What will be new about 2021?

Wednesday 6th January, 6:30pm BST

2020 was a year like no other, consumed by a global pandemic, societies, cultures, workplaces, global relations were changed and the status quo shifted. As the new year approaches and the world starts to look beyond the coronavirus what will have changed, what will be new and what will 2021 look like? Our panel of experts discuss their predictions and hopes for the year ahead.

Speakers to include:

Christine Mikolajuk (Moderator) – Management consultant, freelance writer and media contributor

Frances Hudson – Former global thematic strategist at Standard Life

Ana Bozovic – Geopolitics and financial specialist & Founder of Analytics Miami

Nigel Inkster – Former deputy head of MI6, current Director of Transnational Threats and Political Risk at the International Institute for Strategic Studies

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End of 2020 Virtual Networking Drinks

Tuesday 15th December, 6:30pm BST

2020 has been a strange year and as it draws to a close PS21 would like to do what it can to lift spirits and gather together some new faces in all global places!

Join us for an hour to toast the end of 2020 with zoom networking and ice breakers

Bring your own christmas jumpers, good cheer and drinks! Participants will be split into smaller groups, with icebreaking questions on what all have learnt from a very strange year, as well as your expectations, predictions, hopes and fears for 2021.

This event will be held online. Signup details will be sent to those who sign up on the link below.

Get your free ticket 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 ps21central@gmail.com.

What does “security” mean in 2020?

Thursday, October 29th, 6:30pm BST

As Covid-19 reshapes the world and Britain begins its Integrated Defence and Security Review, what does the word “security” really mean in 2020 – and what structures, skills and mindsets are necessary to achieve it. This PS21 virtual panel will examine those questions, as well as how the UK can balance geopolitics, human rights and fast changing technology to survive and thrive in an increasingly messy, complex century.

Speakers to include:

Aditi Gupta (Moderator) – All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drones, on the board for Women of Color Advancing Peace and Security UK

Abigail Watson – Conflict and Security Policy Coordinator at Saferworld

Josh Arnold-Forster – Defence consultant and former Special Adviser to UK Defence Secretary John Reid

Emma Salisbury – PhD candidate at Birbeck College specialising in emerging technology and the military-industrial complex.

Get your free ticket 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 ps21central@gmail.com.

The future of geopolitics in a COVID-19 world

Tuesday, October 6th, 6:30pm BST

Six months after Covid-19 shutdown the world and put PS21 on enforced hiatus, the Project for the Study of the 21st Century is back…

2020 has been a very strange year – but how much will it truly change the world? With multilateralism in doubt, rising tensions between multiple nations and strained domestic politics around the globe, PS21 examines the politics, geopolitics and dynamics of the post-Covid world – when that finally does come.

This discussion brings together a panel of experts to give us an update on what’s been happening these last few months and discuss what lies ahead for geopolitics. As the world teeters on the edge of a new lockdown, it marks the beginning of a new PS21 series of virtual events bringing together voices from around the globe to examine how our world is changing.

As always with PS21, discussion will be fast moving, sometimes irreverent, incisive, wide-ranging and thought-provoking…

Speakers to include:

Christine Mikolajuk (Moderator) – Management consultant, freelance writer and media contributor

Ari Ratner – Founder and CEO of Inside Revolution. Former US State Department official.

Ana Bozovic – Founder Analytics Miami

Ali Wyne – Nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security, nonresident fellow at the Modern War Institute.

Get your free ticket 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 ps21central@gmail.com.

London Event January 15 – 2020: The Year Ahead

PS21 2020 the year ahead event

Wednesday, January 15th, from 06:30 p.m., Bush House(SE) room 1.05, King’s College London, Strand, WC2R 2LS


PS21’s 2020 event program kicks off with a panel discussion looking at key themes that will define the first year of the new decade. Touching upon all topical issues such as international relations, technology, regional politics, conflict, economics and climate change.


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

Nigel Inkster, Former MI6 Deputy Chief

Pepijn Bergsen, Research Fellow, Europe Programme, Chatham House

Alexandria Reid, Research Analyst at Royal United Services Institute

Lara Srivastava – Lawyer, media and technology adviser to governments and international organisations


Doors open at 06:00 p.m., with discussion beginning at 06:30 p.m.

