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Do you agree with Waever’s claim that “something is a security problem when the elites declare it to be so”? Essay


According to the elite, securitization as a concept came from a Danish professor, ole Waever. According to him, the concept of securitization is something which doesn’t exist in materialism, but subjectively exists solidly in people’s minds. Security threats can be categorised into two groups. The first group is the high security threats, which really need military action, for example, terrorism.

The second one is low security threats that ordinarily need no military actions, for example; natural threats, health and welfare. This clearly opposes the notion that not all security threats involve military, national, political and ideological concerns.

Most traditionalists, who were regarded as the minority, completely opposed the existence of security threats. Little did they know that a security threat and its vulnerability do not necessarily involve military force since it can be inform of anything (existential threat).


This paper explores a claim that “something is a security problem when the elites declare it to be so”? This is according to Waever. By criticizing most of Waevers previous reflections, that were based on securitization with the concept of translation, it has become easy to argue about several issues that majority of the elite had earlier highlighted.

One is the claim that securitization is a speech act. In his statements, Waever confessed that nothing is really a security problem but is basically made to be so by calling it a security problem. In fact, he argues that by just claiming that something is a security problem, the country would demand for special rights to combat that so called security problem (David, 2008).

In many occasions, most governments withhold its secrets from the public in the name of national security; even detain citizens who are a threat to the national security without charge. Some countries even use military forces against their own people in the name of protecting national security.

The country deploys this special right to attain its internal security by whatever means. Contrary, what is pervasive is the claim of such special right especially on social resources in the name of accomplishing national security (David, 2008).

Waever’s remarks that even environmental or human emancipation problems all qualifies under the security threat category, makes them to require special attention and allocation of social resources. Waever argued that “no one should ever try to extend the scope of security, instead should work harder to desecuritize the problem.” (David, 2008, p. 12).

This came evidently when the United States government was combating war on drugs. The efforts conducted by both Para-military and military police ended up involving physical assaults especially on the cocaine producers in South America. Desecuritizing such a problem involves the progressive removal of the issue away from the existing security agenda (David, 2008).

The basic definition of security is protection against threats, be it external or internal. Therefore, after identifying all possible threats and their solutions, the major problem is how do we engage in the study of security? Waever presented one solution on how to solve this problem. The two major categories the elite propose include; strategic studies and the realism on which it is concentrated on (David, 2008).

Based on these two strategies, it is clear that there is a way knowledge can be generated from social realities. Some critics came up opposing this claiming that no knowledge can ever be gained from studying the society, since the people being examined are social scientists. They claim that such scientists are elite and actors who fully understand the world (David, 2008).

What can be said to be a security problem/threat?

A security problem within a country calls for a number of things to be addressed. Given that a security problem is a threat to the existence of a political unit, it has to be addressed before all other questions. Security problems are solved for urgency and survival of states (Ucl.ac.uk, 2010). This gives such countries freedom from threats so that they do continue to exist as basic political units.

Securitization of a given problem leads to identifying specific ways of addressing a given problem. Addressing these problems involve identifying what the threat is, looking at defence options available and finding state-centred solutions. This could involve closing off a country’s political space, constraining and putting in place exceptional measures that endanger the threat identified as a security problem.

The elite have openly expounded on the real truth about all factors that can be security threats to the international community (Nou.edu, 2009).

Similarly, a security threat can be described to be the capacity of both human and non-human elements that can arise and cause or destroy the vital interest to the targets. A security threat, based on scholarly arguments, can be termed as any bad intent of any party to exploit the vulnerable and deprive them of their rights.

Ole Waevers work

Being a professor in the Copenhagen school’s department of international relations, Ole Waever majored on concepts related to international security. Among them is the theory of realism (Czeslaw, 2002). Waever argued that cooperration between states is a major step countries must take to maximize on the security of individual states.

The Neoliberalism theory also developed by Waever, suggests that individual states are the key actors as far as the international relations on security affairs is concerned. Moreover, he argues that states have the right to decide independently how to go about conducting internal and external security affairs without even consulting the international organization (Czeslaw, 2002).

In addition to this, Waever further argues that while realists supports the fact that conflicts should be the norm in the international world, contrary, most regime theorists agree that there is the existence of such corporation even without such anarchy. Most international cooperations on security, trade and human rights are primarily regime.

According to realists and later the neorealists, the issue on military security is considered to be an attribute aggregated by alliances between states or regions. Basically, according to Waever, international security is perceived as an absence of such international threats or any situation that can lead to tension and uncertainty globally (Czeslaw, 2002).

According to Waever, the most electric approach on security threat is precisely concentrated on military, economic, political, environmental and finally societal issues. The argument, according to these elite is that, any public issue presented as threat both regional and global can be securitized. However, Waever further proposes on the concept of desecuritization.

This according to Waever, should be applied on all relevant security threats, which under one speech act, are capable of compelling extraordinary measures primarily in another speech act presented. Finally, Waever defined security as a self referential practice due to the fact that it is under such practices when an issue envelopes and becomes security threat issue (Czeslaw, 2002).

Examples of security threats

According to Waever, the concepts of security threats were associated together with security problems that undermine any community or nation. Any threat on the independence of a country occurring in any style should always be eliminated by mobilization of maximum efforts (Nou.edu, 2009).

In my opinion, I totally agree with Waever that a security problem or threat is only acceptable after being declared to be so by the elite. This is because most people including those in the military always conclude that security threats are only any military operation against terror. Here are few examples of national and international security threats.

Natural threats

In many parts of the international community, there are many cases of geological threats that cause great damage including loss of lives. Cases where hundreds and thousands of people who die in natural geologic attacks like severe earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and tsunamis have widely been reported (Nou.edu, 2009). Such threats can never be prevented or be solved by military operations.

It is the responsibility of the elite to declare such disasters as an international threat on security, since they claims many people’s lives. Climatic hazards are the other types of security threats that only the elite can work on.

It is evident that millions of people living in the affected areas have lost their lives due to disasters like drought, wildfire, lightening and heavy rains among many others (Nou.edu, 2009). Such natural threats cannot be solved via the military action. It is the role of the elite to declare them international threats and come up with scholarly measures to prevent them.

This type of security threat usually involves the entrapment of the environment either by pollution or other means of degradation including bush burning and release of toxic chemicals among many others. Such practices expose the life of people living in that area to great danger. Polluting the environment has various negative impacts to the human and even aquatic life.

Toxic gases emitted in the atmosphere can lead to global warming hence create a threat to living thing on earth (Nou.edu, 2009). It is the mandate of the elite to expose most of this security threats for the world to know and understand.

Several researches conducted by the elite have shown that environmental degradation through pollution is a security threat since the damage it causes on the ozone layer is big. This risks life of living things living on earth due to the ultraviolet light. The ozone layer is a natural blanket whose function is to block U.V rays from penetrating into the earth and destroying all living things.

In most countries, the budget consumption is concentrated more on dealing with medical and health issues, rather than being spent on military and the purchase of weapons. Averagely, the focus on improving people’s health and protecting them from various infectious and non-infectious diseases invasion is the best priority the government can adopt in a way of dealing with internal threats.

Most elite’s declaration stress on the fact that security threats or problems are not only those factors that can be handled by the military. Nevertheless, any situation that contributes to any harm to the country and its subjects is categorized to be security problem (Jeremy, 2004).

Poor health facilities and lack of medication would automatically constitute to premature deaths. Despite the fact that healths issues are mostly considered to be handled by private institutions, most governments spend twice as much resources more than what is spent on the military. This is significantly important in the struggle to protect citizens from death threats as part of securitization (Jeremy, 2011).

HIV/AIDS is the most known international threat in the medical field. It has been proven that millions of people die every day as a result of HIV. It is ironical to say that war against HIV/AIDS can be successful using military weapons.

At this juncture, I fully agree with Waever that if it was not for the elite, then no one could have ever known that HIV/AIDS is n international threat to the security of people. Furthermore, the same elite have conducted hundreds of research projects on determining the pandemic of HIV/AIDS.

Human caused threat

These are basically any bad intentions some people or a sect living in the community have against the other. Some humans are considered to be a security threat to others and in this case, the law together with the military all participate in fighting such incidents. There are several examples of cases where humans become a threat to the security of fellow humans.

In other words, security threat entails basically criminals or terrorist attacks on vulnerable people; for example robbery, hijacking and blackmailing (Nou.edu, 2009). Frequently in this case, the use of weapons is exhibited. In conclusion, the term security threat or problem has diversified meaning that the elite have made each one of us be aware of.

Immigrants as security threat

Security is so critical to each and every country around the world. One of the issues that have been a security problem according to the elites is migration. As people move from one place to another, there is a tendency for the destination country to try and secure the ethical and physical boundaries. These destination countries do this in order to protect themselves from the threats of the immigrants.

The resultant problems caused by the immigrants are seen as a security problem by the elites. Consequently, if a country has declared a certain issue as a security problem, then such a country would definitely claim a special right. This special right and the security problem are normally defined by the state, as well as its elites (Jeremy, 2011).

Given that immigrants are one of the main security problems worldwide, one way of addressing the problem is by understanding the migrants. One of the ways of understanding migrants is by identifying if the immigrants, as well as refugees, are an economic resource to the destination country or not.

Additionally, it should be considered if the immigrants are dangerous to the destination country’s social stability. Another critical issue when dealing with refugees is getting to know if they are human rights holders that have a right to be protected under the international law (Jeremy, 2011).

Further more, it is vital for one to consider if the immigrants are likely to threaten the survival of a society that already exists. Moreover, to the host country, consideration has to be in terms of the dangers or any positive contributions from the immigrants. Lastly, immigrants have to be understood in terms of the danger they can cause.

Thus, the question which should be asked is, are these immigrants more dangerous than nuclear weapons? By answering all these questions, then one can be in a good position to understand the immigrants, mostly viewed by the elites as a security problem (Jeremy, 2004).

On the other hand, the question is, how do we consider migration, as a process that can become a security problem in the world? One of the reason as to why immigrants are seen as a security problem is due to their high number, which increases steadily on daily basis.

Such sudden and gradual increase in the number of immigrants in that specific country of destination will always results in destabilization of the labour market. Essentially, there would be an increase in the unemployment rates as the available jobs cannot support the high number of job seekers.

Additionally, such situation always becomes a problem to the government as it may not be in a better position to provide the necessary social amenities for its own citizens and also the immigrants.

Furthermore, most immigrants may have different social cultural practices that’s dangerous since it can contribute to mass population unrest and legitimate problems among citizens of the host country at large who may have different culture and social practices (Josefina, 2010).

Although immigrant have been pointed out by the elite to be security threat to a country, there is need to completely understand them (immigrants). First of all, is to substantiate whether immigrants can either be of any economic help to the country of destination or be a threat to the security.

Moreover, it is also important to determine whether immigrants under refugee’s status have a right to be protected by the host country under the international law of humanity. Basically, after understanding the immigrant, there is need to creatively establish means on how immigration contributes to the security problem of the country (Larsen, 2009).

Problems of treating migration as security threat

Once a country openly declares immigrants as security problem, there exist fear and lack of trust distributed among the citizens of that country. Similarly, such fear and uncertainty of the unknown, eventually develops as the finger of everyone is strongly pointed at immigrants, who are being considered to be social-cultural threat to the host’s society settings.

There would be need for the host countries security personnel, to demonstrate an imperative act just to keep danger at a distance. This act of keeping danger (immigrant threats) away significantly contributes to the reducing of individual vulnerability and also improving the social welfare. This is precisely achieved through proper management and border security control measures put in place.

