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Global Security Challenges

Security sectors across the world are increasingly faced with global challenges such as migration, health crises, digitalization and cyber threats, climate change, or organized crime. These issues not only transcend borders, but also require states and societies to think innovatively on governance responses to these challenges.

To that end, DCAF seeks to assist partners by developing a dedicated knowledge base, along with operational and training programmes, aimed at identifying the challenges these threats represent to the governance of security institutions and improving the resilience of democratically controlled security sectors. 


U.S. Marines unload food and supplies in Pano Aqil, Pakistan. Photo:U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jason Bushong



As migration flows continue to increase, often in particularly dramatic circumstances, so does the importance of reflecting on the security sector’s management of these movements of peoples. Moving from the well-established state function of border control and regulating admission to national territory, to the more modern aspect of capacity-building in states with strong outward migration dynamics, SSG/R has a critical role to play in ensuring the respect of human rights, the security of states and populations, and ultimately in saving lives.

Building upon DCAF’s field engagement, particularly in Southeast Europe, we are working on various knowledge products which highlight the wide security implications of migration, with the aim to develop best practices for security sectors in facing this challenge. 

Unpacking and streamlining the evident nexus between migration and SSG will be crucial to establish effective international migration governance in a safe and orderly way, notably by realising the objectives and commitments affirmed in the Global Compact for Migration (2018), the Global Compact for Refugees (2018), and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.




Over the past decades, academic and policy research has sought to link modifications in climate conditions with direct and indirect threats to security. Examples of these include redistribution of natural resources, agricultural crises, and degradation of air conditions, all of which may in turn aggravate existing socio-economic inequalities.

With climate change now firmly integrated into various domestic and international policy agendas, the conceptualization of climate change as an “effect multiplier” and an autonomous “security threat” has begun to take root. There is an emerging policy and scholarly assessment that climate change risks may have spillovers on international, state, and human security.

In this vein, DCAF and UNOG convened a high-level joint seminar that discussed the impact of climate change on global and local security governance, and more specifically the experiences of local security sectors in dealing with climate change challenges on the ground. 

This project will continue to generate in-depth knowledge and on the nexus between climate change and the security sector, by means of desk research and dialogue with experts and practitioners.

It is funded by DCAF Core funding. 

Knowledge products 
Events and outreach activities 


This programme aims at better understanding the roles that security forces can play in combating global health crises. The world has witnessed several health crises, including SARS, the Ebola outbreak and, most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic. In these contexts, many security actors have been tasked with responsibilities not normally under the aegis of their role despite the lack of specific training, and many oversight institutions face difficulties in ensuring accountability. In addition, concerns have also been raised during these crises about the rights of the security providers themselves, with many questions remaining in relation to the state of preparedness of these institutions as to proper structures and adequate equipment. 

DCAF has been supporting research and policy dialogues to identify and address some of the aforementioned concerns. Additional efforts to assess the engagement of the security sector in the prevention and management of global health crises are currently being led by Albrecht Schnabel. Learn more about our research activities in Asia-Pacific

Publications and further reading




Digitalization is reshaping many domains of social life. Surveillance technologies are as much an ordinary part of contemporary public life as smartphones and social media have restructured human relations. Digital technologies have created a new arena for security sector actors to carry out their duties. Digitalization redesigns existing governance structures and security provision practices, while promoting new patterns of coordination and decision-making across national security institutions. Against this backdrop, the security sector is becoming increasingly more aware about the importance of adopting and implementing robust digitalization processes. 

However, the growing dependency of the security sector on new digital technologies is leading to the emergence of a more complex threat landscape, with an increasing number of critical failure points. Thus, as an emerging security challenge, digitalization has the potential to both enhance and disrupt existing frameworks of good governance and security provision, due to the emergence of new technologies and actors, all engaging in an uncharted digital space. Like other spaces such as land, sea, or air spaces, digital space is viewed as a new dimension which extends beyond national borders (similar to outer space). 

To better understand the nexus of SSG/R and digitalization process, we have conducted a research project and are developing several knowledge products investigating this link.

Research project ‘SSG/R in the Digital Space: Projections into the Future policy’ 
The research aims to assess the overarching impact of digitalization on the security sector. It also explores the role of SSG/R in the digital space, as well as corresponding challenges and opportunities for security sector actors. This project utilizes the Delphi Method, a well-known and validated research forecasting framework based on the results of three rounds of questionnaires, with the aim collect data and perspectives to map out the current status quo and to establish consensus on SSG/R entry points in the digital space.







This research aims to shed light on the complex intersect...

Held on 27 June 2019 at the Palais des Nations in Geneva,...

National security sectors and multilateral security insti...

Not traditionally considered a security issue, climate ch...

This paper argues that there is a need to improve linkage...


Dr. Maria-Gabriela Manea, Programme Manager, Policy and Research Division (