Why is poverty important in contemporary security studies? Essay

Introduction

One of the greatest challenges facing most economies today is lifting individuals out of poverty. This has become even more overwhelming given the financial crisis experienced a couple of years ago (Wilkin, 2002, p. 633). Approximately 1.5 billion individuals in the developing economies are poor and roughly half of this number lives in abject poverty.

Therefore, abject squalor is still a major challenge in the world (United Nations Foundations, 2004). A number of experts argue that poverty is a cause of more deaths than any other factors including armed conflicts.

This insecurity takes place despite of heavy military spending by many countries across the globe. However, other causes of insecurity are attributed to the proliferation of illegal weapons and show of military/economic power (Williams, 2008, p. 6; Booth, 1991, p. 315).

Over the past twenty years, there have been more interests on the link between poverty and national security. Before that, many scholars and experts in security affairs thought the two were separate. Security was considered as defending the interest of a nation (Buzan & Hansen, 2009, p. 1). Experts defined security as safeguarding the territorial integrity of a country against internal and external attacks.

These include external military attacks or internal rebellion that could fragment or threaten the ruling elite (Baldwin, 1997, p. 5). Economic issues were given less priority. Poverty was downgraded to the realm of development practitioners and academics who shared the approached used by the government agencies on security matters (Buzan & Hansen, 2009, p. 2).

At some stage in the 90s, the conventional security plan and the conventional development plan were integrated under the blanket of universal governance (Buzan & Hansen, 2009, p. 2). Post-cold war saw changes in the global politics with conflicts shifting to the less developed economies. Conflicts in the developing economies led to an increase in humanitarian assistance.

In addition, post-cold war era witnessed an increase in perceived terrorist threats and increase in regional and international economic integration with its ensuing inequities and political revolutions. All these created spaces for exploring the connection between security and poverty in long-established literatures (Buzan & Hansen, 2009, p. 4).

In this day and age, scholars and experts emphasize on the need to merge security and poverty theories. Leaders of the Bretton Woods institutions and the G8 have also spoken of the probable relationship between poverty and security in numerous occasions (Collins, 2009, p. 6).

The above arguments form the basis of this essay. The essay will explore the reasons why poverty has infiltrated security studies at the policy level since 90s. In addition, the essay will explore the evolution of global security studies and evaluate the significance of poverty in the modern security studies.

Over the past twenty years, there have been more interests on the link between poverty and national security. Before that, many scholars and experts in security affairs thought the two were separate. Security was considered as defending the interest of a nation (Buzan & Hansen, 2009, p. 1). Experts defined security as safeguarding the territorial integrity of a country against internal and external attacks.

These include external military attacks or internal rebellion that could fragment or threaten the ruling elite (Baldwin, 1997, p. 5). Economic issues were given less priority. Poverty was downgraded to the realm of development practitioners and academics who shared the approached used by the government agencies on security matters (Buzan & Hansen, 2009, p. 2).

At some stage in the 90s, the conventional security plan and the conventional development plan were integrated under the blanket of universal governance (Buzan & Hansen, 2009, p. 2). Post-cold war saw changes in the global politics with conflicts shifting to the less developed economies. Conflicts in the developing economies led to an increase in humanitarian assistance.

In addition, post-cold war era witnessed an increase in perceived terrorist threats and increase in regional and international economic integration with its ensuing inequities and political revolutions. All these created spaces for exploring the connection between security and poverty in long-established literatures (Buzan & Hansen, 2009, p. 4).

In this day and age, scholars and experts emphasize on the need to merge security and poverty theories. Leaders of the Bretton Woods institutions and the G8 have also spoken of the probable relationship between poverty and security in numerous occasions (Collins, 2009, p. 6).

The above arguments form the basis of this essay. The essay will explore the reasons why poverty has infiltrated security studies at the policy level since 90s. In addition, the essay will explore the evolution of global security studies and evaluate the significance of poverty in the modern security studies.

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Evolution of Global Security Studies

Global security studies are derived from security debates following the end of 2nd Word War. Initially, these debates were about how to defend the country from external and internal acts of aggression. Security was regarded as a slogan, distinguishing it from the earlier thoughts and disciplines of combat and military history (Fierke, 2007, p. 3).

Most security literatures before the 2nd World War were to a large extent characterized by war and military strategies, and geopolitics. They include books written by well known writers such as Richardson, Mahan and Clausewitz among others (Buzan & Hansen, 2009, p. 4).

Global security studies as a field evolved through interrelated concepts and theories drawn from a wide range of research programmes. It later became an integral part in the field of International Relations which was also growing at a rapid pace (Walt, 1991, p. 211; Floyd, 2007, p. 328).

