Wednesday, May 29, 2013

security studies

Poverty, especially in the developing world is a very serious problem. Poverty refers to the state of a person who lacks a particular amount of money or material possessions. There are various states of poverty, one of them being absolute poverty or destitution. This is the state of complete inability to afford fundamental or basic human necessities such as nutrition, clean and fresh water, healthcare, clothing, education, and shelter. Currently, there are very many people who are estimated to be living in absolute poverty in different parts of the world. This number is approximated to be 1.7 billion people (Kacowicz, 2007). The other kind of poverty is relative poverty, which refers to the lack of normal or socially accepted level of income or resources when compared with other people living in the same country or society. Poverty is especially regarded as a major problem in the developing world. This is because majority of the people lack comfortable standards of living. There are many factors that have contributed to this problem in the developing world. Some of the factors are regional or national while other are international in nature (Mohamed, 2011). Regardless of the seriousness of the issue, security studies have still not recognized poverty as a threat to security. This paper discusses the reason why the security studies have been slow in recognizing poverty as a threat to security. As it is typically defined, development implies the integration of livelihoods into the global economic system, where the fate of individuals living far apart is no longer distinct. With the changes that are happening in the international system, there have come up new kinds of social consciousness. This has also led to conflicts arising over the control of the flows of resources, as well as in the way the resources are conceived, sustained and managed. These conflicts, in turn, pose a challenge on the way governing is happening at diverse levels. The increasing realization that the livelihoods of persons as well as the destiny of local communities can no longer be looked at in isolation from local or global structures and has led to an increase in new kinds of scholarship where micro and macro accounts are being blend to come up with new insights and perspectives in issues, such as poverty that were in the past studied in isolation. This suggests that in the same manner that there is increase in interdependence, even scholars, such as in security studies have become increasingly dependent on the methodical and theoretical contributions of each other. Even of some scholars are slow in realizing this, interdisciplinarity is not any more something that can be discarded or despised. One of the areas in which the economic and social forces are impacting on the parameters of studies is the issue of security. Security has for a very long time been present on the literature on international relations. However, the security discourse has been basically translated chiefly in terms of what it is means at the national level, to the nation state, and basically in terms of military security. This direction among scholars in international relations was predominantly evident in the era of the Cold War. This was during the time when calculations regarding military security were the main forces behind security policy in nations, particularly among the Great Powers. ************ argues that the “realist” school, which posits that states operate in such a way that they maximize their own security in the international arena. This school has for a very long time been the trend-setter in studying international politics. The realist school of thought has continued to impact on the study of security, although they have come to be more and more challenged in the globalization era. The challenges to this school of thought in the recent past have been due to two major reasons. The first reason is the culmination of the Cold War which gave an opportunity for the scholars in the security studies to revisit the concept of security with the aim of rendering it more appropriate to an international arena where bipolar tensions between the West and the East were not any more dominant in the global system. The second reason us the rise of globalization of the capitalist economy as well as the increase in the opportunities for and threats to human welfare, which followed the changes in the global capitalist world. This suggests that conflicts over resources as well as their utilization are being studied not simply as global political economy, but more and more analysed in terms of security. However, the issue of poverty has not attracted as much attention as a threat to security as other issues such as conflicts and terrorism. Due to this interdisciplinarity, some issues are slow in coming up into the global arena and therefore given the seriousness that they deserve. This is one of the reasons why the issue of poverty as a threat to security is finding it difficult to come to the global arena and be studied with the seriousness it deserves in security studies. Different scholars have diverse perspectives on how to study such issues, and due to the fact that poverty is not necessarily a global issue, like is the case with an issue like terrorism, it is slow in giving it the priority it deserves as a threat to security. It is evident that in security studies with the wake of globalization, there have come up major issues that are viewed as threats to security and are given higher priority than others like poverty and even health. Unlike poverty, ethnic conflicts and other disputes are given more priority in terms of security. For example, the Gulf War is an evident case in point, but there are many other cases of how communities within nation states are striving to protect their national security. Some examples include the Maasai in Kenya and Tanzania and Ogoni in Nigeria. From the international perspective in the study of security, conflicts are major threats that tend to mask other, considered minor issues in terms of security. Additionally, at the heart of the major threats are diverse interpretations of the idea of security. Security is not simply a concern of the nation state, but also of the international community. Additionally, in the globalised world, those that are considered threats to security are not only threats to the nation state or the people and communities within a nation state. Thus, those that are considered as major threats to security are those that affect the whole global system such as ethnic conflicts and climate change among others. Poverty might not come out in the global arena as a major threat to security, and thus may not be given priority even in security studies. The new discourse also provides diverse time horizons which normally apply to the idea of security. However, the issue of poverty has not completely been forgotten in the new perspective of the idea of security. However, the understanding of poverty from this point of view might differ from what poverty is understood in the traditional perspective of security studies. In this era of interdisciplinarity, there are diverse definitions of the term security, which in turn affect the way the issue of poverty may emerge in security studies. Related to this issue, in the modern security studies, the aspects that are looked at include economic poverty, environmental degradation and political instability. After all, in considering what is meant by security, it is no longer possible to evade the differential time horizons which emerge in different security categories. For instance, with the increasing interest in the idea of environmental security, there has come a realization of the need to study the long term effects of particular interventions and state policies. The debates among political scientists, and international relations scholars in particular, therefore, are a fruitful starting-point for a closer examination of how macro and micro sets of issues are increasingly being studied in more holistic terms. The perspectives that are evolving in academic circles are of interest not only because of their theoretical or methodological dimensions but also because they serve as the lenses through which eventually policy is likely to be formulated and evaluated. Theories typically shape the way we interpret the world around us and they are of interest, therefore, not only because of their analytical but also their prescriptive value. The purpose of this article is not to make an exhaustive analysis of the security literature, but to indicate how principal theoretical perspectives today influence our thinking about peace and security in Africa. Africa is a particularly good case in point for this kind of overview because nowhere else in the world do issues of conservation and development, as well as war and security, interface more manifestly than there.