War & Pacification


TNI has an emerging area of work on war and pacification, expressed in the militarization of borders, the shrinking space for social movements, and the growing dominance of security strategies for addressing social and ecological crises. This is not yet a project, but is a dynamic and increasingly important part of TNI's work as the use of violence is integral to the extension of corporate power as well as strategies to control migrants and social movements.

Border Wars

In July, TNI and the Dutch Campaign Against the Arms Trade hit the news headlines when we released a report, Border wars, that showed how the top sellers of arms to the Middle East were also the major winners of EU border contracts. In other words, the same companies helping to fuel the conflicts creating refugees were now being paid to militarize the borders to keep them out.

The report received extensive media coverage, particularly in Spain and Italy, and was shared thousands of times. Telesur produced a video on the report that was viewed by more than 20,000, with journalist Anthony Loewenstein calling it "vastly important research".

Dutch and Spanish MPs also referred to the research. The massive interest in the report meant that researcher Mark Akkerman was kept very busy speaking at a series of meetings throughout 2016. An update of the report was released in December, and a series of reports exploring different dimensions of border militarization is planned for the coming years.

'Shrinking Space'

In October, TNI brought together activists, lawyers and academics in Berlin to debate the idea of 'shrinking space', in particular to ask whose space was shrinking and why. The concept of 'shrinking space' has become very popular particularly among big international NGOs, but TNI sought to re-politicize the concept by understanding the underlying causes, focusing on the political movements that are most affected by growing repression, and to turn a critical spotlight on constraints on activism taking place in Europe and the US. Twenty-five people attended the workshop from Latin America, India, South Africa, the USA and Europe.

The workshop produced a video and also provided insight for a joint paper On Shrinking Space (which was released to great acclaim in early 2017). The Berlin meeting initiated a Shrinking Space project at TNI that is producing a series of critical papers on issues that have not received sufficient attention. It is also conducting face to face interviews with people on the frontlines, those directly affected by shrinking space.

Secure and dispossessed

TNI's book, The secure and the dispossessed: how the military and corporations are shaping a climate-changed world, published in December 2015, continued to have ripple effects throughout 2016. The issue the book raised of the dangers of the militarization of climate change was embraced by the International Peace Bureau and included in their plans for their centennial conference held in Berlin in October, to which TNI was invited to speak. Friends of the Earth International and Pax Christi also used the book as a key resource material at their major long-term planning meetings in 2016.

Co-editor Nick Buxton was meanwhile invited to speak about the book at a series of public meetings on the West Coast of the US in Davis, Sacramento and Santa Cruz, and also carried out interviews with several radio stations in California, New York and Washington State.

Wars and the arms trade

TNI Fellow Phyllis Bennis continued to be a frequently called-on analyst and commentator on Middle East politics and US foreign policy for major US news outlets, asked to share her perspectives on the war in Syria, US military involvement in Iraq, and ISIS.

In June, TNI also co-produced a report, Tax evasion and weapon production that showed how 30 of the top 100 arms companies have holding structures in the Netherlands for tax evasion purposes. The report became a key resource for Niet in mijn naam, the umbrella platform for Dutch anti-war protests, and was also welcomed by Socialist parliamentarians.


Ben Hayes
TNI fellow

Nick Buxton

Frank Barat
'Shrinking Space' Coordinator

Phyllis Bennis

Achin Vanaik

Arun Kundnani
Research Associate