequences. China was one of the first examples of that. So we see data coming out of China about how much of that impact was there on supply chains and, as a virus, a split on transportation systems or even oil prices around the world. The biggest risk of all of this is that while the national economic stimulus plans all must be you know, welcomed and provided really helpful relief in many countries. The situation makes the international environment more unstable, less inclination for countries for cooperative initiatives, despite this highly interconnected global economy, so it's really a call to maintain and really also support initiatives which are addressed by different organisations, different cooperation between different countries. And I think one thing across what I've just spoken about is that we see that it's complicated this response, and especially this coordinated response at the international level is the speed of which this has come, but then also the complexity at the same time. So, I think that's something we need to really watch out for. This is really a unique situation with a global spread. So it has been perhaps, going forward we might see a starting and stopping confinement and perhaps again, and that could be impacting this economic side, far longer than then we really anticipated at the beginning. And really affecting how we do business and interact. So that requires, obviously, serious reflection by governments about how we can come back together.
Ms Ashley Müller: Emily, can I ask you to expand a bit more on the issue of interactions at play in the Sahel and in the Arctic based on your publication?
Ms Emily Munro: Yes, there are multiple I would say just to start off, different issue interactions and I draw on two for each of those cases. So, first in the SaheI I talked about inequality and multilateralism. So, inequality is a key concern in the Sahel for many of those countries, we see it in the statistics, both in the basic and enhanced definitions of inequality, but as you know, on the basic one, in particular, where I focused and this is coupled by a number of other a number of other issues within this particular region, nomadic and semi nomadic lifestyle in the Sahara is really an essential fabric of their societies there. And this has also been impacted by other factors in this region related to climate change, they're really severely impacted by climate change in the Sahel. And as a consequence, there's radicalization. So, we see this interaction of issues really coming to the fore, there has been an increase in terrorist attacks in this region between 2016 and 2020. We see that coupled with multilateralism and the response to those issues. So they're, well, there's this great understanding of the link between security and development, and by researchers and practitioners and the actors involved. But there might not be enough coordination and resources available to really tackle those issues. So that means that the actors involved need to work together, to better to prioritize what's happening there, and have a long term approach. Not just firefighting and reacting to crisis. And so that's why it's so important to think about that. And I use inequality and multilateralism to really focus on that, and to call for more sustained attention and action, you know, regarding provision of funding, but also then the coordination between the key players and different actors in this region on the Arctic. I talk about geopolitics and the environment. So geopolitics relates to the different actors that are involved. And we see a number of really important players but many other countries around the world really interested in what's going on there. So the Arctic Council plays a key role there but it tries to stay above and outside of the political or military sphere, and focusing on other areas related to search and rescue of the environment and other ones. But there is a high degree of strategic attention in the Arctic right now. And we see that from actors such as China and Russia with their strategies and different developments there. And this is coupled with developments on the environmental side. So, they are really on the front line of the impact of climate change in the Arctic, melting of ice leads to new sea routes. And while there's been a bit of a starting and stopping of how much that will change things up there, there's also you know, access to resources that are opening up as well. And that's something that we really have to watch. Those bring challenges. But that brings us to opportunities for the communities that live there, and the countries, the Arctic nations. And this is important because of this issue that I alluded to earlier about the Arctic Council, we see an absence of governance arrangements of venue to manage these developments. So, there is some debate of whether that should be the Arctic Council or not. But the specific setting doesn't really exist to manage some of those more political and security related issues that are coming up in the Arctic. They're not on the front, but they're coming up and it's most likely going to be more than one organisation, a range of mechanisms are needed to really manage those developments and I use the issues of the environment to geopolitics to bring out some of those issues.
Ms Ashley Müller: Thank you Emily Munro
Ms Ashley Müller: Earlier we spoke with Professor Michito Tsuruoka of Keio University in Japan. He is a leading expert in Japanese security policy. We discussed his view of the Indo-Pacific.
Ms Ashley Müller: Thank you for joining us Professor Tsuruoka, my first question to you is, can you perhaps tell us how you define the notion of “Indo-Pacific”, from both historic, geographic, and geopolitical perspectives?
Professor Michito Tsuruoka: The notion of the Indo-Pacific, it's relatively new. So we are mainly used to the Asia Pacific. But given the increasing connectivity between the Asia Pacific region and Indian Ocean region, now we need to think about it more broadly. And that it's based on the fact that the Asia Pacific peace and security is more and more affected by what takes place in the Indian Ocean region and Indian Ocean region is also being affected by what takes place in the Asia Pacific region. So that is why it's a strategic imperative, I guess, for us to think more broadly about the region. This is in one sense, of course, the Indo Pacific as a geographical concept, but at the same time, it's very much based on the evolution of policy, context, and reality. So that's why now we know More use the term Indo-Pacific
Ms Ashley Müller: What are, in your view, the most important challenges facing the proponents of the Indo-Pacific ?
