London Event November 19 – Ethics in the West: reality or fallacy?

Tuesday, November 19th, from 06:00 p.m., Ninety One, Brick Lane, London, E1 6QR.

Ethics, ethical policy making, and human rights standards are core pillars of the identities of states in the West, and also provide substantiation for a moral high ground often invoked. However today, discrepancies between those moral standards and the actual policies enacted are stark- compelling us to question the authenticity of the ‘Ethical West’. This panel aims to identify and discuss those disparities within policy sectors of migration, technology and privacy, foreign policy, and more—perhaps to come to a conclusion about what ethical price Western states are willing to pay in the execution of domestic and foreign affairs.


Dr Elspeth Guild – Professor at Queen Mary University and co-editor of the European Journal of Migration and Law

Areeq Chowdhury – Head of Think Tank at Future Advocacy

Beth Oppenheim – Researcher at the Centre for European Reform

Dr Theologia Iliadou – Founder of GenSoc


Dr Eleanor Beevor – Research Analyst at International Institute of Security Studies

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Doors open at 6pm, the event will begin at 6:30pm. Please bring photo ID.

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London Event 10 April – The Domestic Crisis in Britain and the United States

Wednesday, 10 April, from 06:00 p.m., King’s College London, Room S0.13, Strand Campus, London, WC2R 2LS

Held in collaboration with the King’s College London War Studies Society.

The west is in a time of social division not seen for decades. With the divisive Trump presidency in the US, Brexit In the UK and the ‘Yellow Vest’ protests in France, the symptoms of western domestic instability are clear to see., however, the cause of the West’s ‘domestic crisis’ is complex and multi-faceted. In the next PS21 discussion event, we’ll be examining the pressures on western society from multiple approaches including political, economic and social  angles.


Peter Apps (Moderator) – Reuters Global Affairs Columnist, Founder and Executive          Director of PS21.

John Raines – Head of Political Risk, IHS Markit.

Emma Burnell – campaigns and public policy professional.

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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Sales end at 11:00 a.m. on the 9th of April

To support PS21, donate here. 

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


London Event 19 March – Changing Face of Europe

Tuesday 19 March, from 06:00 p.m., Juju’s Bar and Stage, Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London.

PS21’s 2019 programme of events continues with an in-depth discussion of the changing nature of European politics. The looming spectre of Brexit shows no signs of resolution by the March 29th deadline and continues to generate increasing uncertainty. Furthermore, European elections in May could potentially reshape the composition of the European Parliament. Amidst this uncertainty, join us as we begin to dissect this complex environment.


Peter Apps (Moderator) – Reuters Global Affairs Columnist, Founder and Executive Director of PS21

Julia Ebener – Fellow, Institute for Strategic Dialogue

Georgina Wright – Senior Researcher, Brexit, Institute for Government

Sherrill Stroschein – Reader in Politics, University College London

Alexandra Kellert – Western Europe security, political and operational risk analyst at Control Risks

Doors will open from 06:00 p.m., with the event starting at 07:00 p.m. The bar will be open throughout.

Sign up here.

To support PS21, donate here. 

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

Why Europe has stopped trusting

Iona Allan

In Rome last month, Luigi di Maio, the 31 year frontman of the anti-establishment 5 Star Party won over 24% of the electoral vote and became the most powerful political force in Italy. For the second time in less than two years, a major western election has been fought and won by the swelling powers of populism.

For now at least, the 5 Star Movement are a long way from actually governing. Neither Di Maio, nor Matteo Salvini, the leader of far right Lega Nord party have enough seats to form a government. And the chances of a coalition emerging between Di Maio and Salvini are still very slim. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t just pull off one of the most comfortable victories of any protest party in Europe.

Indeed, what Di Maio, Salvini and his right wing affiliates did wasn’t so much win last month’s  election, but prevent the mainstream from doing so –  draining influence from the political centre and offering a supposedly clean break from politics as usual.

Why Italian voters turned their backs on the political establishment on the 4th March  is hard to know. To some, it was simply a reflection of the Democratic Party (PD’s) growing unpopularity across Italy and a backlash against the widely perceived personal vanities of Matteo Renzi- the country’s former Premier.  To others however, it points to a much bigger problem –  the widening disconnect and mounting distrust between the citizen and state.  Voters in Europe have grown restless. And it is the political centre which is currently paying the biggest price. Di Maio’s emphatic victory and the PD’s slow fall from grace is just the latest proof of this.

The 5 Star movement built their entire election campaign around the principle of rejection. Di Maio, like his influential predecessor Beppe Grillo, rejected basic aspects of the political system, calling for the dissolution of parliament and a shift towards a referendum based style of governance. The willingness of protest parties to challenge key pillars of the democratic system and commit themselves to outlandish policy gaffes is nothing new, nor anything to be necessarily worried about.  What is worrying however, is that these ideas are actually being listened to. What’s more they are being backed and championed as realistic political alternatives on a scale that was unimaginable only a few years before.

Italy’s election, like Donald Trump’s presidency and France’s flirtation with a far-right Le Penn government,  has proven once again just how contested our democratic norms have become.

The appeal of the middle ground is waning, and no matter how resilient liberal democracies have been in previous centuries, it’s hard not to feel that in this one, our political system has  slipped into slow state of crisis.



The reason this crisis feels so acute is because we are not just dealing with one, but with multiple. What’s more, they seemed to have reached their breaking points at precisely the same moment. The first; a crisis in political representation, where our elected officials and central rule making bodies are failing on a more consistent basis to deliver on their promises and break through mounting democratic gridlock.  At the same time however, the mainstream media, on whom we depend even more when our politicians fail us, are facing a similar crisis of legitimacy.  All the while, these anxieties are being transmitted, shared and amplified through our online networks, and, instead of confronting the views that we find destructive, we retreat further into the security of our own.  The result? A perfect storm of uncertainties and a feeling of disillusionment so profound that it has come to define an entire political era.

From the Italian elections, to the surge of the Hungarian, Polish and Swedish far right and onto the shock election of Donald Trump, what do all the seminal moments in the post-truth calendar have in common? They all took place within and indeed depended upon a pervasive culture of distrust. Distrust of politicians, distrust of the ‘dead tree press’ and distrust of the phoney expert- who, according to President Trump, ‘will say anything to keep the rigged system in place.’[1] But so what? Politicians have never ranked particularly highly in terms of trustworthiness and confidence in government institutions has been declining since the final, crook-denying days of President Richard Nixon. So what, if anything, distinguishes this current slump in trust from any other?

