Safety is the fundamental value in the system of the needs of individuals, states, groups, and social systems. With reference to an existential dimension of a given subject’s being, it means the certainty of its survival and existence. It can be considered both as a factor determining the state of a subject at a specified time or over a longer period of time (the processual dimension) and, in the latter, it refers to the durability of the subject’s existence as well as its ability to survive and develop in a determined, subject-specific external environment. Safety as a category that describes the state of a subject means not only the lack of threats to its existence and functioning, but also assumes that there is a possibility that available measures exist for the subject to ensure the persistence of such a state, alternatively conducive to its change in a positive direction.

In social sciences, the category of safety is mainly an analytical one that is broadly used in security studies and in political and administrative studies. The fundamental unit the said category refers to is a state which is the subject of analyses of the foregoing scientific disciplines. As part of a sub-discipline that includes the study of international relations, significant time is dedicated to international systems on top of the security analyses that refer to the states (in this case, the security category refers to the condition of those systems in the context of their existence, durability, and the possibility of adapting them to internal and external circumstances).

For centuries, the security category’s main focus was the state as a social organisation, which was to ensure conditions for its own existence and survival by using an array of instruments it had at its disposal. The concept of safety was therefore primarily related to not only the military but also political and diplomatic dimensions, both internal and external, of the state’s activities, and soldiers and diplomats were supposed to facilitate that objective. Striving to maximise one’s own power and to optimise the state of the international environment was the basic determinant of the effectiveness and efficiency of the state, as well as people acting in its name and on its behalf. Therefore, a safe state was a militarily strong state (deterrence) or one apt in creating relationships with other entities to stabilise the environment in which it operated (building cooperation mechanisms guaranteeing favourability for its own needs and objectives, e.g. through alliances).

However, such a narrow understanding of security belongs to the past. As early as in the Cold War period, and as a result of the progressive process of increasing international interdependence arising from rapid scientific and technical progress which enabled an ever more intensive exchange of material and spiritual goods on a global scale and, at the same time, the growing needs of individuals and social groups, tendencies towards expanding the security categories to new areas of social reality emerged. These tendencies were integrally related to the pursuit of protection of the achieved level and standards of the quality of life of the inhabitants of individual states.

From a historical perspective, the exceptional pace of technological development and, as a result, the need to exploit the Earth’s resources have, over time, displayed their negative consequences for the natural environment. As early as at the turn of the 1960s and 1970s, analyses related to that phenomenon began to emerge and, in 1972, the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) was launched; that same year, a famous report entitled Limits to Growth (Meadows et al., 1972) of the Club of Rome was published which initiated discussions about the so-called global threats. The threats were often considered in the context of a demographic explosion concept stressing the relationship between the limited resources of nature and rapid population growth on a global scale (which was and still is controversial due to the axiological dimension of the discussions about controlling demographic processes). In fact, it constituted the starting point for a discussion on the ecological dimension of security. Vivid debates currently focus on natural environmental threats such as pollution, climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions, the use of nuclear power plants for energy purposes, and the search for low-emission energy sources. The ecological dimension of cooperation to ensure safety has become one of the most important negotiating grounds for various international institutions (in particular the UN and its agenda) and a premise for redefining the objectives and directions of states’ and economic entities’ activities towards more sustainable social and economic development.