Get your free ticket 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 ps21central@gmail.com.

London Event 9 October – Careers in Foreign Policy

Wednesday, 9 October, from 06:30 PM, Room 1.01, Bush House NE wing, King’s College London, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS.

PS21 is pairing with YPFP to bring you a careers focused discussion on the foreign policy sector. We have assembled a panel of young experts to talk about their experiences in work, opinions on the sector as a whole and to provide advice to those aspiring to work in foreign policy. The event is an incredible opportunity for students to engage with experts who have recently left university.


Samuel Genge (moderator) – Chief of Staff, PS21

Yasmin Afina – Research Assistant, International Security Department, Chatham House

Mathieu Boulègue – Research Fellow, Russia and Eurasia Programme, Chatham House

Gurjinder Dhaliwal – Executive Director of YPFP.

Kyle Parks – Civil Servant and Diplomatic Service Fast Streamer

Elisa Cattaneo – Expert in international development, Youth Business International

Ulrike Esther Franke – Policy Fellow, European Council on Foreign Relations

Doors open 6pm, discussion begins 6:30pm.
Please bring photo ID.

Sign up 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 ps21central@gmail.com.

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.

Sign up 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 ps21central@gmail.com

PS21 Event Writeup: ‘New year, new thinking? Ideas to define 2019’

By Janosch Siepen

Photo Credit: Tristan Turner

The event on the 15th of January – New Year, new thinking? Ideas to define 2019 – took place at Juju’s Bar and Stage. It was  moderated by Peter Apps, Reuters Global Affairs Columnist, Founder and Executive Director of PS21.

Gwenn Lainé, Director of Production at ARK Group, former Naval Officer, said that there needed to be a extensive revision of social and political concepts for 2019 and beyond. That included reassessing the role of the state, as well as dealing with enormous challenges of demographics and migration. The centre of gravity in the world was shifting to Asia, he said, while the West was seeing an increasing mood of isolationism and non-interventionalism. This was visible in the military, humanitarian, and diplomatic spheres, he said, pointing to the U.S. withdrawal from Syria, forgotten war in Yemen, and broader U.S. government shutdown all as signs of this.

Very different norms were appearing in emerging economies in Africa and Asia, he said, while China had ist own very different world view and ambitions. Reconciling these would be key to surviving the coming decades.

Frances Hudson,  described a general aversion among people to complexity, while a need to believe that society exists in an ordered world. Hudson said people tended to see trends but are very bad at prediction and and probability assessment.

She expected a further rise in the importance of technology, data and Artificial Intelligence – trends that will become ever more important for industries like healthcare. Hudson said that the UK was ahead in this field, citing robotic advances in surgery. Hudson also predicted a change in social attitudes. Hudson said we need take responsibility for our own health and stop blaming what is perceived to be a flawed health system.

Other health advances might provide further reasons to be optimistic. Potential further breakthroughs included using bacterial „phages“ to use friendly bacteria to promote bodily health. Overall, she predicted a future in which humans could generally find themselves happier and healthier.

Nigel Inkster, former Deputy Chief of  the Secret Intelligence Service and Senior Advisor at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, spoke about China in 2019. Beijing was increasingly keen to reorganise the world in its own image and interests, he said, particularly in its own immediate neighborhood- but was also facing increasing international resistance to doing so.

Inkster compared the rise of nationalism within China now to that in Japan in the early 20th century. Japan’s fear of inferiority and shock of being open to the West ultimately fueled aggressive expansionism, and some regional powers worry the same may happen for China. Within China, for example, the widespread theft of intellectual property from the West was seen as largely justified due to the previous excesses of imperialism, such as the Opium Wars.

China was particularly keen to embrace technological change, he said, fearing it could not afford to miss the twenty-first century technological revolution in the way it missed the nineteenth.  Beijing had real worries about the impact of slowing growth, he added, with the trade war with the United States therefore a real and growing worry.

