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„Das Internet vergisst nichts!“

Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung - Sun, 08/03/2015 - 00:00
Egal ob im Social Web, auf Nachrichtenplattformen oder beim Onlinebanking: Überall verwenden wir – vermeintlich geschützt und anonym – unsere Identität zur Erstellung von Nutzerprofilen. Doch was passiert mit diesen Daten wirklich? Welche Rechte hat der Nutzer? Mit diesen hochaktuellen Fragen beschäftigten sich Stipendiaten im Rahmen des Fachforums Jura von 6. bis 8. März 2015 in Kloster Banz.

Nigel Inkster: Discussing illegal mining in Latin America

IISS Voices - Thu, 05/03/2015 - 18:16

By Nigel Inkster, Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk

The IISS Cartagena Dialogue is an exercise designed to bring together the members of the Pacific aAlliance, an economically liberal free-trade oriented bloc of Latin American states, together with the major states of the Asia-Pacific region. As such it seeks to identify commonalities and one such, the subject of illegal mining, will be covered in the special session that I will be chairing.

The commodities boom witnessed over the past decade has heralded an equally large boom in the phenomenon of illegal mining. When people talk about illegal mining, the assumption is that they are talking about small-scale operations with marginal local impact. But in parts of Latin America and Asia, such mining often takes place on a very large scale and has significant detrimental impacts. The fact that it is unregulated means the illegal mining industry observes none of the standards that should apply in the legal mining sector. The result is environmental degradation on a massive scale – deforestation, water and soil pollution, and high levels of toxicity from lead and mercury; the widespread use of child and slave labour; and the extensive involvement of criminal entities and insurgent groups. For example it is estimated that Colombia’s main insurgent groups FARC and ELN derive as much if not more revenue from illegal mining than they do from their traditional mainstay of narcotics trafficking.

Managing this problem is a complex domestic and international challenge. In the course of a weekend I don’t expect us to come up with comprehensive solutions. But there are grounds for hoping that the IISS Cartagena Dialogue will generate a wider awareness and understanding of the issues involved and help to generate some of the connections and relationships that will be needed to address the problem. A collaborative approach involving both producer and consumer countries will be needed – and many of the major ones will be represented at Cartagena. Watch this space.

This post is part of our content accompanying the IISS Cartagena Dialogue: Trans-Pacific Summit, which runs from 6-8 March 2015 in Colombia. You can follow the latest mentions of the Dialogue, or contribute your own, on Twitter via #IISSCartagena. Inquiries can be sent to

Filed under: IISS Cartagena Dialogue

Remise du prix Albert Thibaudet 2014

Centre Thucydide - Tue, 03/03/2015 - 11:00

Le prix Albert Thibaudet a été remis cette année le 3 juillet 2014 à MM. Jean Lopez et Lasha Otkhmezuri pour leur ouvrage Joukov, éditions Perrin, 2013.


Diana Quintero: Colombia – a bridge between Asia and Latin America

IISS Voices - Tue, 03/03/2015 - 10:19

Guest post by Diana Quintero, Vice Minister for Strategy and Planning, Ministry of National Defense, Colombia

Little is known about the Cartagena Dialogue – and I am not referring to a historical treaty signed in our beautiful walled city. Instead, I am referring to a new meeting point for leaders of Asian countries (such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore, the Philippines and Indonesia) and countries of the region (such as Chile, Peru, Panama, and Mexico) that will be coming together for the first time to establish a strategic dialogue on global trends in defense, security, and economics. Government leaders, academics and business people will participate in the dialogue, creating a bridge linking Asia with Latin America, as well as connecting Latin American countries among themselves.

A robust economy, reduction in poverty and unemployment, and the real possibility of finding an end to the armed conflict make Colombia a benchmark for the region and in the world. This is unquestionably thanks to the sacrifice of our soldiers and police – they are true architects of peace.

No country at peace can go without strong and modern armed forces. To offer assurance and security, law enforcement must be strengthened. It is the only way to create the right setting for a nation’s prosperity and sustainable development.

In the last decade, Colombia has been hailed by the international community for the progress it has made in matters of security. These results are due, primarily, to the increase in foot soldiers and the acquisition and modernisation of equipment, which have allowed an increased use of technology and greater effectiveness when protecting the Colombian people.

There can certainly be no better investment than that made in security. In fact, while the world at large discusses how to best resolve diverse conflicts, Colombia emerges as a great example in negotiated solutions.

The trust Colombia has built and our potential as a global actor make events like the IISS Cartagena Dialogue possible. This is an opportunity to share our success stories across multiple fronts. From 6–8 March, global leaders from the fields of business, politics, and academia will come together for strategic discussions in which Colombia will stand out as a central player in the fight against transnational crime and the reduction of social inequalities, building bridges that allow our nation to share its experience and capacity with the rest of the world.

