War is not the answer. So, what is? 

On many fronts, Quakers and our allies in the peace movement have made headway in changing the narrative about war. People are beginning to acknowledge that war and violence are poor tools for addressing many of the greatest threats we face today.

Aura Kanegis knows this well from her work in Washington, D.C. as AFSC’s director of public policy and advocacy. Her role keeps her in touch with policymakers at the highest levels of government, as well as with individuals and communities where AFSC works around the world.

In the last few years, she has seen policymakers beginning to grasp the shortfalls of current approaches—but few see a way forward for changing U.S. actions and investments to meet these realities.

“There is a recognition that old ways aren’t working—but a great lack of vision for what could work, a way forward from the world as we know it to the world we hope to see,” says Aura.

Circulated among Friends
in spring 2013 for seasoning,
the "Shared Security" working
paper is available online at
sharedsecurity.org.

As Aura talked with Bridget Moix, who at the time was leading foreign-policy lobbying on behalf of the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), they saw an opportunity to bring together the best thinking from peace and conflict studies, policymaking circles, and community-based peace-builders to set a clear direction for making the world more secure for everyone.

“For this era, we need new tools to challenge the overall way we look at security, because the problems of the 21st century can’t be solved with individual countries acting in their own self-interests or prioritizing militaristic policies over fundamental human needs,” says Aura. “In the face of impending climate change, economic challenges, and resource shortages, we will all lose if we do not change together.”

Enter “shared security,” a term Aura and Bridget coined for their policy framework, which they propose as the foundation for an ethical and effective U.S. engagement with the world. “It’s our effort to show what’s possible when major powers apply their resources to shared well-being rather than national competition,” explains Aura.

After months of seasoning from the Quaker community, FCNL and AFSC are preparing to introduce this vision to wider audiences, including allied U.S. policymakers who are eager to address the roots of conflict and prevent it, but who often don’t have alternative tools at hand.

The goal is to shift foreign policy. Bridget says that the question they have now is, “How can we use this frame in a way that engages others?”

How would shared security affect U.S. foreign policy?

We believe the U.S. needs a more ethical, effective, and less costly foreign policy to address today’s interdependent world. Complex challenges require new ways of thinking about our security. They require cooperative strategies for shared solutions. 

Health clinic staff member from AFSC’s partner,
Friends Women’s Association. Bujumbura, Burundi.
Photo: AFSC/T.W. Moore

Excerpted below are the principles underlying shared security, with a sampling of policy proposals. Go to sharedsecurity.org for a fuller view of each principle.

Global cooperation and the rule of law

  • Reorient foreign policy away from global military domination and toward shared problem-solving
  • Give stronger voice to regional governments and multilateral institutions like the African Union
  • Uphold and expand international law
  • Sign and ratify global treaties on arms control and human rights
  • Renounce torture
  • Commit to cooperative international problem-solving

Restorative approaches to heal a broken world

    • Demilitarize approaches to global problems
    • Withdraw military forces and contractors from Iraq and Afghanistan and invest instead in small-scale, local peace-building, reconciliation, and trauma healing
    • Close military bases and covert intelligence programs
    • Accelerate reduction of nuclear stockpiles
  • Fund nonproliferation efforts and support nuclear-free zones
  • Lead efforts to reduce international trade in weapons

Peaceful ends through peaceful means

  • Adequately fund civilian institutions oriented toward preventing and ending wars
  • Train diplomats in conflict resolution, preventative diplomacy, transitional justice, nonviolent problemsolving, and other skills
  • Reorient U.S. foreign assistance away from equipping foreign militaries, and toward comprehensive civilian rule of law and justice systems
  • Ensure U.S. policies are not fueling violence or abuse in other countries

The planetary imperative

  • Lead international efforts to shift economic policies away from endless growth toward sustainability
  • Initiate a price on carbon
  • Shift energy supplies from fossil fuels to renewable resources
  • Base peace agreements upon shared management of natural resources

What you can do

We invite you to help envision a new U.S. global policy for living in the world we seek. We hope you can improve upon the ideas presented in shared security, stimulate new thinking, and develop specific ideas for action within your community and with policymakers.

Download or order a copy of “Shared Security: Reimagining U.S. Foreign Policy,” at sharedsecurity.org, where you can also access a study guide to use with your congregation or community group. 

Share your responses through the website, share the pamphlet with others, and bring your proposals directly to policymakers.

We hope to encourage a creative discussion about how the U.S. can engage with the world as we seek to find shared solutions to shared problems. Please visit sharedsecurity.org to share your ideas on reimagining U.S. foreign policy.

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