Professor Michito Tsuruoka: First and foremost the Indo-Pacific concept is a medium maritime thing, because if you look at the map the Indo-Pacific Region yes of course there, yeah, the European continent is there, the Indian India is there, but then as the name suggests the Indo-Pacific concept very much a maritime based on So, the maritime security is is obviously the one of the most important areas for Japan to look at. And particularly maintaining the fundamental principles regarding maritime governance like freedom of navigation that is really important in terms of protecting sea lines of communication, which is vital for our economic transaction, trade and then also for security reasons as well. Maintaining freedom of navigation is critical in the South China Sea and in the East China Sea as well. So the how-to counter challenges to the very principles of freedom of navigation, other related international law and norms. That's what we are very much focusing on.
Ms Ashley Müller: How do you see the position of China ? And how, do you think, its ambitions as a great power will fit with the Japanese vision of the Indo-Pacific ?
Professor Michito Tsuruoka: The Japanese Government now is proposing and pursuing the initiative on a vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific, FOIP. It has three pillars so the fundamental principles and pursuing prosperity and security in peace and security and it's a comprehensive vision. It has a certain element of countering challenges forever. It is perhaps China. It is an element of the country in China but It's not just that it's more than that, because there is, the competitive strategy element of FOIP is there. But at the same time, the cooperative strategy element is there as well. So because the Indo-Pacific concept is inherently an open, inclusive idea, and also, the Japan and China are now committed to pursuing what we call cooperation in third countries, so the infrastructure projects in various countries in the Indo-Pacific region, it's something that we are now thinking about, of course, we still don't know what we can really do in that context, but there is a political momentum and a political determination commitment to that. So this cooperative element is there so I don't think it's fair to say that Japan's freedom, free and open Indo-Pacific concept is only about countering China. Now. We are still very much thinking about various opportunities including Chinese-Japanese cooperation in this wider area as well. So there is security, economy and other things so all involved so it's really a comprehensive thing
Ms Ashley Müller: India is another important actor. Do you see it taking a central role in these dynamics ?
Professor Michito Tsuruoka: India is a really important strategic partner for Japan and not only Prime Minister Abe, but successive Prime Ministers over the past more than 10 years have been trying to strengthen partnerships with India they have been already some result outcome good outcomes like the joint exercise military exercises between the self-defense forces of Japan and Indian forces and not only did the maritime domain but also their ground force joint training also took place in India. So they got sort of new development, we can see what is now more needed is that given the fact that the Japanese-Indian strategic partnership has so far been a politically driven process, which is good, but now, for us to make this relationship more sustainable, more substantial, and for us to see this relationship to flourish, then we need a more economic substance. So the more economic engagement economic transactions between Japan and India, not just trade but also investment, then they're how we can start this more spontaneous, business community-driven sustainable process, how and whether we can start that I think that's a remaining challenge, but I'm not too pessimistic because India is a rising power and not just in terms of economy, but also in foreign security policy terms India is changing. But we should not have too many expectations. Because of course, the notion of using India as a counterweight to China is not good for in the eyes of Indians, of course, still we need to pay attention to India’s tradition of non alignment, for example, and then explore what we can do together as Indians. And that's going to be a long process.
Ms Ashley Müller: In the Indo-Pacific context, has the US taken a central role or rather played a secondary role under the US presidency?
Professor Michito Tsuruoka: The rules-based international order liberal international order is under increasing threat mainly from China and Russia, not from the United States because some people tend to argue that Mr Trump is now destroying international order. Yes, there is some element of that. We cannot deny that, but still in terms of thinking of maintaining rules-based international order, then still, we need to make a clear distinction between challenges and partners supporters of this order. So even under Mr Trump, the United States is still very much a partner for us. For Japanese for Europeans. So then what we need to do is encourage Americans to come back to the central stage of international leadership and it's still possible, I might be naive or optimistic. But given the fact that we still share a lot more with Americans, values, and interests more as Americans, then with Chinese or Russians. That's a stupid reality, and for Europeans as well. It's due to reality. So that means that we should not give up the United States and then but still in the meantime, while Americans are a bit absent from the center stage of international leadership, then there are more things that Japanese and Europeans should do together. But it's not about ganging up against the United States. It is about encouraging Americans to come back to the Central stage of international leadership
Ms Ashley Müller: Thank you Professor Tsuruoka.
Ms Ashley Müller: That's all we have now for today's episode. Thank you to Ms Emily Munro for joining us along with Professor Michito Tusruoka. Listen to us again next week to hear all the latest insights on international peace and security and don’t forget to subscribe to us on Apple iTunes, follow us on Spotify and SoundCloud. Bye for now.