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Concept Analysis: Human Security

As is often the
case with political concepts, separating the moral, philosophical and
ideological views from those who create them is difficult. Thus, political
concepts become grounds of great controversy and initial scholarly discourse
over human security involved contesting its meanings. The concept of human
security is broad and extensively explores a range of issues within international
relations. The Commission on Human Security (CHS) defines human security as
“…to protect the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human
freedoms and human fulfilment. Human security means protecting fundamental
freedoms…” (CHS, 2003, p4). In essence, human security is about moving away
from traditional, state-centred conceptions of security, to people-centred
security; focusing primarily on the security and protection of citizens and
individuals. The United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) 1994 Human
Development report wrote that “…a transition from the narrow concept of
national security to the all-encompassing concept of human security…” must be
developed (Human Development Report, 1994). Thomas Hobbes writes in his famous text
the Leviathan that the state of nature is “rash, nasty, brutish and short”
(Hobbes, 1651). So people decided to leave the state of nature where it was ‘nasty’
in order to come into a civil society in order to seek protection for their
lives. Human security does that: it offers citizens security and protection. Human
security also drew attention to seven fundamental threats that cut across different
aspects of human lives; Economic, Food, Health, Environmental, Personal,
Community and Political security, which I will discuss further. To fully
understand the concept of human security, we must first discuss the origins and
history of the concept.

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The concept of
human security has been with us for over a decade now, and emerged at the end
of the Cold War, when the focus shifted from being primarily on military
security, to a broader concept of individual security. Human security  was first brought to international prominence
when the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) published its Human
Development report in 1994. Mahub ul Haq drew global attention to the concept
by defining the concept and publishing the first ever human development report.
The 1994 report introduced the new concept of human security, which equates
security with people rather than states. The report had major influence upon
discussions within international relations and influenced policy makers on the
global issue of security. In 1999, the United Nations Trust Fund for Human
Security (UNTFHS) was launched by the Japanese government and the UN to fund
human security projects. This was a concrete step in operationalising human
security. More recently, human security has become a pivotal issue of
international debate. In the 2005 world summit outcome document, heads of
states and governments refer to the concept of human security, and paragraph
143 of the document recognized “all individuals, in particular vulnerable
people, are entitled to freedom from fear and freedom from want…” (World Summit
Outcome Document, 2005). These events show how human security has advanced in
the past decade, and has flourished into the global concept which we know it as
today.

The human
security concept has become a milestone in the field of international
relations. The concept has added to political discourse relating to the state, citizens
and to the society as a whole. Dr. Surin Pitsuwan argues that human security is
not a new concept. He writes “theorists like Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Hume
clearly state that people enter civil society and civil states from the state
of nature in order to seek protection.” (Pitsuwan, 2007). Human security offers
that protection. Human security relates to military and non-military issues
alike, such as terrorist attacks and rising levels of pollution. Human security
prioritises and addresses threats to people and their environments. As the concept
of human security is people-centred and multi-sectoral, it considers a
multitude of conditions which could threaten an individual’s survival and
dignity.

There are a range
of different views on what human security really is and what it means, and many
scholars differ on their interpretations of the concept. Sabina Alkire, a
professor in International Affairs argues human security is about “safeguarding
the vital core of all human lives from critical pervasive threats, without impeding
long term human fulfilment.” (Alkire, 2002). Alkire suggests that the vital
core is the minimum needed to survive, and human security is about protecting
the core from any intervention. Alkire approaches the concept from a humanitarian
perspective.  Conversely, Gary King and
Christopher Murray define human security as being “expectation of years of life
without experiencing the state of generalised poverty.” (King and Murray, 2001)
This definition suggests human security is about not falling below thresholds
of well-being.

 

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