Securing the future of world society

New Institute looks to understand the biggest global threats and learn the lessons of the past.

Iran blames West for talks failure. EU clinches deal on 2014 budget. PM to lead trade delegation to China. Read the news headlines on any given day and a common thread is clear. Our global community is more interconnected than ever before – a world society without a world government, leading to a raft of positive consequences alongside tension and potentially disastrous conflict.

The need for a greater understanding of what living in this global city means for us all prompted the launch of the University’s Institute for Conflict, Cooperation and Security (ICCS) in 2012, with the purpose of developing a multidisciplinary approach to the study of conflict and security in the modern world.

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'The imperative for international cooperation has never been greater,’ explains Professor of International Relations Nick Wheeler, Director of the ICCS. ‘There is a need for political, economic and social structures to manage global security issues such as nuclear proliferation, climate change, and population growth. Creating a humane global policy without it leading to a situation where the threat or use of violence is an ever-present factor is the challenge that informs the Institute’s work.’ 

Within its four themes – Mediation and Conflict Management; Cooperation and Trust-building; Intervention and State-building; and Science and Global Security – the ICCS draws in research from across the University, including the International Development Department; the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences; and the Centre for War Studies among others. Professor Wheeler explains: ‘The Institute is bringing together existing strengths at Birmingham and this is what makes our work special.This interdisciplinary approach and focus on the challenge of cooperation is unique.’

One project already under way is investigating the implications of using remotely piloted aircraft – better known as drones – in Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The work includes a Birmingham Policy Commission (bringing leading figures from the public, private and third sectors together with Birmingham academics) chaired by Professor Sir David Omand, the UK’s former Security and Intelligence Co-ordinator and Director of Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ).

‘This research, investigating how conflicting perceptions of drone use is shaping the propensities for conflict and cooperation between and within states, shows we are right on the cutting edge of global security issues,’ says Professor Wheeler. 'This is very important. We are committed to producing world-leading research, but our work must also speak to practitioners from the Foreign Office and Ministry of Defence to non-governmental organisations (NGOs).’ As well as internationally relevant research, the Institute also has an evolving programme of teaching and training. ICCS Manager Catherine Edwards explains: ‘The existing toolkit is underdeveloped because it doesn’t speak to the challenges at a global level, which is where our training differs. Our programme will help us attract the best and brightest young researchers, as well as doctoral researchers, Birmingham Fellows, and more established scholars who can add experience and depth of intellectual engagement.’ 

With a remit focused on real impact the Institute has a clear ambition: to put the University on the map for anyone addressing the challenge of international cooperation. 

Opportunities at the ICCS include:

Postgraduate study: MSc in Global Cooperation and Security; PhD programme (coming soon), MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) in Cooperation (coming soon) 

Training: Five-day intensive programme; bespoke training programme (up to ten weeks) on Diplomacy, Negotiation and Mediation; short-term, voluntary work placements within the ICCS; regular seminar series (also available as podcasts)

Sharing: Alumni can contribute to the regular ICCS Brief or choose to write posts for the blog