The independent resource on global security

Introduction. Global security governance: a world of change and challenge



I. Introduction

I. Power and influence in the 21st century

III. Shared challenges: diverging agendas?

IV. Modes of security action: intervention, the legislative method and integration

V. Closing thoughts on the United Nations


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Today’s world cannot be secure without security for all, yet the events of the past few years have done little to bring global solutions closer. The United Nations Secretary-General was right to seek suggestions for new approaches from the High-level Panel that reported in December 2004, and right to endorse their major proposals for consideration at the 2005 UN General Assembly.


Part of the problem is that traditional means of assessing, and balancing, different actors’ power in the global system are out of date. The USA today possesses supreme power by most reckonings, but was limited in what it could achieve in Iraq without institutional backing, and is labouring under heavy costs as a result. Many other states are preferring to seek influence as well as power by pooling their resources in multilateral groupings and/or working through systems of international regulation. It would be hasty to assume that the unilateral rather than the multilateral approach to wielding power will shape the globe’s future.


Security solutions today must take account of the growing power of non-state actors: including not just terrorists, but the capacity for both good and ill of the private business sector, civil society movements, non-governmental organizations and the media. They must also tackle the challenge of a widening gap in security experience and priorities between most of the northern and most of the southern hemisphere. The greater emphasis placed recently on universal ‘transnational’ threats—as well as the growing economic clout of some ‘southern’ powers—should have underlined North–South interdependence and common interests. Sadly, many actions of the USA and other ‘northern’ powers since 2001 seem rather to have polarized attitudes further. It is, therefore, also timely that efforts should be made in 2005 to revive the UN’s ‘Millennium’ agenda, with its emphasis on universal human development and its hopes of reducing inequality.


No single principle or method of action can, in fact, tackle the full complexity of the world’s security problems. The three main methods in current use each have their strengths and weaknesses.


External intervention, which does not just take military form but includes all methods used by stronger actors to alter the internal situation of weaker ones, may have many noble motives. However, it brings unpredictable costs and risks, and places heavy responsibilities on the intervener. As the reasons or excuses for intervening multiply, the world needs more than ever an international authority and code to govern such actions, and a better system to create and deploy the optimum mixture of resources, including non-state ones, for them.


The regulatory or legislative approach to governing security-related phenomena has practical as well as normative advantages, not least in covering non-traditional actors. Present approaches, however, have yet to solve the challenges of universality, fairness and ownership, enforceability and enforcement.


Creating security through integration is a relatively new method pushed furthest in Europe. It can encompass most of the threat spectrum and cope with non-state actors, but has its own weaknesses and problems of popular legitimacy. Even so, several other regions are currently exploring it.


The UN stands at the centre of all these challenges and of debates on solving them. Properly understood, enhancing its role offers advantages to the strong as well as the weak. Yet the UN does not govern all (e.g., monetary and economic) dimensions of global action relevant to security, and the norms and goals it sets require the help of many others for fulfilment. All actors that have the power to respond to the proposals of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change have a shared responsibility to help realize them: ‘the buck stops here’.



Appendix. A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, Report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change

This appendix contains the synopsis and summary of recommendations of A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility, Report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. [PDF]