1.0. Opening Panel: Making Sense of the New Global Disorder

Chair: Prof. Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou

Panellists: Amb. Barbara Bodine; Prof. Joseph Maïla; Mr James Nixey

Rapporteur: Mr Adrien Burkhalter, Geneva Centre for Security Policy

This panel provided an overview of today’s international security challenges and examined the drivers of contemporary instability. It was observed that fragility and disorder are predominant in the policy world, creating disintegration of social and international structures, in some cases leading to a state of ‘chaos’. Another key theme highlighted concerned the nature of the security framework established after the Cold War -- a period which has witnessed a deterioration of the power of states in favour of non-state actors. As such, there is now a sort of breach in the global security architecture.

It was also noted that the emergence of hybrid warfare, the rise and the complexity of terrorism, religion and confession tensions, aggravation of migration crises, global health issues and climate change created a disrupted world, with these phenomena having a local and international impact.

Synthesizing broadly the major issues of security, the panel raised interrogations on three aspects.

  1. In a historical sense, how will this period be considered as we enter this phase of global disorder and what are the drivers of the contemporary disruptions to the international security scene?
  2. In this landscape altered fundamentally by an accumulation of crises, what are the priorities identified to properly meet the today’s challenges?
  3. Which effective responses can be identified and at what level can they be pursued?

Speakers were first interested in questioning the reality of this disorder. It has been supposed that the current disorder is a combination of the reality and the perception. The audience was called to understand that our disrupted world is entering in a process which is not necessarily unprecedented. Indeed, there have been several earlier periods of such transitions between the decline of an old order and the emergence of a new international order. This assertion was clarified by showing that the end of World War I was the sign of the end of the great empires while the end of World War II sounded the death knell of colonialism that directly signified the independence of the southern nations. The transitions’ phases operated through these major historical periods have revealed that the state of disorder is temporary and have demonstrated the decline of a system. It was also mentioned that periods of destabilisation, which disturb the established order, are certainly perceptible whereas the results of this phases of reordering are impossible to predict.

Today’s world is partly guided by the megacities and their mayors to the detriment of the nation- state. This phenomenon of the population’s concentration in cities and the fragmentation of the state system have contributed to a new questioning of our identity and our frames of reference. It has been said that the continuous weakening of our identity has created a sense of fear, which will be expressed by a violent reaction and by the success of populism. Hence, globalisation has indirectly caused a crisis of identity which has an effect on security’s perception.

Furthermore, it was reiterated that the unipolar international system governed by a hegemon such as the United States has collapsed in favour of a disrupted and multipolar order. Therefore, we are in a world where there is no hegemon while there are still more armed groups that call into question the monopoly of legitimate violence held by the nation state. As such, the emergence of non-state actors, such as ISIS, in the international system has revolutionised the analytical paradigm of international relations. The world is also disrupted due to the complexity of conflicts that are driven by an exaggerated use of religion becoming an ideology, while state responses are too unsophisticated and do not meet the challenges of the complex hybrid warfare that we are facing nowadays.

It was also noted that the disrupted world cannot find equilibrium because of three main factors that were summarised by one of the speakers; increasing intolerance, lack of trust in government and the inability of leaders to overcome the today’s challenges of our time. These above-mentioned factors are poisoning and increasing the momentum of disruptor agents such as ISIS.

In conclusion, this panel delved into the current security panorama highlighting the factors of insecurity and indirect implications of globalisation on our frames of reference such as identities and borders. It was recognised that the contemporary global order is not something unprecedented, but this signals an era where the hegemon is fading, while the competition to grab hegemony has been reignited.