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Conflict and Non-traditional Security

Political Violence and Terrorism
In 2006, the School’s International Centre for Political Violence and Terrorism Research (ICPVTR) headed by Dr Rohan Gunaratna upgraded its Global Pathfinder, one of the largest counter-terrorism databases in the world. The upgrade allows for a more user-friendly interface for the clients. ICPVTR is also in the process of adding additional search templates to better organise the existing information, and to sharpen the focus in an ever-changing threat environment. The upgrade also included improved report writing and social-network analysis capabilities. The Centre also worked with the University of Pittsburgh, one of the world’s leading centres in social-network analysis, to conduct training for its analysts on this powerful tool. In 2007, the Centre will add three new elements to the database. These are the counter terrorism contact database, audio-visual database and a counter terrorism finance database.

In 2006, ICPVTR hosted a number of closed door meetings with its international partners. Together with the New Scotland Yard’s National Terrorist Finance Investigation Unit, it conducted a joint course on counter-terrorism financial investigation. With regional participation, a second course was conducted with the Australian Transaction Reports and Analysis Centre (AUSTRAC), Prime Minister’s Office, Australia. Together with the US State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism, ICPVTR also hosted an international conference on the terrorist threat in Southeast Asia. Together with the Center for Eurasian Policy, The Hudson Institute, ICPVTR hosted an international workshop on the terrorist and extremist networks in the Asian region. Towards the end of the year, it collaborated with the National Library Board and the Simon Wiesenthal Center to conduct a conference on Digital Terrorism. In 2006, the Centre gave more than 70 briefings to local and foreign visitors, as well as continued its innovative capacity- building, training and secondment programme.

As terrorists and extremists emerge from the community in which they live, the ICPVTR popularised the phrase “Communities Defeat Terrorism” in Singapore. To educate the people, ICPVTR worked closely with its partners in organising a counter terrorism exhibition. ICPVTR staff also gave lectures at several schools and community centres. They also contributed appreciably to two significant programmes. First, Mr Mohamed Bin Ali, also the Secretary of the Religious Rehabilitation Group, wrote the principal manual for the rehabilitation of Jemaah Islamiyah members. Second, Centre staff contributed to the Community Engagement Programme. Much of the critical thinking for these two successful projects was conducted within ICPVTR.

As a part of its policy-oriented analysis, ICPVTR proposed the self-regulation of madaris, regulation of madaris by the Muslim councils, and law enforcement action against the preachers of hatred. ICPVTR staff formally and informally educated Muslim communities in the region about terrorist and extremist infiltration. Mr Muhammad Haniff Bin Hassan, an ICPVTR analyst, wrote a point-by-point Koranic rebuttal to Imam Samudra’s justification for the Bali bombing. His book was published both in English and in Bahasa Indonesia in 2006.

ICPVTR has emerged as a truly international centre. Its two dozen staff speak a dozen languages and represent ten different countries from four continents. The range of experiences contribute to the richness of the analysis and the range of products developed by the Centre. One of the truly innovative programmes is the bringing together of threat specialists through a secondment programme. ICPVTR officially launched its off-shore counter-terrorism capacity-building programme with the opening of the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies (CAPS) in Kabul, Afghanistan, in July 2006. ICPVTR has attached one of its staff to CAPS to assist in developing the research agenda, as well as to help establish the administrative infrastructure.

In 2006, ICPVTR expanded its intake of counter terrorism analysts. Its student analysts included Hekmat Karzai, a cousin of the Afghan President, Noor Huda Ismail, a graduate of Pondok Pesantaran al Mukmeen, Major Dinn Ampatuan, the Head of Muslim Affairs of the Philippines military and Crystal Schautz, an analyst with the Military Commission at Guantanamo Bay. ICPVTR also trained several officers from New York Police Department, the police in Hong Kong, the police in New South Wales, the military in South Korea, and officials from Brunei. The first Ph.D. graduate based in the Centre, Adam Dolnik, was appointed as the head of research development at Wollongong University’s Transnational Crime Centre.

Further information on the ICPVTR Programme is available at its website.

Homeland Security
The Strategic Framework for National Security, published by the National Security Coordination Secretariat (NSCS), Prime Minister’s Office, in August 2004 outlined the key structures, security measures and capability development programmes that would help Singapore deal with the emergent threat of transnational terrorism in the near and long term. The Strategic Framework, among other issues, emphasized that strategizing national security policies requires greater research into and understanding of the evolving security landscape and how terrorist threats and actions could affect policy recommendations. It was decided to set up a new Centre of Excellence for National Security (CENS) at RSIS, to help build up the intellectual capital needed to support NSCS’ strategic objectives.

The strategic objectives of CENS are as follows:

  • To build up intellectual capital in support of national security management objectives;
  • To augment and provide new perspectives to the national security policy-making and planning processes;
  • To plug into the international network of think tanks, universities and relevant government agencies to promote strategic partnerships for knowledge generation and intellectual exchange; and
  • To help promote greater public national security awareness.

CENS was formally inaugurated on 29 March 2006 by Professor S. Jayakumar, the Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security. It commenced operations on 1 April 2006 with Associate Professor Kumar Ramakrishna as the Acting Head. Dr Ramakrishna oversees the work of three senior researchers who run the three CENS research programmes: Risk Assessment and Horizon Scanning, Social Resilience Programme, and Transportation Security. CENS also includes four other junior researchers and corporate support staff.

