Chatham House – Global Security an Ecological Problem

2 The Globalization of Security
Global Security in the 21st Century
Circulation, Complexity and Contingency
Michael Dillon
Contemporary global security concerns can be
distinguished from those of previous eras by developing
three analytical terms: circulation, complexity and
contingency. Looking at security through these terms not
only enables us to see how a cognitive shift is taking place
in how global security is being thought about, but also
raises a series of classic policy dilemmas that are becoming
increasingly difficult for policy-makers to ignore.
In the new security context, the term circulation gives
emphasis to the problems posed by interdependencies and
flows rather than problems posed by demarcations
between internal and external affairs. In a generic, lowintensity
state of emergency, characterized by the shifting
locales of violent conflict, derived from many different
causes and taking various forms, global circulation also
appears to pose a seamless web of interdependent
p roblems. Here, climate change, human, food and water
security, as well as economic and political security, enmesh
homeland security with external defence into a complex
agenda where different concerns compete for local and
global attention and resources. The problems posed are as
much cognitive, however, as they are material. They
demand changes in thinking as much as they do
re d i rection of resources.
What distinguishes the new security problematic in the
first instance is there f o re the primacy of the preoccupation
with global/local ‘circulation’. Circulation in this context
means every conceivable kind of circulation or flow of
peoples and things, of energy and of finance, of water and
food, of capital and information, of images and discourses,
of science and technology, of weapons and ideas, of drugs
and of sex (AIDS to prostitution), of microbes and diseases.
In short, the new global security problematic is concerned
with the circulation of everything. The reason is simple. In
a systemically interdependent world everything is
connected or, in principle, is able to be connected, to
e v e rything else. There f o re everything now matters. The
very smallest perturbations or anomalies in one system of
c i rculation have the potential to cascade rapidly into larg e –
scale crises affecting very many other local and global
systems of circulation. A virus gets loose, a passenger jet
crosses an ocean, a population is infected, a city is closed
down – SARS and To ronto – and financial markets begin to
react. Health, tourism, urban vitality and systems of global
finance display connectivities hitherto unknown or
unanticipated. Cognitively, circulation translates the new
global security problematic from a ‘geo-strategic’ into an
‘ecological’ problem characterized by the escalatory
dynamics of complex interdependencies.
A lot has been written in the past 25 years about how
complex systems differ from complicated systems and
about the complexity sciences and non-linearity. This is not
the place to go into that in detail,1 but in effect, complex
systems of circulation operate more like living systems than
like mechanical systems. They there f o re pose different
kinds of scientific and technological problems as well as
social and political ones. In other words, the techno-science
and governing technologies re q u i red for understanding
and managing them are different. If circulation poses the
generic problem of global security, complexity poses its
epistemic challenge. How are we to understand how these
complex systems of global circulation operate and how to
manage them in ways that will avoid the potential for
disaster stored up within them? This is as much a political
as a technical challenge. Technology always receives
privileged attention in security politics, but ultimately it is
politics that will meet or fail the challenge.
Complex systems are not only adaptive entities
behaving more like living systems; they are a combination
also of social and technical elements. In the jargon they
a re called socio-technical systems. Here the interface
between the human and the technical elements is integral
to the dynamic of the whole system. And it is that
i n t e rface, where the human is also the social, which is most
difficult to comprehend and command. This in turn
requires a cognitive shift in the way in which the natural
and the social world are studied scientifically – together
not separately. Any transformation in the way in which the
world is understood technically and socially will entail a
cognitive shift in the way in which security becomes
p roblematized and in the conduct of security policy. We
a re undergoing such a historical shift now.
If the laws of Newtonian physics are said to operate
regardless of time and space, the laws of dynamic
exchange between intelligent evolving systems are,
instead, always critically dependent upon the
contingencies of time and space. The more things circ u l a t e
the more complex they become. The more complex things
become, in the organic way described here, the more
contingent becomes their operation. Contingency does not
mean pure arbitrariness, it means being critically
dependent upon the detailed correlations of time and
space. These are the accidents of circumstance. As the
global security problematic becomes preoccupied with
c i rculation and complexity it there f o re also becomes
p reoccupied with contingency as well. Expressed in the
most abstract and general way, contingency is what
complex global systems of circulation circulate – massive
and dynamic sets of spatio-temporal conjunctions and
c o rrelations. That is why the modern global security
p roblematic has also become preoccupied with risk. For if
c i rculation and complexity pose contingency, contingency
in turn poses risk.
O rdinarily risk is something to be avoided in security
politics because it is associated with danger. But risk is not
simply the occasion of danger. Risk is also the occasion of
p rofit. Complex global circulations of every kind do not
simply, there f o re, reflect or compound the radical
contingency of the world; many of them are in fact
explicitly designed to turn the world’s contingency to
advantage by exploiting the circulation of contingency and
risk. Without the profit and invention extracted from the
radical contingency of complex global circulations of every
kind our global societies would be entirely diff e rent.
