21 December 2017

2016 was a year that shook complacent assumptions of a secure, liberal, rules-based world order and confirmed the return of populist politics and great power geopolitics. Defining events included British voters’ rejection of the European Union, US voters’ endorsement of Donald Trump, a coup and crackdown in Turkey, and the rapid advancement of North Korea's nuclear programme. The fall of Aleppo to Russian- and Iranian-backed forces in December capped a tumultuous year.

2017 has deepened these trends as divisive elections in the US, UK and Germany have polarised and, at times, paralysed Western policy-making. Steady battlefield success for the US-led coalition against Islamic State in Iraq and Syria has alienated Turkey, consolidated Iranian and Russian influence and dispersed jihadis worldwide. Bogged down in a calamitous war in Yemen, the Gulf States have turned on one another. North Korea has defied the US and UN to emerge as an intercontinental-range nuclear power. The US, UK and Chinese navies have progressed new supercarriers. Fearful of Trump’s ambivalence to NATO, the EU has signalled its emergence as an ambitious security actor.

With much of the world trapped in a cycle of confrontation and conflict, and the UK and other Western powers rethinking their global role, the need for Oxford Research Group’s calm, steady engagement, analysis and advocacy in pursuit of long-term, sustainable peace and security has never been greater.

The impact of ORG’s work in the UK and Europe has become increasingly apparent as politicians from across the spectrum embrace the need for transparency and accountability of military operations and challenge the costs and effectiveness of established security policies. The snap general election of 2017 reflected a maturing consensus on tackling climate change, development spending, UN peacekeeping, and (for many parties) curbing British arms sales to repressive regimes.

In the Middle East, the deadlock of the Oslo Process has energised our strategic thinking groups to develop alternative pathways towards peace. For our Palestine Strategy Group this strategic capacity has been adopted at the highest level of the Palestinian Authority. Having profiled our Collective Strategic Thinking methodology for conflict resolution with Egyptian and Arab League officials in 2015-2016, ORG has shared its expertise with experts working across the Middle East, particularly focusing on Yemen.

In 2018 ORG will integrate its three programmes into a revised structure under a new strategic plan, promoting their work through a new, unified web presence and brand. Global crisis is a global opportunity to rethink and rebuild a more cooperative world order and ORG intends to play a crucial role in informing, inspiring and sustaining that transformation.

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