Professor Andrew “Andy” Mack, 1939-2021: Scholar, Practitioner, Inspirer


It was a rainy day, September 22, 1999. In the basement of an Asian restaurant in Midtown Manhattan, dozens of peace researchers from Uppsala had gathered while on the Department’s study visit to New York and the UN. We were waiting for the arrival of the Director of Strategic Planning in the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General. Many in the group assumed we would meet with an elderly gentleman in a striped suit addressing us with a standard UN speech. Instead they encountered the jovial, charming, straight-talking Andy Mack in slacks and a short jacket. The connection was immediate!

Andy was in a good mood although the UN was not: There were urgent crises in Kosovo and East Timor. He was still optimistic about the future, in particular because an article had just been published in The Economist on “Two Concepts of Sovereignty, “ specifying arguments why national sovereignty sometimes had to yield to individual sovereignty. In a succinct way UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan outlined in this article why the international community should engage in situations of atrocities and genocide without being prevented by concerns of national sovereignty: The sovereignty of the individual human being mattered more. It was part of an ongoing debate that later resulted in the principles of Responsibility to Protect (R2P). The way the article was written led me to ask Andy about its real authorship. Andy responded with a mischievous smile: “Not a bad pseudonym, is it?”

Professor Andrew Mack is particularly known for his work on the Human Security Reports, the first of which was issued in 2005 and drew attention to the decline of death-rates in organized violence. It had a profound international impact and it was Andy at his best: his ability to distill from research reports what were the essential trends or central findings that would be of use for international policy-making. Although basically a comparativist in his scholarly approach, Andy followed quantitative international studies (e.g., the work of Jonathan Wilkenfeld and Ted R. Gurr). His most cited article, for instance, is a comparative study looking at the wars in Algeria and Vietnam, among others, resulting in the withdrawal/defeat of major powers (“Why Big Nations Lose Small Wars,” World Politics, 1975). As an avid peace researcher his concern was with war and peace, but in a broad sense.

For quite a few years Andy was based at the Australian National University in Canberra and led its Peace Research Center. This is where I first met him. He also attended the Uppsala Conference on Peace Research: Achievements and Challenges, held at the time of my inauguration as Professor in 1985. He significantly contributed to Gareth Evans’ book Cooperating for Peace (1993), which included a wider, but still focused, conception of security. In fact, Andy represented a counterpoint to the Human Security Commission led by Ms. Sadako Ogata which wanted to enlarge “human security” to also include matters such as food, health and environmental security, thus extending the concept way beyond matters of war and peace. Such a comprehensive definition would make human security equal to human development. Andy Mack wanted to retain the narrower meaning of security to physical violence and its impact on human life. The Human Security Project did just that.

This is also how the mutually beneficial cooperation with Andy Mack then based in Vancouver, BC, in Canada, and the Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP) emerged. Parallel to Andy’s and his colleagues’ work on the Human Security Report, researchers in our Department enlarged UCDP to include human security dimensions, notably non-state conflicts and one-sided violence. This involved many of the young researchers in Uppsala at the time, notably Kristine Eck, Lotta Harbom (now Themnér), Lisa Hultman, Stina Högbladh, Joakim Kreutz, Frida Möller (now Pålsson), Therése Pettersson, Margareta Sollenberg and Ralph Sundberg but also many others.

Much of our collaboration was supported by different Swedish funders. Andy was an eminent advocate for the significance of these studies and their policy relevance. It was a joy to see him in action in the different briefing rooms, abroad as well as in Stockholm. I believe he really appreciated his visits to Sweden. Indeed, for a while, he toyed with the idea of applying for the position of Director of SIPRI. Probably, Andy was at his best working with smaller teams focusing on specific assignments and galvanizing people into action, as he did in the Human Security Reports.

It is gratifying to have had a chance to cooperate closely with Andy Mack with all his great enthusiasm, friendship and inspiration, and not the least: his strong belief in the significance of scholarship for peace and justice!

Peter Wallensteen
Senior Professor, Uppsala University
Director, UCDP 1978-2015