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Mack, Andrew (Andy) (1939–2021)

by Gareth Evans

Andrew Mack, by Peter Cotton, 1993

Andrew Mack, by Peter Cotton, 1993

ANU Archives, ANUA 225-792

Professor Andrew Mack, who at ANU in the 1980s and 1990s forged his reputation as one of the world’s most admired peace and security scholars, passed away in Vancouver, Canada, on 20 January 2021, a week short of his 82nd birthday, after a year of serious illness.

Survived by his wife since 2007, Laura, and stepson Max, Andy will be remembered by his legion of friends, colleagues and admirers both at ANU and around the world as not only a brilliant and influential international relations scholar, but a wonderfully engaging personality—full of life, energy, ideas and commitment; laid back, charming beyond measure and a lover of all the good things in life.

He had an extraordinarily full and diverse life. Born and educated in the UK (with a first-class degree in sociology from Essex)—but in later life always fiercely identifying as Australian—his pre-academic years included six in the Royal Air Force (as an engineer and pilot), two-and-a-half in Antarctica as a meteorologist and deputy base commander, one as a diamond prospector in Sierra Leone, and another two with the BBC’s World Service writing and broadcasting news commentaries and producing the current affairs program, The World Today.

At the heart of Andrew’s long subsequent academic career was his time at The Australian National University, where he was Senior Research Fellow in the ANU Strategic and Defence Studies Centre (1984–85), Director of the Peace Research Centre (1985–91) and Head of the Department of International Relations (1991–98).

He came to ANU from Flinders University, and also held research and teaching positions at Flinders University, the London School of Economics, the Copenhagen Peace Research Institute, the Richardson Institute for Peace and Conflict Research in London, the University of California at Berkeley, Irvine and San Diego, the University of Hawaii and the East-West Center, the International University of Japan, and the University of Auckland. The last two decades of his career were in major research professorial positions at the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University.

He wrote or edited some 16 monographs and books, and his 60-plus scholarly articles appeared in a wide range of journals, including World Politics, Washington Quarterly, British Journal of International Studies, World Policy, Foreign Policy, Comparative Politics, Journal of Conflict Resolution, Journal of Peace Research, Security Dialogue, Asian Survey, Australian Journal of International Affairs and Pacific Review.

He also published widely in the mainstream print media, including the International Herald Tribune, Washington Post, Economist, Guardian, Le Monde Diplomatique, Newsday, Yomiuri Shimbun, Australian, Financial Review, Sydney Morning Herald, Corriere Della Sierra, Far Eastern Economic Review, Japan Times, New Scientist, Korea Herald, Haaretz, New Zealand Herald, Christian Science Monitor, Globe and Mail, Ottawa Citizen, Nation and the China Morning Post. Andy was the quintessential public intellectual, acutely conscious of the need to escape the ivory tower and actually influence real-world policy making.

After leaving ANU, he became, from 1998 to 2001, Director of the Strategic Planning Unit in the Executive Office of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, where he did some of his life’s most important and innovative work on the incidence and causes of violent conflict over time—continued in his later role as primary author of the Human Security Report. His analysis was and remains an important antidote to the professional pessimism that consumes so much international relations writing and inhibits the potential effectiveness of so many diplomatic practitioners.

Andy was certainly a big influence on my own professional life, not least in constantly reinforcing my own incorrigible optimism about the art of the politically and diplomatically possible in tackling some of the world’s most intractable policy problems. Since we first met in the 1980s, when he headed the ANU Peace Research Centre, he was a source of advice and intellectual stimulation almost without parallel, and a huge contributor to my own alleged creativity as foreign minister—especially in the whole area of cooperative security, where our work together on reforming the UN system, distilled in the ‘blue book’, Cooperating for Peace, published in 1995, unhappily is still all too relevant today.

My experience was anything but unique. Among the many testimonies to his impact that flowed after his death, this one from the acclaimed Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker particularly resonates:

Andy was one of my greatest intellectual influences. After I wrote a short blog post citing a few historical declines of violence, he got in touch and sent me the 2005 Human Security Report. I saw the graph he adapted from PRIO and UCDP on the decline of battle-related deaths since 1946 and was stunned—like many before and since, I had been ignorant of this major development in human history. It was perhaps the biggest inspiration for my book The Better Angels of Our Nature, which in turn led to Enlightenment Now, and a major turn in my career … Andy was not just intellectually stimulating, but was good natured and good company, and was driven by a strong moral purpose: making ‘human security,’ the well-being of women, men, and children, the focus of international relations as an academic field and a global priority. The world should be grateful for his scholarship, writing, and influence.

An unforgettable character in every way, a globally known and respected star as a researcher, writer and communicator, Andy Mack will be hugely missed by everyone whose life he touched, professionally or personally.

Additional Resources

Citation details

Gareth Evans, 'Mack, Andrew (Andy) (1939–2021)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, https://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/mack-andrew-andy-32797/text40797, accessed 6 December 2022.

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