H e re, for clarification, we can invoke Pascal because
what translated contingency into a risk from which profit
could be extracted with a measure of calculation was
probability, and it was Pascal who invented probability.
Without Pascal’s mathematical formulation of probability,
the insurance industry as we know it, for example, would
1 For an excellent description, see William E. Kastenberg, ‘Risk
Analysis: Shifting from Complicated to Complex Systems’, in
M. Dillon (ed.), Complexity, Networks and Resilience (London:
Royal Institute of International Affairs, forthcoming 2006).
never have been able to become one of the single most
i m p o rtant service providers of social and economic security
in the modern world. Without Pascal, the very changing
moral economy of precaution that insurance builds into
the micro-physics of societies would not have contributed
as much as it has done to the social securitization of mass
industrial societies. Without Pascal we would not have the
financial markets upon whose trading in ‘securities’ the
financial assurance which underwrites the prosperity and
social security of these societies also relies.
In other words, with Pascal emerged the modern
taming of chance. Here, too, a fundamental shift in the
very nature of what we understand security to be, and the
very means by which it can be provided, went through a
fundamental shift that is also increasingly characteristic of
our modern security problematic. The security promised by
the modern state offered physical protection and the
p re s e rvation of ways of life. In exchange for that, citizens
w e re supposed to grant states their legitimacy to rule.
State apparatuses have habitually reneged on this security
contract or indeed reversed its very terms. Many states are
simply protection rackets that wrest their ability to rule
from the different ways in which they actually endanger
their citizens. In the modern world most people get most
of their security most of the time from other institutions
and systems, especially insurance. This security is not
physical or existential. Much less is it the metaphysical
security offered by some national way of life. It is a
material and basic but essential form of ‘reparational’
security which, through the way insurance and other
systems exploit risk, allows most people most of the time
to survive the contingency of the world, putting people
and things back into circulation.
P robability depends, however, upon the absence of an
‘evil demon’ determined to wreck the best risk calculations
of probability that promise us a way of governing security.
Pascal’s near contemporary was Descartes. If Pascal taught
us the mathematically reliable principle of probability, it
was Descartes who introduced the principle of radical
doubt into our thinking through the way he imagined
how an ‘evil demon’ might stalk our world deliberately
intent on wrecking the very calculability that Pascal’s
p robability held out to us. The ‘evil demon’ signals the very
limits of calculable knowledge. That is what 9/11
reintroduced into our close-coupled civilization in the form
of suicidally empowered ‘terro r’. It is that which confounds
all current calculations of probability and reasonable
expectations, together with all the technologies and
strategies of negotiation upon which we have traditionally
come to rely for the resolution of conflicts and the
advance of global security.
The techno-scientific challenge of global security in the
21st century is there f o re now suspended in a new balance
of terror between the pole of calculability re p resented by
Pascal and the pole of radical doubt re p resented by
Descartes. While the fate of the world now hangs on the
governability of this contingency, it is perfectly clear also
that the threat posed is not one that comes from outside.
It is one that is integral to global systems of complex
c i rculation and exchange through which we make our
livings and enjoy our security. Externalizing the thre a t
misconceives the problem.
The problems of ‘circulation’, ‘complexity’ and
‘contingency’ described above were well established
before 9/11, but the difficulties they pose have been
severely compounded by the effects of that event. The
p roblems posed derive from the very ways in which the
complex, globally interdependent infrastru c t u res that now
characterize social, economic and political orders operate.
Their very connectedness poses dangers in terms of the
speed and ferocity with which perturbations within them
can cascade into major disasters. It does not take a suicidal
t e rrorist to do this. We have socio-technical systems that
can quite happily do it unintentionally on their own. Their
own dynamics may engender catastrophic events.
One more point to add is that these systems have as
complex a relationship to the natural environment as to
each other. Natural catastrophes will also be social (and
potentially political) catastrophes. Social and political
c a t a s t rophes – civil war for example – can engender or
compound natural ones. The complex interdependence of
the world is as ecological as it is socio-technical. Hurricanes,
tsunamis and earthquakes are not simply acts of God. They
a re simulated. They can be predicted, within carefully
p rescribed bounds. Wa rning systems may be installed to
mitigate their catastrophic effects. As a Pakistani official
o b s e rved in relation to the earthquake that devastated
large areas of Nort h e rn Pakistan in October 2005: ‘It is not
e a rthquakes that kill people but building regulations and
the failures of aid and rescue.’
