world in our hands

Sustainable security

Oxford Research Group provides research and analysis on underlying causes of global insecurity and advocates more strategic approaches to security and peacebuilding.

Our greatest security challenges arise not from threats to the ‘global order’, but the damage that ‘order’ is causing to the social and ecological fabric on which humanity depends to flourish.

We face an existential crisis, manifested as climate change, growing inequality, the rapid depletion of finite resources, and efforts by elite nations to control global affairs through coercive means (Rogers, 2000).

The effects of the crisis on our common security are many, eclipsing the risks that some states like the UK have prioritised: the power of other states like Russia, China, or of non-state groups, to threaten Western interests.

These systemic problems provide no enemy to point at, only mirrors to peer into.  In the glass peering back at us are a host of normalised attitudes that are making the world more insecure: individualism rather than solidarity; nationalism and ethnocentrism rather than the principle of the common human good; anthropocentrism rather than ecological responsibility; an economic system that divides humanity between billionaires and paupers; and patriarchal and class cultures of dominance, division and exploitation.

A productive shift in strategy assumes also a progressive evolution of attitude, not least in whose security needs are thought to matter. This is as profoundly necessary as it is difficult.  In a critique of the humanitarian military intervention agenda, Diana Francis argues that without due attention to the systemic roots of our common insecurity, it is bound to grow:

‘If we are focussed only on the prevention of violent crises and do not set out to transform global relationships, economic, social, political and environmental, we shall go on failing to protect on the grand scale and continue to face growing numbers of outbreaks of widespread violence…’

(Francis, 2006, p. 12)

In our Rethinking Security discussion paper we propose five policy priority areas for a more sustainably secure world:

  • Climate. Urgent action to prevent catastrophic climate change.
  • Inequality. Reform of the economic system to narrow the gap between rich and poor at local, national, and global levels.
  • Scarcity. Prevention of the over-use of natural resources and productive land.
  • Militarisation. Progressive reduction in military spending at national, regional and global levels.
  • Violent conflict. Serious political and financial investment in peacebuilding approaches to violent conflict.

These are discussed in more detail in the Rethinking Security discussion paper (section 5.5).


For more about work to turn these principles into policy proposals, visit Oxford Research Group.


Francis, D., 2006. ‘Pacifism and the responsibility to protect’. CCTS Review, Issue 31, pp. 11-14.

Rogers, P., 2000. ‘Losing Control: Global security in the 21st century’. 1st ed. London: Pluto Press.