This post is part of our content accompanying the IISS Cartagena Dialogue: Trans-Pacific Summit, which runs from 6-8 March 2015 in Colombia. You can follow the latest mentions of the Dialogue, or contribute your own, on Twitter via #IISSCartagena. Inquiries can be sent to

Filed under: IISS Cartagena Dialogue

Choiseul 100 : les leaders économiques de demain (classement 2015)

Institut Choiseul - Mon, 02/03/2015 - 18:28

Ils ont moins de 40 ans. Ils sont entrepreneurs à succès, dirigeants et cadres à haut potentiel d’entreprises performantes ou d’administrations influentes. Ils ont en commun l’excellence du parcours, une réputation flatteuse, une influence grandissante et un potentiel hors norme. Ils seront dans les années à venir à la tête des grandes entreprises françaises, ou aux commandes des PME les plus dynamiques et florissantes du pays.

Pour la troisième année consécutive, l’Institut Choiseul publie le Choiseul 100, classement des cent futurs leaders de l’économie française.

Publié en exclusivité dans le Figaro Magazine du 27 février 2015, le Choiseul 100 est également consultable sur le site du

Télécharger l’étude complète ici.

Télécharger le communiqué de presse

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"The Meta-Geopolitics of Geneva 1815-2015" Op-Ed by Dr Nayef Al-Rodhan

GCSP (Publications) - Mon, 02/03/2015 - 14:12


This article originally appeared in ISN.

What geopolitical factors helped transform Geneva into a global economic and diplomatic center? For Nayef Al-Rodhan, two of them stand out – the city’s role as a safe haven during the two World Wars, and its ability to provide a needed ‘coordination point’ during the Cold War.


On 19 May 2015, Geneva will celebrate the two-hundredth anniversary of its accession to the Swiss Confederation. This occasion provides an opportunity to reflect on how the past two hundred years have transformed Geneva’s relationship to Switzerland and Geneva’s role in the world. With a population of less than 200,000 inhabitants, Geneva is a global and multicultural city, a hub for humanitarian diplomacy, an epicenter for banking and trading, and it ranks behind only Zurich and Vienna in global  measures of the quality of life .

Alongside New York, Geneva has also become one of the  most active locations for multilateral diplomacy  . It hosts 30 international organizations, including the European headquarters of the United Nations, 250 international non-governmental organizations and 172 permanent missions. In total, the international sector in Geneva employs over 28,000 people . Geneva is a center of humanitarian action, education, peacekeeping, security and nuclear research. This critical mass of mandates makes the city uniquely relevant in world politics.

The story of how Geneva acquired this role is tightly connected to the history of power politics in Europe, the distinct advantages of Swiss neutrality and the evolution of international diplomacy. Two hundred years ago, Geneva was treated as an object of geopolitics and bartered away at the Congresses of Paris and Vienna in order to establish a post-Napoleonic equilibrium on the European continent. This geopolitical role was retained until the Inter-War Period. Today, Geneva is often described as “the diplomatic capital of the world” and is an important node in the global economy. Two factors explain this remarkable transformation: 1) the role of the city as a “safe haven” that could offer intact infrastructure and ‘business as usual’ during the two World Wars and 2) its role as a hub of political and economic coordination between the West and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Paris, Vienna and Geneva

The year 1815 marked the end of a fifteen-year period of  French rule  over Geneva. After Napoleon’s troops were driven from the city following his defeat at Leipzig in 1813, the Swiss federal assembly voted to integrate Geneva, Neuchâtel and the Valais into the Confederation, leading to the signing of the  Treaty for the Admission of Geneva  on 19 May 1815.

On Geneva’s part, the move for admission was primarily a geopolitical calculation. In an era of empires and nation-states, Geneva recognized that city-states would require a larger entity to provide for their defense and survival.

At the Congresses of Paris and Vienna, Geneva won support for its desire to become a part of Switzerland. Represented by the diplomat Charles Pictet de Rochemont, Geneva received seven communes from the Pays de Gex and twenty-four communes from Savoy. Both France and the Kingdom of Sardinia ceded territories for this purpose, according to the  Treaty of Paris of 1815 and the Treaty of Turin of 1816 .

Geneva achieved its objectives because they were in line with the geopolitical aims of the great powers of the day. At the same time, those great powers guaranteed the city’s neutrality which helped it to become an important setting for international cooperation.

