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Security is an issue that directly influences the lives and wellbeing of the world’s population. Taking into consideration that global politics can never be referenced without mentioning security, it is essential to properly theorize it. This paper will argue that the proper balance between realist and constructivist approaches to security issues could help to better analyze and confront today’s and tomorrow’s threats.
It will explore the different approaches to theorizing security and will discuss major safety concerns of modern societies around the world. The first section of this paper will examine the perception of the concept of security. The second part will describe the United Nations Security Council and its main functions. The following section will analyze the security concerns of different social groups. The remaining part of the paper will describe various theoretical approaches to the issue of security.
The Concept of Security
Large numbers of people are being affected by the following security-related issues: displacement, being denied education, rape, imprisonment, torture, starvation, and healthcare among others (Parker 1999). The concept of security is often discussed in newspaper columns and politicians’ speeches. The Internet is also rife with security-related content. Many nations focus on the issue of human safety by preparing for the possibility of a military threat. This aspect of security is associated with the questions of acceptable life quality, economic privation as well as the fundamental human rights (Williams 2012).
It can be argued that the perception of the concept of security is markedly different among various groups of people. Scholars studying international relations describe security as the process of threat alleviation that is aimed at saving cherished values (Williams 2012). The concept of security can only be understood through the process of systematization of the past and interpretation of the present. Moreover, it could help people to acquire the power of influencing the future (Williams 2012).
Security is a productive force that ensures the reality is actionable as well as intelligible in a certain way. The state of being free from danger is so important that the government of Zaire under Mobutu Sese Seko dedicated a huge portion of its budget to promote security instead of prioritizing other areas such as education and health (Menkhaus 2014). A similar scenario occurred during the Arab Springs: the governments of the countries involved in revolutions invested in security and started to control street riots instead of putting more emphasis on the future prosperity of their countries (Roberts & Zaum, 2013).
In some cases, security carries a lot of political clouts when it comes to the competition for government resources. The study of the concept of security started during the Second World War and has been a highly disputed territory of scholar discourse since then. Moreover, it is widely considered to be one of the most essential areas of international relations (Williams 2012).
The United Nations Security Council
The United Nations is an organization that was created after the end of the Second World War. It is composed of about 193 member states and significantly contributes to the promotion of international cooperation (De Wet 2004). The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is one of its branches. It is among the most influential bodies in the world and is comprised of fifteen associate countries, five of which are permanent members of the body (Buzan 1997).
The United States, China, the United Kingdom, France, and Russia are constant affiliates of the council. The rest of the ten slots are filled with nonpermanent members who are always elected into the UNSC to serve a two-year term (De Wet 2004).
Even though all the members have a right to vote for any resolution, the permanent associates have veto rights which they can use for influencing a decision of the UNSC (De Wet 2004). According to the council’s charter, the primary objective of the organization is the maintenance of peace and security of the world; therefore, it can be argued that it is the most powerful and authoritative body that has ever existed (De Wet 2004).
The UNSC is partially concerned with shaping the political systems in various countries since they are responsible for determining the existence of any threat to the peace and security of the world. The organization helps to resolve political disputes between conflicting countries amicably and peacefully (Roberts & Zaum, 2013). The body also wields the power of imposing sanctions on various nations for the use of military force. It can also initiate restoration of peace and international security with the help of the military involvement in armed conflicts. The UN charter presupposes several options for conflict resolution that are available to the UNSC (Roberts & Zaum, 2013).
They include, but not limited to, authorized military operations, peacekeeping operations, and numerous diplomatic and economic sanctions (Roberts & Zaum, 2013). In the recent past, the UNSC has made a lot of decisions regarding crisis intervention to resolve various security threats 70 percent of which were posed by member states, non-member states, and terrorists (Roberts & Zaum, 2013). The majority of the resolutions adopted by the organization in 2015 were focused on addressing the issue of the proliferation of nuclear weapons and facilitating dispute resolution between various countries in Africa and the Middle East (Roberts & Zaum, 2013). Therefore, the UNSC is considered the guardian of the world’s peace and stability (Roberts & Zaum, 2013).
Different countries define and prioritize security according to the size of their economies and the level of threat posed by particular issues (Sagan 2010). A wide variety of social and financial factors are being considered during the process of security agenda-setting (Amer, Swain & Öjendal 2014). The governments have to approach the issue of security from different vantage points to determine the specific categories of objects, subjects, and values requiring protection (‘Peace Studies’ 2013).
