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Annual Report: What ORG Did in 2011

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Vera Evertz
17 December 2012



In 2011, Oxford Research Group (ORG) has continued to engage on some of the most important international issues in an extraordinary year, with the crisis in western economies moving into its fourth year, the rise of the Occupy anti-capitalist movement, the Arab Awakening, the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, and the crisis over Iran’s nuclear weapons programme. 

Read on to find out what we did in 2011, or download our Annual Report, including Financial Statements, as a PDF from the link at the bottom of the text.


Middle East Programme 

On the day of the death of Muammar Gaddafi, in mid-October, we held a Liddite meeting, engaging senior Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials, Dominic Asquith and Christian Turner, and prominent media figures, including New York Times columnist Roger Cohen. The focus was on the future of Libya in a post-Gaddafi world. Those present agreed euphoria was not the right response. Participants concluded, among other things, that the ousting of Gaddafi was the ‘easy’ part of the international intervention. Another Liddite event, in March 2011, brought together media and opinion formers to discuss the Arab Uprisings. It engaged our Global Security Consultant, Prof Paul Rogers, and Khaled Hroub of Cambridge University (who leads our Palestine Study Group), David Gardner of the Financial Times, and Kamal El Helbawi, who gave a perspective from the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.


Promoting Inclusive Dialogue 

Addressing the deepening international crisis over Iran’s nuclear programme, Gabrielle Rifkind, ORG’s Middle East Director, wrote a new report, entitled, ‘Talking with the Enemy: Creating New Structures for Negotiations’. She argues that to break the current paralysis, the international community should establish continuous, piecemeal negotiations, along with a regional table of respected diplomats and other trusted figures, engaging neighbouring countries in a comprehensive peace process for Afghanistan, which would include Iran in a non-adversarial, problem-solving role. The report, which was launched at the Canadian International Council in Ottawa in May, is part of our ongoing engagement on practical ways to develop creative diplomatic solutions to address the growing diplomatic crisis on Iran. This work has to happen behind the scenes to create trust after so many years of mistrust. 

In a briefing on the consequences of an Israeli attack on Iran, in November, our Global Security Consultant, Paul Rogers, concluded that military action against Iran could lead to a sustained conflict and regional instability that would be unlikely to prevent the eventual acquisition of nuclear weapons by Iran and might even encourage it.

Our Middle East Programme dialogue strand on the Israeli-Palestinian question provides opportunities that are not otherwise available for inclusive strategic dialogue - within and across divisions. Instead of facilitating dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians, as many other organisations do, we mostly work with Israelis and Palestinians separately.

ORG’s unique approach in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict focuses first on setting up inclusive strategic discussion groups amongst Palestinians and Israelis within each community. This involves many people, who would not otherwise participate, so-called ‘extremists’, on both sides. 

There is a key role for outsiders. Rather than promoting exchanges between conflict parties, our starting point is working with local partners to address the internal differences, which make external political accommodation much harder. There are major incentives for conflict parties to engage in inclusive internal strategy groups, when attempts to promote inter-party dialogue stall, for example, in order to overcome threats of disunity that are seen to threaten or impair the national effort. Our approach sustains creative thinking, when it may otherwise close down, and keeps channels of communication open across the political spectrum in each community. The results have been remarkable and highly innovative, as is widely recognised among Israelis, Palestinians and beyond. Within this framework, both groups that are facilitated by ORG, the Israeli Strategic Forum (ISF) and the Palestinian Strategy Group (PSG), have pioneered, what seems the most hopeful way ahead, despite the collapse of bilateral negotiations. They are both due to continue their work in 2012, working - as always - with trusted local partners. 

The PSG held its third workshop in Istanbul in March, following successful meetings in Jericho and Gaza in 2010. The Istanbul event explored strategic options in achieving Palestinian goals of statehood with senior representation from across the political parties, including Fatah and Hamas. A major report, ‘Towards New Strategies for Palestinian National Liberation’, was released by the PSG in August. The report was a significant achievement for the PSG and contributes by enriching the current Palestinian national dialogue and assisting Palestinian decision-makers in adopting policies that can best serve the higher Palestinian interest.

We also have been in intensive discussions with many representatives of the ‘Forgotten Palestinians’, the 1.2 million Palestinian citizens of Israel, to consult them about how we can best engage with them. As in all our work, careful consultation, ‘deep’ and unbiased listening to concerns, as well as building the right partnerships, are essential preparatory steps to a sustained planned engagement in 2012 and the creation of a third facilitated group engaging Palestinian citizens of Israel. 

