Preventive Security in the 21st Century: The Threats of the Threats

By Ali B. Al-Bayaa
2011, Vol. 3 No. 01 | pg. 2/2 |

The largest initiative in place today aimed at addressing current global humanitarian concerns (the threats of the threats), are the Millennium Goals’ and their deadline (2015) is fast approaching; we are more than halfway through the project, and the results do not seem promising at all. To name a few of the challenges facing the MDGs we could stop at issues such as: First, incompatible IMF policies – for example - Countries cannot meet the MDGs without exceeding spending limits imposed by the IMF, thus making it effectively impossible for them to meet their MDG commitments and the demands of their electorates (Lobe,2005). Second, lack of financial commitment (Developed Countries are not meeting the minimum GDP percentage aimed at foreign aid (0.7%); a basic requirement of the MDGs. As of 2006, only Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden do so (Novonty, 2006). Third, the unexpected global economic crisis; According to estimates of the World Bank and others, attaining the MDGs will require at least $ 50 billion per year in additional aid (or a doubling of current aid levels) (Hermle,2003). That amount has not been satisfied in any year since 2000. It is hard to imagine how this amount can be guaranteed following the current global economic crisis. Lastly of course are the questionable measuring criteria guiding the MDGs; The goals were established as global targets. But they are delivered, and measured (not always reliably), within individual countries. Some observers question whether the goals are distorting aid allocations (Perkins, 2008).

Coupled with depleting global resources, poverty and hunger, this constant ability to yield failures will in turn yield unimaginable consequences that will raise the stakes of global insecurity in this century. Hence the question: Are we prepared for the challenges of the 21st century? The answer is simple, no. We haven’t even resolved the outstanding issues of the previous century yet. The earlier part of this century will be spent attempting to rectify the mistakes of the previous one, all the meanwhile the new threats will be looming. Unless the issues are addressed prior to evolving (Prevention) the international community’s preparedness or more accurately, its ability to eliminate the threats, will always operate in retrograde; hardly ever bringing about positive change let alone guaranteeing global security. This is a risk that our increasingly globalized world can no longer afford in the 21st Century.

Concluding Thoughts

The end of the 20th century has served as an example of how the “realist – bandwagoning” theory was put into practice even in the absence of international consent; Operation Iraqi Freedom. The coalition moved on to address what was considered a mutual threat and neutralize it. Now given that in “bandwagoning”, smaller states align with the source of danger by cutting a deal with a more powerful state to ensure survival or even to share the gains of conquest (Kay,2006), then one could argue that given that 35 states in Africa (out of 54) are facing significant food security threats (Kay,2006), endeavors to secure this vital resource are conceivable, the question is when?

It becomes apparent then that serious reform is vital; the instruments currently in place appear to be ineffective and the international community lacks a serious preventative measure. International partnership on the matter is essential, now more than ever, as our world becomes more and more interconnected, our security grows to become a collective-common. Despite championing the concept of human security we have only taken small steps in realizing its promise; a journey that will take decades to resolve, if not longer.

Hence the question: Do governments worldwide realize the range of security threats posed by current humanitarian concerns? Is the international community preparing to meet these threats? Or is there an event of greater proportions awaiting us in the 21st century? The answer unfortunately remains formless, and only time can tell.


Abbott C, Rogers P., Sloboda J. (2006) Global Responces to Global Threats – Sustainable Security in the 21st Century. Oxford Research Group. P.4 June 2006.

Bisley, Nick. (2007). Rethinking Globalization. Introduction: P.2 , 2007

Brainard L., Chollet D., Nelson J., Okonjo-Iweala N., Rice S. (2007). and Poverty. Brookings Global Experts.

Brainard, Chollet, Nelson, Iweala, Rice (2007). Top 10 Global Economic Challenges-An assessment of global risks and challenges. Brookings Global Economy and Development. P.6;Ch2. 2007.

Chertoff, M. (2009). The Responsibility to Contain. Foreign Affairs. P.142 Volume 88 No. 1

Coskun, B.B.(2007). More than water wars: Water and international security. NATO Review - Growing dangers: emerging and developing security threats. Winter 2007.

Hermle, R.(2003). Assessing Progress in Meeting the MDGs and ODA Commitments. United Nations General Assembly High Level Dialogue on Financing for Development New York, 28 October 2003.

Hoffman, S. (2002) Clash of Globalizations. Foreign Affairs. P.106

Peden M, McGee K, Sharma G. (2002). The Injury Chart Book: A Graphical Overview of the Global - Burden of Injuries. Geneva: World Health Organization

PIJPEC (2008). Journal of , Economics and . Article based on HRH Prince Hassan’s address at the Thematic Debate on Human Security, the UN General Assembly. 15.3 P.6

Perkins, A. (2008). Time to review the development goals. The Gaurdian. September 2008.

Kay, S. (2006). Global Security in the Twenty First Century. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.; Ch.2 - P.24

Kranser, S. D. (1999). and Sovereignty. NY: Routledge: P.35-45.

Lonergan ,S.(2003). Water and War. UNEP. 2003.

Lutz, W. (n.d) World Population Challenges in the 21st Century. United Nations University.

Lobe J (2005). IMF Policies Thwart Poverty Goals-Report. Inter Press Service. Sept 2005.

Novotny, T. E. (2006). US Department of Health and Human Services: A Need for Global Health Leadership in Preparedness and Health Diplomacy. American Journal of . 2006 January; 96(1): 11–13.

Netaid. (n.a) Mercy Corps. (n.a.) Hunger and World Poverty.

Sadako, Ogata. (2002). Human Security in the 21st Century. Coca-Cola World Fund Lecture 27 February 2002.

Shah, A (2008). Causes of Poverty. Global Issues. Dec 27 2008.

The OMEGA Institute. The Water of Life - Challenges & Opportunities in the 21st Century.

UNHDR. (1994). United Nations. Human Development Report 1994, UNDP.

United Nations Peacekeeping.

University of Arizona, College of and Life Sciences (n.a). Global Water Shortage Looms In New Century.

WHO. (2007). Mixed progress towards the Millennium Development Goals in the WHO European Region. Fact sheet 07/07.

Belgrade, Copenhagen, 17 September 2007.


Fig. A: Examples of resource/territorial disputes and concerns (ongoing today)


Area of dispute 

Why it matters 

Current status 


Bolivia and Chile

The small chunk of territory that separates Bolivia from the Pacific Ocean. 

One word: water. An arrangement between the two countries allows landlocked Bolivia to ship its goods to the ocean tariff-free through northern Chilean ports. But that’s not enough to satisfy Bolivia, which lost 250 miles of the disputed coastline in a 19th century war. 

In early July, the two countries set up a joint committee to improve bilateral ties, suggesting that full diplomatic relations—which were broken over the sea-access issue 30 years ago—could be restored. Chilean President Michelle Bachelet is open to that idea, especially since Bolivia’s immense reserves of natural gas could help fuel the energy-hungry Chilean economy. But she has emphatically dismissed the possibility of ceding any territory. 

Brunei, , Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam

The Spratly Islands, a cluster of more than 100 tiny reefs, islets, and atolls in the South China Sea, with a land Area of less than 5 square miles. 

Food, traffic, and oil. The Spratly Islands are one of the most heavily fished areas in the world. They’re also Located in the center of the principle shipping route between Europe and Asia. And most lucrative of all are the untapped energy sources from the seabed below. China estimates that there are 17.7 billion tons of oil in the area, which would make it the fourth-largest oil reserve in the world. 