The answer, this article suggests, lies in the sheer intensity of the uncertainty and cynicism that this crisis has unleashed. What we are witnessing here, is something far greater and far less containable than Donald Trump, Luigi Di Maio or any other populist leader currently riding the wave of distrust.  What we are facing is in fact much worse; a culture of suspicion that extends beyond traditional political fault lines and casts doubt on all forms of public life.  According to Edelman’s ‘Trust Barometer’ over two thirds of countries in 2017 were classified as ‘distrusters’, meaning that levels of trust in government institutions have dipped below 50%.[2] This is a three point decrease from 2016. But compare this to the average of 80% trust in the US government during the early 1960s and even the moderate 60% levels in the early 2000s and this is a truly astonishing figure.

The favoured explanation, at least within Western scholarly circles is that this crisis of trust is the result of a seemingly  ‘toxic’ combination of technocratic driven policy disasters and the emergence of a mutually dishonest political-media hybrid.[3] The Iraq War, the parliamentary expense scandal, austerity, phone-hacking debacle, the shameful legacy Jimmy Saville left at the BBC and the mishandling of the Grenfell Tower fire are just some of the scandals that have tarnished the reputation of the British government in recent years.

Nevertheless the global financial crash of 2008 stands out as a particularly critical and legitimacy sapping moment the post-truth era.  Banks were bailed out, homes were lost and, as Stephen Griffin has highlighted, a new virulently anti-political discourse was spawned.[4] When the very institutions responsible for steering the global economy to the brink of meltdown were rescued and their directors allowed to carry on with the same impunity as before, then the result was not just collective sense that the economic system is broken, but the conviction that the entire system is broken.

What is interesting about all the countries which ranked lowest in terms of public satisfaction and faith in their institutions, is that they have one important and perhaps surprising feature in common. They are all democracies. Democracies, which currently lack the key ingredient needed for their survival; trust. This is not how we typically expect democratic systems to function. Shouldn’t freedom of expression, access to information, ability to play an active and critical role in public life translate into a moderate or least workable level of trust in government? Why don’t we have faith in a system which, since its ancient conception was built to be ‘fair’ and ‘just’? Isn’t ‘trust’ what we pay for the liberties and privileges of living in a modern democracy? Maybe, but that’s not what global trends seem to be telling us.

According to a 2017 Edelman’s poll, 53% of people surveyed from across 28 countries reported their distrust of central government and belief that the system as a whole was ‘failing them.’  And of those respondents who distrusted the ‘system’, fears over globalisation, technical progress, corruption, immigration and the failure of government to protect them and their families from the impact of the 2008 global financial crisis that were cited amongst the most common reasons for their mistrust. Trust and confidence are slippery political concepts and clearly not an inbuilt feature or commensurate outcome of democratic governance. They are built, according to one OCED policy brief, from ‘fair and reliable public services.’[5]

‘Public service’ is an equally misunderstood term, and one which is often confused with the mere existence of a democratic political structure, or the provision of basic civil liberties. In its most basic form public service means action and measurable outcome. But it also means the delivery of promises, and the expectation that your elected official will always and unconditionally be working in your interests. But the substantial majority, (75%) of respondents across all 28 countries surveyed by Edelman in 2017 felt  that this system wasn’t built to serve them, but to ‘accumulate wealth’,  assert power and undermine the interests of hardworking ‘ordinary’ people.[6] Instead of narrowing the gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, governments are now seen to be supporting ‘their own’ and silencing the majority.




The problem, therefore, runs deeper than our elected politicians and has gone beyond a simple ‘mass v class’ conflict. [7] We don’t just distrust our politicians but seem to have grown cynical of an entire political system.  Of course distrust of the governing elite is not a new feature of the political landscape. What’s different today, is that this longstanding mistrust of politicians ‘to do the right thing’ and accurate perception of political elites being unable to deliver on their promises has coincided with a declining trust in other institutions; institutions which have historically held the state accountable for such promises and kept the rusting wheels of democracy rolling. In other words; our media.

Scepticism towards traditional media, both newspaper and broadcast, has been increasing steadily over the past two decades. This  culminated last year with only 6% of Americans and, with the lowest rating in Europe, 22% of Brits trusting the mainstream media .[8] According to 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer Global results, only 43 % of respondents trust the media (5% less than in 2016) making it the second least trusted institution after government. [9]

The way we consume news has also changed dramatically over the last decade.  In 2017, with 3.77 billion internet users, online sites have rapidly outstripped television as a primary source of news. [10]  From Sweden to South Korea more and more smart phone owners now receive their news from social media rather than professional news sites.  The overwhelming majority of Americans also consume their news on Facebook. Ironically however, social media remains the least trusted news source across all categories, with only 12% of Americans actually trusting the information they consume. [11]

In Britain, this erosion of trust feels particularly hard to accept. As a country with a long history of independent journalism we tend to think of institutions like the BBC and Reuters as instinctively trustworthy and unbiased. Recent research suggests however, that their reputations are far from unshakable. Just under half of British people now don’t trust these institutions to report with balance, fairness, and accuracy.[12] Indeed, the BBC has faced more accusations of bias in the last year than in any other. It’s coverage of Brexit for example has been accused of being too quick to accept some of the wild  claims made by both sides of the campaign. The ‘Leave’ Campaign’ pledge to fund an extra £350 million a week to the NHS is one of the more outlandish promises that wasn’t scrutinised carefully until after the referendum. Laura Kuenssberg, the BBC’s political editor faced similar accusations of inaccurate and partisan reporting of Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn and his views on ‘shoot to kill’ terror policies.[13] Claims of bias reporting dominated the U.S election as well, from the supposed ‘fake news’ agenda being waged against Donald Trump by CNN, The New York Times and other liberal leaning institutions, to the accusations that the candidate Bernie Sanders was either negatively framed or under reported during his run for the Democratic nomination. Whether there are any truth to these accusations is almost besides the point. The problem runs deeper and requires us to confront two of the most perplexing features of the post-truth landscape; the impulse to congregate with the ‘like minded’ and the ease with which we dismiss the views and ‘facts’ which that challenge our own.

As Nick Barron has argued, the root cause of the post-truth world is not the lack of trust in the media per se, but rather the growing trust we place in ‘someone like me’.  This tendency to retreat into the comfort of the like minded echo-chambers has two significant consequences.  First, it makes it possible to avoid interacting and engaging with disconfirming information, and secondly it produces tribes and like- minded clusters, who, contrary to what they may claim, are actually less likely to hold power to account and more likely to consume ‘fake news’ uncritically.

The contradiction is striking, but it is nonetheless characteristic our current political culture. What’s worse is that this cycle of cynicism and mistrust seems to be endlessly self producing.  The more we retreat into like minded eco-chambers, the more we abandon the process of critical thinking and up placing more trust in social media algorithms than human experts. The result, is an electorate that is almost immune to counter argument.

