TNI’s War and Pacification programme is concerned with analysing and exposing the drivers and consequences for human rights and democracy of the state of permanent war, particularly in the context of the authoritarian trend that is discernibly growing globally. Similarly, it interrogates the pacification of resistance and attempts to criminalise dissent and solidarity. The latter was particularly relevant in 2019 which has been dubbed the year of protest for the sheer number of places where fed-up citizens took to the streets against their governments, and which were marked by a global pattern of brutal policing and extreme repression.
In 2019, TNI’s work focused on the corporate drivers of militarised border policies; explored progressive alternatives to counter-terrorism policies; and began a new pan-European project looking at the structural drivers of institutionalized anti-Muslim racism. In the spirit of the latter, TNI co-published a well-publicised statement denouncing Dutch legislation to ban women wearing the niqab, which was picked up by the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism who was outspoken about the ban on her visit to the Netherlands. We also continued to monitor and publish analysis of ongoing and threatened wars — notably in Syria following the US withdrawal of troops from Kurdish areas, and provocations in respect of Iran on the part of the US and UK– as well as the fragile peace in Colombia and Myanmar (see more under Results for our Drugs and Myanmar programmes).
We produced three new reports in our Border Wars series, placing the border security industrial complex firmly on the agenda of many NGOs working on issues of migration. We provided solid, well-sourced evidence regarding the role played by corporate actors in shaping border politics making them increasingly militarized and hostile to those seeking asylum. TNI published The Business of Building Walls to coincide with the 30th anniversary since the fall of the Berlin Wall, which sparked widespread media attention in 30 countries including The Independent, Al Jazeeera and Euronews. A second report concerned the US-Mexico border, More than a Wall, which was also very well received, notably by Agence France Press and Mexican media. We also received interesting feedback from an employee of a federal contractor in the USA who had read the report and would like to learn more about the role of private contractors in shaping militarised borders. The third report, Guarding the Fortress, concerned the role of the European Border and Coast Guard Agency in militarising borders and criminalising migrants, undermining fundamental rights to freedom of movement and the right to asylum. TNI was invited to present its borders research at a gathering in Tunisia of African and European political and UN representatives, activists, academics, and NGOs. Our critical framing of border externalization was highly valued by participants present from countries such as Mali and Niger, who experience the direct consequences of European border policies and the devastating impact on their national and regional contexts. The UN Working Group on Mercenaries also reached out, finding our framing particularly useful with regard to the role of private actors and their influence on border politics. TNI was also invited to host an informative panel at Sabir Festival of Mediterranean Cultures in the south of Italy, which discussed how the militarization of borders has become a globalized phenomenon. Many European-based activists and NGOs later reported finding our panel particularly insightful and informative in joining the dots between border policies in the Americas, Asia, Africa and the EU. In particular, we were commended for including a discussion on the role of China, the Belt and Road Initiative and its impact on ports and movement. TNI also travelled to key border regions in the Americas, including the Mexican border with Guatemala and the Colombian border with Venezuela, to observe first hand border dynamics and to meet with partners and consolidate relations.
TNI brought together a group of critical security and counter-terrorism analysts based in Britain, who produced a unique progressive policy document titled Leaving the War on Terror. This policy document is the first of its kind in that it goes beyond simply criticising Britain’s role in the War on Terror and its counter-terrorism policies, and actively proposes an alternative approach to what security should look like. It was the subject of a panel discussion held during the Imagine Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics. The report was launched to a full house at the House of Commons at an event hosted by the Shadow Home Secretary. There was much engagement with the report on social media platforms with 1,252 downloads and 2,600 views of the accompanying video in the first week alone. The report has been praised by political figures within the Labour Party, as well as activists and academics alike for its invaluable contribution in shifting the narrative from a militarised model of security to interrogating what security really means for us as we go about our daily lives. TNI also submitted input to the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism. She conveyed that she found the framing particularly useful for her report on soft law and countering violent extremism (CVE) in moving the conversation beyond counter-terrorism, and looking at how it impacts our sense of security more broadly almost twenty years since 9/11 launched the state of permanent war.
The year culminated with the publication of a book on the Far Right by TNI Associate Walden Bello, and support for a well-attended Europe-wide promotion tour. In addition, TNI co-published a report which reflects interviews with over 80 progressive activists around the world on the threat of the far-right. The consensus view emerging from the latter was that the far-right has been able to capitalise on popular discontent with economic globalisation, and popularise a racist theory of a “great replacement” underway through migration. Contributors identify weaknesses as the inability of the far-right to deal with climate issues and the encouraging internationalism catalysed by concerns about climate change as key to any counter.