The independent resource on global security

Introduction. International security, armaments and disarmament


Bates Gill

  • I. Assessing the past year
  • II. SIPRI Yearbook 2012: overview, themes and key findings
  • III. Looking ahead


Read the full introduction [PDF].


SIPRI Yearbook 2012 includes contributions from 39 experts from 17 countries who chronicle and analyse important trends and developments in international security, armaments and disarmament. Their analysis points to three persistent contemporary trends that underpin a more dynamic and complex global security order: constraints on established powers; the continuing emergence of new powers and non-state actors; and struggling norms and institutions.


Constraints on established powers

In 2011 established powers in the world system—especially the United States and its major transatlantic allies—continued to face constraints on their economic, political and military capacities to address global and regional security challenges. These constraints were primarily imposed by budget austerity measures in the wake of the crisis in public finances experienced throughout most of the developed world.


At the same time, uprisings and regime changes in the Arab world drew international attention and responses, including the United Nations-mandated and NATO-led intervention in Libya. The widespread support for and expansion of traditional peace operations over the past decade are also facing constraints in the years ahead. Moreover, the world’s major donors to peace operations are largely looking to cut support to multilateral institutions and to focus on smaller and quicker missions.


Continuing emergence of new powers and non-state actors

States around the world outside the traditional US alliance system are building greater economic, diplomatic and military capacity to affect regional and, in some cases, global security developments. In-depth tracking of armed violence around the world also reveals the destabilizing role of non-state actors in prosecuting conflicts and engaging in violence against civilians.


Unfortunately, the global community has yet to fully grapple with the ongoing structural changes that define today’s security landscape—changes that often outpace the ability of established institutions and mechanisms to cope with them. It will certainly take time for established and newly emergent powers to reach an effective consensus on the most important requirements for international order, stability and peace, and on how to realize and defend them.


Struggling norms and institutions

Multilateral organizations tasked with promoting and enforcing norms for stability and security continue to face difficulties in generating the political will and financial resources needed to meet their mandates, and gaps remain which require new or more effective mechanisms.


A far greater focus will need to be placed on less militarized solutions to the security challenges ahead. Perhaps most crucially, many of the most important security challenges in the years ahead will not readily lend themselves to traditional military solutions. Instead, what will be needed is an innovative integration of preventive diplomacy, pre-emptive and early-warning technologies, and cooperative transnational partnerships. 



Dr Bates Gill (United States) is Director of SIPRI.