Pandemic calls for rethink of national security

This year’s pandemic and climate crises mean that debate around national security needs a rethink, according to a discussion paper released today by The Australia Institute.

The paper highlights that security in the 21st century is as much about defending the health, safety and prosperity of citizens from pandemics, disasters, pollution and supply shortages as it is about defending the state against armed aggression by other states.

“Pandemics and other disasters constitute an existential threat to individuals and communities,” said Allan Behm, former Defence official and now head of The Australia Institute’s International and Security Affairs program.

“While health and climate disasters have not yet led to the destruction of nations, the spread and lethality of the corona virus has driven the global economy into recession, causing  significant unemployment and economic insecurity.

“With governments around the world scrambling to provide medical facilities and social safety nets, while others implement authoritarian reforms, we are facing a global security crisis.

“Security is not just freedom from threat of foreign invasion. Security also requires the creation of opportunity, resilience and well-being.

“While many security analysts acknowledge climate change as a security issue, with impacts such as sea level rise and crop failure potentially causing displacement of people, wider factors like health and prosperity are too often ignored.

“The security of Australians and citizens around the world is under threat from inadequate health planning.

“Climate change, drug policy, gun laws and other issues that relate directly to citizens’ wellbeing are far greater threats to security than terrorism or military conflict.

“While this is often acknowledged by the security community, government spending and legislative responses still focus on military hardware and security agencies.

“Citizens in 21st century democracies want freedom from military service rather than freedom through military service.”

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