This page explains in more detail what the Alternative Security Review is and how it will be undertaken

The Alternative Security Review is a civil society-led review of the UK’s security strategy. By asking people in the UK what matters to them for their security, and by discussing potential solutions to human and ecological security with experts, a cooperative Human Security Strategy will be produced that will offer an alternative to the existential failures of the current ‘national security’ approach.

Rethinking Security have undertaken this project in response to the UK government’s latest security review, the Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, which set out government ‘security’ priorities for the next 10 years. This will see a big boost to military spending at the expense of development and diplomacy, and commits the UK to dangerous great power struggles in both Europe and on the other side of the world.

A human security strategy would, instead, prioritise inclusion, equality, accountability and well-being at home, as well as a vision of shared global security and a commitment to the ecological security of our planet. 

Why an Alternative Security Review? 

The Need and Opportunity for an alternative narrative

There is an urgent opportunity in 2021-2024 (the current parliamentary term) to capitalise on concerns about the conduct and outcomes of the UK government’s Integrated Review of Security, Defence, Development and Foreign Policy, at a time of huge public concern over the ability or willingness of the government to provide protection from non-military security threats to citizens’ lives and livelihoods. These include the vast health, economic and environmental challenges highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic, disruption to energy and food supplies after Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine, and the more frequent extreme weather impacting the UK and so many other countries. There is great public interest in health and social care, economic security, a green transition (or new deal), and ending the UK’s involvement in ‘forever wars’ abroad.

While the government has set out its strategic agenda for the UK to compete globally for power and influence next decade, we believe it is essential that the public, policy-makers and politicians of all political parties are engaged in debate over the wider context of human security and the potential for a more cooperative, long-term approach to chart a course through an incredibly dangerous phase of human history.

The view from other nations: the UK’s failure to address human security

Rethinking Security has analysed and critiqued the process, content and intent of 20 security strategies from Western countries and identified seven major shortcomings in relation to UK national security strategies:

  • They equate national security with the UK state’s power to dominate and coerce other states and peoples, rather than promoting a shared global vision of security to be achieved through cooperation;
  • They are focused on the interests of an elite class, including political, bureaucratic, military and private sector actors, rather than the security of people in the UK;
  • They are focused on preserving the perceived ‘stability’ of existing economic and geopolitical relationships rather than striving for a more just, equitable and sustainable system;
  • They are focused on identifying and reacting to short-term threats to the status quo rather than working proactively to transform longer term threats or underlying causation;
  • Resourcing of responses to principal threats identified has been extremely uneven, with military threats greatly prioritised over human security issues such as health and environmental crises;
  • They are focused on the use or threat of military force and coercion, often in quite explicit terms, to promote UK interests;
  • The process of designing security strategies lacks inclusivity; it fails to draw on the knowledge, needs and priorities of the UK’s people, particularly those most affected by security policies, or those critical of existing approaches.

How will the Alternative Security Review be carried out?

Rethinking Security proposes to develop an alternative to the currently dominant ‘national security’ approach, consulting and harnessing the widest range of perspectives to develop a human security strategy for the UK with a global vision for how this contributes to the shared security of humanity and the ecological security on which all else depends. The timeline of work carried out and work ongoing is as follows

March 2021 – January 2022: Inception phase

Defining the structure and process of a strategic review for the UK and building a project team with Coventry University’s Centre for Peace Trust and Reconciliation, our research partners.

February 2022 – July 2023: Research and Consultation phase

To help us understand the security needs and priorities of people in the UK, the team at CTPSR will lead the research component of this project using missed methods. See our research page for more details.

Throughout this phase, Rethinking Security will produce reports and articles investigating the process of putting together national security strategies and what alternatives look like. Have a look our publications section for these.

We will also consult a wide cross-section of UK civil society groups and international partners about their experiences of working for human and ecological security to help us understand the potential solutions to human and environmental insecurities. See more in the evidence building section.

We are also working with several academic partners and practitioner networks to contribute to and disseminate related research projects.

February 2023 – August 2023: Strategy Development Phase

With the results of the research and evidence-gathering phase, we will generate a human security strategy for the UK.

September 2023 – February 2024: Advocacy Phase

We will use the human security strategy to engage politicians, civil servants and academics in discussing and proposing alternatives to failing government policy and support alternative approaches within political parties ahead of a likely general election in 2024.

Ongoing throughout the project: Building a Movement for Change

Rethinking Security is a membership organisation and many of our members have a history in peacebuilding or advocating for alternatives to militarism. But for this project to be as successful as we hope, we are building stronger working relationships with groups that are already working on solutions to human and environmental insecurities. We hope to highlight and promote their work through this project, speaking together, stronger, for a new approach to security for the UK.

Our Supporters across the UK will also be resourced to engage in the project, with help from CTPSR to carry out activities similar to the research work that will add depth and an element of storytelling to the project and help to change the conversation on security at a grassroots community level too.