9 May 2014

The UK House of Commons Defence Select Committee published its report on its 2013 enquiry Intervention: Why, When and How? on 28 April 2014. The report cites written evidence from Oxford Research Group three times and references us another four times.  It upholds our key argument: that the next Defence and Security Review, due after the 2015 general election, needs to set out clear evidentiary criteria and legal basis for any future UK intervention.

ORG called for the government to work with data providers, including civil society, to understand the availability and limitations of data on conflict as a means and precursor to establishing an evidentiary threshold necessary and sufficient to permit intervention (para 48). The Committee responded by recommending (para 49):

The Government should set out in detail in the next iterations of the National Security Strategy and the Defence and Security Review the principles of its legal position, including its relationship with the UN Charter, international law and the concept of Responsibility to Protect, on the deployment of UK Armed Forces for intervention operations.

ORG also argued that it matters very much who intervenes in a given context and that regional ownership of interventions is always desirable (para 83). NATO-led intervention in, for example, Afghanistan and Libya is likely to be viewed very differently than such action in Europe.  The Committee responded (para 86) that:

We agree with our witnesses that regional ownership of interventions can on occasions be important and desirable. The next National Security Strategy and the next Defence and Security Review should set out how the Government plans to develop regional partnerships which will help in delivering the UK’s national security objectives.

The Committee also cited ORG’s evidence in full in relation to our assessment that the UK government had very poorly integrated the challenges and risks of military disengagement into its decisions to intervene in Afghanistan and Iraq, and that this was detrimental to the stability of these countries. The report recommends (para 109) that:

The Government should set out in the next National Security Strategy and the next Defence and Security Review how it defines and assesses successful exit strategies and end states, including how long they should take for each of the actors involved and how it measures the success of the transition from exit strategies to the desired end state.

Finally, the report comments on the Government’s recent response to its enquiry report Towards the next Defence and Security Review, published in January, in which ORG was also heavily cited.  

We welcome the Government’s use of Global Strategic Trends and the Future Character of Conflict as part of the work on the next National Security Strategy (NSS) and the next Defence and Security Review (DSR). We call on the Government to include in the next NSS and the next DSR an outline of the contribution of this work to improvements in the UK’s national security. In response to our Report, the Government should set out the use it has made of external academic and research resources as part of its analysis of future global trends and national security requirements.

The Global Strategic Trends horizon-scanning process is one that ORG has been close to and the inclusion of many more civil society perspectives in the 2015 policy reviews is an issue we have campaigned on with other NGOs in 2014. Our 30 April joint letter to the Prime Minister and other major party leaders is downloadable here.

ORG’s Sustainable Security Programme will continue to remain engaged with this and other select committees as the next NSS and SDSR processes gather momentum towards the next election.

Photo: Uk Houses of Parliament, London, UK. Source: UK Parliament (Flickr)