In pursuing national and international security, states must seek clarity regarding the capabilities and intentions of others, most explicitly through the creation of treaties and other international "regimes" that establish norms, rules and procedures for managing trade, finance, and particularly, military affairs and arms control. Without enforceable arrangements such as the nuclear nonproliferation regime and nuclear arms control treaties, states fall prey to the "security dilemma." They arm themselves against worst-case assumptions of threat, and this arming increases the insecurity of others, who respond by increasing their own armaments, making everyone yet more insecure.
The central premise of common security is that states can minimize insecurity by undertaking diplomatic and other efforts to clarify their intentions and reduce their capabilities to commit aggression. Those states that refuse to participate in efforts to promote common security thereby declare their hostility and augment the formation of political and military strategies to oppose them, while those that do participate enable themselves and the international community to lower the burden of military planning. This does not happen, however, without conscious leadership on the part of major global and regional powers, and commitments by them to create processes for reducing insecurity rather than simply building up military power.
The Secure World Program promotes the development of common security as a fundamental means to eliminate the possibility of nuclear war, concentrating on regions containing the most pressing threat of nuclear proliferation and war: Europe from the Atlantic to the Urals, the Middle East, South Asia, and Northeast Asia. Grantmaking is dedicated to projects that prepare and encourage the people of these regions to clarify their intentions and reduce their threatening capabilities, so that all may become more secure.
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