Conference Executive Summary

“Enhancing Regional Security Cooperation”—APCSS Biennial Conference

(16-18 July 2002)[1]










>        According to a keynote speaker:  “Defeating terrorists is easy; defeating what the terrorists represent is more difficult; envy, resentment, anger, despair are the real enemies.  Ultimately, security of the rich depends on security of the poor.”


>        While the US policy of preemption came under considerable criticism, one major non-US speaker stated that the policy was necessary because deterrence had failed with attacks against US interests over the past several years culminating with the 9/11 attacks.


>        The Balikatan exercise between the US and the Philippines was noted as a success both as military exercise and as a political exercise in strengthening the bi-lateral relationship.


>        Some NGOs and non-state actors are expressing concern that the war on terrorism is diverting attention from other important matters.  They see a need for a holistic approach that addresses causes as well as symptoms.


>        There was an expectation, accepted by the audience, that, overtime, the world and particularly the US will shift away from the current total focus on the Global War on Terrorism towards other issues. 



>        Speakers and attendees recognized that transnational issues, such as environmental degradation, energy and human migration are primary threats to many nations’ security and that such threats exceed the ability of any one nation to respond.


>         There was also recognition that such threats often spill over into other nations, transforming what was a domestic problem into a transnational issue.


>        On balance, sovereignty continues to prevail.  Nations will consider cooperation on transnational threats only if sovereignty is assured. 


>        There is also an implicit willingness by national governments to allow their citizens to suffer greatly rather than risk impaired sovereignty. 



>        While there is growing agreement that people should be major focus of security, issues of national sovereignty and the primacy of the state continue to dominate the thinking of current generations of official analysts and policy makers.


>        Part of the equation is a growing belief that the primary purpose of a state should be the protection of its people; citizens are not just a resource for the welfare of the state.


>        Among those most attuned to the human security frame of reference, secure, healthy, and enfranchised people are the basis for stable, strong, and prosperous states.  This in turn is the foundation for regional peace and stability. 


>        The 9-11 attacks increased the prominence of human security in the region.  First, mass casualty terrorism principally targets civilian populations.  Second, there has been recognition of the need to address the ‘root causes’ of terrorism which were seen as basic human security needs—material well-being, equality and hope for a better tomorrow.



>        Medical threats are interconnected with many other serious security issues that governments face (e.g. terrorism, transnational crime, poverty, etc) but are often not accorded enough attention, interest or priority.  The perception of the threats varies widely from country to country. 


>        A lack of overall knowledge and appreciation for the complexity and seriousness of the problems results in a lack of focus and interest.  Without priority being placed on medical issues there is a lack of resources or urgency needed to combat these threats.


>         Increasingly threat of pandemic disease, combined with fears of biological warfare, complicates security planning.



>        There are feasible ways to ameliorate regional dependence on oil.  Those include alternative energy research cooperation and development as well as cross-border natural gas pipeline development and strategic oil stockpiling. 


>        All the technology exists today to completely satisfy a state’s energy requirements with alternative energy.  Additionally, alternative energy is beginning to be cost competitive. 


>        Just one billion dollars would allow the solar industry to build up to ten manufacturing plants producing products capable of generating electricity cost competitively.  Within short order, market forces would ensure exponential growth.


>        Cooperation towards a world relying more on alternative energy sources could reduce or reverse global warming.  Additionally, since alternative power production can be widely distributed, the potential impact of terrorism on a single-source electrical grid can be drastically reduced. 


>        The subject of pipelines came up repeatedly during the conference.  While pipelines require interstate cooperation, they do not eliminate the need for stockpiling since pipeline oil can be turned off at any point along the pipe.


>        Asian nations need to be encouraged to adopt the stockpiling approach modeled by Western states, learning from their experience.  Similarly, Asian nations need to consider that small savings on stocks of oil often lead to much greater expenses for larger navies and militaries to control energy supplies, as well as continued vulnerability to oil price shocks. 


·        Ecological Security, although still not widely accepted at a “legitimate” security topic, is viewed as an important component of national well being.  Not only does ecological damage national economies, it also impinges on the health aspects of human security for individual citizens.


>        Environmental stresses in and of them selves will not cause conflict.  They can be contributory factors, but are not primary causes of violence.


>        Though much of the discussion has been focused on environmental scarcity, it is possible that a greater problem may be environmental abundance, as factions fight for access and control over profitable resources, as well as the distribution of wealth from those resources.


>        One of the difficulties in addressing the environment is the politicalization of research.  With the scientific community somewhat discredited as “hired guns” for either corporations or for NGOs, how does an “objective” debate around environmental issues arise?  Is there any “fact” that an ideology cannot deny?


·        Post-9.11, there is certainly a greater awareness of the threat posed by WMD and the need for global cooperation on this issue.  The old WMD threat has acquired a new dimension, i.e., their possible possession and use by Non-State Actors such as al-Qaeda.  Biological and Chemical weapons are more likely to be used in the future than nuclear weapons.


>        Real or perceived unresolved regional security issues, not technology diffusion, are the main cause of proliferation in the Asia Pacific region.


>        According to some conference attendee, the U.S. cannot have one set of rules for itself and another set of rules for others.  As far as WMD proliferation is concerned, the region is at a critical juncture.  Wrong policies by the international community now may trigger a second wave if proliferation.  Lack of trust and verification measures are major hurdles.  


>        The region has a number of tools available in the struggle to limit WMD proliferation:  export controls, security dialogue, confidence and security building measures, nuclear weapons free zones, transparency, and last but not least, training and education in arms control and nonproliferation issues.



>        The first step towards cooperation is engendering a recognition that the Global (and regional) Information Infrastructure is a global “common” that can provide wide spread benefit only if cooperatively maintained.


>        Critical issues involved include common agreement on legal definitions of illegal activities (such as “hacking”) and intellectual property rights; agreement on standards for network security protocols and hardware; and acceptance of the need for governments to share what is currently highly sensitive information on network attack and defense techniques.



>         Poor governance is sometimes seen as a result of ‘globalization’ and the dislocations caused by the inability of national government to deal with all its effects: environmental degradation, disease, ethnic unrest, terrorism and technology piracy.


>        Good governance is seen primarily as a national responsibility with the international community limited to providing training, examples of good practices and the provision of resources to combat the ills of poverty.



>        Biases on the part of a couple of speakers lead a few attendees to present a heated rebuttal and to assume intentional bias on the part of the conference organizers.  This highlighted the extreme difficulties faced in attempting to address issues on which there is very little common ground for agreement and much emotional baggage to overcome.


>        In addition to current issues being fraught with emotionalism, Asia lives with its history.  For example, regional perspectives on Japan continue to be driven by events of the early to mid-20th century.



>        Intelligence and operational planners are good at sensing “clear and present danger,” but less prepared to notice the indicators for less likely events.  We get caught ill prepared when a low probability event becomes reality.


>        The region has limited resources or planning capability to develop cost-effective preparations for low probability events.



>        Enables each conference attendee to meet with many people from the region.  This would seem a much more cost-effective method than individual travel.


>        Conferences with broad based agendas allow for the immediate exploration of inter-linkages among the various topics presented, both formally in conference sessions and informally during inter-personal conversations among attendees.


[1] Prepared by Herman Finley, Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies.