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SIPRI's 40th anniversary

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Preface to the SIPRI Yearbook 2006

by Rolf Ekéus, Chairman, SIPRI Governing Board

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute initiated its work 40 years ago, in July 1966. Three years later the first edition of the SIPRI Yearbook was published.

Compared to the challenges to peace and security in 1966, the contemporary political environment is radically different. Even since the end of the cold war, in 1989, the geopolitical and geo-strategic realities—especially as regards Europe, transatlantic relations and the Middle East—have shifted from manifest optimism, witnessed in the 1990 Charter of Paris for a New Europe and the Barcelona Process for peace in the Middle East, to a situation of troubled concern.

The process of globalization, although difficult to define in precise terms, implies that powers of economic and political significance have moved from the authority of states to international institutions, economic conglomerates and other non-state actors, including terrorist networks. The IT revolution and the opportunities presented by the Internet have profoundly influenced communications, opinion building and, dramatically, the speed of news distribution. This has had an impact on intercultural and inter-religious relations and made the ‘clash of civilizations’ less of a geopolitical notion and more of a phenomenon of internal and societal significance.

In her Introduction to this edition of the Yearbook, SIPRI’s Director, Alyson J. K. Bailes, describes the main trends following the end of the East– West confrontation and reflects on the responses to the challenges by the main international actors, especially the United States. She also addresses the shift of emphasis since 1990 from arms control to security building in international affairs, including the changing role of NATO and the expansion of the European Union’s security agenda.

This edition of the Yearbook illustrates the change from strict peacekeeping operations under UN mandate to the variety of types of peace mission executed by an increasingly wide array of international organizations and demonstrates the necessity of adjusting the means of peace-building to new realities.

The magnitude and impact of ongoing armed conflicts are described and analysed from different perspectives. As regards arms control and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), especially nuclear weapons, the passivity and lack of attention in Europe and elsewhere since 1990 has, in recent years, turned into a matter of major international concern. The chapters on these issues should be of special interest to politicians and decisions makers. The potential for terrorist acts involving WMD should put arms control and non-proliferation on the top of the international agenda. The appendix devoted to the complex questions of Islam, conflict and terrorism is more topical than ever.

The chapters on the SIPRI speciality of military spending and armaments are unique and indispensable expressions of SIPRI’s traditional and leading role in these contexts.

This edition of the Yearbook, marking the 40th anniversary of SIPRI, constitutes a significant contribution by the research staff under the leadership of the Director to the search for responses to new and complex challenges to international peace and security. As always with the SIPRI Yearbook, the careful reader will enjoy the quality and professionalism of the contributions, since the outset a characteristic of SIPRI publications.

Rolf Ekéus
Chairman, SIPRI Governing Board
May 2006