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Essay: The concept of human security

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  • Subject area(s): International relations
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  • Published: 25 October 2022*
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  • Words: 2,940 (approx)
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  • Tags: Cold War essays

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To understand the debate about any form of security, a closer analysis need to be taken especially at the inception of United Nation in 1945 at San Francisco, when the US secretary for state was very specific on the aspect of security as

“The battle of peace has to be fought on two fronts. The first is the security front where victory spells freedom from fear. The second is the economic and social front where victory means freedom from want. Only victory from both front can assure the world enduring peace….no provision that can be written into the charter will enable the security council to make the world secure from war if men and women have no security in their homes and their jobs”.(UNDP 1994: 24).

This indicates that, both national and human security framework was to be concurrently implemented without lagging behind one component of security in order to attained universal peace. Why does the state exist? State exist to provide security, welfare, resource allocation and distribution, justice, and protection to its people. A state that is incapable of providing minimum living level suitable for human dignity, is generally evolving to fleece people without having to do any hard work about it.

3.1. The Concept of Human Security in Context.

Clues to security threats existed long before pronouncement of human security paradigm by the UNDP in 1994. How people perceive security depends on the immediate circumstance encounters by an individual (UNDP 1994: 23) and loss of aspirations. Had it been that the structural development of human security took shape during the cold war period, the concepts of human security would have not been comprehensively digested to embraces various section in life in the Post-Cold War.

The prominence of security in the era of the global war on terror, climate security, and the existence of closely linked theories that sprang up in the 1990s (Waever and Buzan 2013: 394) , rose as an eye opener to comprehensively analyze the existing gaps in the narrowly focused concept of Security towards national security during the formation of the UN.

The cold war basically concentrated on military supremacy over human values. As such, from the beginning of Cold War era, Security theories concern itself with the understanding and management of security issues within the security studies that occasionally compromised within the general International relation theory, although at certain points it deviates(Waever and Buzan 2013: 394). Thus, it was fundamental to develop ideas that would recognize, explain and provides comprehensive approach to link the deviating points in these theories/ converging point of all theories. As can be seen, human security bridges the deviating ideas between the security studies and general international relation theory in order to close the existing gaps; and as such, it is easily identified by its absence rather than its present (UNDP 1994: 23).

In essence, war and peace, threats and strategy; and demography and epidemic issues were conceptualized by scholars, as in, to shaped the path of security studies at the end of second world war; this emanated from the experiences encountered during the nuclear devastation and what continued to be done outside the west, besides, the broader potential political mobilization complications (Waever and Buzan 2013:395)..

The institutional innovation was moved at the time when security concepts took a central stage as the guiding ideas, after the realization to the fact that the nuclear weapon would transform the security equation, thus, there was a need to laydown strategies that aimed at avoiding fighting wars (Waever and Buzan 2013:395-6).

While considering potential challenges during war time in terms of economic, political and military planning, a close coordination of cold war and nuclear weapon with military and non-military ought to have been considered; much as the defining moment for security studies led to the development of deterrence theory that was meant to control actions at the battlefield, intervention (Waever and Buzan 2013:396).

Society is dynamic, human needs keep on expanding and security needs keep on widening, thus, many theories emerged in the post second world war. The golden age of security was defined by the game theory and nuclear strategy in which the security studies was perceived and highly theorized: The deterrence theory provided solutions to complex problems, shaped the investment in the nuclear weapons, its rules and procedures of usage to avoid vulnerability of the systems in all policies linked to theories and guide to policy makers(ibid 2013, 396).; It seems to me that these theories legitimated the nuclear and deterrence although their influence on policy was deceptive. Consequently, the end of Second World War and the beginning of cold war prompted little focus on civilian alongside with the military ideas of warfare about security; as such, this helped to shape the operations of the nuclear weapons from the military mindset of maximizing the firepower without concern of devastating effect on human life and political stability. This point out the close link during golden age period and deterrence theory to International Relations. (ibid 2013, 396).

The economics of defense on the other hand, as the early field of security studies, centered on systems analysis, planning and organization as a mean and procedures of solving problems of military structures; and resource allocation that drew on economic theory as well as operations developed by natural scientists that used planning-programme-budgeting systems during the second world war and was adopted by the majority government (ibid 2013, 398). Although golden age chapter shaped the identity and nature of strategic studies, the systems analysis, arms control, alliance politics, counterinsurgency and organizational of government institutions, bureaucratic politics and decision making became prominent in the 1960s-70s (smoke 1976),.

From the Institutionalization and stagnation, the predicament of the security studies was about the external challenges and perfect theoretical construction, although the internal weakening of the mainstream strategy existed (Waever and Buzan 2013, 399). Therefore, the security studies had to stride at the same pace with fast changing technologies and dynamics of political developments, precise technical work, and narrow transcendence of isolated knowledge. However, the complexity and corrupting influence of policy of attraction of the deterrence logic hindered its effective implementation drained drift towards a general or existence deterrence (ibid 2013: 399).

Finally, the emergence of the peace research in relations to security during the 1980s and 1990s prompted the need for redefining security in a broader sense that would address the gap that existed in the security theories to include economic, environmental, and demographic and development issues since military security does not depicted other forms of threats to human-being (Waever and Buzan 2013: 404-406).

Much as the security studies may cope with past problems experience, people remained insecure in relation to their freedom and making choice to meet their daily needs. Thus, this calls for a substantial change in everything to bring a new ways of thinking about security if human being survival is a global mandates. Remarkably, the cold war period dwell more on the national security needs that the citizens’ basic needs, widening the gap between the ordinary people and the military institutions. Certainly, what makes human secure? How can human security be achieved? All what is required, is focusing on human security framework

Human security that was finally conceptualized and publicly presented to the global community by UNDP in the Human Development Report of 1994 (UNDP, 1994 :). Since then, several attempts have been made to define the concept by various scholar yet the futile result is reached. While Security itself is an essentially contested concept (smith 2002), Buzan refers to security as ultimately a political process such that an issues is presented as posing an existential threat to a designated referent object (Buzan et al 1998). While Buzan explores the political nature of labelling an issue as security; and the OED definition emphasis the subjectivity inherent in security as a feeling, the concepts of security and insecurity have relative connotation in different context (Tadjbakhsh and Chenoy 2007, 10), thus, how an individual defines security is based on threat to his life.

According to Alkire S the Commissioner of Human security- human security is “to protect the core values of all human lives in a way that advances human freedom and human fulfilment” (Tajbakhsh and Chenoy 2007:42). By tackling the severe and widespread threats that affect the core values of individual particularly their freedom to participate and choose from available choices to meet their basic needs, a viable security framework policy responses to non-military threats and clear policy priorities for further intervention will have been defined. In agreement, Thomas C noted that human security is “an integrative concept allowing for bridging and interconnecting of sector with specific threats to people in the international system, rather than states”(ibid 2007: 46). Thus, the existence of any states is to render services to its people as it deem fit the basic needs of the community members. The provision of materials to meet basic needs necessary for decent life like food, improved quality of life and realization of human dignity including emancipation from oppressive power structures, elevate the individual to supremacy level to achieved personal autonomy in order to participate in development processes.

Within the UN, the human security concept seems to have been initiated in 1992 Agenda for Peace which stressed the special and indispensable role of the UN ‘in an integrated approach to human security’ as part of the UN mandates in relation to peacekeeping, peacemaking and post conflict management(UN, 1992). In millennium declaration, Kofi Annan adopted human security agenda in quest for new UN mandates in which peace is defined as ‘much more than absent of war’, rather he called for human security to encompasses economic development, social justice, environmental protection , democratization, disarmament and respect for human rights and the rule of law(Annan, 2001: Tadjbakhsh and Chenoy 2007, 24-25).

While Canadian zeroed the concept of human security on “freedom from fear” calling for safety of people from both violent and non-violent threats, it was strengthen by Axworthy (1999) that, a condition characterized by their freedom from pervasive threats to people’s rights, safety and even their lives (Tadjbakhsh and Chenoy 2007, 30-31); the Japanese on the other hand, freedom from wants as the objective of human security as pronounced by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi that dwell much on “comprehensively seizing all the menaces that threaten the survival, daily life and dignity of human being and strengthening efforts to confront all threats”. This is evident to the fact that, Japanese government invested proactive programme in regards to human security especially in setting up the commissioner on human security and set up the largest fund trust in UN. This has help to promote measures to protect people from threats in their lives, livelihoods and dignity while encouraging self-empowerment. What prompted the awakening of human security needs?

The end of cold war in the 1990s did not result into the expected peace dividend, as conflict continued persistently, new insecurity confronted states and individuals (Tadjbakhsh and Chenoy 2007, 11). The genesis of human security was conditioned by the accumulated combination of old and new threats in response to fulfill the long term neglected mandate of the United Nation at its inception in 1945 in quest to bring everlasting global peace. While the territorial integrity and sovereignty is the main referent object in the traditional security, human security takes an individual as the main referent objects, thus, human security turned to be the transitions from nuclear security to human security (UNDP; 1994: 22), in fact, the post-cold war was to prove its effectiveness in bringing sustainable peace that was to integrate the military defense to statehood with welfare systems, but instead, it was embraced with different forms of threats.

