Some Rethinking Security members directly advocate for a change to security policy. Through research and policy work they promote alternatives based on dialogue, cooperation, equality and inclusion.
The dominance of the military and arms companies in the corridors of power mean that alternatives are sometimes not obvious to decision makers. Learning about workable alternatives and informing our political representatives is one way you can help create a better conversation on security.
But its not just about challenging traditional forms of security and defence. We need a better conversation on things like health security and the safety of migrants. Some of our members work directly on these issues…
Feature: Medact’s work to challenge Prevent
Medact’s mission is to support health professionals from all disciplines to work together towards a world in which everyone can truly achieve and exercise their human right to health. They do this through research and evidence-based campaigning for solutions to the social, political and economic conditions which damage health, deepen health inequalities and threaten peace and security.
Medact recognises that health and well-being throughout our lives aren’t just about individual bodies, diseases, and conditions; rather, they are shaped by the social, economic and physical conditions in which we are born, grow, live, work and age.
Their work is about creating health security, part of what it means to live in full human security. It’s not just about the government spending less on weapons and more on the NHS, but about understanding the barriers to health that some groups face and the way in which other forms of human security – like economic, community or food security – interact with public health. They say,
“the social determinants of health are driven by political and economic systems that dictate how power and resources are distributed; and which have the capacity to create and exacerbate not only deepening social inequality but wider threats to health such as climate change, violent conflict, and human rights abuses.”
Medact recognise that the Prevent duty is one of these threats. Prevent is part of the UK government’s set of counter-extremism policies and it places a duty on public services to “have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.” The government has spent millions of pounds integrating this legal duty in to health care provision, meaning health professionals are obliged to report concerns about potential radicalisation of individuals.
In 2020, Medact published, False Positives: the Prevent counter-extremism policy in public healthcare, a unique and important piece of research on the impact of the Prevent duty in healthcare. They looked at the intersections with race, religion and mental health and investigated the rate of referrals that were ‘false positives’, i.e. the rate of referrals where no further action was deemed to be necessary.
What they found was an alarming picture of a policy that has little evidential basis to support its workings, and a serious bias towards referrals of Asian/British Asians, particularly young men with mental health problems. Medact’s findings showed that although Prevent is supposed to promote safeguarding, it “may actually harm the vulnerable, rather than safeguarding them.”
They found problems with training and conflicts of interest for health professionals regarding their duty of confidentiality and other safeguarding concerns, which has led to “widespread confusion” about the implementation of Prevent in health services, resulting in a huge variation in application, which “suggests [that] inadequate, racially biased assessment tools are being applied in arbitrary, uneven ways.”
The report highlights the training provided by the government about how to spot the signs of radicalisation, noting that vulnerable people may experience “feelings of grievance and injustice” and “may have experienced poverty, disadvantage or social exclusion that has left them with a distorted opinion of the world.” If government is serious about tackling extremism in any of its forms, the best way to do that, as Medact make clear, is to support the human security of the population that would disrupt the underlying causes of insecurity that leads to the fear that can develop in to radicalisation.
Medact are calling for Prevent to be repealed and for healthcare and safeguarding to be ring-fenced from counter-terror, in order for trust and safeguarding to be maintained with patients.
Medact provide unique insights through their work on health justice and security. Check out their campaigns for more info.
More reading on our blog
Our blog is a great source of information on work that rethinks security. Here are some recent articles that explore different ways of challenging security policy in the UK and highlight alternative approaches:
- Keeping up with the Putins Fred Carver, UN specialist consultant, researcher and author (May 2022)
- Building from Ukraine: from solidarity to systemic change, Richard Reeve, Coordinator of Rethinking Security (March 2022)
- Physical Security: Borders, movement and the fear of migrants, Brian Dikoff, Migrants Organise (March 2022)
- Resisting the Policing Bill , the Network for Police Monitoring (March 2022)