History & evolution

Non-traditional security issues are challenges to the survival and well-being of peoples and states that arise primarily out of non-military sources, such as climate change, resource scarcity, infectious diseases, natural disasters, irregular migration, food shortages, people smuggling, drug trafficking and transnational crime. These dangers are often transnational in scope, defying unilateral remedies and requiring comprehensive – political, economic, social – responses, as well as humanitarian use of military force.

Phase I

In 1999-2001, RSIS, assisted with a generous grant from the Ford Foundation, successfully carried out a project on Non-Traditional Security Issues in Southeast Asia in conjunction with the Regional Center for Strategic Studies, Colombo, and United Nations University, Tokyo. This constituted Phase I of the RSIS project on NTS issues.

This phase was characteristed by discussions on non-traditional aspects of security as they relate to Southeast Asia in the post-Cold War regional security environment. A select group of twenty-six scholars were commissioned to examine NTS issues in Southeast Asia. They have identified and analyzed key trends and developments in important issue areas: aspects of globalization, regional institutions, governance in plural societies, and environmental security in individual states or Southeast Asia as a whole.

In two conferences in 2000, these scholars met in Singapore to present and critique their work. The revised studies that resulted from these fruitful discussions illuminate many facets of the Southeast Asian security environment that have not been accorded the attention they deserve in more conventional regional security analyses. These studies have been published in a n February 5, 2008 program’s effort to stimulate debate on NTS issues in Southeast Asia did not end with the publication of the studies outlined above. RSIS aims to continue to raise awareness of NTS issues and encourage academics and policymakers to consider their impact on Southeast Asia. This endeavor has, in fact, commenced. A workshop on Non-Traditional Security Issues in Southeast Asia held in Singapore in July 2001 conveyed the findings of the project to a select group of senior military officers, academics, and media representatives from across the region. A pan-Asian conference under the title Asian Security in the 21st Century: Globalisation, Environment and Governance was also organized in Singapore on 10-11 October 2001 in collaboration with the South Asia and Northeast Asia coordinators of the Ford project on NTS issues. Some 50 scholars met to discuss their findings.

Phase II

The Ford-RSIS Project on Non-Traditional Security Issues in Asia is a three-year research project which commenced in January 2003. Launched and headed by the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, with funding from the Ford Foundation, this project is part of a larger ongoing research endeavor by the IDSS into non-traditional security (NTS) issues. This is Phase II of that research effort; Phase I, which concluded in October 2001, focused on NTS issues in Southeast Asia.

The program’s overarching objective is to facilitate discussion on non-traditional aspects of security as they relate to Asia in the post-Cold War security environment. The project is thus structured around a number of transnational issues including terrorism, migration, human security, development and democracy, environmental security, and economic globalization and security.

In particular, it aimed to

  • Advance the debate on the importance of analyzing NTS issues in Asia
  • Develop a conceptual framework and relevant methodologies for investigating the processes and implications of securitization and desecuritization of NTS issues in Asia
  • Identify and investigate important case studies of securitization and desecuritization in Asia
  • Promote a better understanding among policy makers of how the processes of securitization or desecuritization can help the formulation of more effective and appropriate policies towards NTS issues
  • Build a long-term and sustainable capacity for research, teaching, and networking at IDSS and in the region on NTS isues.