Introduction: The expanded conception of security and institutions

Hitoshi Nasu, Kim Rubenstein

Research output: A Conference proceeding or a Chapter in BookOther chapter contribution


Introduction Security is a dynamic, context-dependent concept that is inevitably shaped by social conditions and practices. The socio-political perception of security threats influences our security policies relevant to political decisions about the design of social institutions specifically addressing those security concerns. Security is traditionally understood to be physical protection of national territory and its population from the destructive effects of warfare through military means. Social institutions including but not limited to national governing institutions, inter-governmental institutions and the military are all devices developed through human history to collectively address traditional security threats. Security is often considered to be an antithesis of the rule of law and civil liberty, justifying violation of rules and the restriction of freedom. However, the development of international law and the institutionalisation of international public authorities have contributed to the increased normalcy or containment of extra-legal responses to security threats. For example, the Charter of the United Nations (‘UN Charter’) provides institutionalised mechanisms as the means of regulating the behaviour of sovereign states and conflict among them. The nuclear non-proliferation regime establishes mechanisms for preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons and facilitating the development of peaceful nuclear energy technology by institutionalising the asymmetric obligations between designated nuclear-weapon states and other non-nuclear-weapon states. Yet, towards the end of the Cold War the concept of security began to expand, which subsequently led to the proliferation of contemporary security issues such as economic security, environmental security, energy and resource security, health security and bio-security. The conception of security also took a dramatic turn following the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, blurring the traditional boundaries between international security and national security threats. Those changes in the conception of security world-wide have tested the potential of existing institutions, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO), the World Health Organization (WHO), the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union (EU) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to assume a new role in the changing security paradigms, both at international and domestic levels.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationLegal Perspectives on Security Institutions
Place of PublicationUnited Kingdom
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)9781316212677
ISBN (Print)9781107102781
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2015
Externally publishedYes


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