Add to this dynamic brew the suicidal terrorist and you
have the return of Descartes’ ‘evil demon’ in the face of
whose machinations, he concluded, you have to imagine
the very worst. Here intended catastrophe threatens to ally
itself with the catastrophic natural accident described so
well by Charles Perrow, to devastating effect.2
Circulation, contingency and complexity re p resent a
cognitive shift in thinking about global security as much as
a profound transformation of global society. They add
emphasis to the ways in which political and media
attention tends to focus on ‘the Event’ or ‘the incident’:
9/11, Hurricane Katrina, the tsunami, and so on. Three
classic policy dilemmas are posed anew and with added
u rgency because the stakes have been raised. The first is
how to differentiate good circulation from bad circulation,
devising means of preventing bad circulation without
collapsing circulation as such. The second is the problem of
g o v e rning too little or governing too much. Too little, and
regimes may fall. Too much, and circulation may halt. The
t h i rd is posed by the massive democratic deficit associated
with the security systems and surveillance technologies
being developed to cope with the new security
p roblematic posed by all three. A crisis of political
legitimacy haunts the work of security managers as they
contend with this new security problematic. Posed in terms
of the decline of public trust and confidence in governing
institutions and political elites, that crisis indicates that
security is ultimately always more a political than a technoscientific
problem, that the scarcest re s o u rces of all include
political intelligence, commitment and inventiveness, and
that the stakes are global.
Human Security: Development,
Containment and Re-territorialization
Mark Duffield
Human security is usually described as the widening of
security concerns beyond those of states to include the
needs and well-being of people. This idea emerged at the
end of the Cold War and, by the end of the 1990s, had
The Globalization of Security 3
2 Charles Perro w, N o rmal Accidents (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1999).
p roduced a growing number of dedicated networks,
re s e a rch programmes and international commissions. Given
its ambitious aim to secure humans globally, making
human security a reality usually rests upon the policy
invocation of extensive international divisions of labour
that bring together governments, UN agencies,
international financial institutions, NGOs, private
companies, and so on. However, rather than examining
human security as a physical or material condition that can
somehow be measured, indexed or compensated for, it is
advantageous to analyse it as a relation of governance –
that is, as a set of discursive practices whereby the
international community of effective states understands
and intervenes within ineffective ones. From this
perspective, human security is a moral technology through
which effective states are able to project and strategize
Development and underdevelopment
Human security provides a means of distinguishing
geopolitics, the security of states, from biopolitics, the
security of population. Since they are intimately connected,
this is not always easy. Geopolitics is contained within a
register that interconnects states, armies, territories and
alliances. Te rritories, however, also come with populations,
in relation to which modern effective states also play an
i m p o rtant role – especially in supporting and promoting
the aggregate life of a population, including instigating
m e a s u res that allow people as a whole to realize their
optimal productive and re p roductive potential. This is the
a rena of biopolitics. The biopolitical relationship between
states and territories has been neglected by security and
development studies alike. In the case of the latter, this is
surprising since development, with its basic instinct to
p rotect and better people whom it understands to be
somehow incomplete, can be seen as an aspiring
international biopolitical regime.
Within policy discourse the term ‘development’ is often
vague and undefined or, at best, simply equated with
p o v e rty reduction. By distinguishing a ‘developed’ from an
‘underdeveloped’ population in biopolitical terms,
however, the term can be given more depth. In this respect,
the tsunami disaster of December 2004 is instructive.
Although the destruction was of an entirely different order,
within 24 hours the world’s leading reinsurance companies
had estimated losses around the Indian Ocean rim as less
than half the $21bn incurred during the summer hurr i c a n e s
that hit Florida in 2004. The reason given was that few
local people and businesses affected by the tsunami wave
w e re insured. The distinction between an ‘insured’ and a
‘non-insured’ population, broadly interpreted, suggests
how a developed and an underdeveloped population can
be distinguished biopolitically. The life-forms associated
with mass consumer societies, such as those of Europe, are
distinguished from an underdeveloped population by the
degree to which life is supported by a comprehensive
mixture of remedial and supportive measures, including
public and private insurance-based safety-nets, that cover
birth, education, employment, health and pensions. While
the nature of such provision is politically contentious and
its distribution uneven, this is what is meant by an insured
population. In comparison, the tsunami victims, the
displaced people of Darf u r, those starving in Niger, and so
on, are non-insured populations.
To present development and underdevelopment in
biopolitical terms emphasizes the huge gulf in life-chances
that separates people living in mass consumer societies
f rom those within ineffective or fragile states. Some might
imagine that development is about significantly narrowing
this gap – for example, bringing non-insured populations
to a level of health, welfare and pension support similar to
that existing in Europe. The reality of development
practice, however, is very different. When confronted with
the biopolitical gulf between developed and undeveloped
l i f e – f o rms, for the last several decades ‘development’ has
been increasingly redefined as a means of protecting mass
consumer society from the consequences of
u n d e rdevelopment, especially the risk of disorder
associated with its circ u l a t o ry, demographic and migratory
dynamics. Not least of these are the asymmetric demands
made by non-insured migrants and refugees on Europe’s
welfare system.
Development as containment
As an idea, human security did not emerge ready made. It
builds upon recent changes in how development and
security are understood. In the case of development, this
involved the 1980s fusion of developmental and
environmental concerns to produce ‘sustainable
development’. This formulation emerged as a critique of
earlier notions of modernization associated with state-led
industrialization and bureaucratic, professionally based
public welfare provision. In the hands of independent
nationalist elites, modernization strategies aspired to
n a rrow the gap between developed and underdeveloped
worlds. Rather than being controlled by local elites,
however, sustainable development was pioneered by
e x t e rnal international aid agencies. Moreover, instead of
being state-centred, sustainable development is peoplec
e n t red. The life-form that is valued by sustainable
development is that which secures its existence through
pursuing choice and opportunity in the marketplace via the
effective management of povert y ’s risks and contingencies.
As an alternative to an insured existence, sustainable
development aims at strengthening self-reliance through
p romoting a compensatory social entre p reneurialism at
household and community levels. Rather than producing a
convergence between development and
u n d e rdevelopment, however, sustainable development is
essentially a technology for containing, managing and
making more predicable the risks associated with poverty .
The crisis of containment
P o v e rty reduction through actor-based sustainable
development became official donor-government policy
during the 1990s, at the same time as post-Cold War
anxieties over the ability to manage the risks of
u n d e rdevelopment were heightened by the persistence of
internal wars. Both sustainable development and internal
war take a self-reliant life-form as their re f e rence point.
Within policy discourse, however, they appear as opposites;
sustainable development seeks to strengthen self-reliance
while internal war destroys it. Rather than containing the
risks of povert y, internal war promotes population
displacement, migration, refugee flows and shadow
transborder economies, including illegal sourcing and
p ro c u rement. Internal war not only highlights the problem
of ineffective states, it releases non-insured and
destabilizing forms of global circulation able to penetrate
the porous borders of mass consumer society and test its
The idea of human security brings together these
changing perceptions of development and security. While
embracing the optimism of sustainable development and
its aim of strengthening self-reliance, it simultaneously
draws attention to the conditions that threaten
international stability. Human security articulates the
interconnection of development and security in the post-
4 The Globalization of Security
Cold War era. The crisis of containment underpinned by
internal war has shaped a worldview in which events, no
matter how distant, are now seen as radically
interconnected. In these circumstances, a ‘responsibility to
p rotect’ has shaped the emerging custom and practice of
international intervention during the 1990s. This dictum
holds that if an ineffective state is unable or unwilling to
p rotect the human security of its citizens following a major
humanitarian emergency, this responsibility passes to the
international community of effective states.
The responsibility to protect, which is currently
informing the UN re f o rm process, signals that moral
considerations now trump international law. One only has
to scratch the literature on human security to realize that
it contains a distinction between effective and ineffective
states. W h e reas during the Cold War an underdeveloped
state enjoyed de jure legal equality with a developed one,
during the post-Cold War era effective states, faced with a
crisis of containment, have assumed the moral authority to
intervene within ineffective ones. The world has returned
to a situation of de facto state inequality within the
international arena. Given this situation, the question can
be asked: responsibility to protect what exactly?
Although the human in human security implies a universal
or cosmopolitan ethic, policy discourse makes it clear that
the territorial nation-state is vital to achieving human
security. ‘Responsibility to protect’-style interventions are
not, for example, trying to secure non-insured populations
in the name of a universal citizenship, but instead take on
a rather more limited role of reinstating an effective state.
Following the collapse of the small-state Washington
Consensus in development policy and growing
dissatisfaction with the transformational powers of nonstate
humanitarian assistance, human security signals that
the state is now back at the centre of development
This begs another question. In exercising the
responsibility to protect, what sort of state is being
constructed? In the case of ineffective states (variously
known as weak, failed or fragile), ‘governance’ states are
being constructed that draw their architectural inspiration
from the developmental success stories of Africa. A
governance state is, in effect, a transnational enterprise in
which the core budgetary and human security functions of
the state are subject to a high degree of international
oversight and control. While new instruments and means
of aligning donor-government policies are required, the
future of ineffective or fragile states has been cast in terms
of their gestation into governance states. With the placing
of human security at the heart of an emerging governance
state, one can detect a process of re-territorialization that
gathered momentum during the 1990s. This has been
boosted further by the war on terrorism.
The international political architecture of the Cold War
was defined by the respect for territorial integrity together
with the principles of sovereign competence and noni
nterference. The architecture of the post-Cold War period
has changed, however, especially in relation to ineffective
states. While respect for territorial integrity remains, with
regard to non-interf e rence, sovereignty over the noni
nsured populations living within such states has become
internationalized, negotiable and conditional.
Interventions in Kosovo, East Timor, Afghanistan and Iraq,
for example, have not challenged the territorial integrity
of the states concerned; indeed, its principle has been
upheld. What is in question is how populations within
such territories are governed and maintained. Ret
e rritorialization within the existing borders of ineffective
states, based upon external oversight and control of core
b u d g e t a ry and human security functions, is not only seen
as good in itself, it is has been cast as essential for the
security of mass consumer society.
