New actors and the state: addressing maritime security threats in Southeast Asia.

AuthorLiss, Carolin

Over the past two decades, maritime security threats such as piracy, illegal fishing and maritime terrorism in Southeast Asia have attracted greater attention and concern. Responding to these threats and ensuring national security have long been seen as the responsibility of governments. This is reflected in much of the literature on Southeast Asian security issues, which focuses largely on state responses to threats. However, the notion of the state as the sole provider of security is being increasingly challenged in many parts of the world, with "new" actors such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private businesses playing ever more important roles in providing security. To gain a comprehensive understanding of the security sectors of Southeast Asian countries and security governance in the region, it is important to ask if this trend can also be observed in Southeast Asia.

This special issue of Contemporary Southeast Asia (1) demonstrates that in recent years new actors have become involved in addressing national and regional security threats in Southeast Asia. The focus is on three distinctive types of actors--for-profit actors, not-for-profit actors and multilateral institutions--in responding to maritime security threats such as smuggling, piracy and illegal fishing. This issue investigates the ways in which new actors address these threats and considers how their participation has affected the role of the state as the primary provider of maritime security. It therefore offers insights into alternative methods for tackling contemporary maritime security threats in Southeast Asia, including hybrid forms of maritime security governance. Significantly, by revealing the contribution of new actors in Southeast Asia, a region where government responses and sovereignty have long played a central role, it demonstrates how and why established patterns of security governance in Southeast Asia are changing.

This paper first situates our discussion in the broader theoretical debate that focuses on the rise of new actors in security governance around the world. The second section narrows the lens to Southeast Asia. It provides a brief overview of contemporary maritime security threats in Southeast Asia and discusses state responses to these threats. The third section elaborates our analytical framework, identifying the new actors discussed in this special issue and the nature of their responses to maritime security threats. It also examines the distinctive, often complex inter-relationships between these actors and the state across the region.

Changes in Security Governance

Economic, political and social problems such as financial crises and climate change that have emerged since the end of the Cold War seriously challenge existing state institutions worldwide. As a result, new actors have emerged that offer a wide range of governance responses to current problems at sub-national, national and international levels. (2) One area where new actors play an ever more important role is in responses to national and international security threats. Indeed, it has become increasingly clear that many contemporary non-traditional security threats, such as terrorism or transnational crime, cannot be addressed by existing national agencies or individual states alone. As a result, the line between national and international security has become blurred and security challenges are today met by a range of new actors.

Three kinds of "new" actors are arguably most important in addressing security challenges: (1) for-profit actors; (2) not-for-profit actors; and (3) multilateral institutions. The nature and scale of these actors' involvement depends on their motivations, capacities and interests. Their involvement can also be regarded in different ways. On the one hand, the involvement of new actors can be seen as ineffective in addressing security problems or as problematic --as exemplified by, the controversy and scandals that followed the large scale employment of private security firms in Iraq. On the other hand, their participation can be judged a success in satisfying security needs and regarded as a valuable alternative to state approaches to security threats. (3) Among these new actors are private security companies, NGOs and regional multilateral organizations. Clearly, only some of these new actors are genuinely "new", but as Krahmann argues:

What makes NGOs; private military companies, and international regimes and organisations 'new' actors in contemporary security is that they are challenging the 'monopoly' of the nation state in the legitimate provision of security that had developed over the past centuries and appears to have reached its prime during the Cold War. (4) The involvement of these new actors in security governance is indeed a challenge to the traditional perception of the role of the state. Providing national security, including the protection of citizens and national borders, has long been seen as a fundamental responsibility of governments. Weber's definition of the state as "a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory" is often cited in this context. (5) However, despite this perceived role of the state, different types of non-state actors have been involved in providing security during certain periods of time throughout history. One example is the various types of private military actors known as mercenaries, condotierri, or "dogs of war", who have fought in conflicts and wars around the world at different points in time. (6) Significantly, the type of non-state actors and the role they play in security governance have changed over time, with different types of actors flourishing or waning in certain periods and political environments. (7) The nature of private actors' involvement and the kind of security threats they address have also changed in response to shifts in the political landscape, both local and global. While condottieri and mercenaries are examples of private actors engaged by states to fight in wars of the past, in contemporary times a range of different non-sate actors have been active not only in war and conflict zones but also in combating crime and other non-traditional security threats.

The involvement of non-state actors such as Private Military and Security Companies (PMSCs) and NGOs operating internationally to address contemporary security threats on land is increasingly acknowledged by scholars and the media. (8) Yet, significantly less attention has been paid to new actors in the maritime sphere, particularly in Southeast Asia. (9) This is surprising, as a wide range of new actors is today involved in addressing maritime security threats worldwide. Examples include the involvement of the International Chamber of Commerce's International Maritime Bureau (IMB) in combating piracy, and the increasing use of private guards to provide security at ports.

Generally, the activities of new actors involved in addressing threats at sea differ from those on land because some take place in environments with overlapping jurisdictions and/or far from the eyes of observers. For example, a PMSC that protects a merchant ship with armed guards has to comply not only with the laws of the ship's flag state but also with international laws and the laws of coastal states when operating in the waters (and ports) under a coastal state's jurisdiction. Further, in cases where the activities of new actors are carried out at sea, government control is usually weak. New actors may therefore be able to play a different, perhaps more autonomous role than their counterparts on land.

Clearly, maritime security is of varying importance to governments around the world. While all nations depend on trade by sea, those with long coastlines, maritime borders, extensive waters under their jurisdiction, and which host major ports and strategic waterways, have a particular interest in maritime security. Given Southeast Asia's geographical features, many regional states are among them.

Southeast Asia: Maritime Threats and State Responses

Maritime security is a vital component of national security in Southeast Asia. Nine of the ten members of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN) have coastlines, territorial waters and maritime borders that need to be secured. This is a challenging task because of the geography of the region, which includes long, indented coastlines, semi-enclosed seas with multiple bordering states, difficult to navigate rivers and innumerable offshore islands. The maritime sphere is also of importance to regional states because their economies rely heavily on resources from the sea and maritime transport. The fishing sector, for example, is a crucial part of local economies and millions of people depend on this industry for their income and livelihood. The region is also home to busy ports, such as Singapore, and local industries rely on seaborne trade for the import and export of goods. Some of the world's most strategically important waterways are also located in Southeast Asia--most notably the Straits of Malacca, Singapore, Sunda and Lombok-Makassar--and the region is rich in maritime resources including fisheries, hydrocarbons and minerals.

Today a range of maritime security issues are of concern to governments in Southeast Asia, including contested maritime borders, smuggling, piracy, maritime terrorism and illegal fishing. Many potential maritime borders in Southeast Asia have yet to be delimited, resulting in a lack of jurisdictional clarity and, as claims overlap, disputes over the ownership of water areas and islands. Indeed, in the past few decades, disputes over maritime boundaries have strained relations between countries in and adjacent to the region. The periodic flare-up of tensions over ownership of the Spratly Islands involving China and four Southeast Asian countries...

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