Jessica Toale, former chair of the Fabian Society International Group, said new thinking was needed to tackle a range of problems in 2019 and beyond, with a particular focus on boosting sustainability. She cited particular examples from her recent experience travelling the world, arguing tourists and business travelers alike would increasingly need to make much more educated choices to prevent environmental damage, particularly as globalisation massively increases numbers able to travel. As an example, she pointed to a beach in Thailand, featured in the Leonardo DiCaprio film “The Beach” ,which was now closed due to excessive numbers visiting.

Douglas Ollivant, former U.S. Army officer and Managing Partner at Mantid International, said Donald Trump would continue to disrupt the status quo in 2019 for good and ill. That would include continuing to question NATO, he predicted, as well as withdrawing from Syria and further increasing tensions with Iran. Some of these moved would be more justifiable than others, he said, with the long-term presence of U.S. troops in Syria particularly hard to justify legally or politically. While Trump would likely continue to be softer on Russia than his predecessors, he would continue to be harder on China, Ollivant said – an approach that might well have a legacy beyond his presidency.

While East and West coasts had largely recovered from the 2008 financial crash, other areas have not, he said. Political attention on migrants arriving from Central American and boyond would likely linger, he said, particularly as migration continued to be as broadly threatening. it was not clear if this would lead to greater U.S. attention on the problems migrants were often fleeing, particularly conflicts in Central and Latin America.

Felicity Morse, Journalist, Life Coach and social media specialist, said many of the problems of 2019 originated from politicians and others not being entirely honest. Citing her experiences as a life coach, she said deception- whether self deception or deliberate misleading of others- invariably produced drama. But whether populations were ready for politicians and other leaders to be entirely honest about policies and other options was an entirely different matter. Populations and individuals often reacted badly when confronted with uncomfortable truths, she said.

Social media also appeared to be focusing more popular attention that ever on negative facts and arguments over their positive and negative alternatives, she said. This appeared to be fueling further anger. People were more likely to share content they hated than that they liked, she said, let alone that which challenged them.

London Event 15 January – New year, new thinking? Ideas to define 2019

Tuesday, 15 January, 6pm,  Juju’s Bar and Stage, Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London. 

PS21’s 2019 event program kicks off with a panel discussion looking at key themes that will define the year. In the run up to the World Economic Forum in Davos, we’re looking at both what will shape a rapidly changing world, and what should be done to make it better.


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

Frances Hudson – Global Thematic Strategist, Aberdeen Standard Life.

Georgina Wright – Senior Researcher, Brexit, Institute for Government

Henry Wilkinson – Head of Intelligence and Analysis, Risk Advisory Group.

Jessica Toale – Former chair, Fabian Society International Group.

Jonn Elledge – Journalist, assistant editor of the New Statesman’s cities site.

Felicity Morse – Journalist, Life Coach, social media specialist

Doors open at 06:00 p.m., with discussion beginning at 07:00 p.m. and as usual, the bar will be open throughout. 

Sign up here.

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PS21 Event Writeup: “Sex, Identity and Society in 2030”

On the 17th of July 2018, PS21 held a panel discussion on Sex, Identity and Society in 2030. After an introduction and welcome by PS21’s Executive Director – Peter Apps, the panel’s speakers began their individual analysis.

Joana Ramiro, freelance writer and commentator on the sexual and romantic experiences of women began by pointing out that almost one half of women between the age of 25 and 34 do not find intercourse with their male partners enjoyable, as statistically documented by Public Health England. Ramiro placed the blame for this on multiple facets, including the fact that many men do not take their female partners enjoyment into consideration and the fact that women are reluctant to tell their male partners what they desire in the bedroom.

Ramiro then argued that the problem is a collective one, caused by the status of women in society and societal inequalities that exist between the sexes. Ramiro argues that women are inherently taught to put up with bad sex. Looking into the future, she believes that reduced power imbalance between men and women through equality will encourage women to pursue more enjoyable sex.

Tom Whipple, Science Correspondent for The Times and author of ‘X and Why The rules of attraction: Why gender still matters‘ speculated two opposing predictions of sex in 2030; the first being that ‘sex will be the same’ and the second being ‘lack of inter-human sex, will destroy humanity’. To support the first prediction, Whipple argued that the behaviour and trends of sexual demographics do not change with time and technology. The evidence he provided where the results of a 1970’s experiment, which demonstrated that two thirds of male participants where open to casual sex with a stranger of the opposing sex while 100% of female participants where not. Whipple compared this to similar contemporary levels of male – female reciprocation found in analytical data sourced from dating apps.

