November 01, 2010
The New Security in Democratic South Africa
The Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law welcomed Annette Seegers, professor of political studies at the University of Cape Town, to speak on the “new security” policies seen in South Africa and globally. Francis J. Gavin, Director of the Strauss Center, moderated the event, which was held on November 1, 2010.
Dr. Seegers discussed how the definition of “security” has undergone a significant transformation in recent history. Whereas more traditional conceptions of “security” address direct threats to physical safety and stability, “new security” is a broader concept that encompasses additional concerns—from poverty to climate change. The expansion of this definition is not merely academic, as states’ understanding of the term drives policy responses to perceived security threats. For example, in recent years, U. S. security officials have identified climate change and the financial crisis as primary threats to national security, and this in turn affects policy and resource allocation.
Dr. Seegers began her discussion by providing an overview of the “old” and “new” definitions of security, describing how the initial broadening of the term began in academia and has, over time, been roundly adopted by policymakers across the globe. She argued that, while the new security has consolidated different fields of study and allowed for greater interdisciplinary dialogue, it has also brought about negative consequences and carries potentially anti-democratic implications.
Dr. Seegers asserts that South Africa’s adoption of new security could provide an example of how democracy can suffer as a result of a broad definition of security. Dr. Seegers asserts that South Africa’s effort to broaden the notion of security to include poverty and development concerns has justified greater involvement of the military in all aspects of governance and resulted in the over-use of the military to implement policy. She noted that, despite reforms to its intelligence community in the wake of apartheid’s abolition, South Africa still maintains spying agencies with a domestic focus. She expressed skepticism about whether domestically focused intelligence agencies can pursue operations without infringing on citizens’ rights.
Dr. Seegers fielded questions from the audience regarding the relationship between corruption and new security, the state of modern South Africa, and trends in other governments’ policy responses to new security concerns.
Annette Seegers is a professor of political studies at the University of Cape Town. She has also been a visiting professor at Princeton University since 1999. Her public service in South Africa includes drafting Chapter 11 (Police, Military and Intelligence Services) of the South African Constitution, advising the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, serving as a member of the Multi-Party Negotiation Process, and holding many other advisory posts in the South African government. One of her best-known publications is The Military and the Making of Modern South Africa (1996). Her book, The Role of Armed Forces in Democratic Regime Change, is forthcoming.
This presentation was sponsored by the Strauss Center’s Africa Series and its International Security Speaker Series. These series feature leading scholars, practitioners, and policymakers discussing key issues in Africa and global security more broadly. For more information about the Strauss Center’s Africa program, please visit http://ccaps.strausscenter.org. For more information about the Strauss Center, please visit www.StraussCenter.org.
Watch the full presentation below: