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Commission on National Security in the 21st Century

security , world politics



This major two-year Commission, which is co-chaired by Lord Paddy Ashdown and Lord George Robertson, seeks to conduct a detailed assessment of the changing global security environment and the specific challenges and opportunities this poses for Britain.

It will identify the values and interests that should shape British security policy over the next decade and beyond, and 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.

Commission workstreams

In order to structure the research activities of the Commission Secretariat, we have chosen to focus on the following six research streams:

  • Strengthening Multilateralism

    Globalisation has brought many benefits and much international cooperation but competitive pressures are also building in the international state system. This research stream asked how cooperation can be sustained, deepened and broadened and how the competitive pressures can best be kept in check. In doing so it examined key potential competitive pressures at both the global and Euro-regional level including issues such as the possible failure by international institutions to accommodate new powers such as China and India, growing energy competition, potentially destabilising state based WMD proliferation and the EU/NATO relationship with Russia.

  • Dealing with the Challenge of Terrorism

    Terrorism represents an immediate threat to public safety in the UK. This research stream considered the nature and character of the current challenge and how we can work at the local, national, and international levels in order to overcome it.

  • Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding

    As well as being a humanitarian concern, fragile and conflict-affected states are fast rising up the security agenda as places where terrorist networks and transnational organised crime groups may potentially find the space to operate. This stream of work assessed how policymakers can best engage with fragile states and overcome challenges to effective conflict prevention and peace-building.

  • Homeland Security and Resilience

    The ability to recover quickly from a terrorist attack or natural disaster is critical to the UK’s homeland security. The central question being addressed by this work-stream was how the UK can be made more resilient to the range of threats and hazards facing it.

  • Economic Security

    Interdependence is a function of ongoing globalisation and although the whole process brings many benefits, it also opens the UK up to some new vulnerabilities.

  • Defence Capabilities

    Since the 1998 Strategic Defence Review, the challenges – strategic, operational and technological – facing UK defence planners have undergone substantial changes. There is also growing concern over whether long-term plans for defence capabilities are consistent with the resources being made available to the MoD, especially given the continuing escalation in procurement costs. As a result, there has been a great deal of debate on the need for a new reconsideration of defence priorities, as well as on the relative priority given to defence compared to other areas of government spending, both on security and more generally. This workstream examined the scale and diverse nature of the demands being placed on our military, and asked whether both the level of expenditure and the balance of capabilities are suitable for current and likely future tasks.


The Commission brings together leading experts from the fields of security, defence, intelligence and development. 

Commission panel members are:

  • Lord Paddy Ashdown, Co-Chair, former leader of the Liberal Democratic Party and former High Representative for Bosnia.
  • Lord George Robertson, Co-Chair, former Secretary of State for Defence and former Secretary General of NATO.
  • Dr Ian Kearns, Deputy Chair, ippr. 
  • 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.
  • 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, Director, Royal United Services Institute, and Professor of Defence Studies at King’s College London.   
  • Professor Tariq Modood, Director of the Leverhulme Programme on Migration and Citizenship, Bristol University.
  • Constanze Stelzenmüller, Director of the Berlin office of the German Marshall Fund.
  • 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.

Meetings of the full Commission are complemented by meetings of Commission sub-groups on specific workstreams.

Supporting the Commission

We are grateful to the funders of ippr’s work on security, which include:

  • Raytheon
  • EDS
  • Booz & Co
  • De La Rue
  • the Department for International Development
  • the Cabinet Office
  • the Swedish Foreign Ministry
  • National Grid
  • Ofcom
  • BAE Systems
  • E.ON
  • Amnesty International
  • the Economic and Social Research Council
  • EADS Astrium
  • Clifford Chance