There is no doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has become the most devastating non-traditional security threat that the whole world has suffered since the end of the Second World War. The COVID-19 has become the worst global pandemic that the world has ever confronted since the aftermath of the 1918 flu attack.
Our difficult experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic really call for a strong need to pursue international cooperation in the area of non-traditional security. Without international cooperation, it will be harder for the whole of humanity not only in surmounting the current challenges of the pandemic but more so in pursuing effective measures for post-pandemic recoveries. As the saying goes, “Many hands make light work”.
Non-traditional security threats such as infectious diseases, natural disasters, climate change, environmental degradation, irregular migration, poverty, international terrorism, and international organized crimes, among others, are transnational in nature. Thus, no single nation, even the most powerful or richest one, can overcome these threats by acting alone. But by acting together, the world can do so much to overcome these transnational threats.
Addressing non-traditional security threats require the serious cooperation of all nations. Engaging in international power rivalry is counterproductive in combating non-traditional security threats. We a need to apply a model of international relations that will uphold the great importance of cooperation in the field of non-traditional security.
Without international cooperation, non-traditional security threats will persist, thrive, and triumph at the very expense of the well being of all people of the world. It is, therefore, very essential to the international community to build a strong team to confront these non-traditional security threats. Global teamwork is imperative to overcome non-traditional security threats because “teamwork divides the tasks and multiplies successes.” We all share these threats. We also need to share the global responsibility of combating these threats.
Non-traditional security threats are also non-military in nature. Thus, we need international cooperation to develop non-military innovative approaches to confront these threats. While the military still plays a very vital role in combating non-traditional security threats, the military can still do so in its non-traditional functions, such as armed conflict prevention, peacebuilding, peace making, and peacekeeping rather than war fighting.
We need international cooperation to build the capacity of all nations, particularly those most-affected ones, to have strong, effective, and resilient civilian institutions to meet all the challenges of non-traditional security. We need international cooperation to strengthen the capacity of government civilian institutions to prevent non-traditional security threats to wreak havoc in our societies. Most importantly, we need international cooperation to strengthen state capacity to manage the consequences of non-traditional security threats.
Non-traditional security threats are largely non-state in origin. Hence, international cooperation must be pursued not only by sovereign states but also by the whole people of the world regardless of national origins, ethnic identities, racial orientations, gender preferences, economic status, and even ideological commitments. In this case, we also need to promote international cooperation among non-governmental organizations, civil society movements, and peoples’ organizations working at the grassroots where non-traditional security threats usually occur. Community-based and people-oriented international cooperation among non-state players can assist the state to promote and protect the human security agenda of the people of the world.
Finally, based on the world’s exemplary experiences right after the Second World War, international cooperation gets greater chance of success with the active involvement of experts, academics, scientists and professionals engaged in functional activities. They belong to the epistemic community or knowledge community providing evidence-based and scientifically oriented inputs to policy-makers through Track Two processes. International cooperation in addressing non-traditional security threats must therefore involve the epistemic community to promote functional cooperation among states engaged mostly in Track One activities. We need to encourage more Track One and Half activities (the convergence of Track One and Track Two diplomacies) to make international cooperation in non-traditional security more vibrant, useful, reliable and effective in the post-pandemic world.
There is an old Chinese proverb saying, “A single tree does not make a forest.” We can build a forest of solutions to non-traditional security threats if single trees, big and small, can co-exist in peace, cooperation, and harmony with one another.
This paper was presented at the Beijing Xiangshan Forum Video Workshop held on 2 December 2020.
*The author is the President of the Philippine Association for Chinese Studies (PACS) and Chairman of the Philippine Institute for Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research (PIPVTR). He teaches at the Department of International Studies at Miriam College, the Philippines.