However, it is worth noticing that the citizens of all countries play a key part in determining the security agenda for their nations. Each individual sets their security priorities that are significantly influenced by sex, age, gender, religious beliefs, race, nationality, class, place of origin, what they want to see happen in future, or where they want to go (Williams 2012).
The perception of security is shaped by individuals’ fears, concerns, and anxieties. Some of those feelings are shared by the majority of people in a particular society; others are peculiar to particular individuals. It is necessary to remember that the political implications of fears and concerns of various social groups have different significance. Moreover, threat agendas and their priorities are being set by a significant number of people sharing similar attitudes toward particular security issues.
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Therefore, it is only logical to conclude that an issue that has been deemed a threat by the UNSC will have much more significant consequences for world politics than the threat agendas constructed by Uganda National Security Council. The same could be applied to small groups suffering from HIV/AIDS versus entire African countries devastated by the disease. The massive inequalities of power and influence that exist across individuals and groups in modern world politics present significant methodological problems for students of security. Given the power disparities between people, it is only reasonable to ask whether security agendas should be focused on both the powerful and the powerless or cater to only one social class (Williams 2012).
Security in Africa
Security remains a major concern for many African countries even today (Menkhaus 2014). The historic referendum on self-determination of South Sudan in January 2011 divided the nation of Sudan into two independent countries (Menkhaus 2014). The results of the referendum were endorsed by the Sudanese president Omar Hassan al-Bashir who visited the capital of South Sudan and promised to help with the celebration of the birth of the new nation (Menkhaus 2014).
However, only six months after the proclamation of South Sudan independence, the two countries started having significant disagreements related to the border security issues (Menkhaus 2014). In April 2012, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union got involved in the dispute and helped the conflicting parties to de-escalate the situation thereby significantly decreasing the threat of a major-scale civil war and reducing security concerns of the people living on the Sudan-South Sudan border (Menkhaus 2014).
Somali is another war-torn country in Africa. It has entered the third decade of state collapse exacerbated by the conflict between a militant group Al-Shabaab and the African Union Mission. Even though the peacekeeping forces tried to reduce the disruption to the civil and political life of the country, they created another dimension of security concerns for the people trying to live peacefully amid a civil war. (Menkhaus 2014).
The views and theories surrounding security are crucial in two respects: they help explain the historical sequence of events in terms of conflict and war as well as predict the future to determine the right course of political action (Hettne 2010). Therefore, it can be argued that the study of conflicts and wars is essential for international politics because it helps to recognize future security threats at both state and global levels.
According to Williams, realist theory views security in terms of the military potential of a state and its chances to survive against other nations’ attacks thereby taking a pessimistic view of international relations (2008). Even though its proponents have some minor disagreements over the idea of cooperation, they all share the view that the character of international dealings between states never changes in any significant way (Williams 2012).
However, considering that the focus on the security of a single nation lies at the foundation of realist theory, it can be argued that it is no longer relevant in a modern world associated with a web of cooperation between different states. Wendt and other critics of the theory point to the relationship between Australia and New Zealand that challenge the factual accuracy of the realist approach to politics and national security (Williams 2012).
The constructivist theory provides a broader view of the security concept and its effects on world politics. Unlike realists that operate on the assumption that flawed human nature has led to historical massacres and abuses of power in international relations, constructivists do not confine all historical events to military motives and their outcomes. Therefore, it can be said that constructivism is more relevant in today’s world that shifts the meaning of social interaction and its role in politics. However, it is worth noting that the constructivism theory has its pitfalls associated with a large number of variables in the analysis of political events (Williams 2012). Consequently, the right balance between the two theories will allow analyzing the world’s security issues most effectively.
Security is an issue that directly influences the lives and wellbeing of the world’s population and is essential to analyzing world politics. The perception of security is markedly different among various groups of people and is influenced by factors such as sex, age, gender, religious beliefs, race, nationality, class, and place of origin among others. Even though there is no consensus on the right approach to the issue of security, it is still crucial in two respects: they help us explain the historical sequence of events in terms of conflict and war as well as predict future outcomes to determine the right course of political action. Therefore, it is necessary to find a proper balance between realist and constructivist approaches to security theories to confront today’s and tomorrow’s threats most effectively.
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