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The Copenhagen School: Room for Nts at the Asean Level

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Submitted By pilate80
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Introduction
The years following the end of the Cold War have seen a broadening and deepening of the agenda for security issues. Followers of the “Copenhagen School” have argued that the state should no longer be seen as the sole referent object in security and that security issues should encompass more than just the state and military power. Instead, the focus should now be on “Human Security”, where the referent is the individual. States have listened and issues such as the environment, the economy and transnational crime have been securitized under the increasingly broad umbrella of “non-traditional security (NTS) issues”. There is a utility to this approach as it prioritizes an issue in policy hierarchy and puts it on the fast track for resolution. However, the premise of human security also opens the door for just about any issue to be securitized. In such a scenario, which issue should be prioritized and on what grounds is one issue more important than another? In this essay I argue that the utility of this approach comes with caveats and preconditions and that for Southeast Asia and ASEAN, the focus on NTS opens doors for cooperation to deal with problems that require multilateral solutions while at the same time moving the region towards the realization of a true Security Community.
Copenhagen School: Nuts and Bolts, Pros and Cons.
The basic premise of the Copenhagen School of securitization is that the realm of security studies should not be about a single-minded focus on states and military power. Rather, the individual should be looked at as the referent. Pioneers of the concept like Buzan argue that security is about dealing with existential threats posed to the referent object that has a legitimate claim to survival and that what defines security is socially constructed. There are 2 players in the process of securitization, the actor and the audience. Through “speech acts”, the actor (individuals, NGOS, the state etc.) attempts to frame an issue as an existential threat to the relevant audience (politicians, public opinion, elites etc.). Securitization is considered successful when the relevant audience is convinced, which then allows the issue to be considered separate from “normal” politics and in need of urgent attention which allows the state to use all tools at its disposal. This approach is not without utility. For example, post 9-11, the securitization of terrorism from crime to existential security threat has allowed states to use the military in response to what was previously almost the exclusive realm of law enforcement agencies. It has also led to increased cooperative intelligence sharing and multinational cooperation in dealing with transnational terrorist networks as states have realized that this “security issue” is not something that can be resolved unilaterally.
The drawbacks to this approach however are that if security is socially constructed then almost anything can be considered a security issue. This provides policy makers and academics with little guidance on what it is to be studied and how to prioritize competing issues. Secondly, proponents of the approach have an interest in keeping the definition of NTS vague as they have a vested interest in drawing attention away from traditional security issues towards what has normally been classified under the heading of development. The challenge therefore, is one of prioritization.
Lastly, this approach can only be used when states are facing a security dilemma. During the Cold War, security studies emerged as a branch that focused almost exclusively on military security and the state. Only when it ended did scholars see the leeway for the expansion of securitization. Therefore I argue that the Copenhagen school is a luxury of the post-cold war security environment.
ASEAN: The Malacca Straits as a Case Study and the Significance of ADMM Plus
ASEAN is a region that I argue bears more resemblance to a Security Regime than a Security Community. While the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) that member states sign on to explicitly calls for the ‘settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful means’ and the ‘renunciation of the threat of force’, practice has sometimes not followed principle in the region. The longstanding threat of Malaysia to cut Singapore’s water supplies whenever the island state has proved itself “troublesome” is an example. Southeast Asia is essentially a region of mutually suspicious states that is stabilized by the involvement and presence of the US in the region to counter China’s growing Naval presence. It is the external security provided for by the US that has enabled ASEAN to shift its focus towards NTS and ASEAN has benefitted from this. Problems of a transnational nature such as migration, climate change, and maritime piracy require multinational solutions, thus securitization of these issues has bumped them up in priority for multilateral cooperation and resolution where previously none was considered.
Take the example of the Malacca Straits, one of the most important shipping lanes in the world that has historically had a problem with maritime piracy. In 2004 the issue of maritime piracy was securitized by Singapore, which stated that maritime piracy posed a threat to the economic lifeline of the region and that this overlapped with security concerns on maritime terrorism. Through multilateral forums and discussion frameworks such as the ASEAN Regional Forum and the Shangri-la Dialogue, the 3 nations agreed to conduct joint air patrols under the Eyes in The Sky initiative, coordinate sea patrols, and increase intelligence sharing on pirate activities. Also, Five Power Defense Arrangement (FPDA) exercises (Of which Malaysia and Singapore are participants) were widened in scope for the first time to include NTS threats like maritime terrorism. As a result, piracy in the Straits of Malacca has come down from a high of 38 actual or attempted incidents since the issue was securitized in 2004, to a low of 2 incidents reported in 2009. This trilateral approach to maritime piracy has been widely hailed as a successful model for others to follow. Had the problem not been securitized and left at the national policy level, the Malacca Straits would probably be left at the status quo of 2004.
There are limits to the securitization approach however. Even the success story of the Malacca Straits has had a few intransigent problems that have not been resolved thanks to traditional concerns on state sovereignty. The apprehension of Malaysia and Indonesia at the idea of a US led “intervention” to resolve maritime piracy in their littoral waters is partially what spurred their willingness to take a regional approach to solve a regional problem. Indonesia and Malaysia have also not been willing to acknowledge the possibility of terrorist links to maritime piracy, a stand that Singapore very much adopts. This has hindered further cooperation beyond the realms of piracy prevention in the Malacca Straits due to existing traditional security concerns of giving up too much information. Still, this case study highlights the example of what ASEAN can do once common consensus has been reached on securitizing an issue.
The recent example of the inaugural ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus) held on 12 Oct 2010 is yet another example of the importance ASEAN has placed on NTS. ADMM Plus represents a structured agenda to discuss peace, stability and development in the region with a focus on five core NTS issues for immediate cooperation -- disaster relief, peacekeeping, military medicine, maritime security and counter-terrorism. Such increased cooperation and transparency on NTS through a number of other overlapping mechanisms such as ARF in the ASEAN “alphabet soup” will ease cooperation on resolving more traditional security issues thus easing ASEAN towards the realization of being a true Security Community.
Conclusion
In conclusion, it can be seen from the case of ASEAN that expanding the umbrella of security has produced results. ASEAN provides a forum where common ground can be found and pressing issues can be sorted out first though mechanisms like the ARF and ADMM PLUS. The ASEAN way of collective agreement has provided a useful means of prioritizing securitization while avoiding the clutter that the Copenhagen school might entail. The increased cooperation and resultant transparency among ASEAN member states in openly and multilaterally dealing with issues like migration, transnational epidemics, and maritime security has resulted in a vindication of sorts for neo-liberal institutionalists and constructivists who argue that such mechanisms and the propagation of such norms have inexorably pushed ASEAN towards the status of a Security Community. However, the experience of ASEAN also shows that Copenhagen School hits a wall when the multilateral securitization of an issue goes against the vested interests of states. In other words, securitization can only occur if it does not challenge neo-realist concerns on state sovereignty. Also, it is only the stabilizing presence of the US in the region is that allows ASEAN to broaden the scope of security. Without that, it is highly unlikely that security would have moved away from its traditional focus. The Copenhagen approach to securitization could therefore be seen as one of luxury that can only be afforded by states that have broken out of the vicious circle of the security dilemma.

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