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

By Ali B. Al-Bayaa
2011, Vol. 3 No. 01 | pg. 1/2 |

“Human security means protecting vital freedoms. It means protecting people from critical and pervasive threats and situations, building on their strengths and aspirations. It also means creating systems that give people the building blocks of survival, dignity and livelihood. To do this, it offers two general strategies: protection and empowerment. Protection shields people from dangers. Empowerment enables people to develop their potential and become full participants in decision-making.”  UN Commission on Human Security (2003)

Let aside the debate around what means; it has become evident that this phenomenon has shown that what affects one nation often affects another, or many others, and that interdependence exists in many forms and shapes. For the sake of this paper, we will move forward while adopting Nick Bisely’s method of defining globalization: “[The definition] depends not only on one’s basic vision of  [globalization's] constituent elements, but also on the sphere of human life in which one is interested” (Bisely, 2007). This paper examines preventive human security within the sphere of human security in the 21st century.

My attention was drawn to the subject of peacekeeping in the 21st century as the solution to a plausible reality that may impose itself upon us in the future. In light of an increasingly sovereignty-sensitive yet globalizing world, and given the prospect that violence-related trends will persist (war-related fatalities will move up to be the 15th leading cause of death in the year 2020) (Peden, McGee and Sharma, 2002); has the international community overlooked the possibility of threats emanating from current humanitarian concerns and global predispositions? And finally, is the international community prepared to meet potential security challenges that emanate from these threats? It is my hope to  underscore the current challenges that may serve as a breeding ground for future global and insecurity.

Conflict, illiteracy, poverty, hunger, water scarcity and pollution among other human threats continue to be some of the more pressing topics placed at the top of the global agenda at the dawn of the 21st century. Human security provides a framework in which such critical components as those above may be addressed. Globally, the world’s population is on the rise all the meanwhile these issues remain persistent; this unbalanced progress will have serious implications to bare in the future, most notable of which is turning to hostile means to ensure survival, hence in light of these persistent threats the threat of armed conflict is a continuous risk. If the notation is true and wars between states are becoming less common while wars within them are on the rise (Hoffman, 2002) all the meanwhile weaker states in particular have always had to struggle not only to maintain effective control within and over their borders but also to exclude external authority (Kanser, 1999), it becomes clear then that preventive security today (and well into the future) will remain central to the process of moving forward with ensuring human survivability.

Preventive security in this paper will represent one component of global human security, as outlined by Prince Hassan of Jordan (PIJPEC, 2008), that  encompasses the prevention of armed-conflict. I will also touch on Food Security, Monetary Security and Resource Security as they relate.

The Threats of the Threats

Globalization, irregardless of the definition you use, is apparently encompassing the world, in some instances slowly and in others surely. This increase in global interactiveness and interdependence begins to highlight the fact that different societies have become dependent upon one another. Like , the economy and diplomacy, conflict too has demonstrated its global tendencies, as modern history has repeatedly demonstrated. It has the tendency to encompass the world; hence it too is very closely related to globalization.

The world is shrinking, not only because of globalization but also due to the rapid increase in global population. There is less room for people in the 21st century then at any other time in history. In fact, it took all of human history, until 1800, for the world’s population to reach one billion (roughly today’s population of Europe and North America combined), while most mid-range population projections foresee future population rising to 10-12 billion by the end of the current century (Lutz, n.a). Aside from an increasing population (and the issue of population security), the global community finds itself facing other serious challenges. The three cornerstones of this paper are:

  • Food Security and Hunger: Over 850 million people in the world are undernourished.This equals roughly 14 percent of the world’s population.However, there is enough food in the world today for every man, woman and child to lead a healthy and productive life (Netaid, n.a). The latter portion of this statistic is quite frightening, especially when considered through the scope of human security; given that the hungry can find food elsewhere (and in many instances within geographic proximity) some may take matters into their own hands and as a result pursue aggressive means of securing this much needed food supply. Furthermore, the statistics become shocking when thought of as a daily occurrence; about 25,000 people [worldwide] die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes (poverty.com, n.a). Hence the question: What’s to keep these individuals from taking matters into their own hands and attempt to secure their own supply of food from adjacent countries after continuous disappointment in state or internationally-sponsored intervention?
  • Global Poverty; closely related to hunger, is another of today’s challenges. Infact, as of Dec 2008, almost half the world — over 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day; 1 billion children live in poverty (1 in 2 children in the world) (Shah, 2008) despite nearing the Millennium Goals deadline marked for 2015. Rising food prices and increased demand have created a global state of instability and unpredictability. In 2007 A report published by Brookings Global Experts noted that: “In a world where boundaries and borders have blurred, and where seemingly distant threats can metastasize into immediate problems, the fight against global poverty has become a fight for global security.” (Brainard , Chollet , Nelson, Okonjo-Iweala and Rice, 2007).
  • Depleting Natural Resources; Oil and Water both stand out as the two main components of this category. Infact conflict over water supplies is hardly a new issue as it has been the cause of clashes between nations for many decades, even centuries prior to the st of the 21st century. However, with the current concerns over , one could say that water resources will only be depleting more rapidly during the 21st century, hence increasing the potential of resource wars. Infact the World Bank has noted that “The wars of the [21st] century will be about water" (OMEGA, n.a). In 2007, the NATO Review recognized that: “A substantial portion of fresh water in basins is shared by two or more nations. Water scarcity can therefore lead to either low density conflicts - or the full waging of a war” (Coskun, 2007).

