Human Security Series

MSC Side Event at the Tana Forum in Bahir Dar (May 2019)

Participants at the MSC Roundtable on the sidelines of the Tana Forum 2019 (Photo: MSC / Kuhlmann)

On May 3, the Munich Security Conference (MSC) – in partnership with the Tana High-Level Forum on Security in Africa (Tana Forum) and the African Union (AU) – hosted a roundtable and a panel discussion on the sidelines of this year’s Tana Forum in Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. More than 40 high-ranking representatives of governments, research institutions and civil society came together to discuss the future of peacekeeping missions on the African continent. The event in Ethiopia was the first of three MSC meetings to be held in Africa this year.

About the Human Security Series

Over the past decades, security threats have become ever more complex. Accordingly, the traditional notion of national and international security had to be broadened to reflect the multitude of threats to human livelihood. Some of the past years' most significant security crises have further alerted the security community to the fact that human hardship – caused by climate change, environmental degradation, or human rights violations – oftentimes is the root cause of serious, sometimes even armed conflict.

Effective responses to these challenges must build on a cross-sectoral and multi-disciplinary approach. That is why the Munich Security Conference organizes events on issues such as health, migration, and the environment and thus promotes discussions and collaboration between the security community and development officials and experts, NGO leaders, international organizations, the research community, and the private sector. Building in particular on the success of its activities of the issue of health security, the MSC is now grouping its activities on these issues in the Human Security Series.

Summits, Roundtables and other activities

As part of the Human Security Series, the MSC organizes numerous events, which vary in size.

MSC Summits address an audience of up to 150 high-profile representatives from government, academia, the military, the private sector and civil society, while also retaining the MSC's trademark atmosphere of open exchange and frank debates in an exclusive setting. These summits aim to bring together leaders from various stakeholders to develop strategies for issues in environmental, humanitarian and health security.

MSC Roundtables are intimate, off-the-record gatherings of no more than 40 participants taking place throughout the year at the sidelines of high-level international events around the world. The topics of discussion are tailored to reflect current debates and challenges to human security, attracting high-ranking representatives from governments, academia, militaries, the private sector and civil society.

In addition to the events specifically dedicated to the topic, human security issues play an important role at all MSC activities. The MSC stages panel discussions as well as a growing number of side events on human security issues at the annual flagship conference in Munich and at the MSC's Core Group Meetings. Further, the MSC regularly includes chapters on human security issues in its annual Munich Security Reports, such as a chapter on environmental security in the 2018 edition of the report.

Past Events

Health Security Roundtable in Munich (2019)

On February 15, on the sidelines of its annual main conference, the MSC hosted a Roundtable on Health Security. In an intimate setting, it united 20 participants from politics, international organizations, the private sector, the military, and the business community, to discuss current and future challenges related to health security.

The main topic discussed was the need for greater cooperation and trust between the public sector, civil society, the private sector, and the military, to handle catastrophic outbreaks of diseases. The debate also suggested that the international community needed to pay far more attention to the effects of urbanization and population growth. Participants pointed to outstanding achievements with regard to fighting Polio and HIV, providing access to clean water, and vaccinations in general, which resulted from technological improvements and systematic cooperation within the health security sector. As the main barrier to further progress, participants identified a lack of financial resources, an issue that in their view needed to be tackled by the international community.

Roundtable on Human Security Bahir Dar (April 2018)

On April 20, the MSC organized a Human Security Roundtable on the sidelines of the Tana High-Level Forum on African Security. Around 50 high-ranking representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society attended to advance the debate on mitigating effects of climate change and other environmental security hazards. The event was organized in partnership with the Tana Forum and the African Union. The Munich Security Conference has a unique relationship with the Tana Forum, which the MSC helped to set up seven years ago. Reflecting its commitment to a forward-thinking discourse on security in Africa, the MSC periodically returns to Bahir Dar, Ethiopia, to promote the discussion of global challenges from an African perspective.

As extreme weather events, such as heat waves and coastal flooding, occur more frequently across Africa, societies throughout the region become more exposed to the consequences of climate change – even more so as local governments lack sufficient capacities and financial resources to mitigate them.

The potential impact on stability, peace and development across the continent and wide-reaching repercussions for Europe and beyond is enormous. Thus, the MSC will continue to regularly revisit this issue in its future activities, and work to intensify cooperation with African partners. As Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger stated, MSC engagement in Africa is "a strategic priority for the next decade."

The key discussions from the Roundtable are summarized in our report. You can find select photo and video impressions from the event
in our media library.

Roundtable on Health Security Munich (2018)

The MSC continued its work on health security issues and focused this year's roundtable discussion on the crucial topic of healthcare provision in conflict zones. Participants from non-governmental organizations, governments, international organizations as well as the military were present to discuss the implications of the growing number of attacks on healthcare facilities.

