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United Nations Photo.
United Nations Photo.
US Coast Guard.

Sustainable Security

The central premise of a sustainable security approach is that we cannot successfully control all the consequences of insecurity (such as terrorism, crime or nuclear proliferation), but must work to resolve the causes. This programme deals with the likely long-term drivers of insecurity over the coming decades and examines how current policies can better address these underlying trends rather than treat their symptoms.

A ‘sustainable security’ approach prioritises the resolution of the interconnected underlying drivers of insecurity and conflict, with an emphasis on preventative rather than reactive strategies.

Current approaches to global security are characterised by the ‘control paradigm’: an approach based on the premise that insecurity can be controlled through military force or containment, thus maintaining the status quo. The central premise of a sustainable security approach is that we cannot successfully control all the consequences of insecurity, but must work to resolve the causes. In other words, fighting the symptoms will not work; we must instead cure the disease.

ORG identifies four interconnected trends that are most likely to lead to substantial global and regional instability, and large-scale loss of life, of a magnitude unmatched by other potential threats:

  • Climate change: Loss of infrastructure, resource scarcity and the mass displacement of peoples, leading to civil unrest, intercommunal violence and international instability.
  • Competition over resources: Competition for increasingly scarce resources – including food, water and energy – especially from unstable parts of the world.
  • Marginalisation of the majority world: Increasing socio-economic divisions and the political, economic and cultural marginalisation of the vast majority of the world’s population.
  • Global militarisation: The increased use of military force as a security measure and the further spread of military technologies (including CBRN weapons).

While there are many other factors that can threaten the security of humans around the world (such as radicalisation (often being a result of marginalisation), rapid increases in the global population, the shortcomings of current forms of global governance etc.), these four drivers represent something new. Never before has humanity faced a world as interconnected yet so socio-economically divided, where environmental limits are so apparent and where traditional approaches to war-fighting and the use of force are so counter-productive.

The programme aims to develop the sustainable security concept and promote it to a wide international audience, ensure that voices from the global South play a central role in its development, and define specific options for sustainable security policies. These aims are achieved via in-depth research, dialogues with analysts and decision makers and providing new avenues for creative thinking and discussion on the real threats to global security in the 21st century.


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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Alasdair McKay

Alasdair joined Oxford Research Group (ORG) in January 2016. He holds undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in the social sciences from the universities of Manchester and Aberyswyth. Prior to...

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Professor Paul Rogers

Paul Rogers is Oxford Research Group's (ORG) Global Security Consultant. He has worked in the field of international security, arms control and political violence for over 30 years.


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Oliver Scanlan

Oliver is Senior Programme Officer for ORG’s Sustainable Security Programme, with a particular focus on climate change and marginalisation as drivers of global insecurity. For the last ten years...

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Tim Street

Tim Street has been a Fellow of the Sustainable Security Programme since January 2017, specialising in nuclear security and disarmament issues. From 2015 to December 2016 Tim was Senior Programme...

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Chris Abbott

Chris Abbott was founding director of ORG's Sustainable Security Programme. He is now a freelance writer and researcher and Executive Director of Open Briefing.  During his time at ORG,...

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Prof. Amitav Acharya

Amitav Acharya is an advisor to ORG’s Sustainable Security Programme. He is Professor of International Relations and the UNESCO Chair in Transnational Challenges and Governance at the School of...

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Mariano Aguirre

Mariano Aguirre is founding Director of the Norwegian Peacebuilding Centre (NOREF) founded to support peacebuilding efforts by networking a variety of governmental and non-governmental experts who...

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Prof. Marcela Donadio

Marcela Donadio is the Executive Secretary of RESDAL - Red de Seguridad y Defensa de América Latina (Latin American Defense and Seucirty Network). There she heads RESDAL's public security...

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Prof. Carolina Hernandez

Carolina G. Hernandez is currently Professor of Political Science at the University of the Philippines and the holder of its Carlos P. Romulo Professorial Chair in International Relations. She is...

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Isabel Hilton

Isabel Hilton is a London based international journalist and broadcaster, and is Chief Executive of China Dialogue, the world's first fully bilingual website devoted to the environment. She began her...

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Dr Bassma Kodmani

Bassma Kodmani is an Advisor to ORG’s Sustainable Security Programme. She is the co-founder and Executive Director of the Arab Reform Initiative, a network of independent Arab research and...

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Prof. Laurie Nathan

Laurie Nathan is an Advisor to ORG’s Sustainable Security Programme. He is the Director of the Centre for Mediation in Africa at the University of Pretoria and Visiting Professor at Cranfield...

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Michael Renner

Michael Renner is a Senior Researcher at the Washington, DC-based Worldwatch Institute.  His work has mostly focused on the linkages between environment, resources, and conflict, post-disaster...

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Jürgen Trittin

Jürgen Trittin is an Advisor to ORG’s Sustainable Security Programme. He is a member of the German Bundestag, where he chairs the Parliamentary Group of the Alliance ‘90/Green Party. From 1998-2005...

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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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