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Human Security

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1. ‘Human Security’ is an emerging paradigm which is used to understand contemporary security issues that affect the individual rather than the state. The notion of ‘National Security’ where the perceived threat came from another state intending to attack other states borders is being re-viewed. “Ideally, ‘national security’ and ‘human security’ should be mutually reinforcing, for the past 100 years far more people have died as a direct or indirect consequence of the actions of their own governments or rebel forces in civil wars than have been killed by invading foreign armies. Acting in the name of national security, governments can pose profound threats to human security”. 1 The stability of states in relation to ‘human security’ is viewed as issues that directly effect the population rather than the government. The fundamental objective of ‘human security’ is the freedom from fear and want. This paradigm has a number of possibilities and limitations that make it a challenging new concept.


2. The ‘Human Security’ paradigm provides the possibility to develop complex strategies which will enable timely intervention by the international community in order to provide support to countries and states that are unable to independently resolve ‘human security’ issues. By understanding the concept of ‘human security’ it is easier for the international community to identify its factors and to produce strategies that address the requirements in an effective, efficient and timely manner.

3. The primary elements of ‘human security’ were initially embraced by the landmark 1994 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report (HDR) entitled New Dimensions of Human Security. 2 “The seven broad categories of the security problematique –economic, environmental, personal, community, health, political and food were all identified in this report. Although primarily an analysis of development crisis facing the post- Cold War world, it also adopted a key postulate that, if applied, would have major implications for security politics”. 3 Although these categories are still to be defined by the international community, they are recognisable as a framework for the ‘human security’ issues. By being able to recognise and understanding the primary elements, the ‘Human Security’ threats can be identified earlier and can act as ‘triggers’ for the early recognition of potential issues.

4. Understanding these ‘triggers’ will enable states to devise complex strategies that will allow for the possibility of early intervention by the international community. It is understood that due to the diversity and complexity of the range of issues within the broad categories, multiple strategies may be required. “International initiatives - such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) present realistic opportunities to enhance human security”. 4 These initiatives rely heavily on support from the international community and require commitment by nations in order to be effective. The development of strategies by nations would serve to enhance the relationships between government agencies (including military and police forces), non-government organisations and international humanitarian agencies. This in turn would allow for better cooperation and planning and achieve a more targeted level of support.

5. The ability to foresee and to predict issues prior to the culmination of the event should be harnessed where practicable by the international community. Strategies enable orchestrated action which can potentially offset the negative effect on human life and minimise the impact on other states, thus containing the problems and enhancing the provision of aide by local governments, foreign countries and international aid agencies.


6. In addition to the possibilities of complex strategies, and in direct support of the actions entailed within them, the paradigm of ‘Human Security’ has the possibility to provide a very coordinated, targeted and effective approach to the issues. Throughout the international community there are numerous nations which are already committed to supporting the needs of the individual within the ‘human security’ construct.

7. Not all of these nations such as Japan and Canada agree on the priorities within the spectrum of issues and therefore plan and act in different ways in relation to the issues. For example;” the Japanese government has focused on ‘freedom from want’ and the impact on human security of economic downturns”. 5 “To facilitate this Japan established The Trust Fund for Human Security through the UN with contributions from Japan”. 6 “Canada has focused on ’freedom from fear’ as the pillar of its human security doctrine. As part of its security agenda Canada has promoted initiatives such as the International Criminal Court, the landmines treaty and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)”. 7 Regardless of the individual countries focus, more and more countries are fostering the human security concept and are incorporating it into their strategic guidance.

8. The more countries that adopt this paradigm, the stronger the possibility there is for a combined, focused international approach to the resolution of human security issues. An approach that can effectively target the current issues and provide effective and tailored support while conducting planning and preparation for another. A central, internationally recognised organisation with an already established global reputation, supported by multiple nations in the conduct of support to ‘human security’ issues such as the United Nations (UN) could be a formidable vehicle for providing this effect. One of the four main purposes of the UN is “To help nations work together to improve the lives of poor people, to conquer hunger, disease and illiteracy, and to encourage respect for each other’s rights and freedoms”. 8 The UN is already an organisation that is dedicated to the support of the ‘human security’ paradigm and is chartered “To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language, or religion”. 9

9. If all countries supporting the ‘human security’ concept were to collectively combine their support with that of the UN, encompassing planning, experience, resources and policies, aid programmes and development incentives then the UN would have the ability to be an overwhelming force multiplier in the provision of support across all or most of the ‘human security’ issues. As a collective, the international community has the capacity to provide enormous possibility through united support, power and influence to achieve great things within the ‘human security’ domain. But, with all great possibilities there are limitations to its effectiveness.


