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Centre for International Security Studies

Analysing security issues facing Australia, the Asia Pacific and the world
In a rapidly changing security environment we expect the unexpected and apply our expertise to regional conflicts, global events and shocks to the international order.

About us

The Centre for International Security Studies was established in 2006, along with the Michael Hintze Chair of International Security, to produce innovative research and education programs on the enduring and emerging security challenges facing Australia, the Asia-Pacific and the world.

The centre takes a multidisciplinary approach to the study of international security and draws on a wide range of skills and expertise from academics, researchers and practitioners across the University and from around the world.

Our research informs debates and promotes engagement with the policy community, NGOs and the public. We work with organisations spanning policy and operations, uniquely positioning us to analyse and interpret the strategic implications of world events for governments, businesses and individuals.


Our people

Centre members include academics from the University of Sydney and other prestigious global institutions. 

  • Professor James Der Derian, Director
  • Claire Stevens, Project Officer
  • José M. Torrealba, Media Officer

Our events

The Centre for International Security Studies hosts a large public events program.

Whether it's a lecture on the geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific, a panel discussion on the security implications of quantum technologies, or a film screening about the global arms trade, CISS events are always exciting and informative.

Subscribe to our updates to be the first to know what's on.

Ruin Warfare: Weaponising Heritage from UNESCO to NATO

Join us for a lunchtime lecture by Professor Lynn Meskell (University of Pennsylvania) who explores the intensely modern set of practices known as cultural heritage exploitation

International organisations including UNESCO, NATO, and the ICC now recognize that heritage violence is a persistent feature of modern conflict, posing a threat to human communities and global security. The protection, destruction, and manipulation of heritage (and by extension history) by state and non-state actors has become so commonplace in contemporary conflicts, that it is now framed as cultural heritage exploitation (CHX).

This lunchtime lecture will outline how CHX is unfolding in India, for example, with the erasure of Muslim heritage, not dissimilar from actions taken by China toward its own Muslim minority, the Uighurs.

Register now


Past events

The Ethics of Anticipation with Professor Sheila Jasanoff

Tuesday, 15 August 

Understandably, reflections on the ethics of technology have tended to focus first and foremost on technology’s downstream consequences: the discrepant risks and harms that follow from innovation. Increasingly, however, analysts have come to see that distributive implications are built into technological design, well before it enters the market and people’s lives. In this talk, I will revisit the notion of “anticipatory governance” from a political standpoint. What might an ethics of anticipation look like with regard to some of today’s most celebrated technological breakthroughs?

Watch the webinar on YouTube.  

2022 Michael Hintze Lecture with Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert

Hostage Diplomacy: who's in control?

Thursday, 29 September

British-Australian academic Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert highlights the complex nature of state hostage taking and outlines ways in which Australia’s approach can be refined to tackle this insidious and growing global problem.

The use of individual citizens of a country as tools of diplomatic leverage in disputes between states is often referred to as Hostage Diplomacy, a form of arbitrary detention that involves the imprisonment and/or conviction of innocent foreign or dual-national visitors as a means of extracting concessions from their country of citizenship.

In this Sydney Ideas event hear Dr Moore-Gilbert's unique insights into the Australian government’s approach to arbitrary detention and her current involvement in lobbying to reform both Australia’s strategic response and the provision of support services to victims and their families.

After the talk, Dr Kylie Moore-Gilbert was joined in conversation by Professor Sarah Phillips.

Watch the video on YouTube.

Raising the Standard: Near Certainty and Civilian Harm in Pakistan

Friday, 5 August  

In 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama announced a policy to minimize civilian casualties resulting from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. The policy calibrated Obama’s approval of strikes against the “near” certainty standard of no civilian casualties, which shifted from the existing policy of “reasonable” certainty that allowed for a degree of civilian harm. We provide an economic interpretation of the effectiveness of Obama’s near certainty standard. Based on data from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, as well as interviews with senior officials, we use a regression discontinuity design to find that the near certainty standard dramatically reduced civilian deaths from U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. We estimate that the policy prevented 284 civilian deaths, amounting to an averted 'Value of Statistical Life' loss of 90 to 250 million USD.

