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Global Governance and Risks: Strengthening the International System through Multidimensional Cooperation

Interactive Session on Security Governance: Instability and Systemic Risk 24 March 2011, 13.30 - 15.30 At the Stiftung Wissenschaft und Politik (SWP), Berlin, Germany
Session Description A group of German and international decision-makers, senior researchers and business as well as civil society representatives discussed Germany’s perspectives on priorities for strengthening global security governance. The following dimensions were addressed: • The interconnectedness and interdependence of contemporary security risks and threats • The limits of traditional security governance institutions, mechanisms and instruments • The definition of new approaches to handle major security risks and challenges Key Points • • • • The global demand for effective, i.e. assertive security governance is growing. Existing security risk management instruments (civilian and military) have not been adapted sufficiently to contemporary security risks and threats. The global redistribution of power creates a vacuum of effective security governance. New institutions are needed to address this vacuum in order to avoid the emergence of new global security risks. The proliferation of new security actors leads to incoherent political actions. The international community too often acts in an ad-hoc manner on upcoming crises. Due to different perceptions and interests, decision-makers too often lack a common understanding of the new strategic and security environment. Global security governance, as an inclusive and multi stakeholder approach (including business and civil st society representatives), might be suited best to handle security risks in the 21 century. Thus, the democratization of security policy should continue.

Synopsis Within the last two decades, the international system has become more interdependent and more interconnected. This has increased the world’s vulnerability to systemic risks and shocks. This vulnerability is reinforced by a lack of adequate institutions to tackle these risks. Existing international institutions (UN, WTO, NATO), created in the post World War II environment, and traditional global actors (United States and Western countries) are no longer able to effectively handle emerging risks on their own or to stabilize the world. New institutions (e.g. the G20) are competing for influence, and emerging countries (e.g. BRIC) are not yet able or willing to share global responsibility. Thus, the international system is marked by a lack of leadership and a diffusion of responsibility, which only underlines the necessity of an institutional redesign at the global level. “Risk awareness” and “risk adoption” become central methods to assure security and stability in the 21 century. “Risk” can be defined as the combination of “amount of damage” and “occurrence probability”. As all risk analysing models include a certain amount of uncertainty, decision-makers have to act based on incomplete information. To be able to raise awareness and start the adoption process against identified risks, it is important to communicate extensively with both national societies and the international community. Additionally, new institutional settings and capabilities are needed for better international cooperation. However, different national security interests and cultures sometimes prevent effective cooperation at the global level.

The interconnected and multidimensional nature of contemporary risks (e.g. climate change, energy security, land scarcity) leads to a proliferation of fragile and failed states, which may cause global security challenges. The list of “out-of-track countries” is growing continuously. Moreover, these countries are sometimes affected by crimes against humanity as the Rwandan genocide illustrates. The international community shares a normative interest in preventing both the emergence of global security challenges as well as mass atrocities. Thus, state building and R2P (Responsibility to Protect) become central concepts in the security environment st of the 21 century. Unfortunately, the international community faces a nexus of several impediments to act effectively and coherently in the above-mentioned areas, which hinders successful global security governance. 1) There is a general lack of adequate and internationally accepted structures, mechanisms and instruments (civilian and military capabilities) to deal with the variety of risks and threats. 2) There is no strong consensus or a global approach on where and how the international community should intervene to tackle risks and threats. This can be seen in the unresolved question of whether the R2P-mechanism’s main focus should be on long-term prevention strategies in terms of civilian assistance, or on short-term adoption strategies in terms of military intervention. 3) More capabilities and resources at the UN and national level are needed. In particular, the ability to deploy non-military assistance (e.g. police and constabulary forces) on a short-time basis is essential. Military crisis management operations can only play a part in deterring current risks and threats, and thus are not a sufficient approach. But a stronger focus on civilian actions automatically leads to questions of sustained engagements in terms of financial and human resources in more and more countries (mission creep). This perspective might not be preferred by donor countries. 4) Better coordination with regional actors (e.g. the African Union) and local powerbrokers is necessary to raise the sensitivity to local cultural conditions. Additionally, private actors (e.g. civil society and the business sector) should be included more systematically in international efforts. st 5) Stronger inter-institutional cooperation seems central for global security governance in the 21 century. 6) The lack of leadership, combined with different cultural norms and viewpoints on the definition of security risks and missing instruments to handle today’s unstable environment lead to an international community that too often appears incoherent and chaotic. As states and international organizations only have limited capacities, they must prioritize their engagements, depending on the specific risk scenario they are facing: 1) The preventive use of risk reducing instruments (civilian and/or military) should be considered when the occurrence probability of a particular security risk is high. 2) If the occurrence probability is low, the focus should be on the containment of risks. 3) Finally, in case of low occurrence probability but high amount of damage scenarios (e.g. terrorism, pandemics), preventive measures and states’ and institutions’ capacities to absorb shocks must be strengthened. This might be operationalized through assertive governance approaches. But presently, sufficient structures and capacities on the international level are lacking. Finally, uncertainties will always exist – the question is how to manage them best. Multidimensional and multi-sectoral cooperation to reduce or counter risks is essential for the international community. Therefore, the inclusiveness of actions is of highest significance. This, again, is dependent on a stronger global consensus on where and how to intervene to tackle security risks and threats at the earliest possible moment. Additionally, new structures and instruments are essential to better manage uncertainties and absorb shocks.

Participants Discussion Leaders Georg Birgelen, Commissioner for Global Issues: Civil Crisis Prevention, Human Rights and International Terrorism, German Federal Foreign Office Christopher Daase, Head of Research Department International Organizations and International Law, Frankfurt University/Peace Research Institute Frankfurt, Germany Frithjof Schmidt, MP (German Bundestag), Foreign Affairs Committee Moderated by


Christian Schaller, Deputy Head, Research Division “Global Issues”, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Berlin Rapporteur to the Plenary Lars Brozus, Researcher, Research Division “EU External Relations”, German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), Berlin Disclosures This summary was prepared by Stefan Steinicke. The views expressed are those of certain participants in the discussion and do not necessarily reflect the views of all participants or of the World Economic Forum, the German Institute for International and Security Studies or the German Federal Foreign Office. Copyright 2011 World Economic Forum No part of this material may be copied, photocopied or duplicated in any form by any means or redistributed without the prior written consent of the World Economic Forum. Keywords: risk, security governance, Responsibility to Protect (R2P), state failure, terrorism If you want to know more about this event, please contact Matthias Catón, Associate Director, by e-mail at, or telephone at +41 (0)22 8691311.