December 2007. The Cambridge Security Programme is operationally closed. This site is maintained as a historical archive. Information on this site is no longer current.
The Cambridge Security Seminar
The Cambridge Security Seminar (CSS) was a response to recent world events that defy conventionally held assumptions regarding the predictability and manageability of instability and conflict. Today's threats appear to differ from those of the past. Political agendas, criminal activities and conflicts once thought to be local and containable have become global in scale, scope and complexity. Power relations have been re-ordered as technology allows disparate groups to act together with 'mass effect'. New challenges to security, real or perceived, require new approaches, and new ways to respond.
A Long-Term Vision
The goal of the Cambridge Security Seminar was to help key policy-makers improve their long-term strategic vision and thinking. The causes of current insecurities, and their corresponding transnational challenges, present government and corporate policy-makers with complex policy dilemmas, solutions to which must balance short-term responses with potential long-term consequences. Interestingly, the outcome of the debates suggested that the key emerging paradigm was the network and the interactions it enables. The network (the 'what') provides a framework for interpreting the causes of our sense of insecurity ('the why'), and the use of instruments of mass effect upon society (the 'how'). This in turn led to a debate about the options facing contemporary policy-making.
The July 2003 international seminar, built around research presentations and interactive workgroups, offered a unique collaboration across government departments, the military, police, academia and the corporate sector, including international delegates. The two-day residential event, with some 150 attendees, was designed to build synergies among the participants and stimulate explorations into new ways of understanding threats and of formulating appropriate responses. The focus was on identifying emerging problems and challenging conventional wisdom. In this way, delegates were encouraged to define and develop practical action-oriented policy approaches to complex issues and challenges, and to formulate new ways of thinking 'out of the box'.
Taking Policy Forward
The CSS debated many issues intended to enhance our understanding of threats to security and how to deal with them. Since 11 September 2001, there have been a plethora of security seminars and defence-oriented conferences, though seldom have ideas that emanated from such events been probed for their significance for policy. In most cases, delegates are left to take issues forward as they see fit. Following the CSS, by contrast, the MoD decided to subject key issues discussed at the Seminar to more coherent and rigorous analysis, in order to test their relevance for policy. This was undertaken at a subsequent Policy-Military Game in October 2003.