After the 2nd World War there was a conceptual shift to a broader set of political matters, for instance, societal cohesion and the link between combative and non-combative threats and defencelessness. This was attributed to military and ideological threats posed by the Soviet Union during the cold war (Williams, 2008 p. 14).

Moving forward from 70s, the relationship between the world super powers in terms of nuclear weapons came of age. The pressure was now on broadening the global security plan beyond military and geopolitics.

As a result, economic and environmental security was later integrated in the wider security agenda. The global security agenda in post-cold war era was later expanded to include identity/societal security, human security, and food security among others (Buzan & Hansen, 2009, p. 4).

However, some of these literatures challenged state-centrism and began focusing on the significance of ideas and culture and other aspects of security (Walt, 1991, p. 214). At the moment, global security studies have broadened out into various distinct but interrelated subjects. In addition to the conventional military-centred security studies, other crucial security studies have emerged.

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They include feminist security studies and post-structuralism and constructivist security studies among others (Sheehan, 2005, p. 2; Floyd, 2007, p. 330). In addition, most contemporary studies on security also focus on terrorism and insurgency following 9/11 attack and the war in Afghanistan (Evans & Bell, 2010, p. 371).

Significance of poverty in the current security studies

Baldwin (1995, p. 117) defines security (national security) in terms of external threats from state actors and non-state actors. However, Busumtwi-Sam (2002, p. 253) introduces another concept of security known as human security. Human security takes a socioeconomic dimension, for instance, lack of fundamental needs. Most of the reports submitted to the UN are advocating for human security to replace national security.

On the other hand, poverty is a state of being deprived of the fundamental needs. It also includes lack of material possession or wealth (United Nations Foundations, 2004). In most cases poverty is a result of inequitable distribution of national resources, corruption and mismanagement of public funds.

According to the United Nations, poverty is basically a violation of human dignity. Poverty deprives individuals of choices and opportunities as well as the fundamental right of participating in nation building (Thomas, 2000, p. 5).

Williams (2008, p. 12) argues that the pursuit of security is fundamentally about the well being of individuals. Understanding the fact that security is about human welfare, therefore poverty and security are directly correlated. Poverty and the new concept of human security are synonymous is numerous respects.

For instance, they all focus on deprivation of an array of human entitlements such as basic needs, lack of peace, crime, and employment among others (Peoples & Vaughan-Williams, 2010, p. 22).

Human security is a major concern for many people on the planet. Human security is mainly attributed to the current power structures where entitlement to resources and security are determined by the ruling elite.

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These power structures can be identified at various levels from local to international level (Bilgin, 2003, p. 204; Abernethy, 1993, p. 417). This has led to a growth of material inequality as evident in different regions of the world or within states. This has also had a significant impact on the present-day individual experience of security and most probably the trend may carry on to the future (Bilgin, 2003, p. 205).

According to a World Bank Report issued at the G8 summit held in Japan, eradication of poverty is morally imperative and a necessity for a secure nation (Panday, 2011, p. 69). Almost 100 percent of conflicts in Africa are as a result of competition for natural resources, for instance water, pasture land and political/economic marginalisation (Busumtwi-Sam, 2002, p. 254).

Lower economic activities in a country also increase the prevalence of conflict. Low economic activity translates to a lower level of capital formation. As a result, the citizens are likely to remain poor and be stuck in a poverty-conflict tie.

As per DFID (2005, p. 54), human beings have a tendency of harbouring hate and aggression when their standard of living remains poor or slips away. Fundamentalism may arise to fight off despondency when the reality offers no probable solution.

Religious extremism and violence are highly associated with poverty. Extremism tends to flourish in regions where people are poor and unemployed (Messer, Marc & Marchione, 2001, p. 13). Van Munster (2007, p. 234) argues that a wealthy but diverse society is likely to live in harmony than a diverse society that is poor.

Many revolutions across the world were inspired by ideologies such as unemployment and poverty (Floyd, 2007, p. 328). According to Van Munster (2007, p. 234), people have a tendency to blame others for their troubles.

As a result, most of the problems even the self inflicted ones are normally blamed on the authority or government. Example of a country where population explosion together with poverty has led to civil war is the Republic of Somalia (United Nations Foundations, 2004).

Accumulation of wealth by the political elite is largely associated with poverty, inequity and human rights abuses. The deprivation of the fundamental rights and freedom often leave people with two choices and that is to accept those violations or to stand up and fight (Van Munster, 2007, p. 235).

This is one of the main causes of conflicts in the third world nations, especially Africa. Such conflicts are normally mobilized on religious or ethnic basis and can only end when the causes are done away with.