Whipple forewarned of the rise of sex robots by presenting the popularity of sex aids with female consumers, suggesting that continuation of sex aid proliferation could mean future sex toys will provide a preferable alternative to human partners. Whipple quoted a study that found that two thirds of men and women would have intercourse with a sex robot if the option was available, a statistic that Whipple claims could be an understatement. Whipple concluded that humanity could face a slow and anti-climactic extinction if robotic partners become more favourable than human ones.

Jemimah Steinfeld, author of ‘Little Emperors and Material Girls: Sex and Youth in Modern China‘ focused on China’s one child policy and the generational/social implications is it has had on dating and sex in china. Due to the preference for male children during its enforcement, Steinfeld pointed out that there are currently 116 men to every 100 women in China, thus many men in China could go their entire lives without having a serious relationship with a member of the opposite sex.

Steinfeld also explained how this problem affects women. Women in China are labelled with derogatory terms if they are unmarried by the age of 27. Steinfeld ended by warning that with growing worries over falling fertility rates, China could well become very regressive in terms of limiting women’s choices as well as access to contraception and abortion. The LGBT community also felt increasingly pressurised, she said, even though it was hard to tell how this would play out in the future.

Jacqui Gavin, civil servant and advocate of transgender rights, spoke about the complex nature of the transgender space and, as a result, the issues around developing policy for the transgender demographic. Gavin, a transgender woman, explained that the main concern is that there are many numerous different identities within the community, each with its own varied characteristics. This means that the political needs of each gender are specific, making the development of objective policy that applies to the entire space problematic. To conclude, Gavin reasoned that a consensus must be met within the space as to what its’ members want, one such example could be continued integration into social norms.

Freelance writer Amna Saleem, author of ‘Why Interracial Relationships aren’t a magical cure to racism’ commented on the contemporary nature of interracial relationship in the UK, using her own relationship as an example of problems faced by interracial couples. Saleem opened by offering statistics on ethnicity in the UK, stating that in general, ethnic groups are becoming progressively more affluent and integrated with other societal groups, resulting in a growing number interracial relationship.

Saleem explained that problems faced by interracial couples did not frequently take the form of overt racism, instead it is frequently pre-conception and stigma that lead to incorrect assumptions about interracial relationships. A white man in a relationship with a non-white woman is sometimes seen to have ‘traded down’ and vice versa, she said, while even within ethnic communities, certain attributes such as skin colour and hair become the basis for judgments on beauty and worth.

Peter Apps, Reuters Global Affairs Columnist and PS21 Executive Director commented on his own personal experience of relationships and sex as a quadriplegic person. Apps said that modern mass-market dating apps appeared to increasingly marginalise many disabled people, with users making snap judgements that often excluded them. However, he also said society – and individuals – simultaneously appeared evermore open to a variety of relationships, speaking frankly of his own experience of being rejected, fetishised and everything in between.


The following discussion, moderated by Daily Telegraph Assistant Comment Editor Laurence Dodds, ranged widely in scope and topic. One audience member asked whether we should become much broader in our expectation of what sex robots might look like, with suggestions ranging from gelatinous sleeping bags to some kind of ‘sexy mist’. There was also discussion of the increased use of smaller sex toys, with little clarity on where the divide might be.

There was discussion on the potential for authoritarian states using dating apps for social control, as well as how changing technology had affected the dating scene over the last decade. Traditionally, women were seen as having the privilege of refusal, while men had the privilege of choice, but experience from the panel suggested that might, in some respects at least, be changing.

Asked what it would take for people to have significantly better sex by 2030, the panel highlighted communication, social openness and, perhaps most important of all, an effective, supportive broader society that provides the opportunity for its citizens to live and express themselves as they wish.

Photo credit: Larrissa Penny


Britain’s sorry return to imperial ignorance

By Tim Abington. Tim is currently pursuing an undegraduate degree in International Relations at the University of Birmingham. 