Participants agreed that the increasing number of attacks on health care infrastructure constituted a new level of disregard for international humanitarian law, especially of the Geneva Conventions. The discussants deplored that despite the adoption of UN Security Council resolution 2286 demanding all actors stop targeting health care infrastructure, there has not been significant improvement. Speakers underscored that it was particularly alarming that not only non-state actors in conflicts carry out those attacks, but state-actors, too.

Roundtable on Human Security Munich (2018)

In 2018, the MSC organized its first Roundtable on Human Security, which brought together a wide array of experts and representatives with special expertise in the human dimension of security policy.

During the roundtable, participants discussed diverse dimensions of human security, touching on issues such as environmental degradation, protection of human rights, displacement, food security, and public health. In particular, the discussion delved into how these issues have a significant potential to trigger and drive conflicts in regions such as Africa, the Middle East, and Asia. Participants agreed that there is a need for a more interconnected approach when addressing security policy issues in conflict-prone regions.

Health Security Roundtable Berlin (2017)

On October 16, 2017, the Munich Security Conference organized a Health Security Roundtable on the sidelines of the World Health Summit in Berlin. The Roundtable was co-hosted by the MSC and the World Health Summit.

The discussions at the roundtable mostly focused on the fragmentation in Global Health Security leadership after the reforms post-Ebola. The discussants agreed that despite some real progress, overall progress has been mixed. Accordingly, participants urged the global community to provide more financial resources, identified significant capacity gaps at country level, and asked for clearer accountability mechanisms. As the world faces an unprecedented number of health emergency crises, time is running out in the fight against the next epidemic. 

Introductory remarks were offered by Ambassador Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the MSC, Detlev Ganten, Founding President of the World Health Summit, Suerie Moon, Director of Research at the Global Health Centre in Geneva, and Peter Salama, Executive Director of the Health Emergencies Programme at the World Health Organization. The roundtable was moderated by David Heymann, Head and Senior Fellow at Chatham House's Centre on Global Health Security.

A report on the roundtable can be found here. See our Media Library for a selection of photos from the event.

Health Security Roundtable Washington (May 2017)

The MSC organized a Health Security Roundtable at the margins of its Core Group Meeting, which was held on May 9/10 2017, in cooperation with the Global Health Policy Center of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). The two organizations assembled experts from politics, the military, business, science and non-governmental organizations.

The threat of bioterrorism was the focus of the discussions. The topic has become more relevant again through advances in the field of biotechnology (e.g. CRISPR), which have simplified the manipulation of pathogens significantly, as well as through the continuous terrorist threat. Participants were also interested as to whether the US will pursue its global leadership role in the area of health security under the new US administration led by Donald Trump.

Introductory remarks were offered by Tim Ziemer, Senior Director for Health Security and Biodefense at the National Security Council, Wendy Sherman, former Under Secretary of State, as well as Rob Nabors, Head of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation's Washington Office. The roundtable was moderated by J. Stephen Morrison, Director of the Global Health Policy Center at CSIS. A report on the roundtable can be found here.

Health Security Roundtable in Munich (February 2017)

On the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference 2017, which took place from February 17 to 19, the MSC hosted together with Chatham House and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation the Health Security Roundtable "Ready or Not? Addressing Gaps in the Global Surveillance and Response System." The roundtable brought together leadings experts and representatives of organizations from the field of Health Security to discuss the issues of pandemic preparedness in ungoverned spaces as well as attacks on health care infrastructure.

Among the high-ranking participants of the roundtable were Christopher Elias (President of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation), Joanne Liu (International President of Médecins Sans Frontières), Peter Maurer (President of the International Committee of the Red Cross), Alaa Murabit (Founder and President of The Voice of Libyan Women), Stefan Oschmann (Chairman of the Executive Board and Chief Executive Officer of Merck), Peter Salama (Executive Director of the Health Emergencies Programme of the World Health Organization) and Thomas D. Waldhauser (Commander of the African Command of the United States of America). The roundtable was moderated by Robin Niblett (Director of Chatham House).

Read Chatham House's report on the roundtable here.

Health Security Roundtable in Berlin (2016)

On October 9, the Munich Security Conference (MSC) organized a Health Security Roundtable on the sidelines of the World Health Summit at the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin. Together with the M8 Alliance, the MSC brought together leading representatives from international organizations, policy-makers, and researchers to discuss current challenges for global health security.

The debate mainly revolved around the nexus between health and security and the lessons learned from recent health security crises, especially the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Among the Roundtable participants were Detlev Ganten, Founding President of the World Health Summit, Matshidiso Rebecca Moeti, Regional Director for Africa of the World Health Organization, Victor J. Dzau, President, National Academy of Medicine, Yves Daccord, Director General of the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as Florian Westphal, Director of Médécins Sans Frontières, Germany. For more info on the event, take a look at the conference report as well as selected photos from the event.