Since its inauguration, CENS has been preparing policy-oriented analytical commentaries, as well as op-ed pieces published in the Straits Times as well as foreign newspapers. In addition, CENS Outlook, a short analysis of emerging security threats, vulnerabilities and trends, is published once a week, while CENS staff members have also published longer academic book chapters. In order to tap into global best practices in national security management, CENS has sought to foster networking opportunities with both local national security agencies and foreign think tanks. In 2006, CENS hosted two Distinguished CENS Visitors: Mr Dave Snowden, a cognitive scientist researching into “sense-making” methods and concepts; and Mr Michael Moodie, an expert on weapons of mass destruction. CENS has also sought to fulfill its public outreach function in several ways. CENS staff members have participated in local and international media interviews, lectured to diverse local and foreign audiences on national security issues, and moderated public seminars on relevant topics such as religious extremism.

In 2006 CENS organised a number of highly focused half-day workshops and seminars, in particular on risk assessment and horizon scanning. In addition, CENS organised a major workshop on social resilience in Singapore in July 2006 and published the proceedings as a conference report.

Further information on the CENS Programme is available at its website.


Non-Traditional Security
The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies conducts research and produces policy-relevant analyses aimed at furthering awareness and building capacity to address NTS issues and challenges in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.

To fulfil this mission, the Centre aims to:

  • Advance the understanding of NTS issues and challenges in the Asia-Pacific by highlighting gaps in knowledge and policy, and identifying best practices among state and non-state actors in responding to these challenges.
  • Provide a platform for scholars and policymakers within and outside Asia to discuss and analyse NTS issues in the region.
  • Network with institutions and organisations worldwide to exchange information, insights and experiences in the area of NTS.
  • Engage policymakers on the importance of NTS in guiding political responses to NTS emergencies and develop strategies to mitigate the risks to state and human security.
  • Contribute to building the institutional capacity of governments, and regional and international organisations to respond to NTS challenges.

Our Research

The key programmes at the RSIS Centre for NTS Studies include:

1) Internal and Cross-Border Conflict

  • Dynamics of Internal Conflicts
  • Multi-level and Multilateral Approaches to Internal Conflict
  • Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) in Asia
  • Peacebuilding

2) Climate Change, Environmental Security and Natural Disasters

  • Mitigation and Adaptation Policy Studies
  • The Politics and Diplomacy of Climate Change

3) Energy and Human Security

  • Security and Safety of Energy Infrastructure
  • Stability of Energy Markets
  • Energy Sustainability
  • Nuclear Energy and Security

4) Food Security

  • Regional Cooperation
  • Food Security Indicators
  • Food Production and Human Security

5) Health and Human Security

  • Health and Human Security
  • Global Health Governance
  • Pandemic Preparedness and Global Response Networks

Our Output

Policy Relevant Publications
The RSIS Centre for NTS Studies produces a range of output such as research reports, books, monographs, policy briefs and conference proceedings.

Based in RSIS, which has an excellent record of post-graduate teaching, an international faculty, and an extensive network of policy institutes worldwide, the Centre is well-placed to develop robust research capabilities, conduct training courses and facilitate advanced education on NTS. These are aimed at, but not limited to, academics, analysts, policymakers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).

Networking and Outreach
The Centre serves as a networking hub for researchers, policy analysts, policymakers, NGOs and media from across Asia and farther afield interested in NTS issues and challenges.

The RSIS Centre for NTS Studies is also the Secretariat of the Consortium of Non-Traditional Security Studies in Asia (NTS-Asia), which brings together 20 research institutes and think tanks from across Asia, and strives to develop the process of networking, consolidate existing research on NTS-related issues, and mainstream NTS studies in Asia.

More information on our Centre is available at www.rsis.edu.sg/nts.

Research in the RSIS Centre for NTS Studies received a boost when the Centre was selected as one of three core institutions to lead the MacArthur Asia Security Initiative in 2009.

The Asia Security Initiative was launched by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation in January 2009, through which approximately US$68 million in grants will be made to policy research institutions over seven years to help raise the effectiveness of international cooperation in preventing conflict and promoting peace and security in Asia.

The Temasek Foundation Centre for Trade & Negotiations (TFCTN) is a policy research centre, headed by Dr. Deborah Elms. The Centre is dedicated to improving the process of international negotiations, with a particular focus on increasing capabilities and access for developing states. The Centre uses rigorous empirical research to create new ideas and to generate informed debate leading to practical policy alternatives for improving global negotiations on trade and economic issues.

The Centre also conducts a wide range of activities designed to increase capabilities and build sustainable capacity for effective participation in negotiations for states in the Asia-Pacific region. The audience for these events includes not only a wide range of government officials but also business leaders, policy advocates, academics and researchers, members of the media, and the wider public in Singapore and beyond.

The Centre fulfills its mission by creating high-quality, empirically grounded research and objective analysis. Results of our research are disseminated through a series of capacity building and training courses; seminars, workshops and conferences; books and journal articles; working papers, policy briefs and commentaries; op-ed columns; a resident fellows programme; and the RSIS website. Centre staff work collaboratively with researchers and practitioners around the world to increase the impact of the research and capacity building activities.

The Centre’s focus is trade and economic negotiations and policy. Centre staff consider not only economic factors, but also political and legal interests. Research topics include bargaining in the World Trade Organization (WTO), other multilateral and regional economic organizations, various regional and bilateral free trade agreements, international trade rules, liberalization measures, regulatory policy, development, intellectual property rights, and investment and competition policy.

The Centre was created in 2008 with a generous initial donation from the Temasek Foundation. The Temasek Foundation was founded on the principle that the development of human capacity is key to Asia’s development prospects. Additional support for the Centre is provided by foundation grants, corporate donations and individual donors.

Further information on the TFCTN is available at its website.


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