A security model that builds trust

Il·lustració © Nicolás Aznárez

Does the paradigm of traditional security, with territorial integrity, national sovereignty and public order as assets to be protected, suffice to tackle emerging challenges? It is a good starting point, but we must innovate and move towards the concept of critical security, which addresses the causes of conflicts and contributes to their transformation in a context of respect for human rights and a more integrated perspective –less punitive and coercive– that strengthens prevention and social cohesion.

Despite the fact that objective indicators may imply that we live in the most secure society in the history of mankind, the truth is that, in subjective terms, (in)security moves in another direction: fears multiply and become more firmly established in our day-to-day lives. The author Zygmunt Bauman has reflected a great deal on this fact with the concept of liquid modernity: how the constant social, family, environmental, technological and emotional changes faze us and induce fear and the perception of insecurity in us. At any rate, both security and the subjective perception thereof, hinge upon a multiplicity of factors that cover all areas of life, and that also act as communicating vessels, so that an insecurity manifested in a specific area ends up affecting the perception of insecurity in other areas.

These insecurities have different expressions and trigger conflicts, malaise and manifestations of discontent, dissent and disagreement, which are expressed in the form of political disaffection, polarisation, crisis, insecurities and mobilisations. According to data from the Mossos d’Esquadra [police force of Catalonia], between 2017 and 2019 there were approximately 18,200 mobilisations in Catalonia, 92% of which were peaceful.[1] In a rule of law, under the most traditional security paradigm, the chief mission of the security forces is to guarantee the fulfilment of rights and freedoms for all – for those who rally and for those who do not. And also to ensure citizen safety and security, with special attention devoted to people in situations of greater vulnerability, with strict observance of human rights. This security is also achieved by maintaining order and coexistence in the public space. This balance between guaranteeing rights and freedoms and maintaining public order is an eternal challenge; failure to do so can lead to democratic risks, political disaffection, discreditation of the police, problems of coexistence and loss of rights and freedoms.

[1] Informe d’avaluació i propostes de millora en la gestió de l’ordre públic [Report on the Evaluation and Proposals for Improvement in Public Order Management]. 29 June 2020.

One of the key factors for the proper management of rights conflicts on public streets is to be clear, as a starting point, that conflict is not negative, but is inherent to the human condition and has been the driving force of essential social changes in terms of rights and freedoms. That said, if the causes are not addressed and it is not managed, the expressions of conflict can be violent. Regardless of whether or not violent levels are reached in social conflicts, addressing and the possibility of transforming them have to start out from holistic and complex approaches. The response to an existing conflict can never be exclusively punitive, nor reductionist, in the sense of endeavouring to preserve the public order. Meanwhile, proceeding to the causes extends beyond the competence of public order and citizen security. In this context, citizen security should be considered as a much broader and cross-cutting area than citizen security understood in a traditional manner, which the security forces aim to preserve. In this vein, we could begin working from other paradigms, for example, from human security, which, as the United Nations[1] points out, is an approach that helps to overcome the widespread and intersectoral difficulties that affect citizens’ survival and dignity. Tackling conflicts with Alternative Conflict Management (ACM) tools fits into this paradigm.

And in this regard, the debate on violence is necessary. Based on the situation surrounding altercations in different cities of Catalonia in the protests over the imprisonment of Pablo Hasél, the debate on the types of violence has also been launched. There are at least four types: 1) direct violence, whether verbal, psychological or physical; 2) structural violence (poverty, weakening of democracy, violation of rights and freedoms, repression, etc.); 3) symbolic violence (acts or rituals that acknowledge violence), and 4) cultural violence, which includes ideas, norms, collective imagination, values and tradition. In our society, we can recognise various types of violence, which have various causes and that affect our lives more directly or indirectly. Therefore, the execution of an interdisciplinary analysis is essential.

In this analysis, we must first make a distinction between direct violence as a strategy, which exists as an instrument to achieve ideological goals, and violence that arises as an expression of unmanaged malaise, both individually and collectively. The practice of violence always bears a high impact on our democratic societies; it should not be ambiguous or fall into trivialisation. Knowing and understanding the causes of violence should not be confused with justifying or validating the practice of violence of any nature. In this regard, we must debate the conflict and forms of violence. Do we want societies devoid of rallying, devoid of conflict, numb societies, which do not evolve, where there is no room for disagreement or dissent? Again, the answer is clear: NO, bearing in mind that the right to demonstrate is a fundamental right.