The partition of India is of one of Britain’s most monumental colonial blunders. It is an overwhelming testament to the horror that can be caused by a state’s lack of foresight; lack of knowledge and lack of understanding.

So it is somewhat ironic that in the same year as the atrocities’ 70th anniversary, one of Britain’s greatest assets in tackling ‘imperial ignorance’ is to lose yet another chunk of funding. 

Savings targets in one country, sectarian violence in another

The BBC Monitoring service seeks out, identifies and analyses information from foreign (and often obscure) news outlets across the globe with an aim of providing its beneficiaries (including both the Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office) with ‘a wider understanding of the world’.

Government funding for the service ended in 2013, a decision that at the time was criticised as woefully short sighted and ill-thought out. This year the service is to lose a further £4 million.

The results of Britain’s past ignorance have already left the globe with social scars and sectarian violence, it appears that there is a determination to add to them in a bid to meet savings targets.

It was on these pages a year ago that Cat Tully argued for long-term thinking in the face of uncertainty. It has been the more subtle signals acquired from a BBC Monitoring analysis of foreign local media, that have provided the knowledge that allowed the FCO to respond.

Despite providing this critical service, the financial pressure that has been piled on under the guise of ‘efficiency savings’ continues into a fifth year.

A steady, slow decline in UK influence abroad

The news that Britain had fallen in its position on the Soft Power index was unfortunately, unsurprising. Two years ago the UK led this particular index, it fell first to the United States and it has now been usurped by the French Republic.

HM Government appears to have an apparent determination to continue this trend of decline.

In 2016 the index publishers, Portland Communications, noted that the FCO had recorded funding losses of 41% in the department’s budget since 2010. The British Council, another vanguard of British influence across the globe recorded similar funding cuts, a loss of a quarter of its budget.

There have been convincing cases (indeed, several have been put forward by PS21 panelists) that have dismissed soft power as a purely academic pursuit. After all, it is machine guns and mortars that win wars, not foreign language television shows.

Yet, the face of conventional warfare has changed. Several years ago a missile fired across the airspace of a key American ally would most likely have justified retaliation beyond a strongly worded condemnation.

Moreover, the world (at the time of writing) has not yet descended into thermonuclear warfare, leaving media outlets and foreign services the main frontmen for a nation’s interests abroad.

Shots across the bows, gun boats and cannonfire are no longer what determines a nation’s influence. Gone are the days where an imperial empire could use a man-of-war to force a treaty upon a minor state.

In June the UK suffered an embarrassing and humiliating defeat at the United Nations.  By a margin of 94 to 15 countries, delegates supported a Mauritian-backed resolution to seek an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the legal status of the Chagos Islands. 22 EU member states, including France and Germany, abstained.

Although it was an impressive victory for the tiny nation, the outcome of the United Nations resolution is far from certain, given the UK’s opposition to the involvement of the ICJ. But it must act as a warning. An indication that Britain can no longer assume to be secure in its international standing abroad.

Today, any article touching on UK international relations can not fail to mention Brexit at least once. Prior to the Brexit vote, such a result would have been unprecedented. Mauritius’ total GDP is less than Birmingham, Bradford or even Brighton. The loss of the support of fellow Europeans in the debating chamber will inevitably create more embarrassment for Britain.

Never has it been more necessary to reinforce the image of the UK abroad.

It has been scorned by Europe, belittled by the BRICs and is now becoming irrelevant across much of the globe. Britain must re-envisage the way it operates abroad. As conventional ‘big gun’ warfare begins to decline, different forms of influence are required for the UK to remain at the top table. Soft power offers a way for Britain to continue to operate globally; it must not try and undermine it in the name of austerity.

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


Democracy in the UK – Why Theresa May’s comments on fighting extremism are exactly what the terrorists want

By Linda Schlegel. Linda is currently pursuing an MA in Terrorism, Security, and Society at King’s College London.

