Defence through Unity: The Role of Collective Security in safeguarding International Defence

This article “Defence through Unity: The Role of Collective Security in Safeguarding International Defence” is written by Prerna Puthela, a student from Lovely Professional University.



An international system is a group of sovereign states with vastly different ideologies, interests, capabilities, structures, and goals, thus chances of conflict are, unfortunately, high. The notion that nations could combine to create a collective force is ages old, as States have sought agreements to combine military and security capabilities with neighbours or other allies to prevent the conflict or deter the effect of conflict unitedly. This collectiveness is the best way to prevent the conflict.

Collective Security: Meaning and Definition

Collective security refers to “the use of threats and an organization working together to lessoned, prevent and correct actions contrary to social value and to prevent the escalation of conflicts.” In its simplest sense, collective security is the effort to respond in a coordinated manner to threats or attacks against one or more states.

“Collective Security is machinery for joint action to prevent or counter any attack against an established international order.” –George Schwarzenberger

“Collective Security implies collective measures for dealing with threats to peace.” —

Palmer and Perkins

Examples of Collective Security include the UN, League of Nations, WHO etc.

Goals and Objectives of Collective Security

Maintain International Peace and Security is the primary objective enshrined under the UN Charter. The UN strives to achieve this through various means, including conflict prevention, peacekeeping and collective action against aggression. UN member states agree to act together to address threats to peace. This can involve diplomatic measures, economic sanctions or even military intervention authorized by the Security Council. The UN encourages member states to resolve their differences peacefully through negotiation, mediation or arbitration.

The Collective Security is based on the principle of “unus pro omnibus, omnes pro uno which means one for all, and all for one.

For Example: The Common African Defence and Security Policy

Role of the United Nations in Collective Security

United Nations played a crucial role in safeguarding international peace and security. Under collective security arrangements, states typically form alliances or join international organizations with mutual defence clauses, such as NATO and the UN Charter’s Article 51. The role of UN in the collective Security is a cornerstone of international relations aimed at maintaining peace and security among nations. The concept of Collective Security, as envisioned by the UN revolves around the idea that all member states share the responsibility to collectively respond to the threats to international peace and security. This concept is laid out in Article 1 of the UN Charter, which emphasizes that the purpose of the UN is to maintain peace and security globally and to take initiatives to prevent or deter threats to international peace and security.

Role of Collective Security in Safeguarding International Defence

The role of collective security in safeguarding international defence is crucial for promoting stability, deterring aggression, and addressing security challenges that transcend national borders. Here’s how collective security contributes to safeguarding international defence:

Deterring Aggression- Collective security arrangements create a deterrent effect by signalling to potential aggressors that an attack on any member state will be met with a unified response from the entire group. This deterrence helps to prevent conflicts and maintains peace by raising the perceived costs of aggression.

Promoting Stability- By fostering cooperation and dialogue among member states, collective security contributes to regional and global stability. When nations commit to resolving disputes peacefully and upholding international law, it reduces the likelihood of conflicts escalating into wider confrontations that could threaten international security.

Rapid Response to Crises- Collective security mechanisms typically include provisions for rapid response to security crises. Whether through pre-established military alliances or international peacekeeping operations authorized by organizations like the United Nations, collective security allows for swift and coordinated action to address emerging threats and prevent conflicts from escalating.

Promoting Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution– Collective security arrangements emphasize the importance of diplomacy and conflict resolution in addressing international disputes. By providing platforms for dialogue and mediation, these mechanisms help prevent conflicts from spiralling out of control and contribute to long-term peacebuilding efforts.

Rapid Response to Crises- Collective security mechanisms typically include provisions for rapid response to security crises. Whether through pre-established military alliances or international peacekeeping operations authorized by organizations like the United Nations, collective security allows for swift and coordinated action to address emerging threats and prevent conflicts from escalating.

By working together through collective security mechanisms, countries can better address common security challenges and uphold peace and stability on a global scale.

