Sunday, September 18, 2011

Challenges to International Security

Security, power and welfare are important attributes for the stability of the international system. These are faced by ever present real and perceived threats, which in turn will destabilize the international system.

The very first threat which comes to mind associated with international security is international terrorism. That international terrorism poses grave challenges to the security is an undeniable fact. However, by focusing on this one may forget that there are a number of other and sometimes not so obvious challenges which may pose even a larger threat to the world order. Some of these inevitably nurtures terrorism.

International Terrorism

Let us begin with international terrorism. This was a phenomenon largely unknown to the world until the Palestinians decided to globalize their struggle. The belief that the Arabs could militarily defeat Israel was shattered in 1967 with the Six Days War. This gave rise to a new breed of Palestinian terrorism which spread its wings even outside the small area for which they are in mortal combat with the Israelis.

International terrorism may have two types of groups. Firstly, there may be groups which operate in several countries, as was the case with some Palestinian groups. Also, there may be several domestic groups allied to each other for operational or ideological reasons. This can be seen in some left-wing terrorist groups and Islamic groups.

Al-Qaeda is a relatively new and lethal phenomenon of international terror, now largely but not entirely, eclipsed from the international arena. However, although the outfit has a central core group, it is in effect an alliance of various fundamentalist terror groupings around the world.

Domestic Terrorism

This brings the attention to a more challenging aspect, that of domestic terrorism. A vast number of terror organizations and insurgencies are domestic ones although they may be associated with foreign organizations for various needs. These domestic groups threaten the States where they are active. Mostly these are secessionist or are attempting to seize power. When the security of a State is affected it will have repercussions to the international community, at least in the near vicinity of the said State. There can be no international security without internal security.

Causes of Terrorism

Terror and all other challenges facing the international community are arising due to a number of socio-economic and political factors. The gap between the rich and the poor, class and caste differences, racial, linguistic and cultural divisions all increase the friction points in the societies.

An example of socio-economic issues directing an insurgency is currently seen in India, where despite the economic boom, a Maoist insurrection is increasingly engulfing the countryside. With the economic boom, the gap between the rich and the poor has grown considerably. In addition, India is having its inherent caste divisions still polarizing the society. The insecurity within India can become a regional issue if it goes out of hand.

International Crime

Another challenge to the international community is the increase in international crime. Narcotics trade, human trafficking, weapons smuggling and other illegal activities are growing around the world. Political instability, economic insecurity and increasing interaction among the peoples around the world are facilitating this phenomenal rise.

For instance, political tensions and increasing armed conflicts helped the weapons smuggling to grow out of proportion. Narcotics are also tied to armed conflicts and weapons smuggling as some insurgent groups depend on it for their finances.

Human trafficking is also a growing concern, which has risen to unprecedented levels in recent times.

Political Instability

Political instability is a dire threat to international security, welfare and power. While stability will not be the answer to each and every evil, instability is the nurturer of many.

The breakup of the Soviet Union is an instance where this was seen vividly. When the State broke up to pieces and law and order situation deteriorated, numerous problems sprang up. Economic collapse precipitated an increase in ordinary crime, narcotics usage, human smuggling, weapons smuggling and a plethora of other evils which became grave obstacles for the new republics. The increase of criminal activities in these areas had unfavorable repercussions throughout the world. The Russian criminal world has now spread its tentacles all over the world and so has the criminal networks of Albanian origin.

Rising Racial Tensions

Increasing poverty and political instability has driven citizens of the developing world to migrate to Europe and North America. Also, due to the rise of Islamic terrorism, especially after September 11 attacks, there is an increasing phenomenon of ‘islamophobia’ especially in Europe and the United States. As a result, there is a growing right-wing extremist tendency in these countries. The recent attack in Norway is but one illustration of the tendency. Extreme right-wing political parties are registering historic electoral victories in even very ‘liberal’ societies. While the mainstream political groups do not condone violence, this development is an illustration of the people’s perceptions in these countries.

The Competition for Vital Resources

The industrialization and the rising population of the world drive the nations to compete for vital resources. The fact that many international disputes are in one way or the other connected to petroleum or a maritime boundary is no mere coincidence. The thirst for energy, in the form of the relatively cheap ‘black gold’ has made peoples go to war. The seas and Oceans, with their largely untapped resources are also a point of contention as nations are becoming increasingly aware of the vast potential in them.

Both industrialization and population growth has also rendered the available clean water resources limited. If the industrial pollution of water resources and deforestation are not curbed, a water shortage is predicted to occur in a few decades. There will be less water available for agriculture which in turn will make it difficult to feed the increasing population.

With this impending water crisis, there are considerable tensions between nations and even communities over water resources. This has always been a concern for rulers from time immemorial. However, it is going to be an ever growing concern in the near future.

Global Warming and Climate Change

Recently, the U.N. Security Council declared that the impacts of climate change are a threat to world peace and security. They give rise to natural disasters and other repercussions which will generate a number of challenges including human displacement, the reduction of the availability of water, reduction of agricultural productivity, food insecurity, health hazards, and energy crisis. These can in turn give rise to international disputes, terrorism and other security issues.

Nuclear Proliferation

Nuclear proliferation is causing long standing international disputes between the Western world and countries such as North Korea and Iran. Before the fall of the USSR, the nuclear proliferation of the two superpowers was the main cause of tension. After 1991, with the USSR out of the way, the U.S. seeks to prevent the so called ‘rogue states’ from acquiring nuclear weapons.

A further cause of insecurity is the possibility of a major nuclear disaster due to a terrorist attack or a natural disaster at a nuclear facility. This became a nightmare come true at Fukushima a few months back. In the fallout of Fukushima, the Green Party in Germany, for the first time in its history, was able to form a government at a State in that country.


With all these factors playing a role, it can be stated that global security, welfare and power are challenged by a multitude of factors. However, the root cause of all these can be found in inequalities between the elite and the people or the powerful and the powerless.


Billy, B. Racism on the Rise in Europe
Accessed: Sep 06, 2011

Muniruzzaman A.M.N. Climate Change: Threat to International Peace and Security
Accessed: Sep 09, 2011

FAO No Global Water Crisis, but Many Developing Countries will Face Water Scarcity

Accessed: Sep 09, 2011

Federation of American Scientists, International Crimes Threat Assessment
Accessed: Sep 05, 2011

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