Sustainable Security Programme

We have been engaging with the British defence and security policy community on responses to climate change as a driver of insecurity. Policy-makers from the Ministry of Defence, the Department for International Development, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Stabilisation Unit, and senior military officers, took part in our September roundtable, together with experts on environmental issues, and independent specialists on security and conflict resolution. We discussed a range of policy options on climate change over a forty year time-horizon, including addressing mass migration, and climate change induced conflict, and how they can be approached in an effective and non-military way. Among the most thorny issues addressed was the question, how to engage busy senior policy-makers in thinking about such long term threats, and the futility of a resort to ‘lifeboat Britain’ - the dangerous illusion that the UK can use military means to isolate itself from effects of climate change, such as mass migration. A report on the conference will be published in 2012. We have also been working since the roundtable with the Climate Security team at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. 


One of the security issues that will be made worse by climate change is water security. What a sustainable security approach to water security would entail was discussed by Ben Zala, our Sustainable Security Programme Manager, at two workshops in Whitehall, convened by the University of East Anglia – well-known for its climate change work. This led to a number of new contacts and a set of activities examining competition over resources, with a particular focus on water, including a contribution to a new book about different approaches to water security and a new project due in the second half of 2012.

The key idea behind a sustainable security approach is that we cannot successfully control all the consequences of insecurity. We examine the likely long-term drivers of insecurity and how we can better address these underlying trends, rather than just treating their symptoms.

The tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks provided an opportune moment to reflect on the total failure of the attempt to control global terrorism through the ‘war on terror’. This has been a consistent theme of ORG’s work since September 2001. In a tenth anniversary article, published in the Journal of the Royal United Services Institution (RUSI), Ben Zala and Paul Rogers analysed the lost opportunities of the last decade and discussed the lessons for responding to two of the most important global security challenges in the years ahead – the interlocked trends of deepening socio-economic divisions and a rapidly warming global climate. Paul Rogers also published ‘A War Gone Badly Wrong – The War on Terror 10 Years on’, a special briefing for ORG on the same subject, which was also media-released. The briefing confirms the predictions that ORG made a decade ago, and asks, whether the results of the United States’ and its coalition partners’ failed response to the terror attacks indicates the need for a changed security paradigm. 

Engaging with Perspectives from the Global South

The fruits of extensive engagement with colleagues in the Global South led to the publication of our report, ‘Bridging the North-South Divide: Sustainable Security for All’. It is the culmination of a deep engagement by ORG with leading security analysts from the Global South between 2008 and 2010. The work highlights the factors that are common across the regions, as well as those that are distinctive to particular parts of the world. ORG’s Quaker Peace and Social Witness Peaceworker, Hannah Brock, published the first of four papers on underlying trends in global security and non-Western perspectives, ‘Competition over Resources: Drivers of Insecurity and the Global South’. Three more papers covering marginalisation, climate change, and militarisation as drivers of insecurity are due to be published in 2012.


Influencing Western Policy

We have contributed to influencing the British Government’s Defence Review and its implementation by holding meetings with civil servants directly involved in coordinating the process. We further published a briefing to coincide with the official announcement of the review and the establishment of the National Security Council, and we held a meeting on this topic with our UK Policy Group for Sustainable Security. We also submitted written evidence to two separate inquiries held by the House of Commons Defence Select Committee.

Ben Zala and SustainableSecurity.org contributor, Andrew Futter, presented a paper on ‘Nuclear Rivalries: Prospects for Cooperation and Trust-Building’ in July, at a conference, organised by the University of Aberystwyth. They argued that the Obama administration’s current strategy for moving towards nuclear zero via an increased reliance on missile defence and the conventional ‘prompt global strike’ system was fundamentally flawed. They discussed alternative strategies for building long-term trust between nuclear rivals in order to shift the current drive towards nuclear disarmament on to a more sustainable pathway. 

Professor Paul Rogers, Consultant to the Sustainable Security programme, spoke at a conference in Dubai at the invitation of the U.S. State Department on Middle East conflicts. It was attended by U.S. diplomats from across the region and senior executives from many of the main corporations working across the region.

Paul Rogers also spoke at a meeting of the ‘Withdrawal from Afghanistan Parliamentary Group’ at the House of Commons, on 16 March 2011, about the current situation in Afghanistan. He analysed the impact of the recent surge in foreign troops in the country and questioned the effectiveness of current policies, given that President Karzai had recently called for U.S. combat troops to stay in the country beyond 2014. The meeting was chaired by Paul Flynn MP.

