What changes have led to a rewiring of regional security, and what do you mean by “rewiring”?

Chester A. Crocker: Over the past forty years, the world has seen significant changes in official and popular views of security threats and conflict management needs. The traditional view of security sees threats as emanating from outside the state. Within this traditional frame of reference, the most effective national strategy is to maximize the power of the state and build up its defenses and military capabilities in order to deter would-be aggressors. In the immediate post-Cold War period, however, the world’s attention shifted from tracking superpower rivalry to watching as civil war broke out on nearly every continent—wars that spilled over state boundaries to contaminate entire regions. What we thought about security changed as a consequence. The upsurge in sectarian violence resulted in increased attention to conflict management, as distinguished from a focus on advancing the national security of the state against direct, external threats. Global security was redefined in local and regional terms, and the list of tasks undertaken to provide security was widened to include protecting civilians from massacre by their own governments and shoring up weak states threatened by struggles among factional militias. In a very real sense, security increasingly came to be viewed as divisible—there was no shared sense that these civil or regional conflicts affected the core values and interests of the wider community of nations.

How have views of security expanded during the past twenty years?

Pamela Aall: The past two decades made it clear that while an element of security is objective (for example, that an army is threatening your borders), another set of security issues is perceptual and identity-based or dependent on circumstances. These include threats to stasis, threats to a sitting government and its political constituency, and threats to a society, community, or way of life. The growing realization that people, societies, and even entire polities can be put at risk by “threats from below” has expanded the discussion of security to include majority-minority relations, language policy, and similar matters.

Fen Osler Hampson: The outbreak of civil wars in many parts of the world in recent decades has sharpened our understanding of the human costs of war and led to the development of the concept of human security and, ultimately, the adoption by the United Nations General Assembly of a resolution on the responsibility to protect. Security challenges cannot be dealt with through military means alone—a firm grasp on regional security matters is critical to understanding the big picture of global security.

Why is it so important to look at security challenges from a regional perspective?

Fen Osler Hampson: The effort to understand regional perspectives is especially pertinent at a time of preoccupation and reappraisal in the United States, Canada, Britain, and among other global security providers as a result of the heavy costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts and related instability in Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, and Pakistan. A regional appraisal is also critical because old charters, outdated leadership roles, and lumbering bureaucracies hamper the existing global order, as led by the UN system and the Bretton Woods institutions. The global financial crisis that burst upon key capitals in 2008 raised basic questions about both global economic governance and the relationship between economic policy imperatives and the search for international security and stability.

What does this volume offer to those dealing with current security and conflict management challenges?

Pamela Aall: There have been few efforts to illustrate how each region balances the supply of security challenges against the demand for conflict management capacity. Starting with the premise that regional organizations are playing an expanded role in dealing with security threats and managing conflicts in their regions, this book offers a comparative perspective on the threats to security and conflict management as seen by regional actors around the world. Through this means, this book also adds to the understanding of global conflict management capacity and the balance between regional/local security initiatives and global ones.

Does everyone accept the idea of regionalized security?

Chester A. Crocker: Not at all. Some analysts are highly critical of the notion of regionalized security, seeing it as weak or faulty. Some powerful Western states dismiss regionalization as irrelevant, except when the rise of regional strength coincides with its own interests. Related to this is the assumption that many regions do not have the wherewithal to manage their own conflicts and that only the states of the Atlantic community are wealthy and powerful enough to establish regional organizations that are up to the challenge of security management. Given the disparity in resources for security in terms of both money and trained personnel, some skeptics argue, some regions will only get what they can provide for themselves, resulting in further fragmentation of global security standards and norms. Critics also raise concerns about the rise of regional hegemons, in which one country dominates a whole region under the pretense of providing a more secure environment for its zone of influence.

Fen Osler Hampson: It is also important to note that supporters of global institutions view regionalization as competition for the United Nations, leaching away precious resources and sometimes getting in the way of UN missions.

How do you respond to these concerns?