The reasons for sovereignty claims are myriad: Some nations insist that they have historical ownership, While others say that geographical logic should prevail. All parties laying claim to the territory with the exception of Brunei maintain a military presence on the islands, despite a 2002 commitment (signed by all but Taiwan) to resolve differences by peaceful means. Although military confrontations have calmed down in recent years, the islands remain a hot-button issue in the region 

Equatorial Guinea & Nigeria

Offshore tracts in the Gulf of Guinea

Nigeria insists that the Zafiro undersea oil field, claimed by Equatorial Guinea extends to Nigerian offshore territory

Negotiations to date have been fruitless

Internal dispute as a result of acute food security

Critical international (NATO) objectives are threatened by the prospect of increased possibility of internal disputes among different ethnic groups.

FAO  (UN) established a Food, Agriculture and Animal Husbandry Information Management and Policy unit - FAAHM (which derives from the Dari word for “knowledge”) – within the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Husbandry (MAAH) in July 2003, with funding from USA and . FAAHM supports MAAH in the collection, analysis and dissemination of information related to agriculture and food security, and provides advice to Government officials on agricultural policy and legislation. Results are yet to be determined.  

Sources: Foriegnpolicy.com1, Resource Wars (Klare, 2002)2, FAO3

Fig. D: Previous cases of acute water-related disputes


Countries involved




and Pakistan

Partition between the two leaves the Indus Basin divided in a particularly convoluted fashion. Disputes over irrigation water exacerbate tensions in the still-sensitive Kashmir region, bringing the two riparians “to the brink of war.”

Twelve years of World Bank-led negotiations lead to the 1960 Indus Waters Agreement. Today the topic remains of sensitive nature.

February 1951–September 1953

Israel and Syria

Exchange sporadic fire over Israeli water development works in the Huleh Basin, which lies in the demilitarized zone between the two countries

Israel moves its water intake to the Sea of Galilee.

January–April 1958

Egypt & Sudan

Amid pending negotiations over the Nile waters, Sudanese general , and an Egyptian vote on Sudan–Egypt unification, Egypt sends an unsuccessful military expedition into territory in dispute between the two countries.

Tensions were eased (and a Nile Waters Treaty signed) when a pro-Egyptian government was elected in Sudan.

June 1963–March 1964

Somalia & Ethiopia

The 1948 boundaries left Somali nomads under Ethiopian rule. Border skirmishes between Somalia and Ethiopia took place over disputed territory in Ogaden desert, which includes some critical water resources (both sides were also aware of oil resources in the region)

Several hundred were killed before cease-fire was negotiated.

March 1965–July 1966

Israel and Syria

The two exchanged fire over “all-Arab” plan to divert the Jordan River headwaters, presumably to preempt the Israeli National Water Carrier, an out-of-basin diversion plan from the Sea of Galilee

Construction of the Syrian diversion was halted in July 1966.

April–August 1975

Iraq and Syria

In a particularly low-flow year along the Euphrates (owing to filling of upstream dams), Iraq claimed that the flow reaching its territory was “intolerable” and asked that the Arab League intervene in its dispute over this with Syria. The Syrians claimed that less than half the river’s normal flow was reaching its borders that year, and after a barrage of mutually hostile statements, an Arab League technical committee that had been formed to mediate the conflict pulled out. In May 1975, Syria closed its airspace to Iraqi flights, and both Syria and Iraq reportedly transferred troops to their mutual border.

Mediation on the part of Saudi Arabia broke the increasing tension.

April 1989–July 1991 

Mauritania & Senegal

Two Senegalese peasants were killed over grazing rights along the Senegal River, which forms the boundary between Mauritania and Senegal. This sparked smoldering ethnic and land-reform tensions in the region. Several hundred people were killed as civilians from border towns on either side of the river attacked each other,

Each country used its army to restore order. broke out sporadically until diplomatic relations were restored later in 1991.