The concept of security has for long been interpreted in terms of fortification of territorial integrity from external aggression, thus, aims at protecting the national interest rather than ensuring safety for the citizen. As supported by Tadjbakhsh and Chenoy (2007) that human security disprove the question of security from traditional conception of the safety from military threats to concentrate on safety of the people in communities (Tadjbakhsh and Chenoy 2007, 9). Once this concept of security is skewed towards individual, then concept of safety to a condition beyond mere survival to life worth living is achieved, hence, human security threats like poverty, diseases, economic downturn, induced violence on individual that threaten the stability of the state(ibid 2007: 9) would be scrutinized and tackled appropriately. Certainly, violence that are non-territorial emanating from environmental scarcity, migration, natural disasters, income inequality, and chronic unemployment would be managed. Thus, human insecurity consist of threats beyond military or traditional security risks like socio-economic threats, personal security threats environmental threats-the impact of environmental threats on people and political threats that emanates from the states ( ibid, 2007:14-16).

The concept of human security postulated as a result of the existed gaps in the concept of traditional security concept, embraces everything as it define the vulnerabilities of an individual.

What became so clear in the collection of security studies right at the inception of the United Nations is that, the cold war security policy skewed towards national security objecting the human security into neglected states, therefore, we must understand why human security concept was awakened from a small sounding drum to a big drum. As Tadjbakhsh and Chenoy (2007) stressed the justification for promotion of human security concept as first, to answer many new questions raised in the past decades and secondly, whether or not in academic field human security is a political agenda (Tadjbakhsh and Chenoy 2007: 10). The truth is, the end of cold war should have ushered in global peace and stability as globalization had ensured opened borders for flow of goods and services to boost rapid financial movement, technology and movement of capital into the states, but it was short-lived. After decreased threats of global nuclear war and major inter-state wars , non-military threats greatly intensify its prevalence, which has been justified by the shift in polarized to global environment resulted into increased awareness of conflict within states, ethnic confrontations, terrorist, migration and forced displacement extreme poverty, marginalization and exclusion of groups and community (ibid 2007: 12).

Not only that, globalization wave led to decrease of space, time and withering of borders restriction as well. The declined in geographical distance and technological increased speeded various transfer of goods and services on the global scale. Eventually, this free movement of goods and services resulted into financial meltdown and economic downturn as witnessed in Asian in 1997 and Russian in 1999 crisis, trafficking of arms, drugs, and human beings (ibid, 2013: 12). At the same time, globalization has led national borders as a foundations of national and international stability extensively decreased. Certainly, Human security emerged as a paradigm to understand the global vulnerabilities which ought to be understood by all government around the world: since global population is increasing, climate change has become a huge universal threats, resources are diminishing and social tension is rising.

Secondly, while the democratization brought in power to the people through increased activism of global civil society that sought debt relief and fairer international institutions (Tadjbakhsh and Chenoy 2007, 12), democracy spread to the developing countries and individual life and well-being acknowledged more significant attention and importance. The implementation of human rights and freedom both at international and national level significantly gained ground as a result of “power of the people” through increased activism of global civil society that sought debts relief and fairer international institutions; while worth noting that, at the same time, is the rise in networked discontent and organized terrorism penetrated borders making unprecedented used of internet (ibid 2007:12).

Thirdly, the aspect of liberal values such as open market and open societies with clear aims of alleviating poverty through freedom of liberty, ended up widening the gap between the poor and the rich, rise in social disintegrations, structural violence, and marginalization of communities (ibid 2007:12). The market strategies did not favour the local poor because they have low purchasing power.

Furthermore, what worth noting is, the technological advancement and innovations, increased wealth, disappearing borders and the end of bi-polar competitions have not alleviated our insecurities resulting into state failure to provide for people’s security- numerous issues and situations defied state regulations that failed to provide the basic human needs. The tradition usage of sovereignty and statehood is inadequate when it comes to 12st century security (ibid 2007:12). Human security framework would protect and empower people to develop their potential to manage their lives.

The end of cold war also led to an increasing internal violent conflicts eruption in Africa, Asia and Europe prompting a huge humanitarian crises, increase differences in economic development between the North and South and terrorism became a globe threats. The concepts of national and international security seems to have not reflect the environment and the needs emanating from it. As a result, intellectual revolution was needed to provide the most suitable and fulfilling concept that would make interpretation and analysis of security easier than the neorealist ideas on states and military security that had proved incapable of comprehensively bridging the gap between the military and non-military threats. In this respect, the narrow politico-military focused strategic studies that derived towards much broader security studies including also some non-military aspects of security. After the 9/11 attack, irregular threats became increasingly recognized as war on terror become a global concern.

Above all, at the end of the cold war also brought in the simultaneous horizontal and vertical broadening of the security concept emerged the human security. The incorporation of new threats broaden the concept of human security horizontally to include non-military aspects of security that included environmental, economic, health, immigration, demography terrorism, trafficking and on the other hand, the vertical broadening of security focused on mainly incorporation of non-states referent objects like individual/personal, community, common ethnic, religious and global community. Thus the birth of human security originated from the inclusion of non-military security dimension and non-state referent objects.


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