Human security versus national security: have we lost our capacity for collective action?

Conflicts, climate change, rising inequalities…. the list of crises is long and growing.

But it doesn’t really matter what we call this unprecedented moment in history, in which human activity has become the dominant force shaping the planet. Whether this is the “Anthropocene” – the Age of Humans – or the “Era of Poly-crises”, what matters is that it is real, changing our lives at extraordinary speed and challenging our post-war institutional architecture. At a time of unprecedented interdependence, are we losing our capacity for collective problem-solving and effective global governance? With the UN and Bretton Woods Institutions in the crosshairs of both governments and citizens for chronic failures in preventing conflict, climate change or the current financial/debt crisis, what hope is there for multilateralism in a multipopular world? How will citizens and institutions respond and what would it take to rebuild trust and confidence?

Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator, will explore the implications of growing paralysis, polarisation and uncertainty for a world in a race against time to achieve systemic and transformational change. Drawing on a range of contemporary and contested policy arenas such as decarbonising our economies, reforming the international financial system and harnessing the disruptive power of technology and innovation, he will present ‘signals’ that imply fundamentally different future scenarios for ‘human security’ vs ‘national security’.

Following his presentation, Achim Steiner will join Baroness Valerie Amos, Master of University College, to debate how paradigm shifts in geopolitics and economic orthodoxy can be achieved and how to build political movements and momentum – less focused on competition and confrontation and more on shared interest, cooperation and co-investing in our collective ability to tackle inequality and sustainability.

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