The process of re-territorialization has had a significant
impact on the role of NGOs. During the Cold War, NGOs
operated outside the state and, indeed, were critical of
state-led development. But in the name of coherence,
re-territorialization has demanded new forms of
centralization, including transforming NGOs into the role
of state auxiliaries. For some, the move to pre-emption,
together with bringing the state back into development
policy, has been an uncomfortable process of adaptation.
At the same time, however, the securitization of aid has
c reated openings for new actors and opportunities for
wider privatization. The war on terrorism, in emphasizing
the radical interdependence of global affairs, has made
possible new forms of coordination and centralization that
bridge the traditional national/international divide. In the
s e a rch for human security a new planetary order is
c u rrently in the making.
The Globalization of Private Security
Rita Abrahamsen and Michael C. Williams
The privatization of security has attracted considerable
attention in recent years, but amid all the discussion of
m e rcenaries and private military companies, one aspect of
security privatization has gone almost unnoticed: the
phenomenal growth of private security companies (PSCs).
While less spectacular than the merc e n a ry activities of
someone like Simon Mann or the Iraq involvement of
private military companies such as Erinys and Blackwater,
the size, scope and rate of expansion of private security
companies dwarf those of private military companies.
Similarly, while their concentration on the more mundane
aspects of security such as guarding, electronic alarm
systems, patrolling, risk analysis and management may lack
the eye-catching cachet of the new ‘corporate dogs of
w a r’, they have a profound impact on the day-to-day
p rovision and politics of security. In fact, the growth of
PSCs has significantly altered the landscape of security
both locally and globally, leading to and reflecting an
i n c reasing commodification and politicization of security.
At first glance, the globalization and privatization of
security appear to be a classic example of the erosion of
s o v e reignty and state power, as the state’s monopoly of
legitimate violence has long been regarded as a defining
characteristic of sovereignty itself. Any image of a
straightforward ‘retreat of the state’ is, however, too
simplistic. To be sure, there has been an increasing
fragmentation of the security field, in that a multiplicity of
different actors – public and private, global and local – are
involved in the provision of security. But rather than an
e rosion of state power, the result is the emergence of new
networks of security in which the authority of the state
and private actors is re – a rticulated through new
technologies of governance, coercion and control. This has
n u m e rous political implications, in terms of how security is
p rovided, for whom, and by whom, and also theoretically
for how we think about the state and global security. The
challenging security environment of sub-Saharan Africa
illustrates these implications with particular clarity.
The Globalization of Security 5
Growth and globalization
The global private security sector is currently estimated to
be worth $95 bn, and in the post 9/11 ‘risk’ society its
g rowth is expected to continue. Private security has
become a pervasive feature of modern life, and the
companies catering for our seemingly insatiable demand
for security range from very small, owner-operated local
firms offering basic manned guarding to extensive regional
and national companies. The true giants of the sector are
the global private security companies. The world’s largest
PSC, Securitas, now operates in more than 30 countries, and
employs over 210,000 people. Listed on the Stockholm
stock exchange, the company has annual revenues in excess
of $6 bn. Group4Securicor, the second largest company, has
360,000 employees, annual revenues of $3.8 bn, and
operations in over 100 countries. Other global PSCs are part
of even larger transnational corporations. Chubb, for
example, is part of United Technologies, a $31 bn global
corporation listed on the New York Stock Exchange,
whereas ADT Security Systems is incorporated into Tyco
International, serving nearly 8m customers in over 100
countries and responding to some 34m alarm signals per
While the largest security markets are in North America
and Europe, growth is higher in the so-called ‘emerging
markets’, and the major international security companies
a re looking to developing countries for profitable
expansion opportunities. Securitas has a significant
p resence in South America and parts of eastern Europe,
and is currently considering opportunities in Asia. In Africa,
private security has expanded at a phenomenal rate in the
last two decades, and the continent is increasingly
becoming part of the global security market. Most notably,
G roup4Securicor now operates in 40 African countries and
employs 60,000 people on the continent. Two international
companies, ADT and Chubb, dominate South Africa’s
lucrative armed response market, while numerous
international risk analysis and risk management companies
operate throughout the continent, especially in locations
with strong economic interests or a high presence of aid
and humanitarian personnel.
While in the popular imagination private security in
Africa is predominantly associated with post-apartheid
South Africa, the influence and expansion of private
security provision is far more widespread than this
impression allows. To be sure, South Africa has experienced
an explosion in the number of private security companies,
and as a percentage of GDP the country has the largest
security market in the world. But as crime and insecurity
have become endemic in large parts of Africa, private
security companies have increasingly taken over the role of
the protection of individuals, households, neighbourhoods
and businesses alike. As a result, the uniformed guards of
the literally thousands of security companies have become
a familiar feature of urban life. In Nigeria, for example,
t h e re are now an estimated 1,200 security companies,
employing at least 100,000 people; in Kenya, there may be
as many as 2,000 security companies; in Uganda there are
equal numbers of private security officers and public police;
and in post-war Sierra Leone private security is just about
the only economic sector to show any sign of growth. The
p rovision of day-to-day security in Africa has become not
only highly fragmented and varied, but also highly
globalized, so that it is no longer provided primarily by
public actors but by private companies.