In the 1970s, threats related to the availability of strategic raw materials to uphold economic development trends also emerged. The issue of the availability of resources indispensable for upholding economic development trends had admittedly arisen much earlier (even the colonial policy of the European powers in the nineteenth century was partly driven by the desire to control the resources necessary to maintain the pace of the industrial revolution and the history of the Silk Road, and modern geographical discoveries also reflected the competition for access to valuable goods), but that period, however, fully exposed the development of asymmetric relationships in the field of raw materials and the opportunity to use them for political purposes. The surge in oil prices following the 1973 Israeli-Arab War exposed this phenomenon in full causing the greatest economic crisis to date in well-developed western countries. Categories such as economic security, energy security, and raw material security gradually began to find their way into the language of politics as well as expert and scientific analyses. At the same time, in the foreign policy strategies of individual states, tendencies to consciously exploit the disproportions in access to strategic resources in a way that would provide them with advantages strengthening their position and international role emerged. This applies to both superpowers and smaller states, for whom the existence of asymmetric dependencies in relations with partners with much greater potential in other areas may be the source of success in situations where conflicts of interest are revealed. The development of infrastructure networks, communication and transportation systems, trade relations, and supply networks of components in strategically important economic sectors on an international scale in the modern world have become not only an element of planning in the context of rationalising economic processes, but also an element of analyses relating to the security and reliability of supplies in the context of sensitivity to disruptions that may result from the non-economic dimension of international interactions.

Modern civilisation’s increasing role and the importance of the scientific and technical aspects which shape the dynamics of social changes and impose the rhythm of innovation in the quality of life, securing and creating human needs, also translate into activities in the sphere of security in a much broader sense. Unequal research and development funding in individual states, deficiencies in the development of infrastructure contributing to innovation, unfortunate political decisions in planning research and development activities - all of the above shape the uneven distribution of potential in this sphere on a global scale and lead to the emergence of new forms of dependencies in shaping the development policies of individual states or groups of states. Access to modern technology is the basic imperative in building modernization strategies of modern states and dependencies in this field constitute a ground for new forms of dependencies and, sometimes, exploiting weaker entities, which disrupts the stability of the international order.

From a social and economic perspective, food security may also be included in the list of security issues. The fundamental source of analysis in this matter is the conclusion as regards the diversity of natural conditions (climate, water availability, and soil quality), which entails variable effects in the productivity and efficiency of the agricultural sector. This is strengthened by cultural, social, and political factors such as different agricultural cultures dominating in a given civilisation space, state policy towards the agricultural sector, and the structure of land ownership. As a result, we are dealing with an unequal provision of nutritional needs in individual states and regions of the world which, in extreme cases, results in hunger and malnutrition (the latter often being conditioned on unfavourable weather and also political conditions such as wars). The issue of food security is not just a cause for concern for countries suffering a deficit of the basic goods needed to satisfy the fundamental needs of their own citizens. The Common Agricultural Policy of the EU also shows that the planned policy in this area is a means to achieve strategic, long-term objectives which should be considered through the prism of security construed as a pursuit to ensure the continuity of indispensable-product supply, as well as the stability and certainty of the functioning of a given economic sector and the people employed therein.

The imbalance in the provision of goods and suitable conditions for the fulfilment of basic life aspirations on a global scale is also a reason for migration. The growing ease in population movement caused by a greater availability of means of transport and communication and the decreasing costs of using them (e.g., low-cost airlines) is conducive to the movement of people. As a result, people’s mobility is increasing and the visions and ideas for a better life abroad shaped by the means of mass communication are at the root of many decisions to move across borders. Conflicts are also factors that contribute to “forcing” migrants out – no opportunities for a prompt stabilisation of a war-ridden country combined with the absence of basic elements of social security become additional factors that determine their readiness to search for a safe haven outside their home country. As a result, at the borders separating countries or groups of countries with diverse living standards, there is migration “pressure” – people from the poorer countries of the global South, determined to seek a better future, migrate to more developed countries. The Mediterranean Sea separating Europe from Africa and Asia has become far too insufficient a barrier to stop the movement of migrants from the south to the north. Apart from the sea routes, there are also channels for the movement of people through Turkey and the Balkans from dysfunctional countries in the Middle East. The intensity of that process in 2015 contributed to disturbances in the functioning of European Union institutions, created tensions in relations between individual states in terms of their attitude to that process, and also started revaluation processes in the social perception of the migration phenomenon which strengthened tensions within the political systems of individual states. The issue of the attitude to migration, to some extent, also determines the relations between the United States and Latin-American countries, as well as relations between the states of the latter region (e.g. between Mexico and Honduras or Mexico and Guatemala). Similarly, tensions over attitudes towards migration and migrants emerge in mutual relations between the states of the global South (e.g. in Nigeria’s relations with its neighbouring countries during the past energy boom, or in South Africa’s relations with its neighbours nowadays). Naturally, when highlighting migration in the context of security, one should remember that the tensions generated are only one side of the coin and there are a number of positive effects of population movements for the host countries, especially in an economic context.

