The Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS Centre) at RSIS convened the fifth annual meeting of the NTS-Asia Consortium from 13 to 15 April 2021. The meeting was built around the theme of “Asian Security in a Post-COVID-19 Environment” and provided a platform for consortium members to exchange perspectives on the continuing relevance of non-traditional issues amid the ongoing pandemic.
The meeting was designed as an online conference involving three two-hour panels spread over three days. It brought together 12 speakers from member institutions and non-member partners and was attended by some 40 participants each day.
The first panel was focused on the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable groups and on existing inequality. The panellists reflected on the experiences of vulnerable groups, including women in India and Indonesia, who were affected disproportionately by the pandemic. They noted that the public health crisis has also demonstrated the scale of challenges that potential massive crises such as climate eventualities can pose to the different segments of society. They drew attention to the issues of environmental degradation and carbon emissions that are driven by human consumption and highlighted the consequent need to find an alternative model of economic development to avert climate crisis.
Addressing themselves to cybersecurity and transnational crime, the speakers in the second panel underscored the increasing importance of governing cyberspace. The expanding use of digital equipment in day-to-day life would challenge the definition and scope of security and potentially widen the inter-generational gap, they warned. The increasing use of data may transform societies into digital intensive societies. Society’s growing dependence on data will bring with it a new set of issues, such as who has access to data, who can use data, and who is vulnerable to data theft and hacking. Additionally, the panellists showcased the Sri Lankan experience in the use of social media to propagate cyber hate. They also discussed the country’s experiences with human and drug trafficking.
The last panel discussed the responses to the pandemic and the notion of a sustainable future. The speakers focused on the various challenges that India and Malaysia are facing in their efforts to address the pandemic. Political distrust and vaccine imperialism are some of the issues that hamper effective responses, they noted. The panellists also stressed the need to continue pushing for the sustainability agenda, including cutting food waste and adopting inclusive green growth for sustainable development and environmental protection.
In her closing remarks, Professor Mely Caballero-Anthony, Head of the NTS Centre and Secretary-General of the NTS-Asia Consortium, commented that the public health crisis brought about by the pandemic was extraordinary in the way its repercussions cut across multiple security areas. These multifaceted challenges affirm the relevance of the concept of security beyond national borders and highlight the critical importance of governance and multilateralism. Prof Caballero-Anthony emphasised that there was a continuing need to exchange experiences on how the pandemic has affected people in different regions so that commonalities could be discerned and lessons drawn from the responses to the various problems.
Catch it here on the RSISVideoCast YouTube channel: