A shift of perspective for International Relations, by Dr. José Alberto Azeredo
20.05.2019

As a showcase for three of our master’s degrees offered completely in English, the former Minister of Defense of Portugal, Dr. José Alberto Azeredo, offered a lecture entitled «New conflicts, old conflicts: challenges and perplexities», held in the Auditorium of the School.

The first thing he advised the audience to do  was to shift the perspective on how we look at international conflicts nowadays: the world cannot sustain limited and narrow views any longer. Why? Because as different actors are now intervening in the global arena, old concepts are obsolete when it comes to understanding them.

A change of views

What is the nature of these new conflicts?, what can we do to understand them and what possible ways do we have to face them? These were some of the questions Dr. Azeredo tried to answer.

“We haven’t understood fully yet what happened in 9/11. We reacted in a very old-fashioned way to a totally new threat”, he said. What was new, then? It was transnational (it had no connection with any national factor); there were no territorial objectives; and it proved that a non-state actor knew us better than we thought.

As a result of that, old certainties fell apart and so did the framework in which we interpreted national security: “Law is based on a binary approach to reality, inspired by the aim to protect one thing from an opposite evil, and now you don’t have such a thing as clear objectives. It is possible to have different conflicts where you can’t distinguish the good and the evil, for there’s only evil”, Azeredo stated.

Cyberspace, the key stages

Therefore, for politics it is extremely difficult to act clearly and ethically. Conflicts are arising in new operational theaters and nations cannot even agree on the standards provided by previous international case-law. As a consequence, Dr. Azeredo outlined the importance of considering cyberspace as the key stage where conflicts and wars will be taking place. It’s not that the future will be clear of state wars, insurgents and military organized groups, but it’s not enough to fight by land, air and sea; trenches have to be dug in cyberspace too. “If you are cyberattacked but you don’t have the capacity to decide: you are useless”.

For what position does the international community stands for? According to Azeredo, we are heading towards a more bilateral approach of international relations, conditioned by the increasing role of the BRICS and the way they face Treaty Law.

The world order will probably rely less and less on global governance institutions, as it is evidenced by the fact that the “Security Council today is essentially paralyzed”, as he pointed out. “You may need NATO for certain things, you may need the United Nations for peace making; but the duty of each State is to have a new approach for international relations”.

How can we face these perplexities? “Let’s be certain about one thing: you can’t take no more anything for sure”, he summarized.

Blanquerna’s Masters in International Relations

The lecture given by Dr. Azeredo served to present Blanquerna’s new three masters degree in International Relations:

The Dean of our School, Dr. Josep Maria Carbonell, welcomed Azeredo as a friend of our institution, since he was an early lecturer of the International Relations Degree, before taking public office in Portugal as Minister of Defense.