The Security & Defence Agenda is to hold its major annual conference entitled, this year called “Overhauling transatlantic security thinking”, on 4 June at the Palais d’Egmont in Brussels. The SDA annual conference is an important platform for debating developments in transatlantic security and defence. This year’s debates will be moderated by SDA co-president and former NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Frederick Kempe, President of the Washington-based Atlantic Council.
Tensions around the crisis in the Ukraine are high, with elections for a new government in Kiev scheduled for May 25th, only eight weeks after the Crimea referendum that has been hotly criticized by Western governments. How are the Ukrainian authorities handling preparations for the elections and will they be free and fair? What is the security situation on the ground and how is growing instability in the country’s eastern regions likely to impact polling? How are the OSCE and European Union supporting election operations on the ground, and how far does this reflect a common European position towards the Ukraine and Russia? Will a democratically elected government help tone down Russia’s criticism of the lack of legitimacy of the current Kiev government? How far are international bail-outs dependent on a smoothly-run election? What is the way out of the current crisis, and are the upcoming elections likely to help or hinder in re-starting talks with Russia?
With the mandates of both Operation Atalanta and Ocean Shield coming to an end later this year, it is urgent to identify the lessons to be learned from those six years of international cooperation. Can these lessons be applied to other areas of maritime insecurity, and what implications for international cooperation at large? Could the operations in the Gulf of Aden pave the way to renewed cooperation with third countries such as China?
Ending conflict-related sexual violence is of fundamental importance to international peace and security. Whilst it disproportionately affects women and girls, many men and boys are also victims. The overwhelming majority of this violence goes unpunished and becomes part of the cycle of violence that perpetuates conflict. It is also a major factor in refugee flows, and often condemns the victims to lives of poverty, slowing national economic development. This global scourge should be at the heart of how we view conflict prevention and foreign policy in the 21st century.