The security policy landscape has undergone fundamental change since the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s. Diffuse and non-military risks have increased as the threat of war between states has decreased. Most of the current challenges are transnational in nature and therefore concern several countries and regions. Globalisation is furthering the phenomenon.
New security-policy challenges
Armed conflict between states using conventional military forces has become less significant. The risk to international security today comes from transnational threats, such as terrorism and organised crime. Transnational threats are not a new occurrence but have increased over the past 25 years. Although traditional warfare with armed forces still occurs – for example, the war in Georgia in 2008 – terrorist and criminal groups, which have network-like and highly branched structures, pose the greatest threat to international security. This new threat situation requires a flexible approach and international cooperation.
The illegal use of digital technologies is one of the major challenges of the 21st century. Cyberspace is increasingly being misused for criminal, power-political and intelligence-gathering purposes. Such activities can destabilise states, for example, through attacks via digital networks on critical infrastructure, such as power supply and telecommunications systems.
Terrorism poses a threat to free and pluralistic society and the rights of the individual. Switzerland is actively involved in national and international efforts to combat terrorism. It is highly committed to promoting adherence to international law in countering terrorism.
Illegal arms trade and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction
Events such as the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990 and the recent uprisings in the Arab world have brought large quantities of conventional weapons into circulation. These have been traded illegally and have ended up in conflict zones, such as the Middle East, North Africa and the Sahel region. Terrorist and criminal groups have engaged in illegal arms trade and are seeking access to weapons of mass destruction.
Disarmament and non-proliferation
Economy and globalisation
The unequal distribution of wealth can lead to extremism and violence. The World Bank forecasts that the world population will be even wealthier and more closely interlinked in future. However,the extent to which developing countries will benefit from this remains unclear. It is nonetheless likely that the gap between rich and poor will widen further. This creates conditions favourable to the formation of extremist groups that look set to gain further influence in the states concerned.
Demography and migration
UN estimates indicate that the world population will rise by a further billion to around eight billion people by 2025. Its forecasts suggest that 95% of this growth will affect the cities of Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Migration resulting from a lack of prospects is expected to take place. The population of the industrialised nations will at the same time decline due to changes in reproductive behaviour. Immigration to these countries is necessary for economic reasons. Migration flows may result in social, cultural, linguistic and religious problems and conflicts.
UN: international migration (en)
The growth in prosperity jeopardises the preservation of the natural basis of life. Refuse, air and water pollution, the drainage and rerouting of bodies of water, the overexploitation of land and the overfishing of waters may produce short-term economic benefits but are nevertheless also destroying humanity’s biological basis of life.
The industrialised world’s growing dependence on fossil fuels, such as oil and natural gas, represents a further security risk. The International Energy Agency estimates that demand for oil will double over the next 10 years. Changes on the international energy markets – such as the use of unconventional extraction methods like “hydraulic fracturing“ or “fracking“, which is the extraction of energy sources through boreholes using chemicals – have an impact on international stability: this results in new challenges and potential instability from a security policy perspective.
Nanotechnology and genetic engineering, the capability to influence the weather through new technologies (geoengineering) and the constant increase in and modernisation of automated weapons systems, such as drones, open up new opportunities but also present new challenges. It also raises issues concerning international law and ethical questions.