One of the extraordinary cases in terms of the relationship between poverty and conflict was witnessed in Nepal. In the middle of the conflict, the poverty rate in the country went down by more than 10 percent. The country’s human development index also grew by 0.2 percent during the conflict. This experience is a total contrast of what would be expected during a period of war.

Economists attribute this to remittance inflow into the country (Panday, 2011, p. 9). However, the level of development varied from one region to another. Regions which were worst hit by the conflict experienced the lowest socioeconomic growth as would be expected. This proves that there is some link between economic development and conflicts (Panday, 2011, p. 10).

In normal circumstance, conflicts often have a negative impact on the human development index/ poverty levels (Busumtwi-Sam, 2002, p. 254). The impact may be short term or long term and they include depletion of human capital, the destruction of physical and social infrastructure, disruption of the economic activities, increase in military expenditure, and stagnating growth of the economy among others (Floyd, 2007, p. 330).

However, the irony of most conflicts is the belief by the aggressors that war is the only way to secure the rights and privileges that they are being denied by the authority (Selby & Cochrane, 2002, p. 2).

Conclusion

Earlier security studies including Copenhagen school of security studies placed more emphasis on state-centric national security. In these studies, the government plays a difficult but pivotal role in negotiating or combating internal and external threats.

However, the search for more manageable security strategies led to the broadening of the global security agenda to include societal security, individual security, and food security among others.

Other critical security studies have emerged which include feminist security studies and post-structuralism and constructivist security studies. The contemporary security studies recognize the dangers of delimiting security matters and neglecting other critical subjects such as poverty and human security.

Since security is all about the well being of the people it is directly correlated with poverty. People tend to be aggressive when they are deprived of their fundamental need and rights. For that reason, they are always ready to fight till they course is realized.

Most of the conflicts in the world today are a result of deprivation of the fundamental rights and freedom. This is majorly attributed to the inequitable distribution of national resources by the political elite.

The security studies must encompass human security even if the theory is a mess, and rationalize poverty because the inequitable distribution of natural resources. In addition, security must be viewed from a structural point of view not politically. As a result, poverty should not only be handled from a welfare perspective but from a political point of view.

Well-being of individuals must be ensured by reconfiguring the link between service provisions as opposed to the provision of goods. Thus, poverty should be seen from a political and civic point of view as opposed to material needs.

References

Abernethy, V. (1993). Poverty, difference, and conflict. Population and Environment, 14(5), 417-419.

Baldwin, D. (1995). Security Studies and the End of the Cold War. World Politics, 48 (1), 117-41.

Baldwin, D. (1997). The Concept of Security. Review of International Studies, 23(1), 5-26.

Bilgin, P. (2003). Individual and Societal dimensions of security. International Studies Review, 5 (2), 203-222.

Booth, K. (1991). Security and Emancipation. Review of International Studies, 17 (4), 313-326.

Busumtwi-Sam, J. (2002). Development and Human Security: Whose Security, and from What? International Journal, 57(2), 253-272.

Buzan, B., & Hansen, L. (2009). The Evolution of International Security Studies. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Collins, A. (2009). Contemporary Security Studies (2nd edn). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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Evans, B., & Bell, C. (2010). Terrorism to Insurgency: Mapping the Post-Intervention Security Terrain. Journal of Intervention & State Building, 5 (1), 371-390.

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Floyd, R. (2007). Towards a consequentiality evaluation of security: Bringing together the Copenhagen and the Welsh schools of security studies. Review of International Studies, 33, 327-350.

Messer, E., Marc J.C., & Marchione, T. (2001). Conflict: A cause and effect of hunger. ECSP Report, 7, 1–16.

Panday, P. (2011). Interplay between conflict, poverty and remittance: The case of Nepal. International Business and Economics Research Journal, 10(2), 67-76.

Peoples, C., & Vaughan-Williams, N. (2010). Critical Security Studies: An Introduction. Oxon: Routledge.

Selby, J., & Cochrane, F. (2002). Global Governance: Conflict and Resistance, Basingstoke: Palgrave.

Sheehan, M. (2005). International Security: An Analytical Survey. London: Lynne Rienner.

Thomas, C. (2000). Global Governance, Development and Human Security, London: Pluto Press.

United Nations Foundations. (2004). Development Poverty and Security. Issue for the UN High-Level Panel, May 10-11, 2004.

Van Munster, R. (2007), Security on a Shoestring: A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Critical Schools of Security in Europe. Cooperation and Conflict, 42 (2), 235–243.

Walt, S. (1991). The Renaissance of Security Studies. International Studies Quarterly, 35 (2), 211-239.

Wilkin, P. (2002). Global Poverty and Orthodox Security. Third World Quarterly, 23 (4), 633-645.

Williams, P. D. (2008). Security Studies: An Introduction. Oxon: Routledge.

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