Source: (IDRC, 1998)4

Fig. E: Some examples of recent Peacekeeping missions and outstanding Issues


Initiation/Termination date





United Nations Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina (UNMIBH)

  • the U.N. declared safe areas for Muslims but did nothing to secure them, letting the Serbs slaughter thousands in Srebrenica5
  • Post conflict relative stability



United Nations Operation in Burundi (ONUB)

  • Insecurity continues to be a problem in Burundi and has intensified with the violation of the ceasefire accord that was signed in 2006 after years of .
  • Sporadic fighting in late 2007 and early 2008 between Government forces and the Palipehutu-FNL rebel group (Forces Nationales de Libération) has increased during April in and around the capital of Bujumbura displacing thousands throughout the country.
  •  Food security remains a problem with 600,000 people needing food aid according to a recent UN report.6




  • Widespread abuses carried out by United Nations personnel against refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo; Personnel from the U.N. Mission in the Democrat­ic Republic of the Congo stand accused of at least 150 major violations.
  • The crimes involve rape and forced prostitution of women and young girls across the country, including inside a refugee camp in the town of Bunia in north­eastern Congo.7

Côte d'Ivoire/ Ivory Coast


United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI)

  • Moroccan soldiers taking part in the mission are accused of rape.8
  • Cote d’Ivoire continues to experience periodic episodes of political unrest and violence since a 2002 failed coup attempt evolved into an armed rebellion that split the country in two.9



United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH)

  • Deepening poverty and ineffective governance have left Haiti at risk for renewed violence and political instability. 10
  • 2006 - UN personnel accused of rape and exploitation 11



United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL)

  • 2006 - UN personnel accused of rape and exploitation12 



United Nations Observer Mission Uganda-Rwanda (UNOMUR)

  • U.N. peacekeepers in Rwanda stood by as Hutu slaughtered some 800,000 Tutsi13
  • Post conflict dire humanitarian situation



United Nations Operation in Somalia II (UNOSOM II)

  • There is still no central government in place
  • Airports closed, militias compete for space and economic advantage
  • December 24 2007 Ethiopia’s army invaded Somalia, killing hundreds of rebels and encountering virtually no opposition; engaging in clean up operations. 14



United Nations/African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID)

  • 200,000; 2.5 million people displaced…Darfur today is still characterized by insecurity, lawlessness and impunity15
  • Inability to provide promising results.

Note: Not only do peacekeeping operations come at a high material cost, but they too come at a high humanitarian cost. The examples above demonstrate how even when deployed under an international set of standards, unprofessional soldiers, usually from developing countries, engage in inhumane behavior, which in turn lays the grounds for further instability. On a further note, even collaboration between numerous organization is a difficult issue (such as the case of former Yugoslavia) - NATO, the EU and the UN carried out operations without a clear system of the chain of command or structural order.

Fig. F: Millennium Development Goals at a stand-still in disadvantaged countries

Incompatible IMF Policies

  • Indirect control exercised by the IMF over recipient governments' macroeconomic policies is straitjacketing their ability to deal with urgent social, health, and economic issues, such as the HIV/AIDS pandemic, and likewise the ability of their electorates to influence those policies.
  • [Countries] cannot [meet the MDGs] without exceeding spending limits imposed by the IMF, thus making it effectively impossible for them to meet their MDG commitments and the demands of their electorates.

Absence of universal commitment

  • Developed Countries are not meeting the minimum GDP percentage aimed at foreign aid (0.7%); a basic requirement of the MDGs. Currently, only Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden do so.

Unexpected Economic Crisis

  • According to estimates of the World Bank and others, attaining the MDGs will require at least $ 50 billion per year in additional aid (or a doubling of current aid levels).16 That amount has not been satisfied in any year since 2000. It is hard to imagine how this amount can be guaranteed following the current global economic crisis.
  • It is unclear what affects this crisis produced worldwide in sectors critical to the MDGs (unemployment rates, financial redistribution by governments, different funds allocated for different projects; the priorities have changed)

Questionable measuring criteria

  • The goals were established as global targets. But they are delivered, and measured (not always reliably), within individual countries. Some observers question whether the goals are distorting aid allocation.[17]