How many times during the weeks leading up to the US election did Donald Trump face what should have been campaign ending scandals? There were countless. But he won nonetheless. Why? First of all he offered change not continuity, and secondly he convinced his voters that he was was one of them, part of their tribe- or  ‘the common man’ as The New York Times put it.[14]  Given that 71% of Americans now have more faith in reformers than in defenders of the status quo, the odds now seem like they were always stacked in the President’s favour.[15] Indeed, as Naomi Klein has pointed out in her recent study No Is Not Enough, President Trump was only half joking when he said ‘I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody and I still wouldn’t lose any voters.’ [16]

Whats’ more, is that according to former Brexit strategist Dominic Cummings, this tribalism and fetish to trust ‘someone like me’, is not confined to any particular social group. The only difference, Cummings  suggests is that the ‘educated’ are more willing to deny what is actually happening. ‘They back their gang’ he explains, ‘and then fool themselves that they have reached their views by their own sensible and intelligent reasoning.’[17]

The internet has undoubtedly amplified this trend,  but it did not create them. Neither can we conclude that our politicians and journalists are quantitively more dishonest now than they were 10 years ago.  Anxieties and frustrations at ‘the system’ have always been a feature of political life.  What has changed therefore, is the intensity at which these uncertainties are being felt, the speed at which they are being transmitted and the feeling that ‘crisis’ is is being fought on not just one but multiple fronts.

Solving these problems presents an immense challenge. Democracy depends on its citizens arguing constructively, and until we are forced to leave our eco-chambers and engage in some degree of critical thinking then there is little hope that trust will ever return to public life.

The advance of populism, however, is not inevitable. And as shakable as the political establishment feels in this current climate, we shouldn’t draw too many conclusions from the triumph of Italian populism. Trust has been drained from our political system, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t salvageable. Building a more accountable media, transparent political system and two way stream of public communication will be the first of many steps required to restore faith in our institutions.
It may take generations to build and only a few seconds to break, but trust is too important and too integral to the future of our political system to abandon altogether. The fight back must start now.
[1] Catherine Happer, ‘The Post-Trust Crisis of Mainstream Media, Glasgow Sociology, (2016), accessed 15th June 2017.

[2] 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, Global results, Slide 11,

[3]Matthew D’Ancona, Post Truth: The New War on Truth and How to Fight It (London, 2017), p. 37.
Jane Suiter, ’Post-truth Politics’, Political Insight (2016), pp- 25- 27.

[4] Stephen M Griffin, ‘Trump Trust and the Future of the Constitutional Order’, Maryland Law Review 77 (2017), pp1-16.

[5] OESD, “Trust in Government”, Home/Directorate for Public Governance/Trust in Government.

[6] 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, Global Results, HYPERLINK “”; Richard Edelman, “An Implosion of Trust”, Edelman Trust Barometer, 2017 Executive Summary,””

[7] Richard Edelman, “An Implosion of Trust”, Edelman Trust Barometer, 2017 Executive Summary, “”

[8], accessed 20 July 2017., accessed 20 July 2017.

[9] 2017 Edelman Trust Barometer, Global results, Slide 10, .


[11], accessed 20 July 2017.

[12], accessed 24 July 2017.

[13], accessed 19 July 2017.


[15] Friedman, ‘Why Trump is Thriving in an Age of Distrust’.

[16] Naomi Klein, No Is Not Enough: Defeating The New Shock Politics (London, 2017), p. 34.

[17] D’Ancona, Post Truth .


Image Attribution: TheAndrasBarta/Pixabay

Has EU lost its ‘carrot’?

Lesia Dubenko graduated from Lund University with a Master’s in European Affairs and now is a journalist in Ukraine

The EU’s foreign policy has previously developed by offering benefits. But with troubles in Poland and Hungary and ambiguous expansion policy, will Brussels open a new page in its ‘carrots and sticks’ approach?


The EU likes to see itself as exceptional — originally a trade project, it has turned into a union with benefits, incorporating the former Communist states and exercising regional influence. This image does sell well. Just recently the Western Balkan countries, including Serbia and Montenegro, showed enthusiasm after the EU declared 2025 as a potential membership date for these states, if they meet the conditions.

In a similar enthusiastic manner the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko during his Davos speech had also expressed hope that the EU will announce the prospect of Ukraine’s accession in 2021, appealing to reforms and necessity to maintain societal stability.

The EU does realise that for Ukraine, which has been reinforcing its internal and external policy on the ‘European dream’ since the Maidan events in 2014, the membership is no less important than for the problematic ex-Yugoslavian region. But at the same time it cannot help but take time to self-reflect, as to what awaits it and how to proceed. More so, as it has now become clear that its regional influence is being weakened both inside and outside.

Thus, after the Soviet Union collapsed many, in the academic and political circles alike, had been entertaining the idea of the world moving into the post-modernist realm — a non-military, trade-prevailing international relations’ mode — with the EU acting as a role-model of prosperity and democracy re-ferred to as a ‘normative’ power. In this world, the EU imagined itself to be able to change others simply because of its attractive image and know-how.

However, the Balkan Wars, the Russian annexation of Crimea, the intervention in Eastern Ukraine, the subsequent reliance on the U.S. military help and the arrival of the nationalistic Donald Trump in the Oval office all shattered its post-modernist aspirations showing that tanks remain as popular as trade deals.

One could very well argue that the post-modernist ideas were short-lived and partially naive to begin with. Yet the true and bitter awakening occurred when EU countries, which had long been granted the membership ‘carrot’, suddenly defied the Union’s key liberal principles.

In turn, Brussels unexpectedly found itself using ‘sticks’ towards not just the resisting third-countries, but also towards its members with the European Com-mission triggering the Article 7 of the EU Treaty against Poland. The often explosive ALDE leader Guy Verhofstadt fanned the flames tweeting: “The European Union was built to guarantee our citizens’ freedom, democracy and the rule of law. If the Hungarian and Polish governments want to build closed and illiberal societies, they must do it outside the EU.”

‘Sticks’ only time?

Were Poland and Hungary to be outside the EU, they would have simple been reminded that there is a ‘carrot’ worth abandoning its old illiberal, autocracy-inspired ways for — the membership. Yet, both states are already in — and they are surprisingly prepared for the ‘sticks’. The Hungarian Prime-Minister Viktor Orban, who is feeling increasingly comfortable acting as the Union’s enfant terrible, received support from the Hungarian Parliament to block the European Commission’s initiative regarding Warsaw, while the Polish President Andrzej Duda is showing modest interest in Brussels’ actions altogether.

Moreover, both countries are embracing everything that the EU stands against — nationalistic, de-secularised, semi-authoritarian narratives with unequivocal historical ‘truth’. Thus, Poland has recently approved the highly controversial historical law aimed to penalise those claiming that the Poles cooperated with the Nazis.

