CSS Pressing Questions Competition – Part 2

Is there an author or piece of work from a discipline outside the traditional boundaries of international relations and security studies that you think is important for contemporary practitioners of security and strategy to be familiar with?

If so, which author/work, and why?

Winner: Caleb Weaver

Caleb Weaver is a first-year MALD student studying human security and international political economy. He has conducted research into the forging of transnational partnerships between labor unions and human rights organizations. Prior to enrolling at Fletcher, he served as an Episcopal Service Corps fellow at Emmaus House, a church ministry providing social services, education, and leadership development in Atlanta, Georgia.

What can security practitioners learn from Pope Francis?

Despite the global reach of his position, the Pope is generally not the first source consulted by foreign policy decision-makers. Pope Francis’ written works, however, offer vital lessons for those working to ensure human security and grapple with the causes and effects of conflict across the world.

In the first years of his papacy, Francis was lauded for his moral clarity in response to climate change and the Mediterranean refugee crisis, particularly with the publication of his encyclical Laudato Si’. A full reading of Laudato Si’, however, reveals that Francis not only addresses these issues directly, but offers an integrated and contextualized view of their implications for security and foreign policy.

Practitioners within the vast and complex US security ecosystem, which often struggles to act in a coordinated fashion, would benefit from observing the success of his efforts to disseminate the encyclical’s message throughout the Church’s confederation of organizations and institutions, mobilizing a coordinated and concerted effort to implement his call to action.

Further, Francis followed Laudato Si’ with the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, which lays out an ambitious program for institutional reform within the global Church, one of the world’s most slow-moving and hidebound institutions. At a time when voters across the world express their alienation from political and military institutions by either choosing parties and candidates with destabilizing agendas or disengaging from the democratic process altogether, leaders in the realm of security, strategy, and foreign policy should take into careful consideration Francis’ call for institutions that respond to human needs and form strong connections to those that they serve. Likewise, Francis’ efforts to elevate Church leaders from the developing world and the Global South is a model for efforts that all practitioners of security and strategy must undertake within their institutions in order to remain relevant.

Leaders will also benefit from reflection upon the challenges that Francis poses to security decision-makers and the foreign policy sector specifically. Informed by his experiences under Argentina’s military dictatorship, he speaks and writes frankly regarding the temptation high-level strategic thinkers face to overlook the implications of their ideas for the world’s most vulnerable people.

The relevance of the Pope’s approach to conflict and security is clear in the diplomatic initiatives that it has led him to undertake during his papacy. Francis and other Vatican officials played a critical role in the secret negotiations that restored diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba, have in Venezuela delicately balanced a call for dialogue—and against violence—with support for that country’s democracy and human rights advocates, and most recently, used the Pope’s visit to Colombia to lend crucial support to the beleaguered peace deal between the government and FARC guerrillas.

The worldview that informs and motivates such impactful action to promote human security is certainly worthy of additional study and reflection.

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