WES 2 : Securitization theory

Securitization theories and the Environment

Venue: February 2015 at the Global Studies Institute, Geneva.

General rationale

A growing literature on environmental security reveals a deeper interest in the connections between security studies and environmental studies. However, despite several studies on environmental securitization, further empirical research still needs to be conducted and dialogue with researchers in critical security studies should also be pursued. Furthermore, we believe that both securitization theorists could benefit from the outputs of environmental cases and environmental security scholars could further develop their theoretical frameworks through this exchange.


We would like to propose three main angles to tackle these issues. First, the environment brings specific set of questions to securitization theories, which we seek to respond to by developing conceptual bridges and innovations. A deep reflection on how environmental studies, with concepts such as resilience or risk management, for instance, contribute to rethinking the process of securitization and its analysis should be the starting point of our seminar. The next panel will call into question the empirical evidence of environmental securitizations through three case studies. The final panel will be dedicated to the actors behind the securitization moves. Going beyond a state-focused approach, this last panel seeks to identify actors securitizing the environment and their specific features.

Transversal topics

Throughout these two days, other crosscutting issues will be addressed. The question raised by recent studies on the emergency aspect of the securitization process will be considered, especially when discussing the routines of different securitizing actors. Tensions between conceptions of the environment should be discussed, such as between precautionary and prevention principles. Likewise, this seminar will be the opportunity to foster our reflection on the timeframe of these processes and, more precisely, on the importance of science and technology in anticipating the future in a way that impacts the securitization of the environment. Scenarios and issue framing should be addressed as well with regard to the solutions they draw and then push forward.

Day 1 – Morning 11:00-12:30 – Chair: Stéphan Davidshofer (Univ. of Geneva)

Keynote Speaker: “Introduction to Securitization theories and the Environment” – Thierry Balzacq (Institute for Strategic Research (IRSEM), French MoD/Université de Namur)

Discussion and introduction to the WES project – Lucile Maertens (Sciences Po Paris/Univ. of Geneva) & Krystel Wanneau (ULB)

Day 1 – Afternoon 13:30-18:30

Panel 1: Rethinking Securitization Theories through Environmental Studies – Chair: Monique Beerli (Univ. of Geneva)

  • “Resilience and International Politics: Premises, debates, agenda” by Philippe Bourbeau (Univ. of Cambridge) – discussion by Romain Felli (Univ. of Geneva)
  • “From Threat to Risk” by Maria-Julia Trombetta (Univ. of Nottingham) – discussion by Hy Dao (Univ. of Geneva)

Break 15:30-16:00

Panel 2: Environmental Securitization: Empirical Evidence – Chair: Thierry Balzacq (Institute for Strategic Research (IRSEM), French MoD/Université de Namur)

  • “Critical Security Studies and Climate Security Discourse” by Angela Oels (Univ. of Hamburg) – discussion by Cédric Chambru (Univ. of Geneva)
  • “Securitization of Natural Resources” by Philippe Le Billon (Univ. of British Columbia) – discussion by Stéphane La Branche (Univ. of Grenoble)
  • “Securitization of Water Issues” by Alexis Carles (ULB) – discussion by Emilie Dupuits (Univ. of Geneva)

Day 2 – Morning 9:30-12:30

Panel 3: The Actors of the Securitization of the Environment – Chair: Christian Olsson (ULB)

  • “International Responsibility and Environmental Securitization: An International Law’s Perspective” by Francis Maquil (Univ. of Geneva) – discussion by Leslie-Anne Duvic Paoli (Graduate Institute)
  • “Between Securitization of the Environment and Environmentalization of Security: The Challenge of Environmental Security for the United Nations” by Lucile Maertens (Sciences Po Paris/Univ. of Geneva) – discussion by Philippe Le Billon (Univ. of British Columbia)
  • “Obvious Truth-teller, Oblivious Securitizing Actors of the Environment: Experts and Epistemic Community Theory” by Krystel Wanneau (ULB) – discussion by Thomas Ribémont (Paris 13)