10. Despite the numerous possibilities for the creation of strategies and the provision of a holistic international approach to support to ‘human security’ issues, there are recognisable limitations within the construct.

11. The limitations are not numerous in great proportion but can be complex and varied and affect both the upper and lower end of the ‘human security’ spectrum. Some are less debilitating than others and with time could be worked through to great effect. Others are more complex and diverse and may hinder the progress of a coordinated and combined ‘human security’ approach.

12. “History records that in almost 50 percent of cases, countries emerging from conflict have reverted within five years. Although politically motivated, this resumption of conflict also occurs because of a breakdown in the implementation of effective policies on governance, security and development. The international community often contributes to this situation by providing too light a presence with too early an exit, under-resourcing and lack of coordination between civilian and military actors. Such strategies may contribute to the renewal of hostilities and entrenched poverty”. 10 Although in contrast, there have been successful interventions that have enabled peace and stability. These are normally achieved when there is an understanding of the requirement and an ensuing commitment to the resolution of the issues.

13. The analogy of the three-legged stool is a simple means by which to understand the fragility of the process for the stability of a state. in order for the state to remain stable and free from ‘human security’ issues, it needs all three legs to remain strong. If one leg was to weaken and break then the effects upon the state could be harmful to its people and a number of issues such as poverty, economic instability and a break down in security could develop. 11

14. The development, integration and implementation of successful policies can be as challenging to a developed state as it can be to a less developed and more fragile one. ‘Human security’ issues can develop within any state, regardless of its situation. Some ‘human security’ issues cannot be foreseen and thus unpredictable by nature such as natural disasters. There is limited capacity within some states to plan for such events, these states are therefore reliant upon international aid in order to survive.

15. The language of ’human security’ can cause limitations across the international community. Unless the language of these ‘issues’ is widely understood by all and therefore by nature ‘common’ there will be issues with translation, thus limiting its effectiveness. Other issues such as cultural diversities and sensitivities can limit the effectiveness of the support provided. States need to be mindful of the environment in which they are working, if handled incorrectly, there is a distinct possibility of the reverse effect being created by a supporting state.


16. In conclusion, the ‘human security’ paradigm has some interesting possibilities which can be successfully achieved if the international community collectively embraces the concept. Although it is still an emerging concept, it has the potential to enable the world to view security from another perspective, one that concentrates on the effects on the individual rather than the state. It enables predictable trends and re-occurring issues to be understood and therefore better resolved at all levels. The ‘human security’ concept is not without fault or limitation and will take time, investment and understanding to be effective. By adopting this concept and working towards a better understanding of its possibilities, capabilities and limitations, the international community can be one step closer to realising world stability and perhaps edges closer to the dream of world peace.


1. - what is Human Security?

2. 1994 United Nations Human development Report (HDR)-New Directions of Human Security.

3. Nicholas Thomas and William T. Tow, ‘The Utility of Human Security: Sovereignty and Humanitarian Intervention. Security Dialogue, Vol. 33, No 2, June 2002, p.178.

4. Michael G. Smith and Jacqueline Whelan, Security Challenges, Vol.4, No. 2 (Winter 2008), p.2, Advancing Human Security: New Strategic Thinking in Australia.

5. Thomas, ‘Globalisation and Human Security’, p.110.

6. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan, The Trust Fund for Human Security- For the “Human-centred” 21st Century, August 2009.

7. Thomas, ‘Globalisation and Human Security’, p.110.

8. UN at a Glance, 4 Main Purpose.

9. Charter of United Nations and Statute of International Court of Justice, 1945, Chap. 1, Article.1, Para 3.

10. Michael G. Smith and Jacqueline Whelan, Security Challenges, Vol.4, No. 2 (Winter 2008), p.2, Advancing Human Security: New Strategic Thinking in Australia.

11. Michael G. Smith and Jacqueline Whelan, Security Challenges, Vol.4, No. 2 (Winter 2008), p.2, Advancing Human Security: New Strategic Thinking in Australia.


Les Etudes du CERI - No 117-118 – September 2005, Human Security: Concepts and Implications - Journal of Peace, Conflict and Development
Issue 17, August 2011 – Human Security: A Framework for Peace Constructs, Gendered Perspectives and Cosmopolitan Security.…...

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