Importance of collective security



March 5, 2022


M Ali Siddiqi draws attention towards an important subject

The Importance of collective security & Ukraine crisis has once again brought to the fore the problematic issue of collective security that has endangered the entire global arena. It may be crucial mistake to view Ukrainian crisis as simply a regional abnormality that has cropped up between two former partners as it an issue currently that is now become the centre of the collective security system. It goes against the collective security principle that forms the basis of international existence as enumerated in the existence of the United Nations. Collective security actually is a process in which each state in the system accepts that the security of one is the concern of all and agrees to join in a collective response to threats to the peace.
In this system commitment between governments aiming at developing and subsequently enforcing international rules is undertaken to ensure international peace by taking collective action. This idea was inherent in the League of Nations post World War-I in which international society sought to restrict the previously wide-ranging right of states to resort to war as an instrument of state policy and this idea was formally strengthened after the end of the Second World War in shape of the United Nations.
Despite the strong wishes of almost all concerned the UN did not constitute a pure collective security system particularly in relation to the veto given to permanent members of the Security Council though the inclusion of Article 2(4) prohibited the use of aggressive force. Moreover, the Security Council was assigned far-reaching responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, including the authorisation of mandatory sanctions and military action. The end of the Cold War appeared to open new opportunities for collective security with an increasing number of enforcement resolutions adopted under Chapter VII and a very significant expansion in the number and coercive character of UN peacekeeping operation and of UN-established international administrations.
This perception inherently suffered from two difficulties as it had to balance the rights of states to independence and to reinforce an international legal order built around the concepts of sovereignty and nonintervention with the guaranteed independence of all states, including small and weak states. This dichotomy has created enduring dilemmas accommodating change preventing a collective security organisation from becoming an instrument for maintaining the status quo. As was expected shared interest in the peaceful maintenance of the status quo has been repeatedly challenged.
Traditionally, collective security was conceived as a response to the dangers of formal interstate violence and, in particular, to the problem of the aggressive use of force by states. Faced with the united opposition of the international community, states would come to accept that aggression simply could not pay. Although the post–Cold War period witnessed the changing character of security amidst the easing of major power rivalry and the emergence of a wide range of new security challenges connected with civil wars, domestic social conflicts, ethnic strife, refugee crises, humanitarian disasters and transnational terrorist threats. In addition, much greater priority appears to have been given to human security, rather than the security of states or of regimes. Such moves illustrate the politically contested character of the concept of security, emphasised, in particular, by critical security theory.
Clearly rationalist logic underplays the challenge of the essentially contested nature of security and very different historical circumstances and divergent values mean that there is rarely an easy answer to the question of whose security is to be upheld or against which threats that security is to be promoted. Together with the deeper intervention required to deal with many new security challenges, this in turn increases the problems of legitimacy as well as the difficulties of securing the willingness of states to commit armed forces to conflicts that are often seen as marginal to core foreign policy interests. There have always been strong arguments for the broadest possible membership of a collective security system: to ensure that the power of the collectivity is sufficient to deter aggression and, if necessary, to enforce its decisions against all states, and to reduce the danger that collective security will merely provide a framework within which power political competition and alliance politics are played out under a different guise.
On the other hand, there have also been repeated arguments that an effective collective security system requires leadership and that an effective collectivity will consist of a smaller group of like-minded states with the effective power to enforce their decisions. Hence, there have been recurrent arguments that regionally based collective security systems are most likely to prove effective and the post–Cold War period has seen an expansion of the role of regional security organisations that have the ability to ensure requirements of collective security and NATO is a strong evidence of this perception.
In the recent past, collective security has been seen as a means of enforcing order between independent political communities not radically threatening the independence and autonomy of states. An alternative conception has viewed moves toward the collective management of armed force as part of a broader process of reorganising the political system and moving beyond the state system toward more centralised or federal forms of global political order. The other issue here concerns the dilemma of preponderant power. In theory, collective security offers the purest solution to the dilemma of preponderant power. Inequality is not to be feared, opposed, or balanced against but is, instead, to be harnessed to the legitimate collective purposes of the international community. In practice, the situation is more complex.
On the one hand, the veto within the UN Security Council reflects the reality of a power distribution in which attempts to coerce any of the major powers of the system could be achieved only at great risk and high cost. On the other hand, unable to command substantial military forces of its own in the ways envisaged in the Charter, UN enforcement action has operated by means of authorising the use of force by member states, especially those with the capacity to deploy effective military power. Such a situation is always likely to create problems of effective delegation and control and to increase the risk that a system aimed at collective security will in fact become one of selective security. In its ultimate analysis collective security involves a shared acceptance that a breach of peace threatens the interests of all states. It also involves a shared willingness to act effectively to enforce the law and to protect the interests of the international community. In this context it is important to embark upon clear elaboration of international law.
It should also be noted that the emphasis on deterrence and enforcement places collective security analytically close to mainstream realist perceptions. It is the possible emergence of a situation in which cooperation goes beyond instrumental calculation and in which the use of force declines as a tool of statecraft that opens the door to some form of acceptable positions. Inter-state relations allow tracing the ways in which interests and identities change over time and new forms of security cooperation and community can emerge. Although there is no strong collective security system in place currently yet the collective element in security management has increased and even major states need multilateral security institutions to share political burdens of security management and attain legitimacy that is not just the ambit of crude power only. TW

M Ali Siddiqi is a writer who contributes to leading periodicals


The writ of international law
The writ of international law
M Ali Siddiqi looks at a crucial...
Resurgence of fascism
Resurgence of fascism
M Ali Siddiqi describes a dangerous...
President Xi Jinping
XI on his way to ruling China for life
M Ali Siddiqi talks about apparent...
Governance and equitable distribution of resources
Governance and equitable distribution of resources
M Ali Siddiqi talks about Governance...
The Need For Pakistan
The Need For Pakistan
M A Siddiqi expresses surprise...
The Presence And Essence Of Pakistaniat
The Presence And Essence Of Pakistaniat
M Ali Siddiqi describes a strong...

Get Newsletters


Subscribe Us