The independent resource on global security

Introduction. International security, armaments and disarmament


I. Global and regional security

II. Dynamics of peace and conflict

III. The relationship between science and security

IV. Conclusions


SIPRI Yearbook 2014 documents some disturbing tendencies in conflict, armament dynamics and international security. The world is still far from achieving anything that could be described as ‘global order’. Moreover, given that political, technological, economic, ecological and military activities continue to undergo continuous and rapid change, achieving peaceful solutions to conflicts and promoting a more stable security environment may become increasingly elusive.

In terms of conclusions that can be drawn from events and developments in 2013 in armaments, disarmament and international security, the interactions between three interlocking sets of issues should continue to be analysed.

First, the evolving approach to international governance will have a direct bearing on the capacity of states to reach common understanding and agreement on the best ways to promote international and regional security. The various chapters in this edition of the SIPRI Yearbook underline the emergence of a series of tensions of different kinds—for example, within the various specialized institutions and between global and regional bodies charged with security governance. The continuous movement from seeking common ground to tolerating national differences and managing their consequences has progressively corroded multilateral approaches and, as the security discourse escapes the confinement of agreed frameworks, a new fluidity can be seen in the alignment of states over different issues.

Second, improving understanding of the relationship between development and security will help identify opportunities for joint actions by actors that have not traditionally been partners. Few people would dispute the existence of a relationship between economic, social and human development, on the one hand, and peace and security, on the other. The relationship is complex: while security can lead to development and development can lead to security, neither is sufficient to promote the other and both may not always be necessary, in the short term. Better understanding of this relationship will require more research, using an approach that concentrates on analysing problems in their entirety, rather than focusing on trying to solve the individual elements. In order to understand how the different parts of these problems interact, it will be necessary to draw from many academic disciplines.

Third, the rapid pace and scope of advances in various fields of science and technology and the way that these advances interact with one another may now be considered an independent factor shaping international security. With growing complexity, the assessment of technology has become more difficult. Understanding the interaction between science and public policy has also become more of a challenge.

The need for ‘competent, unbiased information concerning the physical, biological, economic, social, and political effects of the increasingly extensive and larger applications of technology’ to support government decision making and the legislative process—the mandate of a now defunct agency, the United States Office of Technology Assessment—is an idea that is certainly not outdated, but arguably more necessary than ever.

Dr Ian Anthony (United Kingdom) is Director of SIPRI.