Conflict, competition and cooperation in an interconnected world

19 June 2018 - 09:00 - 20 June 2018 - 20:00

Debating Security Plus (DS+) is a unique global online brainstorm that aims to yield concrete recommendations in the area of security and defence. Gathering several thousand participants from around the world, it is the only platform that permits a truly global whole-of-society consultation providing innovative recommendations for some of the world’s most pressing security challenges.  

For the sixth time, the 2018 brainstorm will bring together senior international participants from the military, national governments, international organisations and agencies, along with voices from NGOs and civil society, business and industry, the media, think-tanks and academia. Their involvement in our security policy brainstorm will help bridge the gaps between experts and citizens, and their recommendations will aim to inform the implementation of the EU Global Strategy, as well as the policies of national governments and other international institutions as they shape their approaches to peace, security and defence. 

From 19 June, 09:00 CEST to 20 June 20:00 CEST, the international security community will debate ideas relating to six different themes where challenges and policy solutions will be discussed by VIP debaters. The discussions will be moderated by leading international think tanks and organisations that will steer discussions towards concrete recommendations.

Registration for the online debate will open on Thursday 3rd May. 

Click here to download the programme

Related content:

2017 recommendations and executive summary 
2017 Debating Security Plus report

DS+ is an unique global online brainstorm which gathers thousands of participants from the world of peace, security and defence—and beyond—to develop sustainable solutions to some of the biggest security challenges facing the world today. The 6th edition will take place from 19-20 June.

The 9/11 terrorist attacks signalled a seismic shift in global security and the emergence of a fluctuating multipolar system. Military endeavours must be combined with economic, judicial and democratic capacity-building to build sustainable peace.

The digital revolution has yielded both opportunities and challenges. The global financial crisis shook the economic system and harmed citizens’ trust in institutions. Now there are major questions about the European project, transatlantic relations and the future of NATO.


The online brainstorm will be set up across six discussion themes that will run in parallel from 19 June, 09:00 to 20 June 20:00. Leading personalities from the sector will contribute video messages before logging in to engage live with the thousands of participants throughout the exercise, sparking lively discussion and pushing this global security community to put forth policy recommendations.

Conversations will be moderated by leading think-tankers from around the world and to steer the discussions towards concrete recommendations by the end of the 36h online event. 

All timings are Central European Summer Time (UTC+2)

Theme 1

Countering hybrid threats in the cyber age

From cyber-espionage and disruptive attacks on critical infrastructure to interference in elections, propaganda, and disinformation campaigns, institutions around the world are increasingly under threat from state or non-state operations. These (mostly digital) risks – if unmitigated – have raised fears of serious breakdowns in states’ economies and societies, increasing the risks of conflict and threatening societal resilience. 

The past decade has witnessed a significant increase in hybrid tactics, notably cyberattacks, on businesses—including banks and energy companies- and states with highly developed digital infrastructure, carried out both directly by hostile states and through supposedly independent hackers, often used as proxies for states’ to project power at home and abroad. In particular, beyond the international limelight thrown on Pyongyang’s progress in developing a nuclear weapon capable of striking North America, countries like China and North Korea are significantly increasing their offensive capabilities in cyberspace. What can governments, companies and citizens do to strengthen their resilience to cyberattacks? The ability and willingness to respond to cyber-attacks is instrumental to a credible deterrence by actors such as the EU and NATO—should they be developing the use of offensive cyber capabilities in the face of malicious attacks? One of the key recommendations coming out of the 2017 edition of DS+ was to create a global cyber convention to set out international definitions and rules in cyberspace – what obstacles stand in the way? 

Increasing digitalisation has enabled Artificial Intelligence (AI) to flourish, and has been seen by policymakers as a development which can help to enhance civil and military capabilities and services. However, the international community has raised concerns over the lack of human control in modern warfare. Where do we draw the line on autonomy and warfare? How prepared are military forces, including NATO, for AI warfare? Is the West already losing the AI arms race to China and Russia?

Theme 2

Europe as a global security actor

With its emphasis on soft/smart power and multilateral diplomacy, the EU appears to be out of step with a multipolar world increasingly characterised by hard power, great power rivalries and zero-sum games. With the US no longer ready to continue its lead on global security issues, Europe is looking more carefully at its own defence capabilities and role as a global security actor.  

The resuscitation of meaningful defence cooperation through Permanent Structured Cooperation (“PESCO”) could have a significant impact on European collective defence in numerous ways which largely depend on the leaders and policymakers steering the project. Given uncertainty over the future direction of US foreign policy, the EU has illustrated genuine political will and a sense of urgency in seeking to up its game as a security provider. Is there a credible European alternative to US leadership, in NATO or through the EU? With the United Kingdom one of only two true military powers in Europe, what impact will Brexit have on the security and defence of Europe, and the EU’s global operations? 

Despite the EU’s efforts to build up collective defence – which risks being challenged by a rapidly deteriorating environment in its Eastern and Southern neighbourhoods – the EU’s diplomatic and security performance on the global stage is often questioned by the international community. Towards the Western Balkans, is the EU doing enough on security, radicalisation and the fight against organised crime? What role should Europe play in bringing peace to Syria, given the growing involvement of Iran, Russia and Turkey? How should Europe respond to China’s growing power, especially in the South China Sea and as regards the security implications of the Belt and Road Initiative? Is the EU seen as a credible security actor by the rest of the world, and especially in Asia?