Fifteen years after Geneva became the twenty-second canton of Switzerland, Swiss philanthropist Jean-Jacques Sellon created the Society for Peace. Another 33 years later, Geneva became the seat of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and witnessed the signing of the first international humanitarian treaty, the Geneva Convention, in 1864.

A global capital

The first attempts at formal international cooperation in Geneva were not resoundingly successful. The League of Nations, which came into existence in 1920, was headquartered in the city – first in the Palais Wilson and then in the purpose-built Palace of Nations. Though it ultimately failed to prevent the slide towards the Second World War, the League was not without its  successes : for instance, the work performed by the International Labour Organization, the International Refugee Organization and the Health Organization helped to raise Geneva’s stature in the interwar period.

Geneva attained even greater significance, however, in the post-War period when many high-level negotiations and diplomatic summits began to take place in the city. These included the 1954 Conference on Indochina, the post-war meeting of the Allies in 1955, the Reagan-Gorbachev Summit in 1985, START negotiations in 2008-2009, and the ongoing high-level talks on the Iranian nuclear weapons program. For its contributions to international peace and stability, Geneva-based organizations and personalities have received no fewer than sixteen Nobel prizes, most of them for peace. The first was awarded to Henry Dunant, the founder of the ICRC; the most recent was awarded to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Geneva, however, is not only a global diplomatic capital but an important node in the global economy. In particular, it has become a center for the global trade in raw materials. More than 500 multi-national corporations trade in raw materials from Geneva, accounting for approximately  10% of the city’s (and the canton’s) GDP . On a given day, Geneva-based corporations process over  700 million tons of oil , which exceeds the trading volumes of the City of London (approximately 520 million tons per day) and Singapore (440 million). 80% of all Russian oil is traded through the city and approximately 20% of all cotton. Some estimate that a third of the global trade in oil, cereals, cotton and sugar, as well as half of the global trade in coffee are also  directed through Geneva .

Geneva has risen to become an important geopolitical city for a variety of reasons. During the First World War, Switzerland, and hence also Geneva, was able to offer “business as usual” to international trading firms. During the 1920s, the first cereal traders, such as André, came to Geneva, primarily to be close to their main customer, Nestlé. On top of this, several Ottoman and later Turkish traders found it convenient to establish trading subsidiaries in the region of Lausanne, located on the route of the Orient Express between London and Istanbul.

Furthermore, Geneva began to benefit from the image of neutrality bestowed upon the city by the international organizations which increasingly established their headquarters there. Yet it was perhaps Geneva’s role as a “safe haven” (and its intact infrastructure) during the Second World War that attracted the most business to the city.

During the Cold War, as a result, Geneva was already well known throughout the world as a ‘neutral’ trading location. This meant that it was in Geneva that economic and political coordination between the West and the Soviet bloc came to be orchestrated. It also continued to function as an economic safe haven. Indeed, it was to Geneva that Egyptian cotton traders transferred their activities during the Nasser era, just like many Arab oil traders after the oil crisis of 1973-1974.

Swiss meta-geopolitics

Undeniably, one of the reasons why Geneva is so international is because the European headquarters of the UN and its agencies are located in the city. This reflects Switzerland’s long-standing commitment to provide federal and cantonal support to the United Nations. Most recently, this took the form of a generous loan at preferential rates for the renovation of the UN’s Palais des Nations, covering almost 50% of the costs (approximately 300 million Swiss francs). Nowhere else does the UN benefit from such facilities and this level of support.

Over decades, Geneva has established a well-defined identity as a city of peace and an ideal meeting place for diplomats – whether in the field of humanitarian action, disarmament, climate change or other concerns. In recent years, activities in other sectors, such as the crude oil trade, have increased the city’s international renown. While Geneva faces competition as a global economic and diplomatic center from cities in Asia, Africa and Latin America – some of which are becoming prominent regional centers of dialogue and diplomacy – it is unlikely that the city’s stature will diminish anytime soon.

Using the framework of  meta­-geopolitics , the following table discusses the geopolitical strengths and imperatives of “International Geneva.”

Issue Area

Geopolitical Realities and Dilemmas

Social and Health Issues                                                                                                                                                

Excellent services, quality of life and an ideal location for diplomats and expats.

Geneva is a central location for global governance regarding social issues, public health, employment, youth, education and other areas.

Domestic Politics

Swiss neutrality, highly stable and democratic, but the initiative to curb the number of foreigners is perceived as a major setback for the city and country (although these regulations do not affected the staff of international organizations from the UN family.)


Trade hub, both private companies and inter-governmental organizations in the area of trade, development, labour.


The city and canton of Geneva place strong emphasis on energy-saving and a clean environment. In line with the Swiss environmental policies, Geneva has strict standards of agricultural biodiversity, waste management or water management.

