Global Security

A. The Concept

Global security is seen, historically, as the first existential issue for humankind to have had to confront.

The twin advent, in 1945, of the UN Charter (26 June), designed to prevent traditional inter-state aggression using conventional weapons, and the first atomic explosion (16 July) was an extraordinary juxtaposition of events. The existence of weapons of mass destruction which has destructive capacity of global proportion has overshadowed, and undermined, the traditional legal and political premises on which the Westphalian era, and its contemporary constitutional document, the UN Charter, rest.

In the 1940s, the central concept for security was seen as the ‘national security’ of each state, and the strategic aim of the UN Charter was to secure ‘international peace and security’.  With the onset of the ‘global age’, however, new concepts have entered academic and diplomatic parlance:

  • ‘common security’, as described in the 1982 Palme Commission;
  • ‘responsibility to protect’, as described in the 2001 Evans-Sahnoun Commission;
  • ‘human security’, as described in the 2003 Ogata-Sen Commission.

Notwithstanding this conceptual creativity, the traditional Westphalian concepts of sovereign equality of states and of national security remain entrenched in political, diplomatic and legal thought in the early 21st century.

Two challenges in particular confront scholars in conceptually reconciling the future with the past: the action to date by the UN Security Council in the maintenance on international peace and security, and the impact of nuclear weapons on this.  The Centre has been working on both of these.  The question of UN reform, and specifically Security Council reform (explored further in the Global Governance Programme) relates the theme of global security to the framing of global governance. Two of the most authoritative studies on the subject are:

  • The UN Security Council: from the Cold War to the 21st century, D. Malone Ed. (Lynne Rienner, London; 2004)
  • The United Nations Security Council and War: evolution of thought and practice since 1945,V. Lowe et al Eds. (OUP, Oxford; 2008)

B. The Centre’s Work

UN Security Council in the maintenance of international peace and security

  • In March 2015, Panel member Prof Ramesh Thakur gave the Centre’s 2nd Waiheke Annual Lecture on whether the Security Council is ‘fit for purpose’.  His address can be found in the Annual Lectures section of this website.
  • In July 2015, the Centre’s Director, Dr Kennedy Graham, completed a research paper for the Centre on the same subject. This can be found in the Research section

This subject is closely related to the question of United Nations reform, and specifically Security Council reform. This is also explored in the Global Governance Programme.

One of the most far-reaching modern concepts introduced into global thinking is the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ doctrine.  This was conceived by the Independent Commission of that name, in 2001, and submitted to the UN Secretary-General.  It was endorsed by the UN General Assembly in its seminal World Summit Outcome Document (A/RES/60/1, Sept. 2005).  A member of the Centre’s International Advisory Panel, Prof Ramesh Thakur, was a member of the Commission, and one of the report’s principal drafters.

Nuclear Disarmament 

  • In November 2017, former Australian Foreign Minister, Hon Gareth Evans, gave the Centre’s 4th Waiheke Annual Lecture, on the subject of the recently-concluded Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.  His lecture, and the responses by NZ ambassador HE Dell Higgie and Auckland Assoc Prof Treasa Dunworth, can be found on the Annual Lectures section of this website.
  • In June 2018, the Centre wrote a submission for the NZ Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs & Trade, in consideration of ratification of the Treaty.  The submission, in the form of a Cover Note and a Paper, can be found here 180612 Cover Note and here 180612 FADT Submission (1). It is also available on the Parliament’s website:
  • In March 2019, the Centre will be hosting  a major conference on the Treaty, in Wellington.  Details can be found on the front page of the website.