Theme 3

Regional approaches to global migration

Responses to global migration- caused by a multiplicity of interrelated factors including conflicts, resource scarcity and climate change- remains largely uncoordinated at the global level. The UN recognises the need for a comprehensive approach to human mobility and is working on adopting global compacts on migration and refugees in 2018. But such initiatives face many obstacles on an international level. As such, learning from local challenges in different parts of the world can help us better understand and address the linkages between migration, security and development. 

Although overall numbers are down, migration flows to Europe have not stopped. The 2017 DS+ report proposed to instigate a better dialogue between the EU and member states on the urgent need for legal migration pathways. How can the EU improve its responsiveness and preparedness for migrants arriving at its borders? How robust has Europe’s approach been in managing the migration influx, particularly with Turkey?  

In the Middle East and Africa, economic weakness as well as instability, insurgency and conflict are persistent. What are the lessons learned from countries in the region as regards the mass waves of migration? How important is the role of development aid in addressing migration in this region?

In Asia, the persecution of the Muslim Rohingya population in Myanmar and the inadequate response of local and regional authorities to the crisis has brought to the fore the weaknesses of Southeast Asian responses on refugees and migration. How can regional organisations such as ASEAN become more actively involved in migration policies? How can the region’s states prepare for a growing risk of ‘sinking islands’ and migration driven by climate change?
US President Donald Trump’s tough policies on migration are also casting doubts on the long-standing migration flows to the US from its southern neighbours. Moreover, emerging economic and political issues such as those currently witnessed in Venezuela can further escalate and cause a violent conflict, increasing the number of migrants. Is Latin America prepared to deal with instability and migration?

Theme 4

Fraying arms control regimes

The global nuclear order has been changing in recent years. Energy security, fluctuating oil prices as well as uncertainties caused by climate change have contributed to a renewed interest in nuclear power as an energy source for the future. At the same time, there are growing concerns about current nuclear non-proliferation regimes overseeing nuclear affairs. 2017 witnessed some progress on the issue of nuclear proliferation as 122 states voted for the adoption of a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, a first global and legally-binding agreement banning nuclear weapons, and an alliance of nongovernmental organisations fighting for the same cause received the Nobel Peace Prize.

However, states continue to modernise their strategic arsenals and in practice the reality suggests arms control agreements are far from ideal - North Korea’s recent testing of a nuclear weapon and missiles claimed to have the ability to reach the US is one of such examples. Enforcement of international arms control regime continues to struggle, failing to discourage states that seek to acquire their own nuclear capabilities.

A key recommendation from the 2017 DS+ has been to engage regional powers to de-escalate nuclear tensions. While the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons is a significant achievement, the response of the international community to nuclear proliferation remains constrained by complex political issues and dilemmas. How can this global community, including NATO and the UN, improve the capability of regional players—such as China—to approach and manage nuclear proliferation? Thinking beyond nuclear, can we encourage progress in arms control regimes in areas such as chemical weapons, as well as in new areas such as cyber and artificial intelligence?

Theme 5

Realigning the crime-terror nexus

Over the past year, the Islamic State has sustained increased pressure and further military defeat of the terrorist group in Syria and Iraq is expected. However, the severity of the threat in Europe, Southeast Asia and Africa must not be underestimated, and may even increase. Continuing instability in the Middle East and North Africa, including the establishment of new footholds by the Islamic State into the Maghreb, is a major security challenge. The last years have also seen an increase in terrorist attacks by extreme right, left-wing and anarchist groups, causing a significant threat to governments in the West. 

In Europe, cooperation between law enforcement and governments with relevant actors is getting better: governments have improved their information system and police forces are increasingly working with financial institutions and tech companies to track organised crime and disrupt the means by which terrorists finance their operations. How can the relationship between the police and the judiciary be reinforced to tackle the connection between human and drugs trafficking and the financing of terrorism? 

However, flaws in counter-radicalisation and terrorism strategies remain. The international community should develop a comprehensive response to the rehabilitation and reintegration of former jihadi radicals and returning terrorist fighters while also tackling violence by far-right groups and anarchists. A key recommendation from DS+ 2017 is the need to involve communities, families, schools and community policing in counter-radicalisation strategies. Do local entities, including community police have the right training and resources to tackle radicalisation and violent extremism? How can we ensure that intelligence sharing between local and national police and security actors is more efficient? What role can the police play in developing better early warning systems by harnessing the intelligence within local communities?

Theme 6

 Russia, Europe and the US  - scenarios of the future in a turbulent time

In partnership with the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, the German Council on Foreign Relations DGAP, and the Robert Bosch Foundation, we will test out different “scenarios of the future” for Russian-European-American relations.

eucom civocracy


Mikaela d’Angelo, Programme Manager
Tel.: +32 2 893 98 20

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Registration for the online debate will open on Thursday 3rd May
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