Published on 26 Jan 2023

On the shoulders of pioneers: Prof Mely Caballero-Anthony

Prof Mely Caballero-Anthony from the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies examines the impact of non-military threats on society.

In this 30th anniversary issue, Pushing Frontiers talks to four NTU researchers who are pushing the frontiers of their respective fields. From devising sustainable ways of storing energy to understanding how gut microorganisms affect disease development, their research promises to impact societies and generations to come.

Prof Mely Caballero-Anthony profile photo “My research interests lie in the emerging field of nontraditional security,” says Prof Mely Caballero-Anthony, a political scientist who heads the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies (NTS Centre) at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, where she is also the President’s Chair in International Relations and Security Studies.

“I am interested in exploring security challenges that affect not just the state but also the survival and wellbeing of individuals and communities.” 

Through the conceptual lenses of international relations and security studies, Prof Caballero-Anthony’s research allows for an in-depth understanding of how non-military threats such as climate change, infectious diseases, natural disasters, migration and resource scarcity are changing the concept of security.

At the NTS Centre, she engages both the academic and policy communities in the governance of these nontraditional security issues and how they affect state-society relations and influence the geo-strategic landscape in Asia and beyond.

Being multifaceted and cross-cutting in nature, nontraditional security challenges often intersect with other factors and exacerbate security problems. For instance, climate change may increase the frequency of extreme weather events, which take a toll on disaster-prone regions such as the Asia-Pacific.

In examining how climate change and its consequences are affecting the security of states and societies, especially vulnerable communities, Prof Caballero-Anthony’s research brings to the fore sobering realities that require urgent action and compel coordinated and cooperative responses from the private sector, civil society groups and communities at all levels.

For unpredictable major threats such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been described as the most challenging public health challenge in a century, Prof Caballero-Anthony emphasised that preparing for such events should be part of the national and global security agenda.

“My research has revealed that national security goes beyond preparing for and responding to military threats. It is important for governments and policymakers to set aside their differences and work with one another to coordinate responses to issues that threaten the security of societies,” she says.

A pioneer in non-traditional security in Asia, Prof Caballero-Anthony has served as the Secretary-General of the Consortium of Non-Traditional Security Studies in Asia since 2008. She is also a member of the International Studies Association Committee on the Status of Engagement with the Global South.

With her research areas extending to peace studies and nuclear security, Prof Caballero-Anthony has also been appointed to serve as a member of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters from 2012 to 2017 and she was the Chair of the Board in 2016.

The article appeared first in NTU's research & innovation magazine Pushing Frontiers (issue #20, June 2022).