November 19, 2009

Events from Around Town: Strategic Resources and New Global Security Trends

It has been a long week already, after a marathon reception Tuesday evening and a full day yesterday, as we had the honor of supporting the Defense Attachés Association (DAA) in their annual conference, “Strategic Resources and New Global Security Trends.” We are a bit tired and out covering some events and hearings today, so for today’s post we are providing a few take-aways from the DAA event. It was held under Chatham House rules, so these will be general and not attributed, but hopefully still a bit insightful:

  • One attendee said that to him, “change means development,” and he found our outlook to be too negative. That’s certainly not what we intend to convey – and many panelists offered realistic solutions to the problems that may arise from global change – but it’s noteworthy that this was the message that at least one person received. 
  • There were a lot of questions related to scoping natural resource and security issues – questions we also wrestle with often.
  • On questions related to energy and minerals, there were several attendees who seemed to embrace the (overly simplistic) answer that the market handles all problems related to commodities, and the security community need not worry; however, it seemed that far more attendees who expressed their views to the group or in side conversations agreed that resource indicators present many very worrisome trends.
  • The defense attachés were for the most part very willing to engage on a very complicated issue, and asked very thought-provoking questions; but it was notable that many of the most engaged attendees were those from countries most obviously already feeling the impacts of climate change.
  • Several attachés pushed the idea that addressing climate change was not solely a military mission, but that it would mandate (as we call it) a whole of government approach.
  • An interesting theme was that many attendees pushed for a greater understanding of potential positive impacts from climate change – increased cooperation between governments and militaries, or actual resource and economic gains from the effects of climate change.
  • The crowd seemed very interested in opportunities to work together multilaterally to solve issues related to global change. One attaché used Q&A time to ask a speaker for a meeting, another spoke of high hopes for engagement that he felt have often times been dashed, and all participants were eager to find top level engagement among their militaries and countries.
  • The sometimes skeptical nature of the crowd forced speakers to be more articulate and explain their thoughts more carefully than we often see in forums like this. Disagreement in the crowd pushed the conversation further and provided more compelling information for those who needed more convincing.

Here in the blog, we get deep into the details a lot, and it was great to have the opportunity to pull back up to the big picture level and make the case as to why natural resources are inseparable from security, and the linkages that are important to understanding the issues we cover here. A few of the speakers may allow us to post transcripts, and we will certainly let you know if we do!