A Clash of Powers: Competing Over Governance and Problem-Solving in the Future

My co-author in the #CrowdedSeas work, @SCheneyPeters, shared an article last week from The Guardian, “Thailand disrupts attempts to launch migrant rescue ship operation.”  The article related how the private charity organization, Migrant Offshore Aid Station, which runs search-and-rescue operations for migrants and refugees at sea, was repeatedly thwarted in its attempts to receive and deploy two drone helicopters to aid in its ship’s operations in the Andaman Sea.  The upshot of the article is that it was the Thai government that obstructed delivery and use of the drones, despite MOAS claiming that they had previously cleared everything with the appropriate government entities.


NormanEinstein, Wikimedia Commons

This is an indicator of what we expect to become a more important emerging issue in the years ahead as climate change, economics, and a changing security landscape continue to evolve across sea-borne Asia: private and networked non-state efforts to address obvious gaps in effective governance.  As social and economic challenges mount, and as the resources and tools for small organizations and networks of individuals and groups continue to decrease in cost while increasing in power, more and more non-state efforts will be made to address everything from illegal overfishing to refugees.

Aside from the clear humanitarian issues involved, the real point of potential concern, however, arises from the tensions that will emerge between non-state actors that want to solve unaddressed problems and the states that can’t/won’t solve them but that also obstruct these private sector efforts.  The case of MOAS and Thailand above is a perfect example of this.  We can easily imagine how in the years ahead, such tensions between private actors and state actors can could horizontal or hybrid (to use a currently fashionable notion), with a spiraling array of other actors playing different roles in aiding or hindering the progress of non-state sanctioned governance efforts.  Along these lines, we could anticipate the eventual emergence of what I call “unbounded conflict” (see below).

VFS’s 2015 edition of the Emerging Issues for Conflict and Security Report identified this as an emerging issue, along with several related emerging issues:

  • More Climate Change Refugees and Nations Losing Their States
  • More Prevalent Resource-Driven Instabilities and Conflicts
  • New Political “Peer Competitors” to the Nation-State Form
  • Privatization/Commercialization of Governance
  • End of the Capabilities Gap Between States and Non-State Actors

As many of these humanitarian and societal issues continue to grow and become crises, expect to see more and more non-state efforts to provide solutions.  And expect to see more conflicts between states and these non-state actors.


Thailand disrupts attempts to launch migrant rescue ship operation.”

Migrant Offshore Aid Station

Unbounded Conflict: mutable, multilateral conflict in the 21st C

Emerging Issues for Conflict and Security, 2015


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