Common Security

What is Common Security?

Common security is an approach to achieving national, regional and international security by taking into account the security needs of other nations, including one’s adversaries, as well as one’s own security needs. It is based on the assumption that sustainable security cannot be obtained by undermining or threatening the security of others, but rather on resolving conflicts with one’s adversaries and ensuring the security of all is upheld.

Common Security relies on diplomacy, negotiation, mediation and other forms of conflict resolution, as well as on the application of international law, to ensure peace, fairness and security for all.

Common Security is a win-win approach to relations between countries (resolving issues so that everyone benefits) – rather than a win-lose approach (one country dominant over another) or a lose-lose approach (such as war).

Common security does not rule out national defence and military power as a component of national security. However, a common security framework places a much greater emphasis on conflict resolution and international law, and reserves military approaches as last resorts to address aggression, if all other methods fail, and as long as such use of force is in accordance with international law.

What are some Common Security mechanisms?

The United Nations is the world’s principal common security mechanism. The UN Charter prohibits the threat or use of force in international relations and requires Member States to resolve their conflicts peacefully (Article 2).

The UN Charter also outlines a range of common security approaches that UN Member States should utilise to resolve international conflicts, including by “negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements, or other peaceful means of their own choice.” (Article 33).

The Office of the UN Secretary-General provides assistance to member states in using these approaches, including to serve as a mediator when both/all parties agree.

The International Court of Justice, established as one of the six main organs of the United Nations, provides a judicial method for resolving disputes between nations if other methods are unsuccessful. (Unfortunately only 73 countries recognise the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ, hampering its ability to consider all unresolved disputes).

There are also a number of regional bodies that are established as common security mechanisms. These include the African Union (AU), Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Council of Europe (COE), European Union (EU), League of Arab States (LAS),     Organization of American States (OAS), Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).

 Of these regional bodies, the European Union is probably the most developed in terms of legal, political and economic mechanisms that apply to all members in order to ensure common security. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe is possibly the most important for providing a common security framework and forum for traditionally adversarial blocs (Russia/former Soviet countries and the West).

In addition, in 1998 the International Criminal Court was established in order to try individuals for genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and aggression.

Some Common Security resources

Founding/guiding documents of common security organizations

International Reports


(Currently being compiled)


(Currently being compiled)