Andrew Mack

Global security maverick finds peace at SFU

February 7, 2008

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By Stuart Colcleugh

It didn’t make headlines. But when Andrew Mack (above) moved his Human Security Report team from UBC to SFU’s School for International Studies last summer it was nevertheless big news in local and international media circles.

That’s because the unconventional international-security professor is one of the most sought-after media sources you’ve probably never heard of. He’s the author of the Human Security Report, widely regarded as the most comprehensive and authoritative ongoing survey of global trends in warfare, genocide and human rights abuses. The 2005 report and a subsequent 2006 update have turned conventional wisdom on its ear, revealing that – far from increasing – all forms of political violence have actually dramatically declined worldwide since the early 1990s.

The studies convincingly debunk common misperceptions that armed conflicts are increasingly frequent and deadly, genocides are increasing, civilians comprise the vast majority of war fatalities, women are war’s principal victims and international terrorism is the biggest human-security threat.

Mack credits the end of colonialism and the Cold War as key factors, “but the best single explanation for our improved security is that the international community – spearheaded by the United Nations – really has had an impact. Most people thought the UN was hopeless. The UN is hopeless in all sorts of ways, but it also makes a huge difference.”

So why does the world seem increasingly violent? “That’s the media’s fault,” says Mack. “The editorial imperative is ‘if it bleeds it leads,’ so violence goes on the front page. Every time a war starts it gets publicity. Every time one quietly peters out it might get a paragraph on page 18.”

Mack’s abbreviated CV reads like an improbable movie outline: quits school at age 15; becomes Royal Air Force pilot at 19; works as Antarctic meteorologist and Sierra Leone diamond hunter; earns sociology BA at Essex; gets tenured “with half a book and a BA” as London School of Economics professor; works as BBC journalist; teaches and researches in Australia; starts think tank for UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan; leads Human Security Centre at UBC’s Liu Institute; meets wife Laura; produces landmark security report; moves to SFU; lives happily ever after in Deep Cove.

Mack says he loves being at SFU, particularly since he and his human security team are teaching again, which they couldn’t do at UBC. He clearly welcomes the attention the reports have engendered and is preparing for more at the end of February when his team’s next update publication is due out. Mack will only divulge that its twin themes will be “The rise and fall of Islamic terrorism” and “A new peace in Africa?” It’s sure to make headlines.

For more on the Human Security Report group, visit
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