Sustainable Security and the Global South

Central to any discussions about a more sustainable approach to global security are focuses on ‘voices from the margins’ and the shift in global power from West to East, North to South. This project examines ways of engaging thinkers, policymakers and activists from the ‘majority world’ – the 85% of the world’s population living outside of Europe or North America – in debates about Western security policies. It also aims to build enthusiasm and capacity for sustainable security thinking in the Global South.

ORG’s 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 and global security policies over the coming years and decades.

The aims of this project are two-fold. The first is to feed non-Western perspectives into UK and Western security policy-making circles. 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 has been organised in four phases that build cumulatively upon the experience, insights and connections forged in the previous phases.

Phase one: Regional Security Consultations (2008-2010)

The project initially sought to build upon the perspectives gained from four regional security consultations that ORG held across the Global South during 2008-2010. Held with partner organisations in each region, these consultations focused on applying the concept of sustainable security to the specific political and security dynamics of four regions:

Asia and Australasia (November 2008);

Middle East and North Africa (March 2009);

Sub-Saharan Africa (June 2009); and

Latin America and the Caribbean (September 2010).

A synthesis paper draws together the analysis of the four regional consultations  highlighting the commonalities and differences across the regions. 

Phase two: Drivers of Insecurity and the Global South (2011-2012)

The second phase of the project pursued in-depth research and consultation that focused on the perspectives of individuals and groups in the South working on the four issues that ORG believes will drive insecurity and conflict in the 21st century.

Competition over Resources (September 2011)

Marginalisation (February 2012)

Climate Change (June 2012)

Militarisation – as explored more thoroughly through the Remote Control project.

Outputs of this phase were both written reports and strengthened relationships between ORG and partner organisations in the South.

Phase Three: Voices from the Margins (2013-2014)

The third phase of the project further narrowed the focus onto the issue of marginalisation, both of the South within the international system and of marginal groups within Southern and Northern countries.

ORG held a workshop in London in March 2013 entitled 'Building a North-South Dialogue on Global Security: Addressing a Marginalised Majority World'. The workshop brought together policy-makers, analysts, academics and civil society representatives from across the world, including Botswana, Germany, Ghana, Mexico, Norway, India, Qatar, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, UK, Uruguay, USA and Western Sahara. Participants engaged in a creative, policy-focused discussion and identified concrete opportunities for addressing marginalisation and its consequences in the short to medium term. A summary of the workshop is available.

In May 2014 ORG held a follow-up workshop in London entitled Local Grievances, Global Insecurity: Addressing Violence from the Margins. This drew participants from Brazil, Cape Verde, Colombia, Jamaica, Netherlands, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, UK, USA and Yemen to discuss the diverse manifestations of marginalisation and violence in their societies as well as the efficacy of a range of policy responses. A summary of the workshop is available.

ORG also joined with other civil society partners in providing inputs to the UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), advocating effective targets to promote sustainable peace in the international post-2015 development framework.

Phase Four: Sustainable Security and Emerging Powers (2015-2017)

The current phase of the project takes an alternative perspective, reframing the Global South from subject of conflict and insecurity to subject of international security policy and action. ORG recognises that such emerging powers as Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico and Nigeria will be among the leading thinkers and actors in global security by the middle of this century. It identifies the 2010s as a critical moment to engage with civil society, government, military and political leaders in such countries to influence their emerging policies on security issues, at home and abroad.

Whereas the rising powers of the 20th century all adopted military power projection, including nuclear weapons, to assert their importance, there is a chance that the new powers of the 21st century will direct their resources to addressing the real causes of insecurity, not just their violent symptoms. There is also an urgent need to learn from alternative perspectives on contemporary approaches to security.

This phase, then, has three objectives:

1.         To influence defence and security policies and strategies in at least five emerging powers towards outcomes that favour conflict prevention and the sustainable management of global security.

2.         To share and learn from perspectives on security provision and challenges between Southern states and between Southern and Northern states.

3.         To encourage, promote and monitor champions of Sustainable Security from among relatively un-militarised emerging powers.


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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