London Event 17 September – What Will Historians Make of the 21st Century?

Tuesday, 17 September, from 06:00 PM, Juju’s Bar and Stage, Ely’s Yard, 15 Hanbury St, London E1 6QR.

What will future historians make of the era of Brexit, Donald Trump, Love Island, and the selfie stick. PS21 assembles a panel of historians, archaeologists and others to take an early shot at assessing how the last two decades might be remembered, and what that might tell us about the years to come. Expect arguments about what previous eras best reflect our own, what events, items, and personalities will be seen iconic, and whether anyone in the future will want to remember us at all.


Jonn Elledge (moderator) – Journalist, New Statesman.

Dr. Leslie James – Lecturer in Global History at Queen Mary University London

Richard Vinen – Professor of History at King’s College London

John Basset – Former GCHQ senior official and member of the PS21 International Advisory Group

Charlotte Yelamos – Doctoral researcher of Cold War archaeology at King’s College London

Jo Fox – Director of the Institute of Historical Research and Professor of Modern History at the University of London

Doors open 6pm, discussion begins 7pm.

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London Event 21 May – Making Modern Policymaking Work

Tuesday, May 21, from 06:00 p.m. Juju’s Bar and Stage, Ely’s Yard, 15 Hanbury St, London E1 6QR.

In a fast moving new century, how can policymaking keep up? What new pressures do technology, social media, populism and globalisation exert on making government work? What skills. techniques and strategies work best to get ahead- and how does anyone handle the stress?

PS21 pulls together an expert panel to discuss. This event will be held under Chatham House rules


Jessica Toale (moderator) – incoming PS21 board member, former Executive Director, Centre for Development Results.

Liane Saunders – Strategy Director and Strategic Programme Coordinator, Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Jack Watling – Land Warfare Fellow, Royal United Services Institute

Myles Wickstead – Former senior UK development official, British Ambassador to Ethiopia and World Bank board member

Doors open 6pm, discussion starts at 7pm, as per usual, the bar will be open throughout.

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PS21 Event Writeup: ‘Changing Face of Conflict’ (Febuary 26)

By Qistina Tengku

Photo Credit: Janosch Siepen

In the latest collaborative event between Strife and PS21, part of the ‘Changing Faces of Conflict’ series, the discussion aimed to explore the lessons learned in the Iraq and Afghan wars. The panel was moderated by Reuters Global Affairs Columnist Peter Apps.

Emma Sky, Director of the Yale University World Fellows Program and senior advisor to US officials in Iraq, said the invasion of Iraq should not have happened – but that nothing that occurred in Iraq after 2003 was inevitable. Sky explained how US policies collapsed the state of Iraq, leading to Iraq’s descent into civil war and the rise of Al-Qaeda in Iraq. From 2007-2009, the US had the right strategy, leadership and resources – and the civil war ended. However, the failure to uphold the results of Iraq’s 2010 national elections, led to sectarian policies, an increase in the Iranian influence, and the rise of ISIS out of the ashes of al-Qaeda in Iraq – with a devastating impact on Syria during the Arab Spring. The unintended consequence of our interventions in the Middle East has been the refugee crisis, contributing to the rise of populism in the West.

Lieutenant General Sir Graeme Lamb, former Director Special Forces and Commander Field Army, said indecisive and unrealistic decisions by politicians put huge pressure on operational commanders in both conflicts. He said modern fourth generation warfare showed state and non-state adversaries alike deliberately targeting the West’s willpower through using asymmetric tactics, a major shift from the force-on-force confrontations of previous eras. Examples of unexpected consequences included the damage to U.K. National Health Service systems from the North Korea-linked WannaCry cyberattack. Western states were increasing turning to new systems and structures such as the U.S. Cyber Command to address such threats, he said.


PS21 Event Writeup: ‘Changing Face of Conflict’ (January 28)


By Isabela Betoret Garcia

Photo Credit: Andrea Varsori

Strife and PS21 joined forces once again to deliver the next installment of The Changing Face of Conflict series. Dr. Eleanor Beevor moderated, focusing on the challenges society faces with regard to information warfare and what we are doing — or not doing — to combat this threat.

Dr. Patrick Bury, lecturer in defence at the University of Bath and a former British Army Captain, opened the event by speaking about the “Fancy Bear” group, blamed for Russia-linked election hacks and other attacks. These highlight the changes to the way’s states use technology, as well as the increase in militaries’ technological capabilities. According to Dr. Bury, conflict is increasingly multi-domain; not just on just land, sea, and air, but also in cyber and space. New technologies will make the battlefield more networked and more lethal place, where combatants have a greater chance of being seen and hit. Because new technology will allow parties to detect combatants more easily, there will be a greater need for soldiers to go ‘off-grid, thus a greater need for dispersal,’ Dr. Bury explained.

