The political violence and dissent desk monitors the underlying causes of dissent, the different expressions of resistance, and government attempts at suppression.
This covers a huge range of issues and degrees of violence, including the democratic right to protest, far-right extremism, revolutions and the Arab Spring, insurgencies, and al-Qaeda and the 'war on terror' (and incorporates domestic and international terrorism, including state-sponsored terrorism). In all this, a particular concern is the feedback loop often present whereby draconian or violent government responses feed back into the underlying causes of dissent and exacerbate an already fractious situation.
Furthermore, political violence and dissent is not generated in a vacuum: it is a response borne out of frustration and anger at a perceived or actual injustice. Even when it finds its most extreme expression in terrorism, there remain underlying causes -- often relating to nationalism and occupation -- that need to be understood if the violence is to be brought to an end.
The resource security and climate change desk monitors a host of resource and environmental issues and their implications for national and international security.
Of particular concern are the three vital and interrelated resources of food, water and energy, which are essential to both human and state security. Insecurity in these resources is being exacerbate by climate change, the issue which is the primary concern of this desk.
It is essential to understand the role such issues may play in igniting or sustaining conflict and disorder, including civil unrest, intercommunal violence and international instability. A greater appreciation of the processes that could lead from resource scarcity and environmental changes to socio-economic impacts and security risks is essential to the development of effective mitigation and adaptation strategies.
The conflict and diplomacy desk monitors emerging and ongoing armed conflicts and the attempts to prevent or resolve them.
This includes armed conflict between two or more states (international armed conflict), civil wars between governmental armed forces and non-governmental armed groups or between such groups only (non-international armed conflict) and civil wars in which the armed forces of a foreign power have intervened (internationalised non-international armed conflicts). This also includes so-called proxy wars.
The factors that can exacerbate such conflicts -- including civilian casualties, the political manipulation of sectarianism or the involvement of external powers -- warrant particular attention. Importantly, so do efforts within international law and diplomacy to reduce or resolve conflicts and hold those responsible for war crimes to account.
The nuclear issues desk monitors developments in the Siamese twins of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.
Although the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty allows for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, the inherent dilemma is that nuclear energy and nuclear weapons are two sides of the same coin: a country cannot have one without at least the potential to develop the other. The recent reconnaissance in the development of civilian nuclear power programmes therefore presents serious security risks in addition to the obvious environmental and economic ones. (These risks must be weighed against those of uncontrolled climate change and contrasted with the advantages of renewable energy programmes.)
In contrast, there have been some limited successes on the nuclear weapons front: they have not been used in anger for over 65 years; their spread beyond the original five nuclear-weapon states has been limited, with some states voluntarily renouncing their weapons programmes; nuclear weapons testing is largely a thing of the past (despite North Korea's 2009 tests); and just over half the Earth's land area is covered by nuclear-weapons-free zones. However, the biggest stumbling block remains: the hypocrisy of the nuclear-weapon states demanding that other countries refrain from developing nuclear weapons programmes while refusing to engage in meaningful disarmament themselves.
The UK national security desk monitors those security threats that impact directly on the defence and security of the United Kingdom, as well as wider issues concerning its alliances within NATO and the EU.
This encompasses a range of risks identified by the UK government National Security Risk Assessment and National Security Strategy, including domestic and international terrorism, cyber attacks and cyber crime, natural hazards and disasters, and international military crises.
It is also important to examine the wider issues of what "national security" means in an interconnected world, how state security relates to human security, and what underlying assumptions the government has about how best to achieve security (assumptions that often emphasise the military over other elements of the security apparatus, including diplomacy).