Geneva is a center for environmental diplomacy and climate change dialogue (e.g. the UN Environmental Programme is located here).

Science and Human Potential

High-profile universities, excellent research centers in medicine, chemistry, physics and other sciences.

Numerous UN research centers and institutes are located in Geneva (e.g. UNITAR).

Military and Security Issues                             

Geneva is a key centre for disarmament diplomacy, including the Conference on Disarmament and is host to numerous NGOs and think tanks with a unique profile in security studies, small arms, demilitarization.

International Diplomacy

Unique strength as global meeting point for international diplomats, activists and NGOs.


Issue Area

Imperatives and future trajectories

Social and Health Issues                                                                                        

High quality of life, among the top best in the world (ranked before London) will make it attractive for foreign companies.

Domestic Politics

Greater openness to foreign workforce, imperative for more facilities for expats.


Increasing importance as trading center for petrol and other commodities, growing importance in cereals trading, insurance companies, consultancies and shipping.

Low inflation - gives strength to the economy

The simple and strict tax system, with some tax discounts for companies contributes to attracting companies and investors (taxes from 3.5 to 14.1%, compared to London - 30%)



Science and Human Potential

Continued investment in sciences and research. Excellent universities and highly skilled workforce on the local market are expected to attract even more foreign companies.

Military and Security Issues


International Diplomacy

Geneva will retain a prominent place in global diplomacy, yet the future of "International Geneva" strongly correlate with the future of the UN system.



>> Back to GCSP Staff Publications

Entretien avec Alain De Neve sur Vivacité à propos des vols de drone(s) au-dessus de Paris

RMES - Thu, 26/02/2015 - 15:14
L’entretien peut être écouté sur le lien podcast suivant:

"Quantum Computing and Global Security" Op-Ed by Dr Nayef Al-Rodhan

GCSP (Publications) - Tue, 24/02/2015 - 14:20

This article originally appeared in the Global Policy Journal.

The fast-evolving processing power of computers is a fact that hardly surprises anyone today. This was predicted five decades ago by the co-founder of Intel,  Gordon Moore , in what is now widely known as the Moore Law. He postulated that processor speed (and overall processing power) for computers would double every 18 months and that the number of transistors on an integrated chip would double at the same pace. The law gained so much popularity that it became some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy and  chip fabricators   raced to make processors faster, smaller and simultaneously cheaper.

In the past decade, this trend appears to have reached a plateau as the  difference in processing speed  between 2000 and 2009 has barely doubled in a 10-year span. This has prompted conclusions that the end of Moore’s Law, anticipated for a while now, is nearing. To keep up with the demand to increase processing power, big companies will have to invest much more in research, thus potentially spiking up the prices of processors.

While the accuracy of Moore’s Law is now losing ground, this does not mean that the search for supercomputing has faded too. Moving away from conventional computing, with its already impressive power, quantum computing is part of a new revolutionary generation of computer research which aims to surpass not only limitations in speed but also in the  technical limits of the chip-making material . Whatever speed can be imagined with computers, it is nowhere near what quantum computing is expected to achieve.

In the 1980s, the  notion that quantum physics  could be used to perform computations simultaneously, on massive amounts of information, emerged for the first time. The quantum computer is considered a “ seventies child ” as its conceptual foundations were first laid during the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. The interest in developing such a machine, with unprecedented speed and agility, was revived in the mid 1990s, when computer theorists began to explore the possibilities of developing quantum computers. Highly ambitious researches placed overly optimistic bets that quantum computers could be in use by 2010. To date, scientists have yet to create an operational quantum computer but this task is surely not hampering its research and development. “ The Holy Grail of supercomputing ” is now drawing increasing interest and investment: NASA, IBM and Google’s D-Wave Systems are among the most important actors in the field and more recently, the National Security Agency joined the ranks by pledging $ 80 million on basic research in quantum computing.

What is so special about quantum computing?

Unlike a classic computer, quantum computers do not work in an orderly and linear manner.  Conventional computers  function according to binary logic, using 1s and 0s (“either/or” distinctions) and stringing together combinations of these. By contrast, quantum computing uses quantum bits or qubits, which are basically quantum particles such as electrons or atom nuclei. This gives quantum computers unique functionalities as qubits communicate with each other through entanglement and calculate every existing possibility at the same time. Qubits are placed in a state of “ superposition ” where they do not have values of 1 or 0 but both. In this regard, quantum computing is a step further from what is possible in the real world as  qubits   can be in more than one state at a time.

This means that quantum computers would be capable of huge calculations and enormous processing power. They could  surpass conventional computers  in speed and could help solve or race through problems that would normally take other systems eons to solve.

