Privatising the war on drugs

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I am happy to announce what should be my final academic publication of 2014. It is an article published in the latest issue of Third World Quarterly, which is entitled, ‘Privatising the war on drugs‘. The piece looks at the role private military and security companies (PMSCs) have been playing in the US-led war on drugs. In this article I focus on Latin America, specifically Colombia and Mexico, but PMSCs have also played a prominent role in Afghanistan, as this recent post on The Intercept notes. While an extensive literature on PMSCs has developed (see here for an extensive bibliography), there is very little research that has examined the role they have played in regards to the drugs prohibition regime. This article fills in some of the empirical gaps, and also highlights some of the specific practical and normative problems that comes from using PMSCs in the field of counter-narcotics. I have included the abstract below.

The first 50 people to access this link are available to download the article for free.

Christopher Hobson, ‘Privatising the war on drugs‘, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 35, Iss. 8, 2014, pp. 1441-1456

A defining feature of the ‘9/11 wars’ has been the prominent role played by private military and security companies. The growth of this market for military and security services has not gone unnoticed. Yet the role these organizations have played in supporting the US-led war on drugs has largely gone under the radar, both literally and figuratively. The aim of this article is to look at the activities of private military companies funded by the USA in Latin America, and to consider the specific consequences that arise from employing them in the field of counter-narcotics. It is argued that the use of these actors further entrenches a costly and unsuccessful way of dealing with drugs. There is a need to move from a strict prohibitionist stance and consider alternatives to the war on drugs approach, but the use of contractors creates another strong vested interest in maintaining an increasingly problematic and costly status quo.

Audio from FGC seminar

For those interested, the UNU has made available an audio recording of last week’s seminar with Prof Gerry Thomas, in which she discusses how to understand and communicate the risks posed by the Fukushima nuclear accident. I give a very brief introduction to the themes of the seminar at the beginning, noting the challenges that have appeared for people having to come to terms with the complexities of the science surrounding nuclear issues. A brief summary of the event, including Prof Thomas’ powerpoint slides, is online at UNU’s website.

Seminar: Communicating Health Risks from Nuclear Accidents

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On 15 October 2014, the Fukushima Global Communication Programme will be co-hosting a seminar with Professor Gerry Thomas, who is a Professor of Molecular Pathology at Imperial College London. She will be presenting on the challenges of communicating health risks in the context of nuclear accidents, drawing on the Chernobyl and Fukushima cases. Following her talk, there will be an open discussion with the audience, which I will be chairing.

For more information about the event, visit here. And if you would like to attend, you need to register, which you can do here.

On ISIS and evil

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I have a new op-ed piece in The Japan Times today, which reflects on the challenge posed by ISIS (the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). Given the truly shocking and barbaric nature of their actions, it is easy for us to see ISIS as a group of medieval savages, or some kind of evil force. Yet identifying ISIS as an evil monster that must be ‘destroyed’, as Obama and other world leaders have promised, risks misunderstanding what is a complex political phenomenon. I argue that it is important that we come to terms with ISIS as a political actor, and try to understand their goals and grievances. My thinking on these matters has been inspired by the project I completed earlier this year on ‘evil in international politics’, as well as through a course I am teaching this semester, ‘Ethics and World Politics’ .

You can read the full piece here.

WISC presentation

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This week I am in Germany to attend and present at the World International Studies Committee conference. After a bit of a break, I will be giving my first new paper on democracy in quite a while. It builds on previous arguments I have made about the need to expand the way democratic peace is studied. Specifically, the argument focuses on the historical and conceptual linkages between democracy and war, and the importance of properly understanding these relationships. My thinking on these issues has been assisted by a course I’ve just finished teaching this semester at Waseda called ‘Democracy, Peace, and War’.

Book launch: 28 July at UNU

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To mark the publication of our two volumes on human security and natural disasters, next week we are having a book launch at the United Nations University. The event brings together the editors of the two books as well as a number of chapter contributors from the second volume, who have examined the political, social and economic consequences of the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident that struck Japan on 11 March 2011. The details are:

Date: Monday 28 July 2014
Time: 16:00 – 17:30, followed by reception
Venue: Reception Hall, 2F, United Nations University Headquarters
Click here to register to attend

This event is open to the public, all are welcome. So if you are free and interested, please join us.

“What Role for Nuclear Power in Japan’s Future?”

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I recently published a new piece on Japan Focus, which is looking at some of the major issues confronting Japan’s likely return to nuclear power. You can read the article here. And if you want the brief version, here are some of the key points of the piece:

  • Utilities are focusing too much on technical fixes after Fukushima. There is a need for greater focus on developing a robust safety culture.
  • Challenges to developing a stronger safety culture include the sub-contracting system, and economic demands that make utilities less likely to go ‘above and beyond’ when it comes to safety.
  • Japan needs a more sophisticated debate over different energy policies, and what role nuclear power should play in the country’s future. As Japan discovered when the ‘nuclear safety myth’ was shattered, it is impossible for nuclear power – or indeed any energy source – to be 100% risk free.
  • Advocates of nuclear power need to better address concerns related to: the continuing impact of the Fukushima disaster, the hidden costs involved with nuclear power, the storage of nuclear waste, and the dangers posed by future natural disasters.
  • Anti-nuclear advocates need to better address the economic and environmental costs of abandoning nuclear power, as well as engage with a wide range of actors from the nuclear industry and listen to how they have responded to the Fukushima accident.
  • The approach Abe is pursuing is setting Japan on course for an unproductive and suboptimal middle ground: it is exposed to the potential risks of operating nuclear reactors in a disaster-prone country, while receiving limited benefit, given that it is predicted that nuclear power may constitute less than 10% of Japan’s energy supply.
  • The direction Japan is headed will solve neither the long-term economic or environmental challenges Japan faces in securing its energy supply, nor will it satisfy the anti-nuclear majority or pro-nuclear business groups.

And for all the detail, please read the full article. Thanks to Japan Focus for publishing it.

Roundtable on the politics of Fukushima

RoundtableMany thanks to The Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan for kindly inviting me to participate in a roundtable discussion on the politics of Fukushima last night. It was a great opportunity to reflect on how the disaster has impacted Japanese democracy, what changes it has brought about, and where the country might be headed. Fortunately the whole event was recorded, so if you are interested, please have a look. Thanks to the FCCJ for providing the video and picture.

Political roundtable at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan

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This coming Thursday 3 July from 18:00 – 20:00 the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan will be hosting a roundtable session on ‘The Politics of Fukushima’. I will be speaking, along with Tsuyoshi Shiina, from the Unity Party, who is a Member of the House of Representatives. I am very excited to be participating in this event, and look forward to sharing some findings from research I have been doing on the Fukushima nuclear accident and how it has impacted on the current state of Japanese politics. For more information about the event, check the FCCJ webpage. There hopefully should be a video recording of the event, which I will share here afterwards if it is available.

Human Security and Japan’s Triple Disaster

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June is shaping up to be a busy month for publications. Following on from my co-edited special issue of International Politics, I am now very happy to announce the publication of another co-edited volume with Routledge, Human Security and Japan’s Triple Disaster: Responding to the 2011 earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear crisis. This is the companion to Human Security and Natural Disasters, which we published earlier this year. In that book we focused on theoretical issues and a range of international cases, whereas in this volume we look specifically at the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident that Japan suffered in 2011. We start from the observation that while Japan has been the leading proponent of the human security approach internationally, it has tended to assume that it is a concept that is primarily relevant for ‘others’. Yet the events of 11 March 2011 demonstrated with terrible force that human insecurity is also a problem in Japan. We are very happy to have these two books completed, and we are planning a book launch for late July. I’ll provide more information about that soon, and in the meantime, for more information about the book, including a table of contents and endorsements, check here.