One can only imagine what implications this could have on already turbulent regions such as The and Africa, where UNEP has recognized that they both provoke perhaps the greatest concern about water shortage: by 2025, 40 countries in the regions are expected to experience water stress or scarcity (Lonergan, 2003). Furthermore a study carried out by the College of Agri and Life Sciences at the University of Arizona established that more than a dozen nations receive most of their water from rivers that cross borders of neighboring countries that are viewed as hostile. These include Botswana, Bulgaria, Cambodia, the Congo, Gambia, the Sudan, and Syria, all of whom receive 75 percent or more of their fresh water from the river flow of often hostile upstream neighbors (UoA, n.a). The majority of nations worldwide suffering from a lack or depletion in the amounts of safe drinking water are closely bound by nations that have access to water, the same argument goes to say that where one nation faces national catastrophe, a neighboring nation is home to that much needed commodity. It does not take a lot of research and thought to realize that what is needed must be sought; hence there will be a constant threat of conflict looming in the 21st century.

So why these three concerns in particular? Good question. First, these three represent the basics of life; to uplift oneself from poverty and secure vital resources is every nation’s primary concern. Secondly if history has shown us anything, it has proven that when demand for resources outweighs supply and when the distribution is perceived to be grossly unfair, public frustration can spark civil strife (Brainard, Chollet, Nelson, Iweala and Rice, 2007). Combined, this can spark trans or intra-border conflict, directly or indirectly.

The Futile Reality: Peacekeeping

The issues highlighted above are simply a few of many others; however these three threats in particular pose much more serious concerns to regional and/or global security than their counterparts. As mentioned earlier, they lay the grounds for conflict. In preparing to meet the threats posed by such threats it becomes clear that for the international community to tackle such issues, there would have to be answers made available to some crucial questions; how can global institutions be better equipped to tackle these issues? What are the mandates of international peace-keeping? Who takes part and when? Etc. Yet the subject that stands out the most is that of state sovereignty… it is difficult to see how such threats will be addressed if the world continues to regard sovereignty as a undisputed foreign affairs priority. Sovereignty here is what refers to international recognition, as opposed to state control, or domestic constitutional order, or the exclusion of external authority (Krasner, 1999). Prince Hassan of Jordan notes: “Whether intervention in the affairs of a state is a moral duty of the international community or a violation of state sovereignty… there is no forward reason why sovereignty could not be shared to reflect the realities of an interdependent world” (PIJPEC, 2008).

Unfortunately, the international mechanisms already put in place do not allow for swift and effective action to address any threat, be it through peacekeeping or swift diplomacy. Over the years we have watched as these very same institutions stood by in the face in places such as , or unilateralism in Russian offensives in the Balkans – Georgia, and we continue to watch as the Millennium goals deadline approach and progress in many cases is slow, if not [completely] absent (WHO, 2007); the results are not promising - the potential outcomes, terrifying. Michael Chertoff, US Secretary of Homeland Security while writing for the Foreign Affairs Journal, seems to recognize this fact when he notes: “States can no longer hide behind seventeenth century concepts of sovereignty in a world of twenty-first-century dangers” (Chertoff, 2009). The reason behind such continuous inaction on part of the international community is underscored for the most part by the issue of nation sovereignty. We simply do not act because it is someone else’s internal business. This logic has become obsolete, yet the issue remains to be sensitive.

It should be recognized that Globalization added complication and potency to internal conflict and . While creating wealth, opportunities for work, and a better life for many, it often impacted adversely on vulnerable strata of society… Those who felt marginalized, deprived or angered by what they perceived as injustices caused by poverty and inequity, found new ways of grouping themselves together (Ogata, 2002). Could nations follow this attitude? Yes, it’s very much likely. Nations deprived of resources, frustrated with reoccurring disappointments in a failing international aid system may set out to secure these resources via other means. That being said, it can be argued that these challenges (highlighted above) pose a serious global security threat, and if the international community continues to fail in addressing these issues, the consequences may be nothing short of destructive.

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