Why the UK needs an Alternative Security Review

By Richard Reeve

Rethinking Security is a network of peace and security practitioners, analysts and activists that aims to change the way that UK security policy is generated towards an approach that promotes peace, human wellbeing and environmental sustainability.

Working with Coventry University’s Centre for Trust, Peace and Social Relations and a wide network of civil society groups, it is launching an Alternative Security Review that will focus on the needs of the UK’s people, not its government and commercial interests. Over the next two years it will be asking the public what their priorities for security and safety are, and prioritising those who are often excluded form elitist discussions on national safety and security.

Like the COP26 negotiations, the development of ‘national security’ policy in the UK is all too often captured by the vested interests of an elite few for whom short-term profits eclipse sustainable security. The interests of people and planet rarely get a look in.

The project has been developed in response to the government’s recent Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, which unashamedly focuses on competition and constant military campaigning for access to resources, markets and influence, rather than the need for cooperation to address the root causes of global insecurity like greed, inequality and unsustainable use of global resources.

Reporting in March, the ‘Integrated Review’ promised billions in investment in nuclear, autonomous, space and other next generation military technology, the annual transfer of £4 billion from international development to the defence budget, and increasing alignment with the United States in its geostrategic rivalry with China in the ‘Indo-Pacific’.

The Alternative Security Review aims to show that things can and must be radically different. We’ll be listening to people across the UK and worldwide to learn how their long-term wellbeing can be central to a human security strategy for the UK.

Under its previous leadership, Labour was sympathetic to developing a more globally responsible foreign policy with emphasis on solidarity, inclusion and justice. While the idea of Human Security has gained some currency with Keir Starmer’s team, the idea that challenging orthodox approaches to defence and security is electoral suicide has become deeply entrenched.

In fact, it’s been harder for us to engage with Labour’s International Policy Review than with the government’s Integrated Review. We hope with this project to get all kinds of people, from politicians to pensioners, students and migrants, talking about what security means to them. After so many failed wars, a planet on life-support and unconscionable inequality, it’s time to find out if the British public believes the current approach is working.

Tomorrow, Thursday 18th November, at 5.30pm, Rethinking Security will host an online event to launch the Alternative Security Review, hearing from speakers who have been active in challenging the ‘business as usual’ approach to security through Parliament, civil society groups and protest.

Following the failure of world leaders to take decisive action at COP26 to avert climate disaster, speakers will spell out the ways in which we in the UK can change our understanding and approach to security to develop strategies focused on human and ecological security.

Speakers will include Baroness Natalie Bennett (Greens), Anya Nanning Ramamurthy (UK Student Climate Network), Richard Reeve (Rethinking Security) and (hopefully) Clive Lewis MP (Labour) too. It will be chaired by Natalie Samarasinghe, CEO of the United Nations Association of the UK.

“We desperately need an inclusive conversation on our future; that’s why UNA-UK supports this timely Rethinking Security project,” says Natalie Samarasinghe. “The Alternative Security Review shows precisely why governments must listen to diverse perspectives from the people they serve to ensure their strategies disrupt the dangerous global trajectory, place human security at their core and make our world safer, fairer and more sustainable.”

To attend this free event, register here.

Richard Reeve is Coordinator of Rethinking Security, a network of UK-based organisations, academics and activists working for a just and peaceful world, based on approaches that address the underlying causes of conflict and insecurity.

Subscribe to the blog for email notifications of new posts