Negative consequences related to the foregoing may also emerge in the context of social determinants of the functioning of a given state or society, e.g. different conditions in various parts of a given country due to economic factors or ethnic or religious diversities may generate processes of homogenising the population in terms of a given factor in a particular region which often entails additional social costs. The refugee phenomenon may entail similar consequences which are often generated by political reasons, both internal (IDPs – Internally Displaced People) and international (refugees). In the context of refugees but also of human rights violations, organised crime, and the effectiveness and efficiency of state authorities’ activities (state dysfunction), we can also talk about the individual (personal) dimension of the security of individual citizens in the context of their political, economic, and social rights.

A new dimension of threats (but probably not yet fully understood by society) are those arising from the development of modern civilisation in the technological context, in particular the progressive digitisation of state and society. Cybersecurity is starting to play an increasingly important role among traditional security areas. Disinformation disseminated via the internet, new media outlets and new technologies, as well as cyberattacks aimed not only at organisations and government institutions, but also private enterprises and corporations, have become a permanent feature of the catalogue of threats. Information security should be linked with the elements of disinformation or even the so-called “information warfare” which is also part of a broader hybrid war. Moreover, it is often indicated that cyberattacks, and also fake news, infected applications etc., constitute frequent elements of this practice. Hence, security education is key in this area.

New types, or perhaps borders, of security, are, however, based on the dimensions proposed by, for example, Barry Buzan or Jaap de Wilde, who distinguish five security sectors: the military, political, economic, environmental, and social sectors. The division was related to the end of the Cold War. This fundamental division basically exists today, even though it has been extended to further subsectors or varieties. The full image composed of the said five sectors can only present the overall perception of security which was defined as: “one way of looking at sectors is to see them as identifying specific types of interaction. In this view, the military sector is about relationships of forceful coercion; the political sector is about relationships of authority, governing status, and recognition; the economic sector is about relationships of trade, production, and finance; the societal sector is about relationships of collective identity; and the environmental sector is about relationships between human activity and the planetary biosphere” (Buzan, Wæver and de Wilde, 1988, p. 7). In Poland, Waldemar Kitler (2011) highlighted a similar division. Starting with the definition of national security, understood as: “the most important value, the national need and priority objective of state activity, individuals and social groups, while it is also a process involving a range of measures to guarantee stable, interference-free existence and national (state) development, including the protection of individuals and society, their property, and the natural environment from the risks that significantly limit its functioning or threaten the goods that are subject to special protection” (Kitler 2011, p. 31), he distinguished, besides military security, 7 types of security which undeniably focus on the non-military dimension, i.e. political, economic, social, environmental, cultural, universal, and public security. From the perspective of recent years or even months, it can be perceived how these concepts have been evolving and how areas related to IT security (cybersecurity) and health security are becoming more and more important. The latter security dimension has become especially relevant in connection with the global Covid-19 pandemic caused by the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The scale of the pandemic and its social, health, economic, and probably also political consequences require in-depth analyses and the development of a strategy to counteract the threats resulting therefrom – both in the situation of present threats and for the future. The fact that the issue is still prevailing means that the efforts of researchers are now focused on the current analysis of the effects of the pandemic and programmes aimed at controlling it. In the long run, however, a significant research field opens up at the intersection of various scientific disciplines aimed primarily at strengthening the strategy of counteracting similar threats, both at the local (state, lower-level administrative units) and international (international – regional institutions, such as the European Union, and global, such as the United Nations and its agencies) levels. The scale of threats and the geographic dimension of the pandemic once again indicate the need to search for global solutions to global threats at every level of social interaction related to security in a broad sense.