Every Casualty Programme

Our Every Casualty Programme works to ensure that every casualty of armed violence, anywhere in the world, is properly recorded. This work contributes to peace, justice and reconciliation processes. It also assists in illustrating the real costs of war, a vital component in persuading governments that the eradication of violence is central to achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals.

2011 brought us to the mid-point of our major two-year global research project to document casualty recording practice worldwide. This project is jointly funded by the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the Swiss Department for Foreign Affairs. It draws on the experience of casualty recording organisations around the world to identify, formally document and promote good practice. It will allow us to analyse key issues and provide recommendations for policy-makers and practitioners who wish to undertake or support this work. Even before completion, it has become a unique global resource of expertise.

Our legal team released two discussion papers that highlight an international obligation to record civilian casualties of armed conflict. The first paper, ‘The Legal Obligation to Record Civilian Casualties of Armed Conflict’, by lead authors and ORG Legal Consultants, Prof Susan Breau and Rachel Joyce, identifies the international legal obligation to record civilian casualties of armed conflict. 

The second paper, ‘Drone Attacks, International Law, and the Recording of Civilian Casualties of War’, by the same authors, develops the legal argument from the first study, applying it to a contemporary issue of growing global concern – drones. It concludes that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the governments of Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan, have a legal obligation to account for the civilian casualties caused by ongoing drone attacks. This report received significant global media coverage.

Another working paper, ‘Drone Wars and Pakistan’s Conflict Casualties’, by our Policy Officer, Jacob Beswick, analyses the methodologies and findings of the organisations dedicated to reporting on casualties caused by drones within Pakistan. It has prompted collaboration among the groups, including the sharing of data and methods to improve recording.

Inaugural Conference of the International Casualty Recording Practitioner Network

We also brought together representatives of over twenty casualty recording organisations that are members of the ORG-facilitated International Practitioner Network (IPN) to a special two-days meeting in London in September. This was the first conference for the Network and the first to bring together senior figures from casualty recording centres from places as diverse as the Western Balkans, Guatemala, Pakistan, India, Afghanistan and Somalia. 


The aim of the conference was to facilitate dialogue and to encourage cooperation and mutual support between practitioners, as well as to establish joint goals and casualty recording guidelines and good practice. 

All network members share the belief that “you can only make people realise the severity of a conflict when you create an evidence base. Otherwise, there is no recognition” (quote, Samrat Sinha, pictured left, from the Armed Conflict and Research Project in India, in a video interview available on our website). 


Charter for the Recognition of Every Casualty of Armed Violence

We launched the ‘Charter for the Recognition of Every Casualty of Armed Violence’, whose three core demands are that every casualty of armed violence be promptly recorded, correctly identified and publicly acknowledged, at the British Academy in London. This launch took place immediately after the September casualty recorders conference. The event was chaired by British Academy President, Sir Adam Roberts. Eighty representatives of civil society organisations and states attended. Presenters at the launch included Hamit Dardagan, Co-Director of our Every Casualty Programme and Co-Founder of Iraq Body Count (IBC), Wissam Tarif of INSAN, a leading human rights advocacy group in the Middle East, who gave an update on civilian casualties in Syria. Sandra Orlović and Bekim Blakaj, of the Humanitarian Law Centre Serbia and Kovoso, spoke about the newly-published ‘Book of the Dead’ from the Kosovo conflict in 1998-9. All these organisations are among the founding members of the ORG-facilitated International Practitioner Network (IPN). 


We will be intensifying our work in 2012 in concert with two ORG-initiated coalitions: the International Practitioners Network and the Every Casualty Campaign. The latter – a new initiative – brings together allied NGOs, experienced at advocacy at the international level, who commit to campaigning for the central calls of the Charter. Organisations already playing a key role in the coalition include some NGOs, who were instrumental in the successes of the Cluster Munitions Coalition. Our campaigning priorities for 2012 include: developing this coalition, making the Charter better known, and encouraging friendly states to sign up to it. At the same time, we will continue to support the Practitioner Network and advocate for good practice, ensuring – as we have striven to do since we began – that our proposals are grounded in feasibility and have the full support of those best-placed to validate them: the practitioners of casualty recording.


For a copy of our Annual Report, including Financial Statements, please download the file below.


Our publications are circulated free of charge for non-profit use, but please consider making a donation to ORG, if you are able to do so.

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