Security in the Global South: Latin America case study

Academic Program: 

Master of Arts in Public Policy

Master of Arts in Public Policy (Mundus MAPP)

Master of Public Administration (2 years)

Instructor: Julia Buxton

Credits: 2.0

Term: Fall

Course Description: 


Elective course, Security Specialization / Concentration


This course examines security policies, priorities and concerns in the Global South, through reference to the case study of Central and Latin America – the region with the world’s highest rates of homicide and inequality in addition to problems of displacement and small arms (guns) proliferation. It assesses the shift from ‘hard’ to ‘human’ security led by key regional organizations (ie the Organization of American States, UNASUR), moving from the traditional hemispheric security ‘matrix’ dominated by the US and preoccupation with communist ‘containment’, through to the contemporary period of diverse and multidimensional security challenges including gang and drug related violence, femicide and land grabs. State actors and state violence are a particular focus, with the course locating current issues of impunity and popular insecurity in the inadequacy of police and criminal justice reform and demobilization processes after civil war (ie Guatemala, El Salvador, Peru, Colombia) and military dictatorship (ie Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bolivia), in addition to ongoing structural challenges of inequality, racism, patriarchy and marginalization.             


Learning Outcomes


At the end of this course, students will have:

·       Critical understanding of the actors, dynamics and processes of security problematization and policy in the Western Hemisphere (South America);

·       Knowledge of historical shifts in regional security debates and the different approaches through which these changes are understood and analyzed;

·       Experience of quantitative and qualitative information sources for policy related research and writing on security in South America, and awareness of cognitive pitfalls (ethics, validation and objectivity) in research and application.




The assessment for this course is a 2,500 word security briefing that focuses on any chosen country in the region and of which 30% of the final grade will come from posting and commenting on drafts of your colleagues briefings on moodle. Security briefings are routinely provided for governments, NGOs, donors and the private sector before and (usually) during project and investment initiation. We will discuss structure of the assessment in class, but the aim is to assess how far you are capable of identifying and analysing the security challenges and risks in a particular country or region of your choice. The date for assessment submission will be confirmed in class but will be on completion of the course. However, you must begin posting your assessment outline (and commenting on those of others) by week 4, building the assessment to a regular fortnightly posting before completion and submission. Grading criteria are set out in the SPP (and CEU) student handbook.    

Examples of how to conduct a good security assessment include the DCAF, ICRC and IPIECA guide: