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Part I International Law and Global Security, Ch.1 The Concept of Security in International Law

Nigel D White, Auden Davies-Bright

From: The Oxford Handbook of the International Law of Global Security

Edited By: Robin Geiß, Nils Melzer

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2023. All Rights Reserved.date: 20 May 2024

Collective security

This chapter traces the development of ‘security’ in international legal discourse from State security, to collective security, to human security, in order to understand whether there has been a change of emphasis or, in fact, a deepening of security. National security focuses on the safety of the nation-State, which necessitates placing national interests over collective interests. Collective security marks a transition in that the more national interests become diluted, the more centralized a response becomes, and the concept of threats to peace and security is broadened to include events within States that have international repercussions. The chapter considers the debates about ‘security’ at a conceptual level, drawing on legal and political literature, and then sets them against developments in practice to see if a conclusion can be drawn on the precise nature and function of ‘security’ in international law. It addresses the question of whether ‘peace’ and ‘security’ are, or should be seen as, norms of international law. The lack of formal legal definition of security signifies that subjective views, particularly intersubjective understandings of security, have facilitated the breakdown of the State–human security divide. The chapter looks at the implications for this as security moves from being the primary purpose of international law and institutions to becoming a primary norm.

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