He continued that the speed of information will lead to a compression of the scale of conflict, between logistical, strategic, and tactical. In the new space, a tactical decision can have an immediate strategic consequence. Militaries will go from a highly networked environment, to an older, pre-information era and back one moment to the next. This logistical austerity will affect soldiers’ training, equipment, and ability to take initiative. Chinese soldiers, for example, have gone back using compasses in training. Finally, Dr. Bury discussed the role of the nation-state and its possible decay. Much like the invention of the printing press, he said, the invention of the Internet was a watershed moment, and we will have to carefully examine its impact in the decades to come.

Harry Porteous,  Principal Consultant in Innovation at the PA Consulting Group and a former British Army Officer, emphasised the importance of the compression of the scale of conflict. According to Porteous, a single man can define where defence strategy will go next. As conflict becomes increasingly networked, it is not only occurring between states as we typically assume, but rather in he background of our everyday lives. As such, governments’ decisions are not based on on-going conflict but on the threat of conflict.

Though the character of war has remained the same — it is violent, interactive, and political — Porteous said will see a change in the nature of conflict. Wars are shaped by ethics, culture, organisation, technology, and society. And more people train to operate these war-shaping technologies than to fight. Information has been increasingly used as a weapon thanks to new technologies. A state is now able to shape a war to suit its capabilities. One way in which states can do this is through what Porteous called the ‘weaponisation of chaos’, which is what Russia does. Thus, the line between citizens’ everyday lives and defence strategy is blurred. Information warfare brings conflict inwards to divide a population. It seems that this new online battlefield will be covert, deniable, and masked. It is present not at state level, but it appears throughout society. Porteous said that we have not found a way to operate within this environment. He concluded by restating a haunting question posed by cyber experts: What are we prepared to give up to have the Internet? Increasingly, he said, the answer seems to be national security.

Alicia Wanless, a doctoral researcher at King’s College London specialising in propaganda and information warfare, reminded the audience that information has always played a role in war and conflict. What is new about the role of information in conflict is the speed, reach and connectivity of technology. Wanless questioned whether the use of information, particularly to divide societies, is actually a form of war at all, since legally war must be openly declared, coming with the legal rights and obligations that entails under international law.  Thus, for Wanless, there is a clear problem with terminology, not to mention hype, in both the claims of novelty around information being used on and by adversaries and that it is being called war.  This stems partly from the constricted view from which most of our understanding seems to be derived on this subject, explained Wanless, which is in conflict, and mostly from military. If this use of information to inflame or divide societies isn’t “warfare” then why should militaries be looking at it or caring, asks Wanless?  The answer is simple, information drives everything.

Yet, as Wanless notes, despite the role of information in shaping decision-making, Western militaries and governments only focus on outgoing efforts, their own attempts to shape the information environment, paying little attention to how information will be used by adversaries to affect our own reactions. At the same time, the current response to evidence of Russian efforts to shape the information environment is quite knee-jerk and reactionary, perhaps not leading to the best choices. What we have failed to do thus far, she explained, is keep calm enough to analyse the real effects of these attacks — if there are any. She said that the West has failed to genuinely understand this space, and we need a new framework to study these manipulative acts. The spread of awareness and information on these attacks is key to combatting them. Ultimately, she concluded that sometimes the best defence is knowledge.

London Event 11 March – Changing Face of the United Nations

Monday, 11 March, from 06:00 p.m., King’s College London, Room 1.67, Franklin-Wilkins Building Waterloo Campus, SE1 9NH

Hosted by the King’s College London’s War Studies Department.

Since its inception in 1945, the United Nations has played an instrumental part in global affairs. it has served as a platform in resealing international disputes, maintained peace in turbulent areas across the globe and played host to altruist diplomats and despotic dictators alike. It has not, however, been free of controversy. Criticism directed at the supposed ineffectiveness of the United Nations Security Council and accusations of abuse towards members of the peacekeeping corps, demonstrate that it is not a perfect organisation. As we delve deeper into the 21st Century, the future of the United Nations remains uncertain. Will it buckle and break under the pressure created by rising nationalism among its member states, or will it thrive in our ever more technological and connected world. Join PS21, hosted by King’s College London, for a discussion on the Future of the United Nations.


Dr Pablo de Orellana (Moderator) – Teaching Fellow at King’s College London, War Studies department.

Marcus Lenzen – Program advisor from the UN Department of Political Affairs from New York.

Vijay Mehta – Chair of Uniting for Peace and founding trustee of the Fortune Forum charity.

(Arrival Notice TBC).

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London Event 26 February – Changing Face of Conflict

Tuesday, 26 February, 6pm, Kings College London Waterloo Campus, Room G.73,  Franklin-Wilkins Building, 127 Stamford St, South Bank, London, SE1 8WA.

In collaboration with Strife

In the latest of our ‘changing face of conflict’ series, PS21 brings together two of the UK’s most experienced veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars, discussing the lessons of those conflicts and how war is evolving today.


Lieutenant General Sir Graeme Lamb – Ex Director Special Forces and Ex Commander Field Army, previously special advisor to US General Stanley McChrystal in Afghanistan.

Emma Sky – Director of the Yale University World Fellows Program, senior advisor to US and British officials in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Upon arrival, reception will sign you in, they will then direct you the room. Doors will open at 06:00 p.m., the event will begin at 06:30 p.m.

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Strife is a is a dual format publication comprised of Strife blog and the Strife Journel. Their thematic focus is conflict and they are led by doctoral and graduate researchers based in the Department of War Studies, King’s College London. 

See more of Strife’s content here

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London Event 30 January – Changing Face of Conflict

Wednesday, 30 January, from 6pm, Lecture Theatre 1, Bush House, 30 Aldwych, WC2B 4BG

In collaboration with Strife.

PS21 teams up with Strife to deliver the next in our series of discussions on the Changing Face of Conflict. We’ll be talking about how militaries are adapting to face the challenges of the future, why information warfare is becoming ever more prevalent on the battlefield, and the importance of cyber defence in safeguarding against emerging online threats.


Dr Eleanor Beevor (Moderator) – Research Analyst on the Conflict, Security and Development programme at International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Dr Patrick Bury – Former British Army Captian and Lecturer in Defence at the University of Bath, author of Callsign Hades

Alicia Wanless – PhD Student at King’s College London, specialist in propaganda and Information Warfare.

Harry Porteous – Principal Consultant in Innovation at the PA Consulting Group, fomer British Army Officer.

Doors will open at 18:00, the event will start at 18:30. Upon arrival, ask at the reception for the event, they will direct you to Lecture Theatre 1.

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GDPR notice: By signing up for this event, you are giving PS21 consent to share your details with the venue for security purposes. We will also add you to our events mailing list, from which you can unsubscribe at any time. If you have any queries or would prefer not to be added, please contact

PS21 Event Writeup: ‘The Changing Face of Conflict’ (October 2)

The fourth installment of our Changing Face of Conflict series was hosted in the Cabinet Office and moderated by PS21 Director and Reuters Global Affairs Columnist Peter Apps. From urban violence in the world’s metropoles, the role of women in Daesh, to the clashing of International Humanitarian Law with the use of drones, our panel challenged the audience to think outside of classic response categories.

Dr Kieran Mitton, Senior Lecturer in International Relations at the War Studies Department, King’s College London, reported insights from field studies in Cape Town, Rio de Janeiro, Freetown and London. With the growth of megacities, human society is now dominated by urbanisation. In the convergence of urban and civil war, Mitton argued, we should pay more attention to cities as conflict grounds instead of thinking primarily of state actors. Threats will be increasingly urban, yet he warned of a counterproductive focus on insecurity and the dangers of the militarisation of policing. Mitton argued that any sustainable intervention in urban warfare needs to address the social root causes and understand that urban conflict is not a short-term violent spike, but a long-lasting harmful process.

Dr Joana Cook, Senior Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence, King’s College London, discussed the role of women in Daesh and the responses we need to formulate when de-radicalising and reintegrating female returnees. The one-sided narratives of female victims in the former caliphate are essentially harmful for adequately countering extremism she said. Women have held diverse roles in Daesh: As combatants, fundraisers, propagandists and background supporters, they have contributed substantially and have provided inspiration to other female recruits. Any response to both returnees and women remaining within the organisation has to be a holistic, full-spectrum approach. For female returnees, community-level initiatives and judicial approaches need to take into account women who do not pose a threat and differentiate from those who do. Within Syria and Iraq, allied forces need to consider how women are engaged in long-term rebuilding efforts and can be transformed into valuable partners. Overall, Cook urged that we have to better at engaging, accounting for, and responding to women.

