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    Conference Papers


    Paper Presented at the Conference on ‘Common Security: A Question of 
    Global Solidarity’ organised by the Olof Palme International Centre and the 
    Foundation for European Progressive Studies 
    Stockholm – 15 October 2010 
    Barry Gilder, Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection

    ​‘Common Security’ – the words stare up from the invitation letter as I struggle to prepare myself for  the brief migration from a sweltering Pretoria spring to an icy Stockholm autumn. In the desperate attempt to process these two seemingly innocuous words, two questions mischievously scroll across the mind – ‘common to whom?’ and the ‘security of what?’ 
    The concept of common security grew out of the work of the Palme Commission in the early 80s of  the closing century of the last millennium. That seems like a long time ago. Indeed, it was a time very different in many important ways from our own time. It was a time when two gigantic and equally ardent adversaries faced each other across a localised and a global frontier, each with the power to obliterate the other, and each competing desperately with the other to become a better obliterator. 
    In that milieu, what was common about common security was, in its simplest terms, the mutual desire of these adversaries and their respective ideologies to survive and, of course, to prosper and dominate the international system. What had to be secured was their ways of life, their ideologies, their national power and their national interests. As for the rest of the world – the nations that lived on the fringes of the Cold War, on the outskirts of the world economy, in the townships and rural villages of the global nation – what was common about their security was that it aligned with the interests of the big players. Those of us who spent the 1970s and 80s in apartheid prisons or the ANC’s military camps in Angola or dodging assassination attempts in the front-line states of southern Africa often ask ourselves – somewhat wryly and suspiciously – why was it that the big Western powers at the time could only contemplate the possibility of the end of apartheid and an ANC government in South Africa when the Soviet Union was collapsing? Was apartheid South Africa’s security common to them too?
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