Fragmentation and global–local networks
of security in Africa
The growth of the private security sector in Africa is
intimately connected to the erosion of state capacities and
s e rvices that began in the late 1980s and continued
t h roughout the 1990s. This was a period of declining
economic prosperity, when state expenditure and
investment were drastically reduced, often in line with
i n t e rnational donor requirements for economic
liberalization and structural adjustment. The result was a
continuing deterioration of the capacity of governments
and municipal institutions to deliver services, including the
p rovision of law and order. At the same time, many state
elites showed little inclination to curtail their own
appetites, and corruption and mismanagement of state
assets continued unabated. As the state failed to provide
p rotection for its own citizens, people organized in various
ways to maximize their own safety.
One of the more obvious dangers of the fragmentation
of security provision is increasing inequality. The rich, and
gradually also the middle classes, are able to invest in
expensive security solutions, insulating themselves from the
crime outside through ever-higher security walls,
sophisticated alarms and armed response services. The poor
a re left to rely on the inadequate provision off e red by a
cash-strapped and frequently demoralized police force, or
on more informal private arrangements such as
neighbourhood watches or vigilante groups. In South
Africa, for example, the availability of private security is
f requently seen to have facilitated a continuation and even
a re i n f o rcement of apartheid’s economic, social and racial
inequalities, as the impenetrable enclaves of the rich force
crime and violence to shift to the under-policed black
neighbourhoods. Importantly, across the continent
i n t e rnational commerce and the development industry are
p a rt of this tendency towards ‘enclavization’, as security of
life and pro p e rty is necessarily a key requirement of both
p rofitability and aid activities.
It is nevertheless important not to overstate the
possible social fragmentation associated with private
security provision. While the reliance on private actors can
be said to diminish loyalty to the state and to the collective
‘we’ or nation, the contributions of private security to the
overall security situation in a country can also be seen to
re i n f o rce law and ord e r, thereby increasing state legitimacy
and helping to stabilize and maintain the current social and
political order. In South Africa, for example, private security
can rather paradoxically be seen to have helped stabilize
the transition to majority rule by providing additional
policing re s o u rces, while at the same time entrenching
inequalities. In Sierra Leone, PSCs have not only provided
much needed employment for demobilized ex-combatants,
but have also helped increase the feeling of security in the
post-conflict period. Indeed, in post-conflict situations, the
role, and regulation, of private security may become ever
more important as a means of increasing public perceptions
of safety.
It is also important to recognize that recent
t r a n s f o rmations in security provision cannot be captured in
a strict public–private dichotomy, and that more often than
not private and public security are linked in complex
networks of authority and cooperation. More or less
f o rmalized public–private partnerships exist across the
continent, particularly in relation to armed protection.
Outsourcing is also becoming increasingly common, and in
South Africa PSCs now protect all the country’s police
stations. The blurring of the distinctions between private
and public, global and local is also evident in Nigeria,
6 The Globalization of Security
w h e re private security has become a major part of the
economy and is essential not only to the continued
operation of the oil industry but also to the very survival of
the federal state. Nigeria is the world’s eighth largest oil
producer, and with the state holding a 60% share in all oil
companies operating in the country, the revenues are
substantial. The security situation in the Delta is currently
such that many of the activities associated with oil
extraction take place in enclaves: operations behind layers
of barbed wire, staff inside gated compounds, transport s
with armed escorts. Other aspects of oil extraction and
p roduction are spread across thousands of square
kilometres in the mangrove swamps and creeks of the
Delta, and are practically impossible to secure. This
situation has given rise to an extensive network of
public–private, global–local security stru c t u res where the
public police, the military and the navy work side by side
with international security experts to ensure the continued
operation of the oil fields, and by implication, the
maintenance of Nigeria’s social and political ord e r.
The extensive privatization and globalization of security
have important implications. In terms of policy, the
i n c reasing fragmentation and multiplication of security
p roviders mean that private actors must be seen as an
intrinsic part of the security field, for example when
considering re f o rm of the sector in developing countries.
But to date PSCs have been treated as largely external to
this re f o rm process, thus ignoring the extent to which
people rely on them for their daily security. Regulation is
also crucial, as an unregulated private security sector can
quickly become the vehicle for increased inequality,
criminality and insecurity, or lead to competitive and
dysfunctional relations between the police and PSCs.
PSCs have become important (global) actors,
cooperating and interacting with states, capital and
international organizations in the provision and
maintenance of security. Increasingly, the distinctions
between private and public security are becoming blurre d
and reconfigured, fusing into networks of institutions and
practices that are not only local but global. Recognizing the
n a t u re of private security and the emergence of these
global–local, public–private networks is crucial to an
understanding of broader transformations in contemporary
security provision and global governance.
Reducing the Global Incidence of
Civil War: Available Policy Instruments
Paul Collier and Anke Hoeffler3
Most wars are now civil wars. Although international wars
attract enormous global attention, they have become
i n f requent and brief. Civil wars usually attract less
attention, but they have become increasingly common and
typically go on for much longer. Civil wars are an important
issue for development and global security. Where
development fails, countries are at high risk of becoming
caught in a conflict trap in which war destroys the economy
and thus increases the risk of further war. The effects of
civil war extend far beyond the country’s borders. Economic
g rowth in neighbouring countries is reduced and the entire
region is destabilized. In addition, there are global effects.
Our re s e a rch focuses on three issues: (1) the
o p p o rtunities for global conflict prevention; (2) the analysis
of instruments aimed at shortening existing conflict; and,
(3) recommendations on how to design policies for postconflict
societies. Post-conflict periods are at particularly
high risk of renewed civil war and the re s e a rch to date
suggests that the best opportunity for development policy
is in the prevention of re c u rring war in post-conflict
societies. The analysis of possible policy instruments in the
reduction of the incidence of civil war is based on a global
cost-benefit analysis. The estimated cost of each policy
i n s t rument is compared with the benefits resulting from a
reduction or shortening of wars.
Benefits of reduced incidence of civil war
The benefits resulting from a reduction in the incidence of
civil war accrue at three distinct levels: national, regional
and global.
Taking the national level first, one clear cost of civil war
is a reduction in economic growth. One year of conflict
reduces a country ’s growth rate by 2.2%. Since, on average,
each civil conflict lasts for seven years, the economy will be
15% smaller at the end of the war than if the war had not
taken place. During the post-war recovery, even though the
economy on average grows at an annual rate of more than
1% above the norm, it will take roughly ten years to return
to its pre-war growth rates. And 21 years after the start of
the original war, the GDP has returned to the level it would
have achieved if no war had occurred. The total economic
cost, expressed as a present value at the start of the war, is
105% of the GDP at that point. The welfare of a country ’s
population, however, is further reduced because of
increased military spending during and after the war. The
additional cost is about 18% of GDP.
Conflict has a severe effect on human health. One way
of summarizing this effect is to express the cost in terms of
Disability Affected Life Years (DALYs): a measure of the
total number of people affected and the period for which
their disability lasts. An average war causes an estimated
0.5m DALYs each year. We calculate 5m DALYs as the net
p resent value of health costs. If each DALY is valued at
$1,000, the economic cost of harm to human health in a
typical war is around $5 bn.
At the regional level, the growth rate and military
expenditures of neighbouring countries are affected during
and after the war. On average, each country has 2.7
neighbours; by applying the same concepts as detailed
above we calculate the loss of income to be 127% of the
initial GDP of any one country – greater than the direct
effect in the conflict country itself.
Other costs which are too difficult to quantify include
forced migration and disease. Thus, with the proviso that
the figures so far are underestimated to some degree, the
total benefit of averting a single ‘typical’ civil war can be
calculated. The various national and regional costs covered
amount to 250% of initial GDP. The average GDP of
conflict-affected low-income countries just prior to war is
$19.7 bn; the cost of a single war is there f o re around $49
bn plus $5 bn of health costs, giving a total cost of $54 bn
for a single low-income country. This is a significant figure,
but in addition there is the ‘conflict trap’ mentioned above:
countries that have just experienced a civil war are more
likely to have further conflict. It takes about 15 years for
the risk to reach the pre-war level again; the additional
discounted cost is $10.2 bn. Thus, the total national and
regional cost of a single war is more than $64 bn.
T h e re are additional, global impacts of civil wars,
The Globalization of Security 7
3 This paper is a non-technical summary of the authors’ chapter
‘Conflicts’, in B. Lomborg (ed.), Global Crises, Global Solutions
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).
massive in scale but difficult to quantify in terms of cost.
Civil conflicts have been contributory factors to three world
s c o u rges: hard drug production, AIDS and international
At present, on average two civil wars start each year. The
net cost of these would be $128 bn. So an initiative that
reduced the chance of a new war by, say, 10%, would
generate benefits of around $13 bn each year.
O p p o rtunities for conflict prevention
The empirical re s e a rch shows that economic factors are
i m p o rtant in determining the risk of war. Raising the
economic growth rate and harnessing the ‘re s o u rce curse’
reduces the risk of conflict. Two major policy options might
deliver these benefits: aid and better utilization of income
f rom natural resources.
A i d: The effect of aid will depend to a large extent on the
political and institutional situation. An extra 2% of aid to
poor and generally peaceful states would cost an estimated
$195 bn. This indicates that unselective aid programmes are
not a cost-effective way of reducing conflict: the benefits
a re less than 10% of the costs. This is not to say that the aid
may not be justified; after all, its main purpose is poverty
reduction. However, conflict reduction should not be
expected to be a major outcome.