Dr Eleanor Beevor, Anthropologist, Journalist and Conflict, Security & Development Research Analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, spoke on the erosion of human rights and peace building institutions. Beevor argued that Western society has become far too comfortable with the idea that precision in warfare will provide solutions. In increasingly urban warfare, the use of drones cannot be precise enough to not harm civilians. As such, 9,000 civilian deaths in Syria alone were caused by coalition drone strikes. Beevor criticised the wide-spread persuasion that the only way to respond to non-state extremists is to exterminate them; according to her analyses, non-apocalyptic groups can certainly be engaged. Finally, Beevor urged the audience to not neglect civilians in conflict, to do everything one can to strengthen the institutions of International Humanitarian Law and the mechanisms that exist to minimise civilian deaths.

Photo credit: Maja Schower

October 2 London Event – ‘The Changing Face of Conflict’

Tuesday, October 2. 6pm. Whitehall (exact location TBA to attendees)

PS21 returns to Whitehall for the next in our series of discussions on the changing face of conflict. We’ll be talking about the rise of non-state actors, means of countering insurgency and extremism, examples from recent wars and more. As usual, we shall move to a nearby pub afterwards to continue the conversation.

Peter Apps [moderator] – Reuters Global Affairs Columnist, Executive Director, PS21

Joana Cook – Senior Fellow, International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, Kings College London.

Kieran Mitton – Senior Lecturer in International Relations, Kings College London.

Eleanor Beevor – Anthropologist, Journalist, Research Analyst, Conflict, Security and Development Program, International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Please remember to bring photo ID with you.


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September 18 London Event – ‘Imagining the next crisis’

Tuesday, September 18. 6pm. Juju’s Bar and Stage, Truman Brewery, Brick Lane. 

Ten years after the collapse of Lehman Brothers sparked global financial turmoil and 17 since 9/11, PS21 looks where the next major crisis threatening humanity might come from. Bringing together experts in finance, security, cyberspace, public health and more, we’ll be looking at what we should be worrying about and how it might be managed. After the long summer, a great chance to network, question the experts and talk about what the rest of the year – and century – might have iin store.

Peter Apps [Moderator] – Reuters Global Affairs Columnist

Heather Williams – Lecturer in Defence Studies, Kings College London

Mike Dolan – Investment Editor, Thomson Reuters

Angela Chatzidimitriou – Global Blockchain Stakeholder Engagement Manager, Hewlett-Packard

John Bassett – Former senior official, GCHQ and member of the PS21 International Advisory Group

Dr Colin Brown – Consultant in Infectious Diseases, Public Health England

Doors will open at six p.m., with the discussion beginning at seven p.m. After brief presentations from each speaker, we will break for interval followed by a Q and A/panel discussion. The bar will remain open throughout.

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PS21 Event Writeup “Changing Face of Conflict”

The third instalment of our Changing Face of Conflict series brought together four experts who reflected on transformations in warfare globally, regionally, and locally. From the redistribution of global power and established ideologies under threat, to innovative solutions to hybrid group conflict, European regional defence autonomy and cooperation in the time of Brexit, as well as the changing use of force from Ukraine to the world, the discussion provided fundamental insights for grasping the future of conflict.

Nigel Inkster, former Assistant Chief and Director of Operations and Intelligence at the British Intelligence Service, started the discussion with a historical perspective on our current geopolitics. In the post-Cold War milieu, we have seen a redistribution of global power from West to East, the return of state on state warfare, a different kind of soldiering, and the rise of asymmetric warfare. Increasingly, Inkster confirmed, we sense a retreat of the United States, a global status challenged, and the strain of established ideologies under threat. Here, Inkster pointed to the renewed rise of the extreme right as well as the Chinese ideological model of Neo-Marxism. Inkster then focused on how game-changing increases in the power of information and communications technology are shaping the behaviour of states on a strategic level. He urged to consider the associated risks and concluded that conflicts today may no longer be about clear-cut victories, but about creating a shift in circumstance which allows for future manipulation.

Emily Winterbotham, Senior Research Fellow in the National Security and Resilience Programme at RUSI, discussed the interaction of insurgencies and terrorism, leading to a hybrid form of group conflict. According to Winterbotham, local grievances are a catalyst, but insurgent groups around the world have realised the transactional and economic advantage of aligning themselves with the ISIS brand.

In this context, Winterbotham shared her insights into the challenges for conflict resolution: Purely looking at these issues from a counter-terrorism perspective or addressing them only through military solutions is doomed for failure. And in a first instance, prosecution is often overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases whilst military operations can be the reason grievances exist in the first place. However, conventional reintegration options may be precluded due to counter-terrorist financing legislation.