The foregoing types of security, as well as factors and dependencies have been highlighted from various vantage points in the articles published in this special issue. What is also worth mentioning is that the editorial office has received nearly 20 articles on such crucial and diverse issues as cyberthreats, security education, migration and refugee problems, political aspects of cooperation between states, the functioning of states during the COVID-19 pandemic and issues related to military security but in a modern war form, i.e. a hybrid conflict, as well as raising problems vital for selected regions of the world. Such great interest only confirms that non-military security is continually assuming new forms and is also constantly growing in importance.

The special issue commences with an article on hybrid warfare as a link between military and non-military security. Zakhar Tropin (2021), in his article Lawfare as part of hybrid wars: The experience of Ukraine in conflict with Russian Federation, highlights the need for a state to have a centralised legal strategy that ensures the protection of its interests at an international level during a hybrid conflict. In his conclusions, the author proves that the legal dimension of a hybrid war (conflict) comprises several levels: a state at an international level, enterprises controlled by the state, and at a private level, which generates a number of problems.

The following article underscores problems in the field of non-military security but in a war-affected area. Markus Gauster (2021) decided to focus on the topic of Ecological threats to security and state resilience in Afghanistan. In his paper, the author presents the problems of Afghanistan from the perspective of climate change and highlights how this process may affect population security. The author also presents several threat scenarios but with some solutions on how to strengthen the state. It is worth adding that the study was based on empirical research conducted by the author during field trips.

Oleksandr Karpenko, Aleksander Kuczabski and Vitalii Havryliak (2021), however, focus on the COVID-19 pandemic but from an interesting perspective – cybersecurity. The article Mechanisms for providing cyber security during the COVID-19 pandemic: Perspectives for Ukraine highlights various trends emerging in cybersecurity as regards to the COVID-19 pandemic; trends which may lead to cyberthreats. The authors also present cyberthreats related to remote work during this period and experiences in counteracting the spread of disinformation about COVID-19 on the internet. As indicated in the article, there is a global tendency to strengthen the control of law enforcement agencies, for example with regard to cyberspace content.

In the article Aiding Syrian refugees in Turkey: International approaches and domestic policies, Sára Gibárti (2021) presents the role of the international community in helping Syrian refugees in Turkey. The author conducts a comparative analysis of numerous legal acts, governmental documents and reports along with those belonging to international organisations. Owing to that, she indicates the main elements of the Turkish govern-ment’s policy, as well as the key points contained in the Emergency Social Safety Net Programme of the European Union, the World Food Programme and the Turkish Red Crescent, as well as the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan of the United Nations in terms of aid for refugees.

The article Thoughts on the evolution of national security in cyberspace by Imre Dobák (2021) refers to the impact of cyberspace on national security as a system, taking into account certain features of the changing external environment. The author also discusses the problem of relations between the information society and security in the 21st century and indicates that the majority of security threats come from cyberspace, which results or must result in a significant transformation of national security systems.

Bearing in mind the role of education in security, whether with regard to security in a broad sense or specifically in relation to cyberthreats and disinformation, or even the code of conduct during the pandemic, the final article among the array of articles presented in this issue is an article by Veronika Deák (2021)Simulation framework for practical cyber-security training in the public service. The author highlights that the public service sector is one of the main targets of cyberattacks, hence it is crucial to take appropriate measures to prevent or effectively combat such attacks. Training courses conducted for future public service employees on cybersecurity should help to achieve this. She therefore presents a schematic structure of two-stage practical training in general, which will be part of cyber-security training for the public service sector in Hungary.

The authors hope that the studies published in this Special Issue have addressed important problems that determine the shape and essence of the non-military security dimension nowadays. It certainly seems that the issues dealt with in this issue could greatly contribute to furthering scientific research.

Special Issue Editors