But what about the third-countries? Once the European Parliament adopted the Eastern Partnership Plus it became clear that the European Commission President Mr. Juncker’s rather undiplomatic, yet blunt statement that ‘Ukraine for the moment is neither in the EU nor NATO’ reflects the EU’s position on further expansion in the East. The document which has fairly been described as a failure contains various aspects of intensifying cooperation with countries, like Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova without, however, a clear membership prospect, a ‘carrot’, for the countries involved.

Instead of presenting that prospect, the EU has resorted to a ‘stick’, threatening to deprive Ukrainians of the long-awaited visas’ lift, if Mr. Poroshenko fails to establish the Anti-Corruption Court promptly. With the Ukrainian Parliament hesitating to adopt the law, and collapse of Ukrainian-Polish cooperation due to ‘irreconcilable differences’ in historical views, the Ukrainian near-future is looking full of ‘sticks’. And given its fragile society, appetite for illicit power con-centration, entrenched corruption, Kiev will eventually search for other, more immediate opportunities.

Like Serbia is already doing. The Balkan countries with their rich Yugoslavian years’ experience of balancing between the capitalist West and the communist East perfected by Josip Broz Tito and hunger for nationalist rhetoric are a dangerous lot. The EU is well aware of it and has now reintroduced the member-ship prospect both for Belgrade, Podgorica and others to win over growing China’s and Russia’s influence in the region.

The fear is clear: the EU recalls the atrocities of the Balkan Wars and the Union’s then powerless position and justly expects that sooner or later these countries will once again try to establish a ‘better’ citizen. In this case, Mr. Verhofstadt rightly underpins that the “EU must do everything in its power to fore-stall that scenario.”

However, will this ‘carrot’ — the most powerful one that the EU has its in arsenal — prove to be effective?

So far Belgrade, despite nurturing membership, is immensely irritated with the Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn’s refusal to make concessions regarding recognition of Kosovo’s independence. While the EU might believe that this is the right thing to do to protect, it will, however, see an inevitable rise of public dissatisfaction that the Serbian government. It will have to turn a blind eye, or find a clever way to deceive its European partners by employing dubious yet ubiquitous practice of promising everything to everyone.

Should Serbia resort to the latter and guarantee its electorate that once in the EU, it will ‘sort everything out’ by copying the neighbouring Hungary’s model of cooperating with Russia and building another semi-authoritarian state with its own history narrative, what ‘sticks’ will Brussels employ? Does it really have levers to stop this national and religious grandeur which is already happening in Central Europe?

The answers are strikingly ambivalent and leave Brussels with a tricky task of not just finding new ‘carrots’ both for the EU members and the aspirants, but also contemplating the effectiveness of this policy altogether.

Much like with the dreams of the world discarding tanks in favour of trade deals, the EU’s notion of serving as an unequivocal role-model who can pressure others is being slowly rejected in its own home, supporting the view of a German academic Hanns W. Maull who already in 2005 predicted that the membership’s value both for those inside and for those outside will decline over time.

And while the EU still realises that it has an appeal — whether for an overly-enthusiastic Ukraine, sceptic yet still European Serbs, or Mr. Orban who wants to stay but on his terms — it is also continuously being challenged.

The next big question now is can the Union turn a new page in its ‘carrots and sticks’ policy? Or will it eventually resort to the ‘sticks’ policy suppressing problems both inside and in its backyard, only to find them re-emerging with greater intensity?


Photo Credit – reetdachfan/Pixabay –

PS21 Event Writeup – ‘Imagining Britain in 2030’

What will Britain look like by 2030? How will Brexit have played out or will the process be still ongoing? Will Great Britain’s map have changed or will greater devolution have resulted in a tweaking of borders? What kind of government might be in power?

A panel of experts gathered to discuss these questions and more at Juju’s Bar and Stage. The discussion, titled ‘Imagining Britain in 2030’ was moderated by Peter Apps, Reuters Global Affairs Columnist.

Paul Swinney, Head of Policy and Research at the Centre for Cities started off the discussion speaking on the reality of future changes to the world of work, such as the rise of the robots, will play out across the country. This threat of job losses is nothing new – technologies developed over the last century, such as electric street lamps and washing machines for example, have destroyed work for lamplighters and laundry workers. Despite this, new jobs and careers have emerged to replace these lost jobs. But there is a clear geography to these changes – cities further north are more vulnerable than southern cities to this latest wave of change, both in terms of being more exposed to job losses, and the likelihood is that new jobs created in northern cities will be lower skilled, reflecting recent history. And so Swinney’s predictions for 2030 were for the economic and political divides (signified by the Brexit vote) to get wider.

Kathryn Corrick, founder of Corrick, Wales & Partners, stressed the level of technological change over the century so far and the sense of dislocation it had sometimes created. She saw a clear need for policymakers to think about the future to prevent missteps, especially looking forward into data protection laws and augmented reality. She further saw an age in which experts might become trusted again and devolution strengthened, perhaps through new forms of digital democracy. Perceptions of ‘Britishness’ were in flux, she said, and policymakers needed to become better at listening to people across the country if it was to overcome its challenges.

Jonn Elledge, editor at the New Stateman’s Citimetric website said Britain was on the edge of becoming two nations with very different politics. One was multicultural, urbanised and attracting educated young people, while suffering social strains, particularly around the supply of housing. The other, based around both smaller towns and failing post-industrial cities, was losing jobs and people, and increasingly politically angry. The economic divide had become even more significant than Germany’s, where part of the country was under Communist rule up until 1989. Elledge’s proposal as a potential solution for this problem was a serious debate about the moving of the capital away from London – although he doubted it would ever happen. Furthermore, he saw stronger local government as a strategy to move forward.

Jade Azim, Young Labour blogger, shifted the conversation towards the emerging generation of young millennials. This group was struggling to find opportunities, but more importantly did not believe it would ever be able to afford their own major capital investments, particularly housing, risking becoming a permanent rentier class. Azim said that this would eventually break the correlation between property/wealth and conservatism, becoming the first median voter to rent rather than own properties and thus rewriting the political map. This demographic was also developing its very own tastes and wants, she said, prioritising experience over property. Azim saw a change in the meaning of working class – and that the way social stratifications are measured now needing to change if we want to understand class as a concept. In the future addressing of inequalities will be an essential step, Azim stated.

Rayhan Haque, Policy Adviser on future of work issues said by 2030 we will have abolished tuition fees in the UK, as the current system was unfair for students. He also predicted that by 2030 there will have been a Labour government which would have lowered the voting age to 16, making a no fees system permanent and substantially shifting the power of the electorate towards young people. More generally speaking, he argued education needs to ensure strong basic skills for students, and a more skills focused curriculum to allow young people to become emotionally intelligent and gain skills essential for the job market. Haque suggested lowering immigration heavily was a false economy that would do great damage to our economy and society and that by 2030 more people would be willing to support a more liberal system or freedom of movement.

Freelance writer Amna Saleem said Britain sometimes risked appearing like a country that ‘peaked in high school’ and whose hankering after the past made adapting to the future much harder. She said by 2030, inclusion and diversity should not be seen as extraordinary – and individuals should not find themselves so often defined by just one or two characteristics. The Brexit referendum, she said, risked narrowing nationalism in a potentially toxic way, with people turning against her as a Scottish-Pakistani woman. She further advocated for more empathy and the willingness to share power as needed measures for greater equality.

The discussion was fast-paced, lively and always entertaining. It presented many problems, but also offered up solutions. There was a lot to worry about, Peter Apps said in conclusion. But given the in many ways even more concerning political trends in the US and continental Europe, he suggested, the worst case scenarios for Britain in 2030 were at least marginally less bleak than for many other countries.

PS21’s ‘Imagining 2030’ series will reconvene on the 13th March at Juju’s Bar and Stage to imagine the World in 2030. Details here.

PS21 Event Writeup – ‘What to watch in Russia’

PS21 kicked off this year’s event schedule with a panel discussion on ‘What to watch in Russia’ on the 23rd January. As panellist Mathieu Boulègue put it; ‘Russia is everywhere’. PS21 invited the panel to share their predictions of the world’s largest country. With the forthcoming presidential elections in March, the FIFA World Cup and Russia’s growing taste of information warfare, there was plenty to talk about.

Alex Kokcharov, Russia Analyst at IHS Markit, foretold a predictable Putin election victory, despite the potential for growing protest and civil unrest. In Human Rights terms, his forecast was for increased repression, as well as the use of targeted fear as a political tool. He also expects increased international isolation, with a potential exit from the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights -. The latter move could open the door for Russia to reintroduce the death penalty for certain crimes, as neighbouring Belarus has already done.

While Putin remains firmly ensconced in power aged 65, growing numbers within the Russian establishment and elsewhere are beginning to look beyond his rule. This is driving increasing rivalry within Russia’s political, economic and government elites. That may make Russian politics gradually more unpredictable in the years and decades to come.

If Putin’s power does begin to slip, it is possible – although not inevitable – that Moscow might become increasingly aggressive in its foreign policy. In the last 5 years, Putin has shifted his political focus from the middle class to poorer working class demographics in the regions who have generally responded positively to his now more nationalistic, socially conservative approach.

Mathieu Boulègue, Research Fellow at Chatham House, categorised Russia in the following terms: a ‘spoiler’ of the international system, a ‘meddler’ in elections and at worst, a ‘warmonger’. He identified key trends in Russian foreign policy, which he based his predictions on. These depict Russia as a more assertive force that is no longer hesitant to make use of its military power. From a social perspective, he stressed that should we see a revolution in Russia, it would come from the periphery, and not originate from the centre.

Western states were still far from clear on how to manage the new dynamics of relations with Russia, he added.

From ‘good boy’ to terrorist: What is the appeal of ISIS?

Westminster, 23 March 2017. Photo credits: Prioryman – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

By Linda Schlegel. Linda is a trainee at the Council of Europe.

The so-called Islamic State has dominated and continues to dominate headlines with the recent Barcelona attacks, for which it claimed responsibility. Although the question of what makes someone become a terrorist has been discussed since the rise of left-wing terrorism in the 1960s and 1970s, the rise of ISIS has intensified the discourse surrounding the processes of radicalization. The attackers were young and seemingly well-integrated immigrants of Moroccan descent and did not suffer from objective economic hardships. Yet they made the decision to kill and die for jihad. What drives those, who have lived in the West for all their lives or for a very long period of their lives, to sacrifice themselves for an organization that predominantly fights to gain territory in Iraq and Syria. What could make a young man murder innocent civilians and commit suicide for an imagined ideal of the caliphate or the ummah, the global community of Muslims? Governments and civil society also ask what can be done to prevent so-called ‘homegrown’ radicalization and decrease susceptibility to radical ideas.

Charlie Winter, Senior Research Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalization and Political Violence (ICSR), has written extensively on Islamic State propaganda and identified 6 key themes in their narrative: brutality, mercy, victimhood, war, utopianism and belonging. In contrast to popular belief, IS propaganda is not merely a depiction of violence and brutality such as beheadings, but includes a sophisticated understanding of which different types of narratives may drive people to seek a new, radical self-image in the name of defending the caliphate. Space does not allow for a discussion of all themes here, but the narrative of ‘belonging’ may be especially important to understand in the context of homegrown radicalization. In theory, one should feel loyalty and a sense of belonging to the country one has grown up in, but homegrown radicalization questions this assumption and the ability of Western governments to help form collective identification with the nation they are representing.

Social isolation has been shown to impact our psychological well-being, our mental health and our behaviour towards ourselves and others. Multiple theories of radicalization also involve isolation or the perceived lack of embeddedness in society at large as one of the facilitating conditions, which might make individuals more susceptible to radical ideas. ISIS propaganda is partially designed to appeal to this group of dis-embedded young people and to fill the emotional void of a lack of belonging. In the context of nationalism, Benedict Anderson has shown that we construct collective identities based on so-called imagined communities. They are imagined, because we cannot possible know every member of that community, yet we feel a connection with them based on, for example, a common nationality. For jihadists, the imagined community is not the nation, but the ummah, the global community of Muslims. ISIS constructs this community as the only community for Muslims and based on this shared identification seeks to justify violence against anyone not belonging to this group.

There is a general trend caused by the forces of globalization to, on the one hand, make almost global identification with popular culture the norm and, on the other hand, to facilitate a tendency to identify with very restricted yet transnational communities such as the ummah. Anthropologist Scott Atran writes in his book Talking to the Enemy “together with a flat and fluid world, a more tribal, fragmentized and divisive world emerges as people search for social identity and greater sense of purpose“. ISIS provides precisely this sense of social identity and purpose to fight for the group one identifies with. The propaganda is aimed at creating the image of a global brotherhood of Muslims, which stand together and fight for a holy cause against the dark forces of the West. A classical Manichean narrative, which portrays ISIS as the champion of justice and other forces such as Western states or Middle Eastern governments as the embodiment of evil. All of us seek purpose in our lives and social isolation can call previous meaning-providing structures into question. Isolated individuals are therefore vulnerable to a narrative that emphasizes belonging and purpose simultaneously.