Expanding on traditional DDR (Disarmament, Demobilisation, Reintegration), Winterbotham introduced the audience to the 4DR approach. Instead of focusing on mitigation after the fact, 4DR (Defections, Disarmaments, Disengagement, Deradicalisation and Reintegration) is a holistic approach designed to reflect the challenge hybrid conflicts present, including the need to inspire defection and arrange meaningful amnesty. Considering this approach, Winterbotham stressed disengagement over deradicalisation (so as not to ignore real structural problems and grievances); the importance of individualised exit strategies for insurgents and terrorist fighters; and also highlighted a role for transitional justice in the overall concept.

Alice Billon-Galland, Policy Fellow at the European Leadership Network, then led the discussion over to the question of current and future European strategic autonomy. 2016 marked a political turning point which has since sparked a steady increase in defence cooperation between the European Union and NATO. Currently, the EU’s global strategy decidedly does not strive for collective defence, but focuses on providing tools for capability development to each member state. While Billon-Galland highlighted PESCO (Permanent Structured Cooperation), the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence and the European Defence Fund, she also addressed continuous fears of competition and capability overlap between NATO and the EU.

Set against the political challenge of Brexit, the push to build a EU defence cluster with a weapons procurement independent from non-European allies may cause further political tension as it shifts from U.S. and UK arms industries to entirely intra-European Union defence spending. And similarly, the United Kingdom is faced with exclusion from other defence cooperation benefits such as the notorious example of Galileo, the EU project building an alternative to the US-controlled GPS.

Adam Coffey, British Army Officer and RUSI Visiting Fellow, concluded the discussion with his perceptions on changing approaches to the use of force, beyond the timeless nature of warfare. He argued that force is often no longer the last, but the first step in warfare; that winning a tactical fight by conventional measure has changed; and therefore asked what victory means today.

Drawing on insights from Crimea and Donbas, Coffey reflected on force as direct confrontation compared to an attention-grabbing means of messaging.  In winning the global information war, good performance in a fight may not matter if public perception is shunned.

Considering the pace of technological change, Coffey concluded that flexibility, adaptability, and using means beyond force will decide the next war.

PS21 Event Writeup “Changing Face of Conflict”

At the second instalment of our ‘Changing Face of Conflict’ series, a panel of experts considered the future of warfare. The discussion included cyber warfare, the limits of military force, policing in Karachi and the lack of long-term strategies.

Lieutenant General Sir Graeme Lamb, former Director Special Forces and Commander Field Army, said that the recent past – while often presented as largely peaceful – had also seen the world at war just below the threshold of outright conflict. He said that amongst the most powerful tools were weapons of mass disorder, such as propaganda and information warfare, leading to a new kind of warfare. Recognising this shift, said Lamb, should bring changing tactics and strategy. Lamb acknowledged the limits of military capacity, stating that grand strategies must ultimately return to politics, as militaries can deal with the symptoms but are unable to tackle the causes of conflict – a political solution was needed.

Stefan Soesanto, Non-resident James A. Kelly Fellow, Pacific Forum CSIS, said that nation states were still working out where the thresholds of war and peace stood when it comes to conflict in cyberspace. Currently, ground rules for cyber warfare existed largely only in theory – in the form of the Tallinn manual, the UN GGE, and elsewhere – outlining how international law applies to cyberspace. Attributing responsibilities within the cyber domain was also challenging, he said, with private companies often being the victims of incidents while the role of the military remains frequently unclear.

Zoha Waseem, PhD candidate on Urban Security, Policing, Terrorism and Religious Extremism (King’s College London), shifted the conversation to policing in Karachi, Pakistan. The deterioration in law and order in the city in recent years had encouraged police to act above the law, said Waseem. This in turn weakened their legitimacy, leading many civilians to turn to other armed groups, such as militias, to rely on protection. The security dilemma worsens as the police then participate in volatile arms races. The police culture in Karachi, according to Waseem, had taken on ethnic dimensions with geopolitical impact. Citing an example, when a Pashtu youth was killed in Karachi, an ethno-nationalist movement was sparked, exacerbating the existing security dilemma.

Director of the Remote Warfare Programme, Emily Knowles, said that today’s world saw a large spectrum of threats and varieties of warfare – from machete wars to nuclear dangers. The UK political climate was risk-averse with a shift away from large-scale operations to a reliance on local allies and smaller UK training teams. Knowles saw an absence of strategy in this threat environment as a major problem going forwards, particularly the lack of a clear political vision of what the desired end state for conflicts that the UK is currently engaged in should be.