aims and activities

developing dialogue
staff and advisers
supporting us

 

About Oxford Research Group

 

Aims and activities

Oxford Research Group (ORG) is an independent non-governmental organisation established in 1982 which seeks to develop effective methods whereby people can bring about positive change on issues of national and international security by non-violent means.

Our work involves:

  • undertaking and disseminating research on key security issues so that public debate can take place;
  • researching how policy decisions are made and who makes them;
  • engaging with policy-makers on constructive security policy options;
  • fostering dialogue between policy-makers and their critics to explore creative solutions to national, regional and global security problems;
  • promoting accountability and transparency in government decision-making.

Our research focuses on three broad areas: nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation; UK security policy; and global security in the changing international environment. Specific projects include: non-violent approaches to conflict prevention and conflict resolution; preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons; control of the arms trade; constructive approaches to dealing with international terrorism; and critical analysis of the 'war on terror'.

We bring senior policy-makers together with independent analysts, scientists and technologists, military experts, writers and psychologists, to develop ways past the obstacles to achieving peace with security. In a range of environments, formal and informal, public and private, we use skilled facilitation to help build bridges of understanding as a means of developing new ideas and making possible significant policy shifts.

Humanity is now faced with challenges of survival that can only be solved collectively and co-operatively. Oxford Research Group is committed to this approach.

Oxford Research Group is a public company limited by guarantee with charitable status, governed by a Board of Trustees and supported by a Council of Advisers. The Group enjoys a strong reputation for objective and effective research, and attracts the support of foundations, charities and private individuals, many of Quaker origin, in Britain, Europe and the United States. It has no political or religious affiliations and does not campaign.

For more information, please download Oxford Research Group - In Perspective, 2004-2006 (7MB pdf).

 

Support for our work

We have been greatly encouraged by the high-level support we have received in taking forward this work. For example, the UN Under Secretary-General for Disarmament, His Excellency Jayantha Dhanapala, wrote in 1998

"I am well acquainted with the work of the Oxford Research Group and have in fact referred to it in my own writing and public speaking... you have a rich field of research following the nuclear tests in India and Pakistan and your work could help all of us in the disarmament field."

In May 2003, Professor Jack Mendelsohn, Adjunct Professor, George Washington University; Senior Associate, Center for Defense Information; Vice President, Lawyers Alliance for World Security (LAWS), said:

"ORG plays an essential and unique role in the international NGO community. The Charney Manor meetings bring together governmental and non-governmental communities and allow the two to talk - and, more importantly, to listen - to one another. The goal is to encourage problem-solving and to surmount 'official' positions or personal convictions that block genuine understanding...ORG's approach to a thoughtful exploration of basic issues is needed more than ever."

In July 2002, Dr. Randy Rydell, Senior Political Affairs Officer at the UN in New York, wrote:

"I just wanted to add my own estimation of the work of the Oxford Research Group in general. Though still a tiny effort — relative to the magnitude of the global problems we are facing with respect to achieving the final elimination of all weapons of mass destruction — your distinguished group has contributed enormously to the cause of disarmament. Your publications are both timely and informative: people quote them confidently and authoritatively. Your positions on fissile nuclear materials — in particular the legitimate concerns you have raised with respect to the separation of plutonium or production of highly enriched uranium for commercial purposes — are clear, well-informed and (unfortunately) quite timely in light of growing fears of the possibilities of nuclear terrorism. In short, you have demonstrated a superb understanding of the key substantive issues, while never forgetting the 'human factor' behind each of them."

An Indian general who participated in the international consultation ORG held in in India in June 1998 commented that:

"More than anything else, it was the quality of the organisation that made the conference such a success. You persuaded everyone to reflect and think again. To come out with solutions rather than dwell over past problems."

In summary, Oxford Research Group started out by understanding how decisions on nuclear weapons are made worldwide, and who makes them, and approaching those decision-makers. Now the situation is that decision-makers are willing to work with us and other NGOs towards a safer world. In the new millennium, human beings are faced with challenges of planetary survival which can only be solved collectively and co-operatively. Yet Cold War thinking, based on fear, still dominates international relations. In this type of thinking, as one Chinese general observed during a seminar we held in Beijing, "my security is based on your insecurity."