Because socially isolated individuals may be drawn to a strong narrative of collective belonging, both governments and civil society need to engage not only in counter-messaging, but in the construction of inclusive narratives and realities to decrease the number of people ISIS propaganda may appeal to. Aside from measures to include individuals through employment, volunteering, housing and other opportunities necessary to feel embeddedness and belonging, governments should initiate a discussion on collective identity. What does it mean to be British/Spanish/German in a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-religious society? It is not enough to ensure that everyone abides the law, civil inclusion must also have an emotional component of identification with the greater collective. As humans, we seek this feeling of belonging and togetherness and if it is put into question, the likelihood that we seek it outside of the national context, increases. It is a very difficult task for governments and needs to be done carefully in order not to appear to force a pre-made national identity upon the population. Identity building works best if facilitated by institutions, but driven bottom-up by those facing the diversity in their communities every day. The fight against terrorism has and will continue to dominate the political sphere, but governments are well advised to take community building, trust enhancing and identity building ‘soft power’ measures seriously in order to counter the emotional identity appeal groups such as ISIS display. In doing so, they do not only strengthen the health of the nation overall, but contribute to the long-term decline in recruitment power due to the ‘belonging’ component Winter identified.

PS21 is a non-national, non-governmental, non-ideological organisation. All views expressed are the author’s own.

Merkel – the invincible? Why the Schulz effect wouldn’t last

Photo credits: CDU NRW,

By Lisa Dittmer, Editor of the PS21 Blog.

Less than three months ago, Germany’s social democrats pulled past Merkel’s CDU in the national polls – for the first time since 2006. “Ordinary”, “approachable”, his “finger on the pulse of Germany’s issues in 2017”, Martin Schulz’s unanimous election as candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) for the position of chancellor in the upcoming general election evoked uncharacteristically high spirits within a party that had long seemed resigned to its fate as junior coalition partner to Merkel’s Christian-conservatives. Party members and pundits alike mused over the “Schulzeffekt” propelling the SPD back into power, following two terms as junior partner and one in opposition to Merkel’s twelve year tenure as chancellor.

Yet three regional elections and three losses later, high hopes of finally taking “Mutti”’s place in September’s general election are rapidly fading following the social democrats’ disappointing performance even in their heartland of North Rhine-Westphalia. What hope is left for a revival of the Schulz effect?

A short-lived miracle made in Würselen

“Here I stand, a man from Würselen”. Schulz’s reputation as a pro-European outsider and quintessentially German everyman untarnished by domestic coalition haggling propelled the party to newfound credibility. Schulz knows how to use his humble beginnings, his setbacks (his dream of becoming a professional football player fell through due to an injury, leading him into years of alcohol abuse) and eventual rise from small town mayor to president of the European Parliament to his advantage. Even outside of his own party circles, fellow politicians recognize his level-headed appearance and principled politics. By February 2017, Schulz enjoyed the personal support for the position of chancellor of 50% of German voters, a sixteen-point lead over Merkel.

And yet the initial euphoria has noticeably subsided. Three key regional elections – in the Saarland, Schleswig-Holstein, and most recently in North Rhine-Westphalia – all won by Merkel’s conservatives, have confirmed what sceptics had predicted all along: a whiff of fresh air may well be welcome in German politics but in the end it’s the promise of stability and continuity that matters in uncertain times.

What went wrong?

Twelve years into Merkel’s rule, Schulz appeared to have hit the spot with his direct attacks on her economic record and his own promise of social justice. Below the surface of low unemployment rates and high export levels, key pillars of Merkel’s outward success story, voters’ frustration at stagnating wages and the continuation of austerity measures in the form of high levels of subcontracted and temporary work has been growing.

Though far from a new credo, Schulz’s own working class background (reminiscent of Gerhard Schröder’s (Germany’s last SPD chancellor’s) self-made man image) lent an authenticity to his proposals for greater social justice that previous candidates lacked. Now two months in and with official manifestos and concrete policy proposals still in the workings, his campaign has hit a lull. Schulz’s numerous appearances in support of his regional party heads could not brush over the absence of any concrete new ideas. That these regional elections were just as much a test of the current national climate as they were about local issues was made abundantly clear by both Merkel and Schulz, making it all that much harder for the latter to dismiss the disappointing results as a mere hiccup.

The Social Democratic Party has struggled to find its footing ever since Gerhard Schröder pushed through his unpopular ‘Agenda 2010’, today mostly accepted as a necessary rejuvenation cure of a then stagnating German economy and an overwhelmed welfare state, to many of the SPD’s core voters though an irredeemable sell-out of the party’s values. Two periods of grand coalitions with the SPD as junior partner to Merkel’s CDU have further eroded previously perceptible differences between the centre left and right.

Schulz’s advantage lies in his outsider status: where previous candidates struggled to explain to voters how a reversal of roles would lead to a different kind of politics, given Merkel’s gradual encroachment on centre left territory within the grand coalition, as an outsider, Schulz could convince with new ideas. It is a difficult balancing act to manage given that his party colleagues in Berlin carry on-going responsibility for the shared legacy of this current government. And accusations of complacency have been frequent, not least because the SPD appeared to back down under conservative pressure even where its core values are concerned. A recent example was the government report on poverty, compiled by the SPD-led Labour Ministry, later significantly rewritten by the Office of the Chancellor, missing in its final version key passages on the influence of lobbyists as well as the impact of growing inequality on social cohesion and economic growth.

The challenge ahead

There are cracks in the surface of Merkel’s global image of an unstoppable force for domestic economic growth and international leadership. Yet her ability to rebuff challengers both within her Bavarian sister party as well as from the extreme right, which has been caught up in constant infighting between its openly national socialist factions and the more UKIP-style Eurosceptic wing, has impressed the German electorate – and kept her safely ahead in the polls over the past weeks. Merkel demonstrates what “strong and stable leadership” looks like in practice, never taking her success for granted, always cultivating her image of forward-looking rationality, especially where her competitors take to alpha male noise in a scramble for media attention.

Even amongst the under-30s, Merkel’s omnipresent shadow over local politics guaranteed the conservatives a safe lead in last Sunday’s election. Not least because one might think they were talking about Macron’s youthful En Marche movement when cheering Merkel’s likely fourth turn as chancellor. Amidst young people’s euphoria for Merkel’s staunch defence of her open borders policy, her otherwise firmly conservative social values vis-à-vis the role of the family and LGBTQ rights, previously a significant impediment to young votes, seem a forgotten aspect in the public debate.

The greater diversity in political parties set to pass the five per cent hurdle on 24 September offers the possibility of triple alliances shaking up the traditional two party coalition setting. The Liberal Democrats, previously nearly vanished from the political landscape, have been pocketing AfD voters with a more politically correct version of their anti-open borders stance, which in turn raises the question of a possible “traffic light coalition” (SPD, Liberal Democrats, and Greens), should the social democrats be able to revive the Schulz euphoria.