The ongoing research is also charting new grounds in material science and our understanding of materials properties. For example, a leading start-up in quantum computing,  D-Wave Systems , claims that certain types of metals, such as niobium (a soft metal that becomes superconducting at low temperatures), are key to the development of the quantum processor. Moreover, other recent breakthroughs in  silicon-wrapped quantum technology  prove again that more thorough investigation of materials and properties of chemical elements can unlock the unknowns that have delayed progress.

Quantum computers, once fully functional, will mark the ultimate frontier in computing, being able to make calculations billions of times faster. It is their extraordinary features which also prompt immediate considerations about their social and security implications. In a future not too distant, when the quantum leap will have reached an operational stage, we can expect a series of groundbreaking uses. For a start,  quantum computers  could help scientists find cures for cancer, advance research of Alzheimer’s disease, or find distant planets; they could be used to simulate or test certain political and military scenarios and inform policymakers about possible outcomes. But by far, the greatest scope for interest (and investment) so far has been the promise of quantum computing in the area of cryptography.

Quantum computers could potentially be capable of  breaking public key encryption , which is responsible for protecting almost all private communication online. Not surprisingly, the US spy agency,  the NSA , has been at the forefront for the development of the supercomputer which could crack most keys used for encrypted communication. Its sponsored research project, called “ Penetrating Hard Targets ”, aims to build a computer that could break almost all forms of encryption that protects medical, business, e-commerce, banking or government records in the world. Clearly, if successful, this would be the ultimate ‘Big Brother moment’ for the agency. Today, long encryption keys (particularly for sensitive information) are very difficult to break, taking up to several years but quantum computer could accelerate the process, making it millions of times faster. Similarly, since qubits cannot be cloned, hacking a code encrypted with a quantum computer is virtually impossible and hacking would mostly be a concern if a hacker were to have access to a quantum computer.

Racing for the supercomputer

The development of quantum computing remains highly disputed and advancing slow due to a combination of scientific unknowns, mixed reactions in the academic community and industries. A persistent obstacle has been the challenge of instability and vulnerability. Quantum computers combine computing with quantum mechanics, an extremely complex and still mysterious branch of physics. On top of this, as  calculations take place at the quantum level , no outside interference (such as light or noise) is permissible since the qubits would collapse and it would disrupt the calculations. This makes quantum computing extremely expensive to build and maintain.

However, as elusive as the search for the super computer might be, it has sparked a competition in which both states and private shareholders have stakes.

The US Defence agencies have been investing in quantum computing research for over a decade and other countries have gradually entered the race as well. Now China, Russia and other European states are investing in quantum research and Canada’s Institute of Quantum Computing at University of Waterloo is over a decade old. In late 2013, the  UK government announced  it would spend £270 million to build a network of quantum computing centres.

Security Implications

The construction of a functional quantum computer means much more than simply winning the innovation race and it has clear national security relevance. In the context of the current of development, the race is now fought at an academic level, where researchers work in interdisciplinary labs to shrink transistors to the quantum scale.

However, as pointed out by many, science is now inevitably done in global collaborative frameworks and it is quite difficult to estimate if there are guaranteed paybacks for individual nations. Ultimately, the Herculean efforts and funding that defence agencies pledge often pass through private industry and will benefit the commercial sector too, not only the government.

Quantum computing will have very disruptive effects, both at national levels and internationally. They will have implications for  information security , impacting both symmetric-key algorithms and public-key algorithms. If spying and mass surveillance are already impressively effective with the more limited means we now have in place, quantum computing will simply enable unprecedented breaches of privacy and access to confidential data in businesses, hospitals, banks or governments worldwide. The NSA  no longer hides  its support and sponsorship for the development of quantum computing which could be used to crack any encryption system in the world. Hand-in-hand with the race for the supercomputer is the race to ‘own’ the internet and gain virtually unlimited access to information. Quantum communication will redefine how we communicate, making data transfer faster and more able since quantum computers can process enormous amounts of information with high encoding and decoding speeds.

The amount of distrust already existing over questions of privacy both domestically and between governments is only expected to surge, creating further domestic and diplomatic frictions and accelerating competition between states. A likely scenario is that with functional quantum computers, some governments will speed up the investment for the creation of other,  cryptography-capable computers . At the same time, this competitive situation will leave behind less resourceful countries, widening a digital gap that is already stark.

The unique potential of quantum computers could also give unmerited temporary advantage to some individuals, retailers or groups over others. Quantum computers could dramatically improve stock market predictions thus benefiting  wealthy financial institutions . This is not an imminent risk since the fees for access to quantum computing will be staggering, yet the possibility of quantum computing entering the Wall Street is not to be dismissed.