Improved governance of income from natural resources:
Not only is income from natural resources poorly converted
to growth in many conflict-prone countries, but revenue
f rom primary commodities is actually a risk factor in civil
war. One reason is that valuable re s o u rces can encourage
regional secessions and provide finance for rebel
movements. One way in which the international community
can act collectively to improve this situation is to increase
the transparency of revenue streams, as in the Extractive
Industries Tr a n s p a rency Initiative (EITI), a campaign backed
by a range of NGOs, the G8 governments and international
It should be feasible to halve the adverse effects of
poorly managed natural re s o u rce incomes. Subsequently,
g rowth rates would be raised by 0.067%, an increase
assumed to be permanent once re f o rms are in place. The
benefit in present value terms would be $12.1 bn.
A much larger benefit is realizable. Gre a t e r
transparency in the revenue flows can reduce regional
grievances and the incentives for secessionist groups to take
c o n t rol of the income. If such action reduced the risk from
natural re s o u rce dependence by 10%, the overall risk of
war for a typical country would fall from 13.8% to 12.7%.
This would be worth $3.9 bn annually and, assuming it is
p e rmanent, gives a present value benefit of $77 bn. The
total benefit from conflict reduction by this route is then
$89 bn, making this a cost-effective option.
Reducing post-conflict risks
During the first decade following a war, there are very high
risks of repeat conflict: around half of all civil wars arise in
this way. However, typically there are only about 12
countries in this post-conflict category at any given time,
making it relatively easy to direct re s o u rces to them. Two
policy approaches to reduce post-conflict risks are the use
of aid, and military spending. Countries typically have
higher growth rates in the middle of the post-conflict
decade. Although the need is great immediately after a
conflict, there is limited capacity to use aid effectively; by
the middle years, resources can be managed better and the
needs addressed properly. The opportunity identified is
then to provide increased aid at the time when it is most
useful: the analysis is for an aid increase of 2% of GDP for
the middle five years of the decade. Typically, the combined
GDP of the 12 countries in their first post-conflict decade is
about $163 bn. The cost of the additional aid averages $1.6
bn per year over the decade, with a net present value of
$13 bn. The gain in growth rate in the years when extra aid
is received would be 1.1%, more than five times the
i n c rease seen in normal non-conflict situations. The benefits
of this targeted aid in terms of avoiding conflict can be
calculated as $31.5 bn across the 12 countries. This
i n t e rvention is clearly cost-effective for the additional
security benefits alone, in addition to its main purpose of
p o v e rty reduction.
M i l i t a ry expenditure
T h e re is a case for international military intervention, on
condition that the government makes deep cuts in its own
military expenditure. A reduction to pre-conflict levels
alone would increase GDP by 2% in the decade.
Assuming that an international peace-keeping force
completely avoids the outbreak of another war during the
ten years it is in place, a risk of 38.6% in the first five years
and 31.9% in the second is averted. With the average civil
war costing $64 bn, the present value of this intervention is
$29.9 bn. In addition, a gain of $3.2 bn can be attributed to
the reduced risk of war because of reduced military
spending and increased GDP, making a total of $33.1 bn.
Costs will vary with the individual country’s situation,
but taking the British intervention in Sierra Leone as an
example we argue that an expenditure of less than half a
bn dollars secures a benefit of $30 bn.
Conclusion and comparison
All of the above estimates are gross approximations.
N e v e rtheless, they enable us to distinguish between those
policies that offer very high rates of re t u rn and those that
a re uneconomic. Clearly, the option of international military
i n t e rvention under Chapter VII of the United Nations
C h a rter offers enormous benefits, but is also the most
difficult politically. At the other end of the scale, aid has
v e ry limited effectiveness in conflict prevention unless it is
much better targeted. Reforms of the commodity trading
system fall between the extremes, offering significant
benefits at reasonable cost.
8 The Globalization of Security
Chatham House is an independent body which promotes the rigorous study of international questions and does not express opinions of its own.
The opinions expressed in this publication are the responsibility of the authors.
© The Royal Institute of International Affairs, 2005
This material is offered free of charge for personal and non-commercial use, provided the source is acknowledged. For commercial or any other use, prior
written permission must be obtained from the Royal Institute of International Affairs. In no case may this material be altered, sold or rented.

3 svar to “Chatham House – Global Security an Ecological Problem”

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  3. Honey Monster Says:

    It is interesting that you talk about the major global security companies providing manned guarding. It is worth noting that, here in the UK, more manned guards are provided by the small to medium sized security companies than the combined efforts of the big companies. This is not always about price, it is often about the ”one-size-fits-all” approach of some of the larger companies. They tend to bring their own culture rater than fitting in with the culture of the orgainsation receiving the manned guarding service. There is a place for both big and small.


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