Four months ahead of the election however, Merkel’s 12 per cent lead renders any radical shift in German politics highly unlikely. “Kohl’s girl” as the ambitious protégée of the last chancellor to hold office for 16 years was once dismissed, looks set to dominate German politics for the foreseeable future.


Project for Study of the 21st Century is a non-national, non-ideological, non-partisan organization. All views expressed are the author’s own.

Imagining 2030: the European Union 15 years after Brexit

An op-ed from the foreseeable future, by Peter Apps, PS21 executive director

As Lord Nigel Farage does the round of life-streaming chat shows in the run up to the fifteenth anniversary of the Brexit vote, it is hard to believe that the 67-year-old is still almost 4 years younger than Donald Trump was when he won the US presidential election that same year.

Both Brexit and the Trump victory were seen at the time very much as the revenge of an older generation that, younger liberals clearly hoped, would soon be gone again. That hasn’t quite happened – or at least, it hasn’t happened yet. Like so much else in politics, however, all sides of the political spectrum may well be reluctantly concluding that both defendants were both not quite as good and not quite as bad as they might initially have feared.

Trump may now have largely vanished from public life, aside from his occasional Twitter outbursts against the George Clooney presidency. Farage, however, is very much still with us. And as he has done his entire political life, he continues to preach that both the European Union and what is left of the European single currency remain on the brink of collapse. As he always has been, he is at least half-right – but the fact they have survived so long shows how simultaneously incorrect he has been as well.

For sure, the European Union is slightly smaller than it was in 2016. Britain’s departure might have taken longer than expected, but it is now – theoretically, at least – out, even if cynics might remark that the speed with which it keeps rejoining individual European projects means that barely matters.

The 2016 Brexit vote was, of course, considered as much a vote against the open borders of the European Union as anything else. The paradox, however, is that post-Brexit Britain now has a relatively more open immigration policy than many of those states still within the European bloc – at least if you have the money, skills or the willingness to do unpopular work that will get you through the UK’s now relatively streamlined border controls.

Indeed, you could argue that it is mainland Europe that has changed most since Brexit. Then, the UK was seen as a recalcitrant right-wing member state hitting back against the social democratic EU project. Now, the European Union is as much a club of center-right governments – indeed, some would say hard right – while Britain has been under a relatively liberal and surprisingly long-lived coalition for half a decade.

Much is still uncertain, however. It’s still entirely possible that Brexit may yet be seen as the beginning of the end of the European project – it just hasn’t happened yet.

The fact that the UK, Greece and – somewhat unexpectedly – Slovakia have been able to successfully leave parts of the project, however, has in part pointed to its somewhat unexpected strength. Greece was able to leave the euro in 2020 without leaving the European Union, in part because the development has been so widely expected for so long that its shock value was diminished.

The departure of Italy, in contrast, might well have trashed the European single currency forever. Its referendum on the subject in 2022, however, delivered a somewhat surprising vote to “remain”.

Nor, so far at least, have the truly far right parties of Europe – Alternative für Deutschland, France’s National Front – performed nearly as well as many had anticipated. A handful have briefly managed to get into government, but none have survived in the long run – although, not unlike Farage, they have,arguably been successful in changing the tone of the wider political environment,

The pendulum in Europe may nonetheless already be swinging back to the left. The popularity of Clooney on the continent, opinion polls suggest, far exceeds any of its own leaders. Of the next five elections, three or four look likely to deliver left-wing governments for the first time in more than a decade.

It’s this, perhaps, that helps explain as much as anything else why Farage himself – now in his fifth spell as leader of the perennially unsuccessful United Kingdom Independence Party – has never actually managed to be elected to political power.

His appointment to the House of Lords, some suspect, was only signed off by the current British government to make the second chamber easier to abolish.

Where Europe goes from here, frankly, is anyone’s guess. If nothing else, the ongoing threat from an increasingly unpredictable Russia continues to drive countries together, even as they try to tell themselves apart over a host of other disagreements. With Vladimir Putin now approaching his eighth decade, Moscow is unlikely to get any more predictable in the near future. NATO, like the EU, has therefore somehow held together – and seems likely still to do so.

Now, if only we knew what to do about all these robots who seem to be running everything.


Interested in contributing a piece to the series? E-mail us at

Project for Study of the 21st Century is a non-national, non-ideological, non-partisan organization. All views expressed are the author’s own. Furthermore, the story above does not reflect the views of any of the author’s affiliations.


The era of the lone wolf

By Linda Schlegel. Linda is an student of MA Terrorism Studies at King’s College London.

A man stands next to assailants’ car in Garland, Texas, USA, used in a lone wolf attack carried out by two gunmen in 2015

In Munich a gunman shot nine people, in Würzburg a man attacked train passengers with a knife and an axe, in Ansbach a suicide bomber detonated his bomb at a music festival and in Nice a man purposefully ran over pedestrians in a truck. Each of these attacks took place in the last year and were executed by individuals not belonging to a terrorist organization.

It is therefore not surprising that lone wolf terrorism is seen as an increasing problem. Terrorist acts planned and perpetrated by individual actors are not a new phenomenon, but have recently come to the forefront of public awareness again with what is apparently a significant increase in attacks of this kind. It has been suggested by some that lone actors form part of a deliberate strategy by Islamic terrorist organisations and by implication that that law enforcement and civil society alike should prepare for more of these types of attacks.

There are three questions to be answered in order to judge whether this concern is justified: a) What is lone wolf terrorism and how effective is it? b) Is this type of terrorism a deliberate strategy facilitated by violent armed groups? c) Is lone actor terrorism the future of attacks in the West?

There are many definitions of what constitutes a “lone wolf”, which vary to encompass small cells as well as individuals. For the purpose of this article Spaaij’s  definition will be used, which describes the lone wolf as somebody who “operates individually, does not belong to an organized terrorist group or network and whose modi operandi are conceived and directed by the individual without any direct outside command or hierarchy”. In other words, lone wolves are not part of a defined organization and do not take direct external orders.

This does not mean that lone actors need to be completely detached from features of group-based terrorism; for instance, lone actors often justify their actions through a particular ideology also espoused by organizations such as Salafi jihadism or right-wing extremism. Furthermore, lone actors are not literally alone; like most of us, these individuals are embedded in network structures of family, friends or acquaintances. The defining characteristic of a lone wolf is the perpetration of an attack by himself/herself without following an external order. An example of this is Anders Breivik, who was not formally a member of any violent political group and who executed every single step, from the planning, to the bomb making and the shooting, by himself and without support from the outside.

