International peace and stability have been the subject of competing-but-complementary narratives in recent years, which have significant implications for how NATO and the broader international community attempt to cultivate a
durable peace. Several stakeholders view the rise of ISIL, protracted crises in places like Syria, Yemen and Libya, and migration flows as signs of mounting chaos. Still others note that conflict and terrorism data, while generally rising since 2010, is still near historic lows and that the vast majority all of today’s battlefield deaths and terrorist attacks are occurring across roughly half a dozen countries. This secondary viewpoint sees less global chaos and, to the contrary, failures in terms of providing adequate humanitarian assistance, creating livelihoods and bolstering governance.
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Those adopting the former viewpoint tend to call for renewed attention to security institutions, border restrictions, defensive measures and counter-terrorism cooperation. Quite the opposite, those focused on the latter interpretation call for more attention to humanitarian aid, support for education and livelihoods, a renewed commitment to peace processes and improved governance. However, neither understanding nor approach needs to be adopted to the exclusion of the other; hence, NATO may consider these as complementary and in need of some degree of balance – a degree of balance, which the Alliance is currently lacking.
Furthermore, NATO should increasingly consider the literature on correlates of conflict, which shows that around the world and particularly in countries of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), issues like education, employment and demographics (i.e., youth bulges) are among the most decisive factors – combined with a lack of economic diversification and poor government performance – in driving conflict. The full text thus posits whether NATO has a tangible security interest in getting involved with these sorts of issues more fully rather than relying solely on support to partners’ security capabilities and hoping that non-NATO entities such as the United Nations and INGOs support socio-economic conditions in a manner that strengthens regional stability.