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Global Security redirects here. For the website of that name, see

International security consists of the measures taken by nations and international organizations, such as the United Nations, to ensure mutual survival and safety. These measures include military action and diplomatic agreements such as treaties and conventions. International and national security are invariably linked.

International Security is also the name of an academic journal dedicated to international and national security.


Traditional security

The Traditional Security paradigm refers to a realist construct of security in which the referent object of security is the state. The prevalence of this theorem reached a peak during the Cold War. For almost half a century, major world powers entrusted the security of their nation to a balance of power among states. In this sense international stability relied on the premise that if state security is maintained, then the security of citizens will necessarily follow.[1] Traditional security relied on the anarchistic balance of power, a military build-up between the US and the Soviet Union (the two superpowers), and on the absolute sovereignty of the nation-state.[2] States were deemed to be rational entities, national interests and policy driven by the desire for absolute power.[2] Security was seen as protection from invasion; executed during proxy conflicts using technical and military capabilities.

As Cold War tensions receded, it became clear that the security of citizens was threatened by hardships arising from internal state activities as well as external aggressors. Civil wars were increasingly common and compounded existing poverty, disease, hunger, violence and human rights abuses. Traditional security policies had effectively masked these underlying basic human needs in the face of state security. Through neglect of its constituents, nation states had failed in their primary objective.[3]

More recently, the traditional state centric notion of security has been challenged by more holistic approaches to security. [4] Among approaches which seek to acknowledge and address these basic threats to human safety are paradigm includes cooperative, comprehensive, collective measures, aimed to ensure security for the individual and, as a result, for the state.

To enhance international security and potential threats caused by terrorism and organised crime increased co-operation within police forces internationally has been applied. The international police Interpol shares information across international borders and this co-operation has been greatly enhanced by the arrival of the internet and the ability to transfer documents, film and photographs worldwide instantly.

The government's first Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) programs were created in 1991 to eliminate the former Soviet Union's nuclear, chemical, and other weapons and prevent their proliferation. The programs have accomplished a great deal: deactivating thousands of nuclear warheads, neutralizing chemical weapons, converting weapons facilities for peaceful use, and redirecting the work of former weapons scientists and engineers, among other efforts.[5]

Human security

Human security is an emerging school of thought about the practice of international security. Human security offers a critique of, and advocates for an alternative to, the traditional state-based conception of security. Essentially, it argues that the proper referent for security is the individual and that state practices should reflect this rather than primarily focusing on securing borders through unilateral military action. The justification for the human security approach is said to be that the traditional conception of security is no longer appropriate or effective in the highly interconnected and interdependent modern world in which global threats such as poverty, environmental degradation, and terrorism supersede the traditional security threats of interstate attack and warfare. Further, state-interest-based arguments for human security propose that the international system is too interconnected for the state to maintain an isolationist international policy. Therefore, it argues that a state can best maintain its security and the security of its citizens by ensuring the security of others.

See also

Traditional vs Human Security[2]
Type of Security Referent Responsibility Threats
Traditional The state Integrity of the state Interstate war, Nuclear proliferation, Revolution, Civil conflict
Human The individual Integrity of the individual Disease, Poverty, Natural disaster, Violence, Landmines, Human rights abuses


  1. ^ Bajpai, K. 2000, Human Security: Concept and Measurement, University of Notre Dame, Kroc Institute Occasional Paper no. 19 Accessed 29/04/06 at: <
  2. ^ a b c Owen, T. (2004), Challenges and opportunities for defining and measuring human security’, Human Rights, Human Security and Disarmament, Disarmament Forum. 3, 15-24
  3. ^ J. Baylis, 1997, International Security in the Post-Cold War Era, in John Baylis and Steve Smith (eds), The Globalization of World Politics, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  4. ^ Strategy and Ethnic Conflict (ISBN 027597636X) and Path to Peace (ISBN 1590337328) among many others)
  5. ^ National Academy of Sciences.2009.Global Security Engagement:A New Model for Cooperative Threat Reduction. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.

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