The 2016 RUSI report on lone actor terrorism showed that these types of attacks are generally not extremely effective with 1.22 fatalities per attack and 76% of attacks not causing any loss of life. In terms of effectiveness, Anders Breivik as well as the perpetrator in Nice, Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, are outliers in the data set producing a lot more fatalities than other lone actors. In general, attacks perpetrated by actors that can be classified as lone wolves are less common than other types of attacks. However, as shown before, recent years have seen a considerable increase in individual attackers, which leads to the question whether attacks of this nature are part of a change in strategy by leading terrorist organizations.

It is true that the so-called Islamic State endorse self-starter terrorists through its propaganda. The more general schism between different violent jihadist organizations about whether to target the ‘near enemy’ (i.e. regimes in the Middle East) or the ‘far enemy’  (Western democracies), seems to play a role in this. Whereas ISIS is very much focused on the establishment of a caliphate, in contrast to Al-Qaeda, it also underlines a determination to attack the far enemy.

For this purpose, it is far easier to recruit people already living in these Western countries and who could not be easily reached by a logistical support structure. Espousing lone wolf terrorism is a rational choice for IS. For instance, its ‘manual’ on how to use trucks for an attack apparently inspired the attacks in Nice and Berlin. There is also an increasing number of attacks being claimed by the Islamic State, which may or may not have been carried out with specific reference to its ideology. It is a strategic choice to accept responsibility for all kinds of violent acts and to exacerbate the fear that the organization can strike anywhere at any time. It may therefore appear that IS-inspired lone actor attacks are on the increase, although does not necessarily mean that this is the case.

A call to arms for individuals and willingness to claim responsibility for a variety of attacks may be part of a new strategy, but by itself it is not enough to explain the recent rise in individual actors engaging in terrorism. It is difficult for an organization to encourage lone actors without actively recruiting them and thereby making them part of the network rather than a lone wolf. A more general societal shift may help to explain why IS seems to succeed in this difficult undertaking.

As early as 2001, writer Marc Prensky observed that digital technology was beginning to fundamentally change the way that “digital natives” interacted; a digital native being somebody from the generation which has grown up using this technology. In his opinion digital natives process information in a very different way than previous generations did and are digitally ‘networked’ in all aspects of their lives. The group-level social factors used to explain terrorism, such as peer pressure, group-identity, a feeling of belonging and a radicalization through interaction were thought to require physical contact.

However, if Prensky is correct, the new generation of violent actors may not need this face-to-face interaction to radicalize and base its identity on the group. Because they are networked already, it is easier for them to construct a virtual community with the same effects on behavior as previous offline communities. Even though they may fulfill the criteria laid out in the definition of lone wolves, they themselves would refer to being a member of a group rather than a lone actor.

It may therefore be necessary in the future to alter out definition and understanding of what constitutes a lone actor. In the case of Salafi jihadism, it may not be necessary to have a recruiter in a mosque, but online propaganda could inspire enough identification with the ummah, the global community of Muslims, to take up arms. To be sure, there is significant debate about whether radicalization can take place purely online and more research on this issue is necessary, but it is a possibility that IS utilizes the characteristics of digital natives to inspire more self-starter terrorists far away from the caliphate.

Does this mean that lone wolf actors are the future of terrorism? The assessment is difficult. Based on previously acquired knowledge on lone wolves, these actors are more likely to have mental health problems and generally do not fit into group structures. These characteristics are generally only found in a small number of people, meaning that these actors alone cannot constitute the future of terrorism. However, the likelihood that exclusion and frustration may lead certain individuals to be inspired by lone wolf attacks should not be underestimated. Grievances are a powerful motivational source, especially if coupled with propaganda glorifying self-starter terrorism.

In addition to this, increasing travel restrictions and monitoring by state authorities may lead those who would have preferred to travel to Syria to join IS or another terrorist organization, to seek a different way of engagement, possibly with a lone actor attack. One of the key questions for terrorism research- why only some individuals employ violent means in response to grievances- remains unanswered for lone wolves and especially for the new generation of digitally-networked lone actors.

However, it is also worth noting that it is possible to engage in prevention and detection measures for lone wolves. John Horgan and his colleagues found that lone wolves tend to ‘leak’ their plans to family, friends or on the internet, which makes detection possible. In addition, many communities have taken on the task to prevent radicalization in youth; a measure that is also able to help potential lone wolves if the community makes an effort to include these individuals. Lone wolf terrorism is unlikely to take precedent over group-based attacks, but it is very possible that the increase of attacks in 2016 was part of a general trend towards an increase of this phenomenon.

PS21 is a non-national, non-governmental, non-ideological organisation. All views expressed are the author’s own.

London Event Nov 22- Lessons from war in Yemen

Tuesday 22nd November, 6:30-8:00pm

Oxford Research Group, Development House, 56-64 Leonard Street, London, EC2A 4LT

Of all the conflicts in which the West is found itself a player in the last decade, Yemen has proved one of the most enduring and complex. What was once the scene of a Western-backed attempt to prop up an unpopular local leader and fight Al Qaeda is now increasingly portrayed as a proxy conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran. As we head towards a new US administration and perhaps even more uncertainty in Europe, PS21 and the Remote Control Project pull together a uniquely qualified panel with a wide range of experience in the country to discuss its lessons and what might happen next.

Peter Apps [moderator] is executive director, PS21 and global affairs columnist, Thomson Reuters

Rafat Ali Al-Akhali was appointed in November 2014 as Minister of Youth and Sports in the Government of Yemen, a post he held until September 2015. Prior to his appointment, Rafat was leading the Policy Reforms team at the Executive Bureau for Acceleration of Aid Absorption and Support for Policy Reforms. In that position, Rafat led the planning and implementation of key reforms in Yemen including fuel subsidies, power sector, and civil service reforms. He also led business environment reforms and government efforts in private sector development.

Iain Smailes retired from the British Army in January 2016 after tours as defence attache in both Afghanistan and Yemen as well as deployments with the United Nations in Sierra Leone and Kosovo.

Mai Noman is a BBC Digital journalist covering the Middle East and founding member of “Kuni wa Kun”, a Yemeni youth initiative aiming to change perceptions and practices which hinder the development of women and the Yemeni society.

Emily Knowles joined Remote Control as project manager in March 2016. She has a background in conflict analysis and security policy, and tech current research focuses on the UK’s use of remote forms of warfare such as dronesAll, special forces, training and advisory missions in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Somalia and Libya.

Baraa Shiban is a human rights activist who works with the human rights organisation Reprieve. He investigated drone strikes across Yemen between 2012 and 2015. He also served as a member of the Yemeni National Dialogue (2013) – a body in charge of reviewing Yemeni laws and drafting its new constitution. He helped to run a media centre in Sanaa’s change square (2011). Baraa has worked with Yemeni civil society since 2006.

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