Pamela Aall: We take a different approach, recognizing the desire for greater levels of local ownership in security management in many regions. But we also recognize that this desire, and the capability to act on this desire, varies from region to region. A central question of this book is whether regional responses to conflict are sometimes more effective than global—or externally directed—responses. This question is far from theoretical: it addresses the very core of global and regional security concerns. Should the international community invest heavily in regional organizations, or should it bolster the United Nations, allowing it to plan a central organizing and legitimating role in regional/global conflict management? Are there any institutions, whether international or regional, that can address a region’s security concerns?

Chester A. Crocker: In this book, we asked experts from each region to help us understand the regional approaches. Together, they provide us with insight into which security threats and global or regional instabilities are likely to affect security over the next five years; how existing regional/subregional institutions, political authorities, and civil society are responding to these challenges; the nature of conflict management and security gaps and how should they be filled; and the implications of this evolution of regional challenges and capacity for U.S. foreign policy, the United Nations, and other actors and institutions in the international system.

Why do countries choose to act on a regional basis?

Chester A. Crocker: The best explanation we can offer is that cooperation on conflict management arises when there is a widespread perception of a common threat and general agreement on (or convergence toward) conflict management norms—that is, agreement on how to proceed in the face of security challenges and on specific conflict management needs.

Is the regionalization of conflict management capacity effective?

Fen Osler Hampson: The answer that grows out of the collection of chapters in this book is, it depends. It depends on the strength of the commitment to act regionally, but it also depends on the nature of the conflict. When global actors have an interest in a conflict’s trajectory—as in Iraq and Afghanistan—regional actors tend to be marginalized. When one of the conflict parties is against outside involvement in a peacemaking effort (the example of Kashmir comes to mind), regional participation could be counterproductive. The advantage that regional actors have over other outsiders is their deeper and more nuanced familiarity with the conflict, its players, and dynamics, as well as their strong interest in the outcome of the conflict management initiative, especially in cases where the conflict has leaked over borders.

But this volume also highlights the problem of focusing on effectiveness in this field. There is no gold standard for conflict management against which to measure all peacebuilding initiatives. However, the sheer volume of activity on a regional basis reflects both the real desire by regions to participate in their own conflict management efforts and the lack of leadership at the global level. The DIY peacebuilding approach grows as much out of a desire to create conflict management capacity as it does out of the lack of an alternative, where the big “construction firms”—the United States and the United Nations—are otherwise occupied. Under either circumstance, a more interesting question than “Is the regionalization of conflict management capacity effective?” would be “Are there mechanisms that could allow regional engagement to maximize its strengths and minimize its weaknesses?”

In the concluding chapter, you describe an evolution toward collective conflict management (CCM). What does this term mean?

Pamela Aall: Through our examination of regional conflict management, we found evidence of continuing interest in working collaboratively in responding to conflict, but now on an expanded scale and no longer tied to decisive action by the United Nations or a powerful state to organize the response. CCM is an emerging phenomenon in which countries, international and regional/subregional organizations, and nonofficial institutions or private actors address potential or actual security threats by acting together to end the violence; assist with a negotiated settlement; deal with the political, economic, and/or social issues that underlie the conflict; and/or provide political, diplomatic, and economic guarantees or other long-term measures to improve conditions for a sustainable peace.

How will CCM affect regional security arrangements in the years ahead?

Chester A. Crocker: CCM is a relatively new pattern of cooperation in international affairs with no organizational center or universal rules of the road. As a result, the practices of various coalitions may  differ greatly, depending on who is practicing and what the circumstances of the conflict are. A defining feature of these relatively cooperative ventures is that they span global, regional, and local levels in terms of their institutional membership or actor composition. CCM ventures also typically involve a combination of public (intergovernmental) and private (nonstate) partners.

We do not foresee an age of autarchic self-sufficiency in the world’s regions. Rather, we conclude that CCM could become more common and take a wide variety of forms. We anticipate that conflict management arrangements will increasingly be task- and situation-determined, improvised within less formal mandates or rules, and developed spontaneously in response to the needs and interests of those who participate. In a sense, regions will be the test beds from which new patterns of collective action and new protonorms may emerge.


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