On the 100th anniversary of the Nobel Prize, 100 Nobel laureates signed a public statement on human security pointing out: “It is time to turn our backs on the unilateral search for security, in which we seek to shelter behind walls.”
In their statement, the Nobel laureates echoed an argument that has become almost universally accepted by scholars and people in general: Increasing global interconnectedness has created a crisis of human security that demands the formulation of strategies that transcend national boundaries.
Globalization and the State: Human Insecurity North and South
Globalization, and the state reforms, constitute a direct challenge to the preservation and expansion of human security in the North and in the South. In the North, the territorial and political spaces created by the Modern State are undergoing radical transformations. Economic and political pressures against the Welfare State, the increasing fluidity of labour markets, and the erosion of social rights, to name just a few of these pressures, have significantly reduced people’s capacity to control risk.
In the South, the pressures towards regional economic integration, the increasing power of transnational financial organizations, and neo-liberal state reforms have reduced the chances for many developing countries to achieve the levels of state sovereignty and national identity that allowed societies in the North to function effectively. Furthermore, many of the fragile national territories of the South, especially in Africa, have been transformed in recent years into deinstitutionalized spaces in which life is “nasty, brutish and short”.
Understanding the differential effect of globalization on the countries of the North and the South is essential to understand the different frameworks of historical limitations and possibilities within which social policy responses to the crisis of security created by globalization can be formulated. It is important to highlight here that global processes are not merely complex and unfortunately also contradictory. On one hand while they do open up avenues for some countries, they also leave many nations and their people marginalized and excluded from the benefits of the information age.
Thus, it goes without saying that each nation interacts in its own way with global, regional, national and local arenas.
Therefore, human security in the North is threatened as a result of the insufficient control of the democratic power of the society to tailor the functions and agenda of the state. From this perspective, the solution to the crisis of security in the North requires the democratization of that power of the state which is transnational in nature. This, in turn, involves the creation of circuits of communication and control that can facilitate the subordination of the functions and priorities of the transnational arms of the state, to the needs and aspirations of “we the people”.
The crisis of human security created by globalization in the South, on the other hand, is the result of double bind: a deficit of state power, which manifests itself in the inability for the States in the South to influence the organization of the transnational space of power created by globalization; and, a democratic deficit, which manifests itself in the inability for civil societies in the South to condition the power of the state and their national policy making process.
States in the South lack the capacity to influence the structures and processes that govern competition and cooperation within the transnational space of power created by global forces. As the United Nations Human Development Report on globalization in 1999 pointed out that the structures and processes for global policy-making were not representative. The key economic structures –the IMF, World Bank, G-7, G-10, G-22, OECD, WTO – according to the report were predominantly led by rich countries, leaving poor countries and poor people with little influence for effective representation and participation.
Needless to say there’s a need to create an environment of a balanced interdependency both at the level of individual nations and at the global level. This balanced interdependency is imperative to ensure that the underprivileged populations – both at the micro and macro levels – have improved (if not immediately equal) bargaining power to improve the distribution of wealth around the world.