Coexistent with its numerous security risks, quantum computing offers a set of unique opportunities for humanity and states. From better logistic optimizations to DNA sequencing, better predictions in global warming and weather forecasting, quantum computing means new potential to tackle global challenges, improve healthcare and find cures for diseases, solve optimization, labour or economic problems (including in agriculture or water management). The application of quantum computers to solve optimization problems could be especially useful in the defence sector or space, where it can significantly impact the speed and accuracy of operations. A quantum computer could calculate ideal paths for travel either on land or air and it could improve code verification dramatically. Indeed, software verification is a key element in the defence industry’s push for quantum computers, especially as complex software systems are increasingly at the heart of defence applications. The  F-35 joint strike fighter , for instance, has more than 10 million lines of code on the aircraft and quantum computers could be employed to do the code validation and verification.

Google also hopes that quantum computers could be used to make better and faster robots and more sophisticated artificial intelligence. Their use could also be extended to  aviation  in instances such as snowstorms where quantum computers could help find optimal alternative routes instantly. The Space agency NASA has also shown interest in quantum computing and its  Quantum Artificial Intelligence Laboratory  is working on exploring the likely applications of quantum computing in space. In addition to optimization solutions during space missions, such as better planning and scheduling, the lab is also working on improving the operations of NASA’s Kepler mission, which searches for habitable and Earth-sized planets. Current computational limitations, which use heuristic algorithms to identify transit signals from smaller planets, only help find approximate solutions whereas a quantum computer could perform data-intensive searches among the over 150,000 stars in the field of view of the spacecraft.

Emerging technologies for renewable energy are also taking into account the power of quantum computing and  California’s renewable energy program  aims to use “smart grids” or “quantum grids”, which is a network of quantum computers, to allow higher efficiency of input and output of energy.  Qubits  can also be deployed in solar panels to replace current photovoltaic cells technology or in quantum batteries and quantum dots can be embedded as semiconducting material, revolutionizing the energy sector.

Quantum computing is possibly a final threshold of scientific marvel, which will bring unparalleled precision and accuracy in computing. Given the extremely sensitive functions it can perform, it is critical that research and dissemination is done responsibly, with a view to harness its positive contributions. It is indeed critical that the development of quantum computing progresses in a way that will impede its becoming merely a tool for enhanced surveillance and endless control.



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Entretien avec Alain De Neve pour Plastic Mag

RMES - Tue, 24/02/2015 - 11:32
Chaque conflit constitue un redoutable banc d’essai pour évaluer les choix technologiques Rencontre avec Alain De Neve, chercheur à l’Institut Royal Supérieur de Défense, en Belgique, et analyste spécialiste de l’impact des innovations technologiques sur les doctrines stratégiques. Propos recueillis par Gilles Vilain. Quel rôle occupe la recherche sur les matériaux dans le domaine de […]

Public Discussion: "Ukraine, ISIS: which role for the use of force?"

GCSP (Events) - Mon, 23/02/2015 - 14:24

Public Discussion: "Ukraine, ISIS: which role for the use of force?"

Public Discussion: “Monitoring Commitments in Nuclear Disarmament and Non-Proliferation"

GCSP (Events) - Mon, 23/02/2015 - 10:40

Public Discussion: "Nuclear Weapons: The State of Play 2015"

"Sustainable Neurochemical Gratification and the Meaning of Existence" Op-Ed by Dr Nayef Al-Rodhan

GCSP (Publications) - Fri, 20/02/2015 - 11:21

This article originally appeared in the Open Mind Blog.

When  Aristotle  famously claimed that the good life was not made in a summer, nor in a day, he implied that the best life was  a life committed to contemplation.  The question of what gives meaning to life has been central to philosophical inquires for millennia. While no definite answer would appear to clarify or solve this fundamental question, a look into  the neurochemistry underlying our feelings, thoughts and behaviour  charts new grounds in this exploration. Moreover, it hints at ways in which  gratification is relevant both to society and the world at large.


A long history of philosophical inquiries

Existentialist   thinkers  emphasized the possibility of individuals being able to generate meaning through their actions.  Sartre ’s statement that existence precedes essence is  a rejection of the possibility that there could be any externally derived purpose to human life. It is simultaneously an argument that one’s life is given meaning through specific actions. Nietzsche ’s philosophy carries a similar credo: that defining one’s life creatively according to chosen actions makes a person who they are.

