In search of global security: What makes us “secure?”

Understanding what makes us “secure” is essential to our considerations regarding how we go about designing a global system that assures security for all humans, other living species and the planet.

Time required
  • 1 hour per discussion topic (up to 2 hours)
relevant sections of “a global security system: an alternative to war”
Discussion Goals & Objectives
  • Reflect upon the nature of security: what makes us secure, and what makes us insecure?
  • Reflect upon personal values toward identification of principles that should inform a security system
  • Develop awareness of the multiple and interrelated dimensions of human needs that require security for their assurance 

Discussion Guides

Two discussion topics/guides are presented below. Each discussion should take approximately 1 hour. You are invited to do both and follow any sequence relevant to your purposes. If you are to choose one discussion we encourage you start with “Discussion 1 (Essential)” as this may inform the basis of future discussions.

Discussion 1 (Essential)What are the ethical and moral principles that should inform a system of global security?

In preparation for this discussion watch the introductory video; read the sections of AGSS; and skim the additional resources below. You may also want to print out a few copies of the “ethical frameworks” to use in the discussion.

Discussion Questions

Start with a general discussion:  ( 20 min)

  • What makes us secure?
  • Does a militarized system of security provide security or make you feel secure? Why or why not?
  • How might you define security?

Building upon the general discussion above, break into 3 groups. Assign each group one of the “ethical frameworks.”

Explore the following question and record the results in the “ethical framework chart”: ( 40 min)

  • What moral and ethical principles should be followed in considering approaches to global security? What are the principles of a “peace system”?
  • What aspects of the present system of global security violate these principles?
Additional Resources: Ethical Frameworks for Peace
  • The Earth Charter
    The Earth Charter is an ethical framework for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century.   It is a product of a decade-long, worldwide, cross-cultural dialogue on common goals and shared values. The Earth Charter project began as a United Nations initiative but was carried forward and completed by a global civil society initiative.
  • Universal Declaration of Human Rights
    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948.  It establishes a set of fundamental human rights to be universally protected.
  • Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice in the 21st Century
    The Hague Appeal for Peace Conference, May 11-15, 1999, was the largest international peace conference in history.  It launched the Hague Agenda for Peace and Justice for the 21st Century, a set of 50 recommendations for the abolition of war and the promotion of peace. The Agenda (UN Ref A/54/98) was formed out of an intensive democratic process among the members of the HAP Organizing and Coordinating Committees and hundreds of organizations and individuals. The Agenda represents what civil society organizations and citizens consider some of the most important challenges facing humanity for the 21st century. It highlights four major strands: 1) Root Causes of War & Culture of Peace, 2) International Humanitarian and Human Rights Law and Institutions, 3) Prevention, Resolution, and Transformation of Violent Conflict, and 4) Disarmament and Human Security. 

Discussion 2 (Going Deeper): How might we reprioritize human and planetary needs to assure the security and survival of all?

The “What the World Wants” Project has been exploring how to achieve basic human needs by reprioritizing military spending.  This work has been led by Medard Gabel (Pacem in Terris and BigPictureSmallWorld).  They argue that the basic human needs of everyone in the world can be met with existing technology, resources, and financial capacities—and that what we need to solve the major systemic problems confronting humanity is both available and affordable.


Review the “Price of Peace: Abundance for All” produced by Big Picture Small World and explore the following questions: ( 60 min)

  • If basic human needs are met would the dependency on the military for security be reduced?  Why or why not?
  • What arguments could be made for shifting spending from the military to human needs?  How would you make these arguments?
  • The fact sheet “Abundance for All” (the 2nd page of “The Price of Peace”) makes costs comparisons between programs required for human needs and spending on human “wants” (ie – the $20 billion required to assure food for all is = to 50% of what the US spends on weight loss per year).  This clearly illuminates that spending on the military is not the only problem we must address in pursuing global security.  How might you go about shifting spending priorities from human “wants” to human “needs”?  What aspects of human society and organization make this difficult (ie. consumerism, convenience) – and how might these obstacles be addressed and/or overcome?
Possibilties for action
  • What changes of habit might you make in your day-to-day life to toward prioritizing “needs” over “wants”?  Make a commitment to take one small action each day.  Consider publicly sharing these commitments on the discussion board below.
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What did you learn from this discussion? Please share with others so we can build a global security system together...