In order to attain immigration security, most countries of destinations are forced make agreements with third countries concerning the process of immigration. Development of registration and special identity cards has also been developed and issued to the immigrants (Neal, 2005).

In fact, in most countries, immigrants holding refugees status are locked up in detention centres for interviews until when declared to have qualified for the refugees status, then it is granted unto them. Contrary, for those who fail the interview and are denied the country asylum, are sent away.

From this point of view, I completely agree with Waever statement that something becomes a security threat after being declared to be so by the elites. Moreover, it is important to note that, security problems is so critical in that it must be given the first priority and be addressed first before any other agenda.

However, if ignored, security threats can undercut even the political order and disrupt all other on going developments processes in the country. In addition to this, security threat should never be regarded to always exist and handled physically, but must be inclusive of the autonomy in the community at large (Princeton, 2004).

Desecuritization of migration

It is clear that for a number of years, the global academia in conjunction with world policy-making voices have shown great concern and developed issues relevant to the need for desecuritizing migration (Ucl.ac.uk, 2010). Such step precisely means that, migration would no longer be treated as security problem instead relevant criteria’s shall be put in place to solve the issue in simplified way.

This is precisely against the practice of exceptionality since all countries have a responsibility of securing their own ethical and physical boundaries against all sorts of threats.

Critical scholars and other practitioners have argued over relocating the topic of migration, which must be handled with respect to democratic rights (Ucl.ac.uk, 2010). These scholarly critics, openly proposes that instead of striving to attain internal security, the government should always focus and struggle for desecuritizing the issue as an alternative solution (Ucl.ac.uk, 2010).

The best way of encountering such migration threats is by developing means of representing migration, in such a way that it does not create unfamiliar encounter. Some of the desecuritizing strategies involve being objectivist (Ucl.ac.uk, 2010). This is accomplished by convincing the native not to be afraid of immigrants who are just humans running away from threats and are not dangerous.

Finally, the other way is via being constructivist. This basically entails proper understanding of the real cause that triggers reinforcement of securitization and also the engagement in handling the situation differently (Ucl.ac.uk, 2010).

Terrorism as security threat

Terrorism can be defined as premeditated and politically triggered violence perpetrated against non-combatant target primarily by a minor group of people (Czeslaw, 2001). The main aim of terrorist is to influence or impress audience or payback via terror attacks. Such terrorist attacks are regarded to be a calculated and unexpected violence that targets everyone including terrorists themselves (Ruben and Laura, 2006).

There are three categories of terrorism based on the attacks. The unexpected attack carried out by terrorists who are either freedom or guerrilla fighters against the military of the government (Princeton, 2004). The second category is the surprising attack against the society that was unprepared and finally is the mega-terrorism just like the September 11 attack in New York.

Comprehensively, the vulnerabilities most terrorists use always come up as a result of poor and insufficient securitization, especially on installation of protective measures (Princeton, 2004).One major solution to this approach is by narrowing down to the usual sense of securitization to a mere identification of vulnerabilities (Czeslaw, 2001).

Contrary, almost all securitization measures put in place stay in one strategic position for long in that terrorist could easily identify loopholes and weaknesses therefore subjecting the society to any form of threat.

The only way to encounter such blunders according to scholars, has been argued over and over on whether system thinking and complexity studies can in any way provide the best solution on how to avoid terrorist attacks (Czeslaw, 2001).

Notable to mention is that, securitization of vulnerabilities especially on social systems is very helpful in terms of better predictions and prevention of terrorism. For as long as measures against global terrorism are still underway, it is evident that military action is ineffective (Czeslaw, 2001).

The first step to be considered in war against terror is the reinforcement of international cooperation against terrorism (Nilufer, 2011). Globally, it is vital for all countries to be responsible and tighten their internal security including mass action against terrorism and their supporters. However, this is never guaranteed to foster global peace against terrorism completely.