The ideas that one must live an “authentic” life and make choices that harmonize with a robust conception of the self are powerful, but leave unaddressed the question of  what exactly it is that promotes authenticity.  It is here that contemporary  neuroscience  can offer further insights, as a shared neurochemistry implies similar needs for achieving gratification. The human brain is “hard-wired” to seek pleasure and avoid pain , as well as to repeat acts that achieve gratification and avoid actions that cause discomfort.  This process, which I previously called  neurochemically mediated gratification   implies that at a fundamental level,  human beings are all seeking similar things.  The difficulty is that  at an individual level , such gratification might find expression in destructive actions, such as  sustaining an addiction or engaging in criminal activity.  It is thus crucial for societal policies to be fashioned and implemented with these challenges in mind.


Neurochemical gratification: creating the right circumstances

Our gratification is experienced neurochemically, irrespective of what prompts it.  All of our feelings, emotions and experiences have a physical component insofar as they are mediated by neurochemistry. With the benefit of  advanced scanning technology , we can observe that different mental processes change regional blood flow and  chemistry in the brain . As such, we generally seek to feed our  neurotransmitters  (the chemical messengers transmitting signals within the brain) and boost the  “feel good” chemical dopamine . It is likely that in time  other neurochemicals relevant to various cognitive processes   and gratifications  will be identified and their specific actions known. However, to date, we know that the neurotransmitter  dopamine , involved in reward processes in the brain, informs us which of our actions are more conducive to gratification and which are not. However, what exactly contributes to each of our respective forms of gratification and levels of dopamine as individuals can vary a great deal.

Not only is our gratification experienced on a personal neurochemical level but it is also attuned to our respective family and socio-political environments. In my paradigm of emotional amoral egoism , I discussed  the relationship between our neurochemical underpinnings, the role of circumstances, morality and good governance.  The fundamental feature encoded in our genetics is  survival , meaning that the main driver of our actions will almost always be based in this instinct. Actions that are influenced by other drivers have a margin of fluctuation in strong alignment to our environment, including  our moral compass and propensity for moral acts.

Like our human nature itself,  our neurochemical make-up is modifiable, meaning that there is significant room for the environment to influence  and mould both the motivators of our neurochemical gratification and our behaviour. Therefore, we will try and test many experiences but will predominantly choose to repeat those actions that gratify us in some way, no matter how unrealistic or influenced by our own perceptions they might be. Our gratification is highly individualistic and experienced subjectively, but it is also fluid and can be ‘instructed’ to a certain extent by the environment, repeated experiences, and exposures. This also implies that our neurochemical gratification might not be exclusively constructive , as we can opt for behaviour that is harmful to ourselves or others, such as forms of addiction or violence. The upside of this alterability, however, is that the foundations for this gratification can be influenced and turned into constructive forms of behaviour that meet societal expectations. In these situations, good governance plays a tremendous role. We might not be intrinsically moral, generous, altruistic etc., but living in a setting where basic survival and dignity needs are met will enhance our reflection, which is in turn subsequently required for  conscious  moral acts.

Conversely, living in fear, deprivation, injustice and insecurity precludes morality in most cases, and  prompts survival-driven acts.  Harmful excesses of any kind promote a form of personal gratification that is very likely to affect both individuals people and society at large.  However, ultimately, the meaningfulness of existence is individualistic and results from whatever brings each one of us most  sustainable neurochemical gratification . What we can hope and strive for, collectively, is to create environments in which SNG comes from activities and beliefs that will create  a balance between our personal wishes and acceptable values, both domestically and globally.

Neurochemistry teaches us that at the very basic level,  we are fundamentally hardwired for survival and pre-programmed to ‘feel good’,  often irrespective of what factors constitute the sources of our gratification or, in some cases, their social acceptability. To keep this gratification sustainable in a social and political setting, family, education and society need to create mechanisms whereby individuals associate gratification with behaviour that is positive  and constructive both for the individual and for society. Anything from social norms to media outlets, educational systems or entertainment industries contribute to the way gratification is defined. In order to ensure functional social orders, it is crucial that gratification is linked to constructive behaviour, such as social responsibility, work ethic, lawfulness, empathy, tolerance and mutual respect.



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Master of Advanced Studies in International and European Security

GCSP (Training Courses) - Thu, 19/02/2015 - 12:26

The Master of Advanced Studies (MAS) is jointly run by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy and the Global Studies Institute (GSI) of the University of Geneva.

It is based upon the internationally recognized training expertise of GCSP’s Leadership in International Security Course , a course on international security policy entering its 30th year, and the long-standing academic expertise of the Global Studies Institute of the University of Geneva. The MAS attracts participants who serve in the broad area of security policy, be it in government, military, private sector or international institutions and agencies engaged in security-related policy planning and decision-making. 

