4. Analyse the relationship between population trends and international security. What factors might determine whether a population issue is a threat to international security? How does the international community tend to respond to such problems?


-Several factors can determine whether a population issue is a threat to international security.

-These can be in regards to migration, fertility rates and terrorism.

-International community has tended to respond in accordance with nation-based responses, rather than coordinating a joint approach between themselves.

Demographic trends influence political stability and security.

The State of Human Security

Demographic trends can hinder the achievement of human security, and thus affect the security of a nation. Many country governments have expressed concern about meeting the needs of their growing youthful populations. In Uganda, which had the youngest age structure in the world in the 2000s, a member of Parliament has noted that “We are growing at a very fast pace, and looking at the projections, it can’t be sustained. We have a bank of young people who are dependent, unemployed or can’t make a living.” In Yemen, where water supplies are already running short and the population is on track to nearly double in 20 years, an official has warned that “Population growth is putting pressure on the country’s resources. If the situation remains as it is, the state would not be able to meet the demands of its people.”

Population is an underlying variable for conflict.

Demographic changes can influence other triggers of conflict. The social, economic, political and environmental context matters, and there is no single formula to guarantee successful conflict prevention. Large numbers of young people in a population, when coupled with socioeconomic problems, can leave individuals more susceptible for recruitment into insurgencies. Few chances to find employment or otherwise improve lives can both generate grievances and make taking part in violent action seem less risky. Where jobs are lacking or only available to the well-connected, a youthful age structure increases the number of job seekers and decreases the odds of employment. The National Intelligence Council, in its Global Trends 2025 assessment, characterized a demographic “arc of instability” that crosses much of sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South Asia as a risk factor for civil conflict. In a 2010 speech, the commander of the U.S. Africa Command noted the challenges that population growth poses to other aspects of development, including food security, health and environment.


One particular factor that could determine whether a population issue is a threat to international security is migration. This is the case as large migratory flows may be beyond the managerial capacity of a single state, even a well-intentioned one; can occur if the state-centrist model in regards to citizenship (in which all individuals should have citizenship of at least one state) breaks down, which would in turn require a coordinated response from the international community.

Example is the Rohingya crisis, in which hundreds of thousands of Rohingyas have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh, which in part comes from the ethnic group being stripped of their citizenship in 1981 and the subsequent violations against their human rights. Bangladesh has struggled to cope with the influx, with refugee camps being stretched beyond capacity. International community has usually failed to establish a joint approach in regards to migration, with governments often treating migration as a threat rather than an opportunity.

Migrants as victims and/or threats

A. Forced migration/ethnic ‘cleansing’ (also the crime of human trafficking)(result of war)

B. Refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) from war, famine, disasters.

C. Five main situations in which migrants may be perceived as a threat.

D. Four state strategies for responding to ‘threats’ of migration

Migrants as potential threats

1. Refugees/immigrants as opponents of their ‘home’ regime (Chinese/Cubans in US; Afghans in Pakistan)

2. Refugees/immigrants as a political risk to their host countries (Palestinians, Kurds, Croats,Tamils, N. Irish)

3. Migrants as a threat to cultural identity (esp. where citizenship is based on‘blood’)(Germany, Israel, Japan, Malaysia)

4. Migrants as a social or economic burden (Cubans in US in late 1970s; East Pakistanis in India; UK’s views today)

5. Migrants as fighters or hostages (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria)

State strategies to manage population movements

1. Pay aid/trade benefits to avoid immigration from certain countries (mainly by rich states: US/EU)

2. Coercive diplomacy: Discourage immigrants at the source (target their home govs and/or immigrants)

3. Discouraging regulations & socio-economic policies against immigrants in host countries

4. Armed intervention to stop human trafficking or change political conditions in the home country to discourage migration.

Europe and the ‘threat’ of E/W migration

A. The starting point: Fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of communism/USSR

B. The perceived threat: From former USSR, C/E Europe, and the role of Germany

C. The reality: Threat inflation (?)

D. The role of the European Union: PHARE/TACIS, minority rights, enlargement, new CSDP operation (EUNAVFOR Med/Sophia)

Fertility Rates:

Can also determine whether population issues are international security concern. This is because developed nations with falling fertility rates face an issue with a high economic dependency ratio; if they are unable to increase their fertility rates, they potentially face the consequences of a high dependency ratio. They may have to accept increased immigration as a potential solution; Germany in 2015 was a prime example, as the German government granted entry to over a million refugees partly due to the need to fill a growing gap in the national labour force.

In terms of responding to such issues, international community has not developed a coordinated response as of yet; the consequences of not assimilating migrants into the national fabrics of developed countries poses long-term risks to their national interests, such as Japan and its negative fertility rate. Therefore, population issues can be an international security issue in the context of fertility rates, as developed nations face long-term risks due to their high-dependency ratios.


Moreover, terrorism is also a factor that can determine whether population issues can be international security concerns. This is through the fact oppressed groups who have lost citizenship may turn to violence as a means of opposition. The Rohingya in Myanmar is a strong example, as their deprivation of citizenship has prompted armed resistance from militant groups as the Rohingya Salvation Army. International community has tended to resort to unilateral actions in regards to such threats, resulting. Therefore, terrorism can be an example of how population issues can be considered to be an international security concern.


To conclude, migration, fertility rates and terrorism can determine whether population issues can be considered to be security concerns, as they entail a number of consequences for nations. Overall, the international community has tended to respond to crises related to those factors in a manner based on the nation state rather than coordinating joint responses. Therefore, there is a lack of a framework for resolving these issues.