Conflicts have to be interpreted positively and addressed from the ACM paradigm. Interpreting them as a driving force for change and as a questioning of the status quo to advance socially. Traditional security has often worked to maintain the status quo. We need more critical spirit, more dissent and room for disagreement; it is what gives meaning to true democracy. And progress in rights and freedoms is closely linked to all this. Now, what red lines do we collectively draw? Do we validate violence as a tool for mobilisation? Is it ethical and effective? Does it make us more effective in defending rights and freedoms? Do we want to justify violence, play down its use? I also have a clear answer here: NO. For the collective benefit – which is strategic and ethical – all violence must be isolated, by consensus. We must engage in debate and achieve consensus, also on issues that are difficult to agree on: can the specialised action of public order police services become a guarantee when all preventive and ACM action has proven insufficient? Could the legitimate use of force by the police corps – subject to criteria tied to opportunity, consistency and proportionality – be necessary to put a stop to escalations of violence, when other actions have failed?

[1] Resolution 66/290 of the United Nations General Assembly.

Il·lustració © Nicolás Aznárez © Nicolás Aznárez

At this point, it is necessary to think about how to deal with all this, to open the debate on the security model. At a time of growing disaffection towards institutions, having a security model that is not exclusively related to security, which generates trust, can be a key factor in fulfilling the rights to security and freedom and in contributing to the connection between citizens and the police. What security model do we want as a country? A traditional security model, which seems to fall short, to make the emerging challenges compatible with the full guarantee of rights and freedoms?

Assuming that the security model is not just a police model and that security addressed as public policy extends beyond the security forces and bodies, a more cross-cutting and interconnected approach is necessary with the different areas of public action in which conflicts overlap. Does the management of an eviction, for instance, correspond exclusively to the police? Does it have sufficient powers to settle the conflict without causing it to escalate and at the same time to be effective in resolving the situation of violating the right to housing? The answer is clear: NO. To be able to carry this out, a new security model is necessary that also includes educational, social, community, gender, childhood, environmental and urban policies, among others. To be jointly accountable and to coordinate actions.

This model must be based on several elements: the commitment of the security forces and the other social and political agents, the willingness to transform conflicts, joint responsibility and the ethics of accountability. We have to rethink the public order model together and make an integrated commitment to ACM, review malpractice control mechanisms and reconnect security and citizenship. It will have to be applied in a cross-cutting manner, permeating political governance and day-to-day life with impartial and rigorous knowledge of the environment and the social context, both locally and globally. Police unit training will have to be strengthened with emotional intelligence tools. The social fabric and security forces have to mutually acknowledge one another, achieving a real connection to provide for prevention[1] and to improve effectiveness and efficiency, guaranteeing rights and freedoms as much as possible.

Neither the undertaking nor the challenge is simple. More policies, more citizen involvement and more joint responsibility are needed. An effort is required to develop shared stories with a perspective of the common good, and with individual and collective joint responsibility. With serenity and rigour, with a long-term and unhurried perspective, a debate that calls for reflection and has to eschew simplistic messages. Let us not be slaves to the frenetic rhythms that social networks inflict and determine immediacy; conflicts must be managed in a deliberate manner. And, above all, with a good dose of ethics and transparency. Isolating philias and phobias. We cannot allow ourselves, in a state of law, to ask for a firm hand for adversaries and a white glove for the like-minded; it is discretion and it implies the deterioration of democracy.

[1] [*Translator’s note: Paraphrasing of the neologism provención, employed in the original text.] Providing for prevention means providing individuals and groups with the skills they need to deal with conflict. It differs from conflict prevention in that its goal is not to avoid conflict but to learn how to deal with it. Source: Escola de Cultura de Pau [School for a Culture of Peace].

Let us harness the human security framework and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In 2015, the United Nations General Assembly approved the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with the objectives of eradicating poverty, fighting inequality and injustice, and curbing climate change, among others. This agenda marks the global action for development until the year 2030 and it is useful for us to have a connected action roadmap to think globally and act locally. The cross-cutting and multidimensional nature of the agenda in economic, social and environmental terms, displayed in the seventeen objectives, can become an excellent framework for rethinking these issues. Social innovation is seeping into all public policies in a burgeoning manner and, in most cases, against the backdrop of compliance with the SDGs. Why don’t we start looking at innovation too in the field of security?

Il·lustració © Nicolás Aznárez © Nicolás Aznárez

In short, the police cannot solve what cannot be solved politically. The concept of policies must be recovered as a means of conflict management and transformation, with a perspective of the common good, and the growing emotional polarisation that challenges the legitimacy of others must be reduced, with the utmost participation and citizen joint responsibility. As Joan Fuster used to say, “you either make policies or they are made for you”; let’s create them together, incorporating a fresh perspective to view the world – the near and the far, the local and the global – a new way of acting, governing, thinking, relating to one another, managing conflicts and loving that is imbued with dialogue and care. The care revolution, the pending revolution, and the most peaceful revolution of all. The revolution of loving ourselves, of loving the world, and proper treatment across the board.

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