Nonetheless, many nations have shown great efforts in combating terrorism. Contrary, most scholars and analysts argue that there is declining support, precisely on terrorism war due to the unilateralist tendency created by America policies (Alethia, 2010). Moreover, it is significantly true that homeland security is more critical because the cases of terrorism are on the increase in most countries.

It is good to consider that, so long as global war on terror is everyone’s responsibilities, the facts still remain that most countries would prefer to fight terrorism far away from their homelands. On the other hand, most countries prefer improving the transport and border security as ways of fighting terrorism (Nilufer, 2011).

Security, the translation

From translational point of view, the real meaning or definition of security indicates that at any time, the boundaries, meanings and practices of security can be subjected to changes (Holger, 2011). It is imperative to consider that, whatever counts to be a security practice at one period will not always operate similarly the same in another period.

The conversation on claiming that security threat is simply a speech act becomes more and more difficult to establish (Enotes.com, 2011). This claim in fact has contributed to the developments of various interpretations creating confusion among securitization scholars (Enotes.com, 2011).

Such confusions were meant to deliberately extend the general responsibilities of Waever and the entire Copenhagen school just for themselves (Holger, 2011). They had expressed many claims, which were merely considered to be at metaphoric level. As evidence, most of waever’s unpublished work precisely on “security, the speech acts” clearly demonstrated a detailed reflection on this claim (Holger, 2011).

It seems that most of these securitizing scholars were entirely subjected to three different reading on the same topic “the core idea of securitization” (Holger, 2011). Which one do we follow? In one of the topics, securitization is basically referred to be a political act built on the core basis of post-structuralism and Arendt.

The Second topic refers securitization as logic; a mental-language that contain universal grammar used in many social-cultural settings (Holger, 2011). Finally the third idea of securitization describes securitization as a contextual practice, which primarily entails the exercising of complex social-political dynamics (Jason, 2004).

Considerably, all the above three core ideas of securitization clearly elaborate the elements that were found in texts from the Copenhagen school.

For security speech, Waever clearly and comprehensively provides the definition of the term securitization contrary to what he gave out in his other publications (Holger, 2011). Therefore, securitization comparatively refers to an illocutionary act directed in relation to any mode of security (Holger, 2011).

In conclusion, this concept of securitization when viewed in translation perspective, adds an important element of complete instability and undesirability as far as security threat is concerned. A translational perspective reveals that security process involves complete examination, travelling and iterations (Holger, 2011).

Translation is indeed the heart of any process whatsoever, which involves knowledge production. This is because in knowledge production, there is involvement of linguistic and analytical variability.

In the 20th century, the securitizing processes in the United States acquired various waves. According to records, the firsts securitizing move was recorded in the 19th century, just after the World War II. As a reminder, the origin of the current global discourse basically evolved via several translational encounters.

These translational encounters often resulted in development of localization process and adaptations respective of what the new discursive locales. These securitization actors and audience relevant to this terror crime are not fully established.

Most importantly, as far as translation is concerned, there are multiple complex actors and audience who have not only shown concern on securitization of global crime, but also shown the urge to continue with its security.


In my opinion, from the above discussion, I fully agree with Waever that the security threat is because it has been declared to be so by the elite. The global legality and the current efforts used to fight terrorism is the main concern in most countries.

Following the terms and ideas of Buzan and Waever, there is need for securitization inclusive of all operations carried out in each state. It has been clear that international security threats are not only fighting physical war using weapons, but it is any disastrous situation that can cause harmful effects to the people, the issue of immigrants being security threat is critical.

Most immigrants posses refugee status. This is ironical because most of them might be running away from their home country after committing a serious offence like murder. Such a criminal when he goes to a new country, chances are high that the same mistake would repeat again.

This is risky for the innocent people. The only way out of this is conducting interviews before granting anyone refugees status. Terrorism is a global disastrous threat to everyone. Many terrorism incidents have been reported, the greatest being the September 11 in united states. It is the duty of everyone to join hand in war against terror.


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