You are here Press Press releases Leading security experts say Britain has never faced so many risks

Leading security experts say Britain has never faced so many risks

Published date:  23 May 2007

The security challenges facing Britain today are more diverse, complex and multi-dimensional than ever before, and the country needs a serious rethink of its strategy for dealing with them, according to 17 leading security experts who have joined a new independent Commission on National Security for the 21st Century.

The security challenges facing Britain today are more diverse, complex and multi-dimensional than ever before, and the country needs a serious rethink of its strategy for dealing with them, according to 17 leading security experts who have joined a new independent Commission on National Security for the 21st Century.

The Rt. Hon Hilary Benn MP, Secretary of State for International Development, delivered a keynote address at the launch.

Download a transcript of the speech (pdf).
Download an MP3 recording of the speech.
(To download, right-click the link and select 'Save Target As...')

The Commission, run by the Institute for Public Policy Research (ippr), will be chaired by Lord Robertson, former Secretary of State for Defence and former Secretary General of NATO and Lord Ashdown, former UN High Representative to Bosnia. Its first meeting will take place today (Wednesday) and will focus on the shifting landscape of security threats and the steps that are necessary to provide the UK with an effective national security strategy.

Over the next 18 months, the Commission will:

  • Conduct a detailed assessment of the changing global security environment and the specific challenges and opportunities this poses for Britain.
  • Identify the values and interests that should shape British security policy over the next decade and beyond.
  • Make specific policy recommendations for how Britain can make a more effective contribution to the promotion of global security, enhance the security of its own citizens, and more effectively defeat terrorism at home.
  • Publish an independent national security strategy for the UK.

Lord Robertson, said:
“The threats to our national security today are complex and diverse. Issues of state failure, organised crime, terrorism, nuclear proliferation, and energy security have combined to provide a new strategic context. While the challenges are real however, there is much we can and should do to meet them more effectively. This Commission, and the wide range of expertise it draws upon, will provide a unique opportunity to examine Britain’s long-term security needs.”

Lord Ashdown, said:

“It is clear that we are approaching the end game in Iraq and that we need to think through, carefully and strategically, what the post-Iraq world will look like. It would be disastrous if the outcome of recent experience was a greater reluctance to intervene in conflict situations around the world. But lessons must be learned, and this means a willingness to contemplate radical reform of our security institutions both at home and internationally.”

Former Senator Tom Daschle, said:

“The relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom is a strong bond forged over the decades as two great nations with common values united to address shared responsibilities. The complex and challenging security environment we face today demands that we sustain and invigorate that alliance. This Commission can help in that process.”

Sir Jeremy Greenstock said:

“Globalisation has changed the way societies interact and compete, but we have not yet developed international political understanding or structures to cope with the stresses. The coming period will be one of increased instability and unpredictability. The UK needs fresh thinking on how to protect its interests, which I hope the Commission will be able to provide.”

Shami Chakrabarti, said:

“This is a golden opportunity to address serious security challenges in a rational, principled and non-partisan manner and to meet the stated objective of our next Prime Minister, which is to protect our security without sacrificing hard-won liberties.”

Ian Kearns, ippr Deputy Director, said:

“This Commission is about building an informed consensus on security policy. Our aim in undertaking the exercise is to produce a security strategy that provides security, liberty and a degree of domestic social cohesion in the context of the threats facing us in the early twenty-first century.”

The Commissioners are:

  • Lord (George) Robertson, former Secretary of State for Defence and former Secretary General of NATO.
  • Lord (Paddy) Ashdown, former leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and former High Representative to Bosnia Herzegovina.
  • Sir Jeremy Greenstock, Director of the Ditchley Foundation and former British Ambassador to the United Nations.
  • Sir David Omand, former security and intelligence coordinator in the Cabinet Office and former Permanent Secretary in the Home Office.
  • Lord (Charles) Guthrie, former Chief of the Defence Staff.
  • Shami Chakrabarti, Director of Liberty and former Home Office lawyer.
  • Lord (Martin) Rees, President of the Royal Society and Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.
  • Sir Chris Fox, former Chief Constable of Northamptonshire and former President of the Association of Chief Police Officers.
  • Professor Michael Clarke, Centre for Defence Studies, Kings College London.
  • Professor Mary Kaldor, Centre for Global Governance, London School of Economics.
  • Francesca Klug, Professorial Research Fellow at the London School of Economics and a commissioner on the Commission for Equality and Human Rights (CEHR).
  • Professor Tariq Modood, Director of the Leverhulme Programme on Migration and Citizenship, Bristol University.
  • Senator Tom Daschle, former Majority Leader of the United States Senate.
  • Dr Ian Kearns, Deputy Director, ippr.
  • Constanze Stelzenmüller, Director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund.
  • David Mepham, currently the Head of the International Programme at the ippr, but from September the new Director of Policy at Save the Children.
  • Professor Jim Norton, former chief executive of the Radio Communications Agency and now at the Institute of Directors
  • Ian Taylor MP, Chair of the Conservative Party Policy Task-force on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, Conservative MP for Esher and Walton and former minister for Science and Technology at the Department of Trade and Industry.

All Commissioners are serving in a personal capacity and because of their individual expertise. They do not represent the interests of any organisation.

The Commission will consider:

  • Terrorism – how should Britain best counter the terrorist threat in the short term and how should it address those underlying factors that lead some individuals and groups to resort to terrorism?
  • Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) - how should Britain use its influence to address the threat posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction in cases like Iran and North Korea and how can the international non-proliferation regime be strengthened?
  • Climate change – how should Britain deal with this new security challenge, described by the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser, Sir David King, as a threat more serious than that of terrorism?
  • Energy Security – how should Britain address the security implications of its dependence on imported energy and the security risks that this potentially creates?
  • Regional conflicts - what contribution can Britain make to addressing regional conflicts, particularly in the Balkans, the Middle East and Africa, and how can Britain better fulfil its stated commitment to protect civilians from violence and abuse in these cases?
  • Global poverty and underdevelopment - what are the links between poverty, failing states, violent conflict and political radicalisation? How should Britain use its development and diplomatic resources to reduce the risks of violence and to promote effective state institutions, human rights, development and sustainable human security?  
  • Threats to public order and domestic social unity - how should Britain address the acute alienation of some sections of the British population and their susceptibility to extremist ideologies and influences? And what is the right way to balance action against extremism with adherence to established civil liberties and our international human rights obligations?
  • Global cooperation and global institutions - almost none of the security challenges identified here can be met effectively by Britain acting independently. How should Britain better work with others to address these issues and the kind of institutions that are required to tackle global security threats more effectively?

Read more about the Commission.

Notes to editors:

The Commission on National Security for the 21st Century will be launched on Wednesday 23rd May at 18:00. At 18:30 there will be a short welcome by the Joint Chairs of the Commission, George Robertson and Paddy Ashdown, followed by an address from the Secretary of State for International Development, Hilary Benn MP.  Media are welcome to attend the launch event and should contact the ippr press office for accreditation.

To request an interview with any of the Commissioners please contact the ippr press office.


Matt Jackson, ippr senior media officer, 020 7339 0007 / 07753 719 289 /

Richard Darlington, ippr media manager, 020 7470 6177 / 07738 320 645 /