Case Study

Case Study 1: The Gulf War (1990-1991)

Context- Following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) invoked collective security measures to respond to the aggression.

Collective Response- UNSC Resolution 678 authorized member states to use “all necessary means” to liberate Kuwait. A coalition of nations, led by the United States and including many NATO allies and Arab states, formed to enforce the resolution.

Outcome- Operation Desert Storm, the military campaign launched in January 1991, successfully liberated Kuwait from Iraqi occupation, demonstrating the effectiveness of collective security in addressing regional aggression and safeguarding international defence interests.

Case Study 2: The United Nations Peacekeeping Missions

Context- The United Nations conducts peacekeeping missions in various conflict zones worldwide to maintain international peace and security.

Collective Response- Member states contribute troops, police personnel, and resources to UN peacekeeping operations authorized by the Security Council. These missions aim to monitor ceasefires, protect civilians, facilitate humanitarian assistance, and support peacebuilding efforts.

Outcome- UN peacekeeping missions, such as those in Cyprus, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan, have helped prevent conflicts, protect vulnerable populations, and facilitate post-conflict reconstruction, demonstrating the collective commitment to international defence and stability.

Criticism of Collective Security

Too idealistic- The concept of Collective Security is too idealistic since it ignores the fact that all acting for one and all is a myth. For Example- The diplomatic stand of India in the Russia- Ukraine war.

Power Politics: The effectiveness of the collective security system can be undermined by the interests of powerful states vetoes by permanent Security Council members can hinder decisive action

Resource Constraints: United Nations peacekeeping machines often face funding shortages and difficulties in acquiring the necessary military capabilities.

National Sovereignty: Some member states are reluctant to cede control over their security to the un making it difficult to authorise decisive interventions.

Non-state actors and new threats: Collective security frameworks are evolving to address new threats like terrorism and cyber-attack prepared by non-state actors.

Effectiveness of Collective Bodies: The effectiveness of collective security depends heavily on the leading body’s ability to take decisive action. Political realities and the veto power in the UN Security Council can hinder swift responses.


Collective Security plays a very important role in defensive and strategic policies at the international level. But in the concept of collective security powerful or elite countries are dominant. In the UN 5 permanent nations of the Security Council have Veto Power, which makes almost impossible to take any decision in favour of any particular country. It is impossible to go against a country which possesses veto power and also practically we can see the dominance of the US in the UN. Today, the UN is unable to accomplish its objectives i.e. international peace and security. For example: the Russia-Ukraine war is still going on and the conflict of Israel- and Palestine and many other such incidences are the proof that UN is failing to achieve its objectives. These issues can be resolved by amending the policy and giving all the nations equality at the international level and the principles of justice, equity and good conscience must be implied while making decisions despite of Veto Power concept.

5 Dynamic Types of Unity in Diversity in India


Collective security is a crucial concept in international law and the UN plays a pivotal role in managing collective security at the global level. Despite having so many challenges collective security has many positive impacts. It helps in shaping military planning and responses to international threats understanding its principles and challenges is essential for navigating the complex world of international security. Also, it is very difficult to stand alone in today’s global era thus collective security has become a necessary part of international law. it helps weaker nations in replying the aggression and also helps in conflict prevention, conflict transformation and maintaining international peace and security at the global level with the participation of all members.

Book References

  • Dr Stefan Aleksovski and Dr Oliver Bakreski, Collective Security— The Role of International Organizations- Implications in International Security Order (MCSER, Rome-Italy, 2014).
  • Anne Orford, The Politics of Collective Security, 17 (MICH. J. INT’L L. 373, 1996). Gary Wilson, The United Nations and Collective Security (Routledge, 2014).
  • Ramesh Thakur, The United Nations, Peace and Security (Cambridge University Press, 2nd eds).

Other References


I am a law graduate. I have done my BSc in Maths, after that I move to the law side and completed my LLB from the Shoolini University, Solan, Himachal Pradesh. Now I m doing law practice in the court. This is my first blog and I love to share my knowledge with the people. Keep visiting.

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