The challenge is to develop security through a collaborative approach which means dealing with people, developing trust, finding common ground, building confidence. This is what the most outstanding leaders do. It is difficult and testing work, requiring the creation of an atmosphere in which negotiators can meet as people. It requires time, flexibility, patience and wisdom. It is this approach to which Oxford Research Group is committed.

In September 2004, ORG launched it's Associates programme. Associates of Oxford Research Group are individuals who have participated in one or more of ORG's meetings or roundtables and have expressed their willingness to personally and publicly endorse our commitment to seek to develop effective methods whereby people can bring about positive change on issues of national and international security by non-violent means.

 

Disseminating Information and Methodology

In order to multiply the effects of our work, ORG not only shares our information by publication, but we energetically communicate our methods. We have conducted seminars or led workshops for academics and non-government organisations in many different countries, and have over the course of time influenced and developed a number of associate organisations and projects. In 1987, before the fall of the Berlin Wall, ORG pioneered meetings of women parliamentarians from East and West Europe with military leaders in NATO and the Warsaw Pact, and was subsequently instrumental in setting up the organisation NATO Alerts Network in Brussels to continue this work. In 1986 ORG sent Dan Plesch to Washington to find out how US nuclear decisions affected Britain, and then helped him set up the British American Security Information Council (BASIC), now a highly-respected supplier of information to the media and parliamentarians.

In 1995 ORG conceived the idea of 13 British research institutions and NGOs combining to develop a platform for a workable, progressive new defence policy for an incoming British government. We obtained the co-operation of those NGOs and funding from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust. The project produced a new policy platform, published in a report entitled Britain in the 21st Century: Rethinking Defence & Foreign Policy (Spokesman Publishers, March 1997), which received excellent reviews. The book was launched in October 1997 at a day-seminar in London hosted by ORG, which presented this policy platform to a large audience; speakers included a Foreign Office minister from the new Labour Government .

When the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy (LCNP) first drafted its Model Convention on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, a fully fledged legal draft with a three-year timetable for implementation, ORG was invited to outline the decision-making approach for introducing the Draft Convention at an international conference in Florence in May 1995. At this conference Vladimir Petrovsky, Head of the UN in Geneva and Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Disarmament, applauded ORG's approach as "the right way to do it". This model nuclear weapons convention, now a UN document, was first discussed by the nuclear-weapon states at an ORG consultation in India in March 1998.

The Pugwash Conferences on Science & World Affairs, winner of the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize, has prepared comprehensive plans for technical steps towards a nuclear weapon-free world, including country-specific studies such as Does Britain Need Nuclear Weapons?, published in July 1995. ORG was consultant to this study, and assisted in introducing the document to UK decision-makers.

The World Court Project achieved the landmark ruling in July 1996 by the International Court of Justice declaring nuclear weapons illegal, which has been hailed as a major victory for the cause of abolition. The World Court Project sought our guidance in introducing their document to decision-makers.

These four organisations have between them some 300,000 members worldwide - doctors, lawyers, scientists and other professionals. Each has addressed technical and political problems of achieving a nuclear weapon-free world and aims to introduce their findings to decision-makers.

ORG will continue to work with these organisations, as well as many others with which it has worked in the past, including the British-American Security Information Council, the Chinese People's Association for Peace and Disarmament, the Verification Technology Information Centre (VERTIC), the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) (with whom ORG has co-hosted seminars in Geneva), the Royal United Services Institute (who have co-hosted several joint meetings with ORG in London), and the United Service Institution of India.

ORG undertakes significant joint work with other NGOs and is also a founding member of the NGO Peace and Security Liaison Group, Crisis Action and the WMD Awareness Programme.

 

Evaluating our work

As a group, ORG holds annual review days, with the expert help of a trained group facilitator. These sessions provide an opportunity to thoroughly reassess our direction and the way we work. We have found this enables us to remain clear about our purpose and ensures that we keep on track with what we do.

An external evaluation of our work, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, was carried out in February 2000 by Ken Aldred, OBE, Senior Associate Research Fellow at the Centre for Defence Studies, King�s College, London. The evaluation was done through interviews with those who have attended our consultations, and was encouraging in that it concluded that ORG�s work and approach are fairly unique and and seen as effective by those participants; our consultations are perceived by officials and experts alike as a useful adjunct to the official and more formal discussions they attend. The JRCT-funded evaluation helped us to refine our methods further, and clarified the particular approach we offer - namely, of helping to find areas of common understanding through dialogue between representatives of vastly different cultures and political world views.


Return to top of page