Following the recent terrorist attack in London that left seven dead and several wounded and in light of the previous two attacks on Westminster Bridge and in Manchester, British Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to allow for more extensive law enforcement measures in fighting extremism. The Prime Minister stated that if human rights laws would prevent the government from pursuing their agenda against extremism, the government would “change the laws so we can do it”. UK intelligence services already possess a variety of intrusive powers to manage the threat that is perceived as especially challenging in Great Britain today, namely identifying, monitoring and countering ‘homegrown’ extremists and their supporters. The British counter-terrorism strategy CONTEST outlines not only how to pursue terrorists, but extensively elaborates on both violent and non-violent extremism and how both need to be addressed by the government. In giving this speech and even more when changing the laws, Theresa May does more than fuelling an already divisive discourse in the UK, she may unintentionally increase the support for terrorist organizations such as ISIS and Al-Qaeda.

The debate of security versus freedom is arguably as old as state structures themselves. As Hobbes already theorized, we trade part of our personal freedom to be protected by a larger collective. Today’s understanding, however, limits the amount of freedom(s) a state entity is allowed to restrict, first and foremost the unalienable human rights laid out in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Prime Minister May’s comments suggest that she is willing to undermine decades of human rights protection in the UK in order to fight extremism and terrorism. It is hardly a proportional response to the threat terrorism poses to the citizens in the United Kingdom to put non-negotiable rights in jeopardy. In 2015, there were about 1,700 fatalities due to car accidents in the UK, a number more than 34 times higher than the death rate caused by terrorism in 2017 and almost five times as much as in the worst year of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. The disproportionality becomes even more evident when compared to the more than half a million death due to flu in the UK in 2015 alone.

Disproportionality and the possible deconstruction of long-standing progress on human rights protection in the UK are, however, not the only issue with May’s declared plan to limit human rights in the fight against terrorism. By putting human rights in jeopardy or even by simply stating the willingness to do so, May risks becoming an aid to the very forces she seeks to fight.

Social movement theory has long known the concept of political opportunity structure. Organizations seeking to change the status quo and to recruit supporters to their cause do not bring forward their propaganda in a vacuum. Social movements rely on a constant interplay between their own actions and the actions of the political elite and governments, that is, the political situation their potential supporters find themselves in. Governments can limit or increase the opportunity structures movements can use, for example by choosing between allowing protests to take place or to fight the protesters. Certain scholars even take this one step further, advocating for state constructivism theory. Building on Jeff Goodwin’s work No Other Way Out, scholars such as Tom Parker have argued that state actions ‘construct’ or help revolutionary movements by making it possible to associate pre-existing grievances with state actions against a certain group. Parker discusses how “democratic states unintentionally sustain the terrorist movements they oppose” whereas Jessica Wolfendale argues that many of the current counterterrorism practices pose a greater threat than terrorism itself.

Prime Minister May’s first duty is to protect British citizens, but the approach she seems to advocate for doing so may result in the exact opposite of what she seeks to achieve. Her speech and, if put into practice, the changes in laws will enlarge the political opportunity structure ISIS and other organizations already have to recruit young males, who feel isolated and misunderstood by the government and society at large. The British government could fall into the trap the terrorists set out for them by increasing the resonance of the terrorist’s narrative that Western governments are willing to perpetrate atrocities against Islam and the Muslim people even in their own countries and that therefore Western states need to be fought. ISIS, for example, brings forward the theme of ‘victimhood’ as one of the six key components researcher Charlie Winter identified in their propaganda output. Stating the intention to limit the human rights in the fight of extremism fuels the victimhood narrative certain jihadists employ to recruit Muslims in the West. The very government, whose job it is to build an inclusive society protecting minorities, can now be framed as willing to infringe upon fundamental rights of Muslims as they are the primary suspect group in today’s terrorism. As CONTEST, the UK’s counter-terrorism strategy, has been shown to be disproportionately felt by Muslim communities anyways, this rhetoric will only fuel the possible susceptibility to radical world views.

The Prime Minister openly stating the willingness to infringe upon human rights, a fundamental pillar of Western liberal democracy, the chances of further alienating certain parts of society cannot be overestimated, which may increase the risk of susceptibility to radicalization. Terrorists and the extremist ideologies behind their actions need to be countered by governments and security measures are necessary, but the risk of increasing violence seems immense in this case. State repression can exacerbate grievances, especially if felt disproportionately by a certain group in society and the British state runs the risk of playing into the hands of terrorist ideologues.

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