Creative Diplomacy

GCSP (Training Courses) - Fri, 13/02/2015 - 16:02

Creative diplomacy is diplomacy practiced through the prism of creativity. This course provides participants with the opportunity to explore the concept of “creative diplomacy” as a powerful extension to classical diplomacy. In addition to discovering new methods and skills in diplomacy, participants will be able to discuss common challenges, and share experiences and develop creative and innovative solutions.

What should development policy actors do about the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP)?

The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) is currently the subject of heated debate – but with a narrow focus. The debate is primarily concerned with the impact of TTIP on Germany and Europe. Too little attention is being paid to the implications of this mega-regional for the rest of the world. In light of growing global in-equality, the question of how we can shape globalisation fairly and whether TTIP can play a role in this is more pressing than ever.
TTIP is an attempt by the European Union (EU) and the United States to define new rules of play for the world economy with potential global application. From a development policy perspective, this exclusive approach gives cause for concern, as it precludes emerging economies and developing countries from negotiations.
The TTIP negotiation agenda goes far beyond the dis-mantling of trade barriers, also encompassing, for example, the rules for cross-border investment and a broad spectrum of regulations that are often only loosely related to traditional trade policy. This expansive negotiation agenda is the real innovation of the transatlantic negotiations, with uncertain consequences for all those countries that do not have a seat at the negotiating table. Whether they like it or not, these countries will be affected by the rules agreed upon at this table through their participation in international trade.
As such, TTIP could mark an important turning point in the world trade system. TTIP, along with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiated by the United States and 11 other nations, threatens to further undermine multilateral negotiations within the World Trade Organization (WTO). Of even greater concern is the fact that emerging economies such as Brazil, India and especially China, none of whom are involved in the TTIP and TPP negotiations, could react to these mega-regionals by joining together to form opposing trade blocs. Instead of taking a largely exclusive approach, it would be better if the transatlantic partners placed the emphasis on cooperation with emerging eco-nomies and developing countries, especially given the tremendous economic potential of these nations and the global challenges currently being faced in other policy areas, challenges which can only be overcome by working together with these states.
When it comes to promoting global development and shaping globalisation fairly, the TTIP negotiations offer potential and present challenges at the same time. Nonetheless, there are some specific recommendations as to how TTIP can be made as development-friendly as possible: 1) steps should be taken to avoid discriminating against third countries in the area of regulatory cooperation; 2) rules of origin should be as generous, uniform and open as possible; 3) preference programmes of the EU and the United States should be harmonised;  4) third countries should be afforded credible options for joining the partnership in future.
Development policy stakeholders have the following options for action: 1) the TTIP negotiations should under-score the importance of measures for integrating developing countries into global value chains; 2) efforts need to be made at European level to promote greater consistency between TTIP and development policy goals, particularly those of the post-2015 agenda; 3) steps should be taken to reach out to emerging economies and developing countries with greater transparency and to offer them the opportunity to engage in dialogue; 4) the WTO process needs to be reinvigorated and reformed at multilateral level.

International Affairs Today: Towards Order or Anarchy?

GCSP (Events) - Fri, 30/01/2015 - 14:43

World affairs today appear to ignore ‘order.’ Enshrined in the age-old Westphalian system, the role of the nation-state is more than ever under challenge. Governments compete with multinational businesses, NGOs and ever-multiplying informal networks to attempt to control the narrative. Globally, analysts ponder whether newcomers such as ISIS constitute ‘anti-state’ actors that do not adhere to any rules which civilised parties recognise. Elsewhere, some states behave as if adherence to international rules is merely optional while others modulate cautiously their influence and responsibility. Competition for scarce natural resources worldwide is as fierce as it has ever been. The United Nations Security Council, foreseen in 1945 as a main arbiter of disputes between and among nations, seems paralysed, often impotent beyond rhetoric.

Industrierevolution 4.0

Hanns-Seidel-Stiftung - Fri, 30/01/2015 - 00:00
In den letzten beiden Jahrhunderten hat die Zahl technischer Neuerungen rasant zugenommen. Man spricht in diesem Zusammenhang häufig von mehreren industriellen Revolutionen. Im Rahmen des Fachforums Physik/Ingenieurwissenschaften vom 30. Januar bis 1. Februar 2015 in Kloster Banz wurden Technologien vorgestellt und diskutiert, die Vorreiter der sogenannten vierten industriellen Revolution sind.

Public Discussion: "The Role of Women and Girls in Countering Violent Extremism"

GCSP (Events) - Thu, 29/01/2015 - 14:12

In recent years, the international community has examined and promoted the unique role of women and girls in countering violent extremism. But what does this mean in practice? How can the international community best support women and girls facing the challenge of recruitment and radicalization to violence?

This event will focus on the work governments and civil society have done to address the threats facing Iraqi and Syrian women and girls by Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS.