Sustainable Security and the Global South

Central to any discussions about a more sustainable approach to global security threats is a focus on ‘voices from the margins.’ This project examines ways of engaging thinkers, policymakers and activists from the ‘majority world’ in debates about Western security policies as well as helping to build capacity for sustainable security thinking in the Global South.

This work continues to develop the concept of ‘sustainable security’ and examine ways of ensuring a greater role for voices from the Global South in articulating the necessary changes to Western security policies over the coming decades.

The project directly follows and builds on the perspectives and the four reports gained from four regional security consultations that ORG held across the Global South during 2008-2010. Held with partner organisations in each area, these consultations have focused on applying the concept of sustainable security to the specific political and security dynamics of four regions: Asia and Australasia; the Middle East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean. The reports can be downloaded from our Regional Security Consulations project webiste.

The aims of this project are two-fold. The first is to build on the insight gained from this process and feed the results of the consultations held so far into Western policy making circles – the particular focus would be on ensuring that non-Western perspectives on sustainable security are addressed in concrete policy recommendations. The second is to promote productive and lasting links between analysts, journalists and grass-roots organisations working on sustainable security issues in the Global South with their counterparts in the West (or ‘Global North’).  

The project is organised around the production of the following outputs:

Phase one:   

A paper has been produced that draws together the analysis of the four regional consultations already held highlighting both the commonalities and differences across the regions. 

This was followed by a period of in-depth research and consultation that focused on the perspectives of individuals and groups in the Global South working on the following issues:

Climate Change

Countries in the Global South are already becoming the first and worst affected victims of a warming global climate. A recent report from International Alert points to the fact that there are 46 countries – home to 2.7 billion people – in which the effects of climate change interacting with economic, social and political problems will create a high risk of violent conflict in the coming decades. As the climate agenda becomes increasingly ‘securitised’, this research explored avenues for non-military solutions to addressing the security implications of climate change for the Global South. Read a related research paper here

Competition over Resources

The recent global food security crisis has highlighted the vulnerability of populations in the Global South to resource scarcity and fluctuating prices. Rapidly increasing energy prices as well as periodic geopolitical crises have also highlighted the potential for major conflicts over resources in the Twenty First Century. What has been termed the ‘new population bomb’ is set to exacerbate existing trends. This research focused on the perspectives of the Global South – those most vulnerable to resource scarcity – in the largely, Western-dominated debate around energy security and examine avenues for mitigating conflict arising from resources. Read a related research paper here

Poverty and Marginalisation

Divisions between the rich, industrialised North and the ‘majority world’ are being exacerbated by increasing oppression and political exclusion, coupled with a growing sense of marginalisation as a result of improvements in education and modern communication technologies, leading in places to increased levels of political violence. This research examined the latest thinking on the relationship between underdevelopment, poverty and insecurity from those ‘on the ground’ in the Global South. Read a related research paper here


Global military expenditure has continued to rise (apart from in Western and Central Europe) with serious consequences for those living in much of the Global South. Increases in the availability of a wide range of weapons across increasingly unstable regions coupled with the continuingly militarised ‘war on terror’ pursued by the US and its allies has led to the process of militarisation becoming a key driver of insecurity in the Global South. This research examined recent developments in security sector reform, arms control and disarmament and confidence building measures aimed at intervening in cycles of militarisation.   

While the main aim of the research is to move beyond the broad concept of a holistic approach to security and to delve more deeply into the precise implications of these individual drivers of insecurity for the Global South, the analysis maintained a focus on the interconnections between the four trends.

This phase of the project included extensive consultation with key partners across Asia, Africa and Latin America. The research papers produced had significant input from people involved in ‘on the ground’ research, analysis and campaigning. Where possible, the papers highlighted work already being done by NGOs and other civil society groups in the Global South that is not receiving significant attention by Western policymakers and analysts. 

Phase two:

Workshop: Bridging the North-South Divide

In conjunction with the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at SOAS (University of London), we held a workshop on this subject at the beginning of March in London - 'Building a North-South Dialogue on Global Security: Addressing a Marginalised Majority World'.

For the workshop, our Sustainable Security Programme brought together policy-makers, analysts, academics and civil society representatives from both the global North and South. Participants engaged in a creative, policy-focused discussion on the security implications of this growing trend and identified concrete opportunities for addressing marginalisation and its consequences in the short to medium term.

Participants from both the North and South - including Botswana, Germany, Ghana, Mexico, Norway, India, Qatar, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, UK, Uruguay, USA and Western Sahara - met in London, along with representatives from UK Ministry of Defence, Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Thai Council for National Security and Embassy of the United States in London.

We plan to hold more such events in order to encourage and increase greater North-South dialogue and cooperation. It also helped to foster South-South, as well as North-North links and communication.


Richard Reeve

Richard Reeve is the Director of Oxford Research Group's (ORG) Sustainable Security Programme and ORG Coordinator. Richard has particular expertise in Sub-Saharan Africa, peace and...

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Dr Benjamin Zala

Benjamin Zala is a Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Leicester, UK, where his works focuses on great power diplomacy, rising powers in the global order and global security...

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