Click here to watch the webinar on YouTube.

Can Albanese Fix AUKUS?

Monday, 25 July  

Newly elected Labor Party PM Anthony Albanese faces a dilemma on nuclear submarines.  During the campaign, when he received only a single day’s notice, he felt compelled to endorse the AUKUS deal to buy nuclear-powered US or UK attack submarines, so he could avoid looking weak on China.  However, Albanese knows that purchasing such submarines fueled with tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) – enough for hundreds of nuclear weapons – would wreck the nonproliferation regime that his party helped build.  Iran already has cited AUKUS as justification for its own production of HEU, and international inspectors cannot prevent diversion of this material for atom bombs.  The webinar explores three ways that Albanese might extract Australia from this quandary.

Click here to watch the webinar on YouTube.

Information Operations and Foreign Interferences in the Asia Pacific

Tuesday, 17 May

Information operations and foreign interferences are among the greatest threats facing nation states today as information warfare has intensified around the world. Yet, there are serious gaps in our knowledge and understanding of the working and impacts of information operations and foreign interferences in the Asia Pacific region. This roundtable brings together representatives from government, academia, think-tanks and industry to share their knowledge and perspectives on these issues and discuss implications for the Australian Defence Force. Watch the webinar on YouTube.

What does the Russo-Ukrainian war mean for Indo-Pacific security?

Wednesday, 27 April

What are the implications of the Russo-Ukraine war for Indo-Pacific security? As the conflict continues, countries in the Indo-Pacific are being pressured to take a ‘side’ even as many, coming out of post-colonial pasts, have approached foreign policy from a tradition of non-alignment. What lessons are Indo-Pacific countries likely to draw from the conflict? The conflict is likely to have implications for the Indo-Pacific in terms of the feasibility of military efforts to resolve disagreements, as well as the fallout from economic sanctions. It is also likely to reshape the alliance structures of the Indo-Pacific, and force countries to think about where they stand.

Click here to watch the webinar on YouTube.

The Russo-Ukrainian Conflict and the Future of Warfare

Tuesday, 1 March

Ukraine is once again at the epicentre of news due to an unwarranted full-scale military aggression from Russia. After years of influence operations, active measures, and ceasefire violations, followed by failed diplomacy and ineffective sanctions, missiles are once again flying and more boots are on the ground. With hybrid war expanding into the realms of communication and perception, new analytical tools are needed to understand what happened and what is likely to come next.  The CISS Global Forum gathers international experts for a critical analysis of the Russian-Ukrainian war and what it represents for the future of warfare. Watch the webinar on YouTube.

Friends, Enemies and Interests: Critical Perspectives on AUKUS

Monday, 27 September

Through a series of curated webcasts CISS explores the national, regional and global security implications of the new strategic partnership between the US, United Kingdom and Australia (AUKUS).  Drawing on the popularised insight of Lord Palmerston -  ‘There are no permanent friends or enemies, only interests’  -  the Global Forum offers historical depth, political analysis and technological expertise to better address key questions.

Click here to watch the webinar on YouTube.

The COVID Crisis: Lessons Learned, What Next?

The 2020 CISS Global Forum explored the unprecedented challenges and changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Bringing together our research program leaders and international experts, the Global Forum discussed the security implications of the the COVID crisis and explore how it impacts biosecurity, ecosecurity, gender, geopolitics, infosecurity and regional security.

Who’s Afraid of the First Great Debate? The International Studies Conference and Realism-Idealism Revisited

Tuesday 4 February, 3.30-5.00pm

Join A/Prof Peter Kristensen as he presents 'Who's Afraid of the First Great Debate?', a working paper co-authored with Ole Wæver.

Over the past two decades revisionist historiographers have questioned the disciplinary myth of a 'First Debate' between realists and idealists in interwar IR.

