‘Non-traditional security issues are trans-border, existential threats’

Published April 12, 2022, 3:16 PM

by Manila Bulletin

National solutions are no longer sufficient in responding to security issues, because non-traditional and existential threats to humanity, like pandemics and climate change, have trans-border implications affecting not only states but regions and the world.

Instead, comprehensive approaches beyond the usual political-security measures are needed. These include socio-economic approaches, the humanitarian use of military force, and cooperation among nations.

This is the gist of the special paper written by international relations expert Dr. Mely Caballero-Anthony, professor and head of the Center for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

“The impact of non-traditional security issues are not only threats to people’s security but also to national sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Caballero-Anthony.

The pandemic has highlighted that health security is fundamental to international peace and security. “For a region that is no stranger to pandemic outbreaks, Covid-19 and its severe consequences serve as a grim reminder of the fragility of peace and security in Asia,” she said.

Among the pandemic preparedness and responses critical to national and human security are building up capacity in disease surveillance, data collection, and multi-sectoral responses in public health emergencies.

Meanwhile, in dealing with climate change and its cross-cutting consequences, states’ approaches and policy choices cannot be isolated.

Climate change, she said, is a known driver of conflicts and the government must be extremely sensitive to the risk that climate change brings to conflict settings in countries where peace is fragile.

“These kinds of issues need a whole-of-government approach to allow for comprehensive ways to deal with multiple consequences, from food crisis caused by extreme weather events, diseases, forced migration, conflicts, and instability.” These non-traditional security threats underscore the importance of multilateral cooperation. “The trans-border nature of these challenges compels states to work closer together,” she said.

The same themes of security, both traditional and non-traditional, and strategy reassessment dominated the conversation during the launch of Elusive Balances: Shaping US-Southeast Asia Strategy, a book by Dr. Prashanth Parameswaran, deputy head of research for Bower Group Asia.

Held April 5 and organized by think tank Stratbase ADR Institute in partnership with Bower Group Asia, the forum titled “The Future of US Commitment: The Outlook Under Biden and Beyond” tackled how the US is navigating its complex role before its domestic, regional and global audience.

Dr. Parameswaran said the linkages between the US and the Philippines go beyond the security and trade in the economic dimension, which explains the resistance to the Duterte administration’s pivot to China from public opinion, institutional structures, the military, and the elite establishment.

‘These kinds of issues need a whole-of-government approach to allow for comprehensive ways to deal with multiple consequences, from food crisis caused by extreme weather events, diseases, forced migration, conflicts, and instability.’

According to Stratbase ADR Institute president professor Victor Andres “Dindo” Manhit, the management of global and regional issues, which include climate change and pandemics, not just Covid-19, requires seeing the Philippines as part of an interconnected and networked international society.

“This will involve the development and implementation of a long-term program that will focus on the re-evaluation of the country’s foreign policy direction, economic initiatives, and the establishment of new alliances and strategic partnerships,” said Professor Manhit.

Manhit said that human security, as opposed to a traditional view of security, covers many areas like health, the environment, and food security that directly affect the lives and prospects of Filipinos.

He underscored the importance of choosing the right leaders who have a solid plan to achieve human security and enact crucial policies toward this end.

Ernest Bower IV, president and CEO of BowerGroup Asia, talked about how the ASEAN region’s importance to the US is translated to concrete commitments amid other global commitments it has already made.

“Although it has announced its Indo-Pacific Strategy and Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, we still know very little about the economic components, which are most important to this region,” he said.

James Carouso, Australia chair for the Center for Strategic and International Studies and senior advisor for BGA, delved into traditional threats to security, and said that the South China Sea issue should be an area where there’s greater cooperation between the US and the Philippines.