Border strategy difficult in absence of national security policy


It is difficult to pin down a border policy or strategy in the absence of a national security policy and strategy. Professor Gavin Cawthra, Chair in Defence and Security Management at the Graduate School of Public and Development at the University of the Witwatersrand says security, including border control, is the responsibility of a wide range of government departments and other actors.

“Borders and migration need to be managed in the context of national security policy and strategy, based on national interests and values,” he told defenceWeb‘s second annual Border Control conference, adding “maybe I’m old fashioned, but policy should frame strategy and strategy is the ways and means [available for] implementing policy.”

He added an International Working Group on National Security in 2009 defined security as the first and most important obligation of government. “Not just the safety and security of the country and its citizens … [but also] guarding national values and interests against both internal and external dangers.” It is not just freedom from undue fear of attack against their person, community or sources of their prosperity and sovereignty, “but also the preservation of political, economic and social values – the rule of law, democracy, human rights, a market economy and the environment.”

The first building block for any national security policy or strategy is the national values contained in the constitution that includes human dignity, equality and a respect for human rights. A second would be the principles governing national security such as compliance with the law, including international law and the military and police being subject to the authority of Parliament and the executive.

Although dated, more building blocks can be drawn from the 1996 Defence White Paper and Defence Review, the upcoming white paper on international relations, the 1999 White Paper on Peacekeeping, state security as well as policing policy and legislation.

Cawthra has a word of warning however. He recalled that the apartheid 1977 defence white paper was likely the last national security policy South Africa has had. It followed a broad approach and created a wide framework for security that effectively led to the militarisation of the state and society under PW Botha’s “Total Strategy”. “Everything was security related, everything became of legitimate military interest.”