This paper builds on revisionist historiographical arguments that interwar international thought was not dominated by idealism nor did it suddenly start with a 'big bang' debate, but it challenges the now-widespread argument that there was no realist-idealist debate whatsoever.

Tracking Digital Espionage

Tuesday 12 February, 6.00 - 7.30pm

How much do governments know about our online history? Join Ron Deibert, digital detective and founder of Citizen Lab, as he reveals the hidden surveillance systems used to spy on civil society. Listen to the podcast.

The Geopolitics of the Quantum Race

Thursday 21 February, 6.00 - 7.30pm

Following a packed house in 2018, CISS and Project Q are proud to present the fifth annual Q Forum on the geopolitics of the quantum race. Is it really happening? Join our panel of international experts as they discuss the possibilities – and the perils – that await us in a quantum future.

The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age

Monday 25 February, 6.00 - 7.30pm

The rise of cyberweapons has transformed geopolitics like nothing since the invention of the atomic bomb. Cheap to acquire, easy to deny, and usable for a variety of malicious purposes, cyber is now the weapon of choice for democracies, dictators, and terrorists. Join David E. Sanger, New York Times national security correspondent, for this exclusive Australian appearance discussing his latest book The Perfect Weapon. This event is presented as part of the CISS Global Forum.

The Dilemma between Security and Economy: Japan’s Strategy toward the New Cold War

Tuesday 12 March, 2.00 - 3.00pm

The U.S. is Japan’s most important security ally, while China is Japan’s biggest trading partner. Facing a trade and technology war between two giants, Japan’s dilemma between national security and economic prosperity is becoming more and more serious. What strategy does Japan have to deal with the prospect of a new Cold War? Join our special guest, Professor Yasuhiro Matsuda from the University of Tokyo, as he explores these questions.

Exodus, Reckoning, Sacrifice: Three Meanings of Brexit

Thursday 14 March, 6.00 - 7.30pm

As the UK’s scheduled departure from the EU looms, there are still many questions about whether the deed will actually happen. This talk will investigate how archetypal myths can help us renew democratic conversations, whether British exceptionalism is actually exceptional, the meaning of a promise, and the price of hubris.

In Conflict with Peace Research? Mapping the Study of Peace, Conflict, and Security

Wednesday 10 April, 1.00 - 2.15pm

What do we study, when we study peace, conflict, and security: the causes of  war and violent conflict; efforts to generate peace by preventing/responding to violent conflict; or otherwise? John Gledhill examines whether there is any engagement and exchange between studies of peace, on one hand, and studies of conflict, on the other.

The Justice of Visual Art: Creative State-Building in Time of Political Transition

Wednesday 1 May, 1.00 - 2.15pm

There are aesthetic and creative ways to pursue transitional justice - ways which have the capacity to address identity divisions and exclusions in nations emerging from conflict. Eliza Garnsey explores three novel and important areas of transitional justice: the theoretical framing of justice and art; the visual jurisprudence of justice measures developed in and emerging out of transition; and, the cultural diplomacy practices of states emerging from conflict.

What does Australia want in Africa?

Wednesday 4 September, 1.00 - 2.15pm

Contemporary Australian foreign policy is neglectful of Africa. While many traditional donors and ‘new’ and emerging actors in Africa have invigorated and expanded their connections with the continent since the turn of the millennium, Australia has largely failed to do the same. Dr Nikola Pijovic explains why.

Gender Matters in Peace and War

Thursday 12 September, 6.00 - 7.30pm

This public event will analyse the changes that occur when gender is pushed to the forefront of debates about war, violence and security, including the ways in which periods of peace and war are understood.

The Future is Asian: The 2019 Michael Hintze Lecture

Tuesday 5 November, 6.00 - 7.30pm

Join Dr Parag Khanna as he presents the 2019 Michael Hintze Lecture. The world has gotten used to hearing “America First”—but is it ready for “Asia First”? What happens when Asia no longer just produces for the West but the West produces for Asia? Get ready to see the world, and the future, from the Asian point-of-view.


Professor James der Derian

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