We need a comprehensive security strategy fit for 21st century threats
Current and future threats are not what they used to be. We owe it to the people whose lives have been tragically cut short by Covid, to ensure that when disaster strikes again, we are prepared.
This past year has shown us we need an honest discussion about what in the future will put people’s lives at risk. For years, we have thought about security as a risk from hostile actors. Yet it was a virus rather than a hostile actor that caused over a hundred thousand deaths, and a fall in 20% of GDP.
Security is the most essential thing a government provides to its people. Without it, nothing else is possible. But because we think about it in narrow terms, we risk neglecting this duty.
Last month, at an APPG for Future Generations’ event, former Minister for Security and Counter Terrorism, Baroness Neville-Jones warned that our current security systems are still rooted in the Cold War. Current and future threats are not what they used to be and policy needs to take this into account, which is why I am delighted to have secured time next week for a debate on ‘Global Human Security’.
Without attention to these other non-militarised threats, we will be caught unawares again
Human security is an approach that puts the experience and wellbeing of the individual at the centre of security policy because it is concerned with defending people against potentially catastrophic threats such as climate breakdown, pandemics, and emerging risks. Public health (primarily infectious disease and antimicrobial resistance) and major natural hazards are rated as two of the Tier One Priority risks, from the 2019 National Security Risk Assessment. Yet despite this acknowledgment of risk, they take a back seat compared to comparable militarised threats.
This skewed focus of attention and resources is something the government needs to change. Every year the government commits to spending ~ 2% of GDP on military defence. We have no similar commitment of spending for other risk prevention. Without attention to these other non-militarised threats, we will be caught unawares again.
We know that the catastrophic effects of climate change and environmental degradation are increasing year on year. We also know that as our society grows more and more dependent upon technology, the risk of a debilitating cyber-attack on critical infrastructure is growing too.
Whilst I am pleased to have seen the recently published Integrated Review commit to “developing a comprehensive national resilience strategy in 2021”, I am concerned that when you follow the money, this government has reverted to type. Rather than devising a comprehensive security strategy fit for 21st century threats, they have unashamedly increased the UK’s nuclear arsenal just a few weeks after the Nuclear Ban Treaty came into force.
It is for that reason that I will be asking the Minister to provide an operational plan which assesses the implementation of the Integrated Review based on how it improves global human security.
This must permit us to monitor and evaluate who the beneficiaries of the Review are and how it impacts on their security and wellbeing. This would ensure that whilst the scale of a global tragedy is alive in our minds, we put in place the lasting protections to safeguard future generations from risks such as climate change.
We owe it to the hundreds of thousands of people whose lives have been tragically cut short by Covid, to ensure that when disaster strikes again, we are prepared. I urge colleagues to join me at the Backbench Business Debate on the 13th April to have an honest discussion about what risks are going to affect all of our constituents both now, and in the future.
Wera Hobhouse is the Liberal Democrat MP for Bath and is the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for women and equalities and justice.