Rethinking Security

Rethinking Security is a programme of events that began in 2016, organised by Bath and District United Nations Association and Bath Stop War. In three initial discussions the focus was on security: its meaning for us, for society and for our planet, and how it can be increased, both here in the UK and globally. The starting point was a document from the Ammerdown Group, a collection of professional peace-builders frustrated by the disastrous effect of global militarist policies on local peace-building.
It became clear from these discussion that the next stage should be dialogue with opinion-formers alongside a continuing programme of informing ourselves. We began with a meeting with Bath's MP Ben Howlett in September 2016, to be followed in December by a talk on Syria, which we regard as a key international security issue.  
Future meetings will include presentations by nationally and internationally significant speakers, helping us rethink security.

Sixth-form conference
Thursday 12th October 2017
Prior Park College, Bath
Our latest activity in Bath was to invite Celia McKeon as speaker at our UNA group’s annual sixth form conference, which this year was devoted to Rethinking Security
Sixty students took part, from six different schools. Celia gave a really excellent presentation tailored to the youthful audience. She engaged the young people from the start by beginning with questions to them and the level of their attention was evident in the group discussions that followed and the serious way in which they prepared their responses.
The students’ opinions and comments were thoughtful and well articulated and Celia’s responses to them were respectful and incisive. This underlines the importance of running such events and the students went home with much food for thought.
The staff members present and the organisers were all delighted with the way it all went.

The Bundle Journeyman Theatre
Saturday 8th July 2017, 7:30 pm
Friends Meeting House, York Street, Bath
As part of its programme of events on "Rethinking Security", Bath Stop War staged a performance of The Bundle by Journeyman Theatre
Commissioned by Quakers Asylum-seekers and Refugee Network (QARN), The Bundle tells the real life story of Adilah, a Chechen woman who flees the persecution and violence of her society and immediate family to save herself and her children. Once in the UK, she continues to negotiate the harsh complexities of bureaucracy to attain refugee status.
In the ‘hostile environment’ intentionally created by the Home Office under Theresa May, the play seeks to explore the life and culture that Adilah (not her real name) and her young family have left behind and the challenges that face them in the UK in 2017. The title of the piece is taken from the name given to the Home Office file. The bundle is vital to every asylum-seeker as it contains their life stories and the evidence of their claims. Journeymen Theatre have worked closely with the family themselves and with professionals who also work in the area of Asylum and Refugee issues to develop The Bundle.

Election Hustings - Promoting Human Security in an Uncertain World
Thursday 25th May 2017
Friends Meeting House, York Street, Bath
Report by Diana Francis on the pre-election discussion of security and foreign policy with candidates in the Bath constituency.
After a welcome, introductions and a brief outline of the character of Bath Stop War and our Rethinking Security programme, with an empty chair marking the absence of Ben Howlett, the three other candidates made their presentations. Four prepared questions were put to them by members of the audience: one about Trident and its non-contribution to human security; one about public spending choices and their impact on the security of ordinary people; one about policy on environmental protection, and the last about democracy as related to human security. Then the floor was open to all and the questions continued for what was probably another 45 minutes. Their variety clearly forced the candidates to think about their responses rather than coming up with stock answers, although they may not always have said what we wanted (especially on Trident). The atmosphere was mostly civil and relatively friendly and there seemed to be consensus between the candidates that the politics of braying contest needed to be left behind. However, there was one spat between the Libdem and Labour candidates, (with some audience participation) on the subject of tactical voting. A young woman in the audience commented at the end that such behaviour put off people in her age group and turned them away from party politics. Altogether, I think we succeeded in engaging with our candidates in a way that at least made them think and gave us a chance to assess them in a way that their leaflets don’t. The election outcome will be another matter!  

In the age of Trump, how can the UK work for a safer world?

In February 2017 Natalie Bennett from the Green Party gave an inspiring talk at a meeting organised by Bath Stop War and North East Somerset Green Party. She not only had a broad vision of what makes people feel and be safe, connecting up a wide range of aspects of security, but she also gave a wealth of practical and significant examples of a constructive approach.
A full report of the meeting can be downloaded here.

Syria - Talking With A Tyrant? What is life like under the Assad regime?

At this well-attended meeting in December 2016 Simon Fisher shared six observations from his direct experience of visiting Syria. He has written these up in a short article which you can read here.

In September 2016 a group of parliamentarians, faith leaders and academics visited Syria for a week at the invitation of Muslim and Christian religious leaders. Moved by the desperate, seemingly intractable situation, the group's plan was to meet as wide a range of people as possible, to listen and learn and - they hoped - make a useful contribution to public discussion and to foreign policy formation in the UK.

Simon Fisher, who was in the group, will share some observations from the visit, which potentially challenge key aspects of current Western foreign policy and dominant media narratives. Putting these points across in the UK has brought its own challenges, as there is huge resistance to entertaining multiple perspectives on such an emotionally charged issue as Syria. Yet without flexibility, there is little prospect of sustainable peace.

Public meeting and discussion with Ben Howlett MP

The final Rethinking Security session (see below) focused on what we can do - here and now - to challenge conventional, weapons-based definitions of security. Engaging the local MP in a principled discussion was a high priority. Ben Howlett MP accepted our invitation to hear what emerged from our discussions and address us on the question of what makes us and others safe. In a public meeting on 28th September 2016 key ideas were presented to a wide audience by four participants in the Rethinking Security sessions. This was followed by a lively and open discussion.

A report of the meeting can be downloaded here: Public meeting and discussion with Ben Howlett MP (2-page pdf document)

Resources

Starting Point

Our starting point was Security for the future: in search of a new vision. This document comes from the Ammerdown Group: a collection of professional peace-builders frustrated by the disastrous effect of global militarist policies on local peace-building. It is a succinct analysis of what is at stake. You can download both the full document (10-page pdf, 408kB) and a summary (2-page pdf, 99kB).
Download Full Document
Download Summary

Notes from initial meetings 

Download the Notes from the first meeting 20 April 2016 (2-page pdf document)

Download the Notes from the second meeting 18 May 2016 (6-page pdf document) 

Download the Notes from the final meeting 15 June 2016 (4-page pdf document)
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