1.) - The List: The World’s Forgotten Territorial Disputes – July 2006 - – accessed Mar 06 09

2.) Michael T. Klare. Resource Wars – The new landscape of Global Conflict. Appendix. P. 227-231. 2002

3.) Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – Representation in Afghanistan – Food Security Programme – 2003-2004 - - accessed Mar 06 09

4.) Aaron T. Wolf. Trends in Transboundary Water Resources: Lessons for Cooperative Projects in the . The Research Center. - accessed Mar 11 09

5.) Max Boot. Paving the Road to Hell: The Failure of UN Peacekeeping. Foreign Affairs. March/April 2000. - accessed Mar 13 09

6.) Committee on Conscience. Burundi Current Situation. United States Memorial Museum. Spring 2008. - accessed Mar 14 09

7.) Nile Gardiner, Ph.D.The U.N. Peacekeeping Scandal in the Congo: How Congress Should Respond. The Heritage Foundation. March 22, 2005. - accessed Mar 14 09

8.) BBC News. UN probes 'abuse' in Ivory Coast. 23 July 2007. - accessed Mar 14 09

9.) United States Department of State  Travel Warning. December 15, 2008. - accessed Mar 14 09

10.) The Haiti Support Group. Haiti News. March 3 2009. - accessed Mar 14 09

11.) BBC News. UN probes 'abuse' in Ivory Coast. 23 July 2007,

12.) IBID

13.) Max Boot. Paving the Road to Hell: The Failure of UN Peacekeeping. Foreign Affairs. March/April 2000. - accessed Mar 13 09

14.) David Smock. On the Issues: Somalia. United Sates Institute of Peace. January 9, 2007. - accessed Mar 14 09

15.)  U.N.: 100,000 more dead in Darfur than reported. April 22, 2008. - accessed Mar 14 09

16.) Dr Reinhard Hermle. Assessing Progress in Meeting the MDGs and ODA Commitments. United Nations General Assembly High Level Dialogue on Financing for Development New York, 28 October 2003. – accessed Mar 19 09

17.) Anne Perkins .Time to review the development goals. The Gaurdian. September 2008 . - accessed Mar 13 09 

Suggested Reading from StudentPulse

Regardless of this debate, there is certainly evidence of some kind of duty to cooper ate under international law. Two of the purposes of the United Nations (UN ) mentioned in The Charter are to maintain international peace and security through collective action, and to achieve international cooperation in solving problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character.6 A 1970 UN General Assembly resolution recommends the codification... MORE»
It is widely recognized that state security is no longer contingent upon a balance of power or the threat of conquering states, but global stability is now instead jeopardized by weak or fragile states. Fragile states represent chaos, disorder, and underdevelopment, and their very existence threatens not only the security of the developed world, but the capitalist, consumer-driven lifestyle to which the Western world is accustomed. Of critical concern... MORE»
Today, we live in the aftermath of the Internet revolution. Humanity has never before been more interconnected or had as much access to the same tools and information. As a driving force behind globalization and modern progress, the Internet enables instant communication and access to information while providing a new medium for... MORE»
While in many cases it serves as a stabilizing factor in the international system, and can even be called a force for good, international law cannot be considered “law” when applied to states or state action. To be considered “law” these principles and decisions require enforcement mechanisms that go beyond... MORE»
There is a widespread belief that as societies and governments become increasingly reliant upon information technology, they in turn are becoming more vulnerable to a whole range of cyber-threats.1 Whether these dangers are capable of generating enough damage to warrant a redistribution of government resources is the question at the heart of this essay. This paper provides an evaluation of the cyber-threat arguing that it deserves recognition as... MORE»
Submit to Student Pulse, Get a Decision in 10-Days

Student Pulse provides undergraduate and graduate students around the world a platform for the wide dissemination of academic work over a range of core disciplines.

Representing the work of students from hundreds of institutions around the globe, Student Pulse's large database of academic articles is completely free. Learn more | Blog | Submit

Follow SP