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INTR8073 Human Security

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INTR8073 Human Security

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Course Code: INTR8073
University: Australian National University is not sponsored or endorsed by this college or university

Country: Australia

Does ‘human security’ offer an alternative to traditional approaches to security? If so, how does ‘human security widen, deepen and change the way we think about security studies? 

There is no single exclusive definition of a term as broad as Human Security, but to put it in semi-theoretical terms, Human Security is an evolving example for comprehending global weaknesses whose advocates challenge the outmoded concept of national security by arguing that the suitable reference for security should not be the state rather the individual. Security homes and a people-oriented multidisciplinary understanding of security concerning a number of research fields that includes developmental gender studies, strategic studies, international relations, and human rights. The United Nations development programs 1994 is considered a groundbreaking publshing in the arena of human security with the argument that assuring freedom from fear and want for all individuals is the best way of tackling the problem of global insecurity (Martin and Owen 2013). Critics of the topic argue that its elusiveness undermines its value and it has become almost like a stepping stone for activists willing to endorse certain causes and that it does not help the community. The community of researchers explore the meaning of security or assist decision-makers to articulate virtuous policies. Other scholars alternatively argue that the concept of human security should be expanded to include military some of the core concepts of security studies. The paper aims to examine if human security offers an alternative for traditional approached to security. It identifies the ways in which the concept of human security widen, deepen and change the way scholars perceive of security studies (Adger et al 2013).
The vital core of human security
The concept of human security is encompassed in scope. It need not contain all profound, important and necessary aspects of human life. It rather protects some vital activities of human life after identifying their core. These can be described variously by certain human rights that are fundamental, absolute needs or basic capabilities. The term “vital core” is non-technical that focuses on the concerns lying beyond the domains of human security. This may be precisely defined in terms of capabilities, the basic freedom granted to people for being who they are, doing what they want to do. The freedoms and rights attributed to the vital core is associated with livelihood, basic dignity and survival. People who are assured rudimentary security for their survival, are way better off than millions of others in today’s world, during unfortunate events like war, poverty or disaster. The important job of sorting out the priorities between capabilities and rights, both of them have been deemed fundamental by many social theorists, is a difficult value judgment which should be undertaken by institutions appropriate for carrying out the required responsibilities. For the human security to be effective and realistic, a fixed and concrete judgment is indispensable.
The traditional approach to security has been all about national security or more especially the martial competences of the state, this has been observed to be more prevalent post the Cold War era. Traditional security is further about how the state upholds its integrity of sovereignty, ensuring that all protective measures are taken against potential threats. On the other hand, the concept of human security is a recently developed one. The origins of the concept, as already stated earlier, was put to paper when the Development Program of United Nation issued a report in 1994, known as the Human Development Report. According to the report, Human Development can be categorized into seven different categories. The concept suggests that development is more than economic growth, it is about the human population and their capability to take over, challenge and overcome global issues.
In order to distinguish between human security and traditional security, it is important to clear the concept of security by defining it in academic terms. Although the globalized world of the 21st century does not endorse any fixed definition of the term security, there is enough evidence to claim that the concept employs notions of societal and individual value systems. From the perspective of social science, security is abstruse in concept and elastic in meaning
What is the need of human security?
The Human Security Commission has argued for the need of a new paradigm of human security, that relates to two dynamic sets: firstly, it is needed as a response to the interrelatedness and complexity of both new and old security threats. From persistent and chronic poverty to traditional violence, climate change, international terrorism, human trafficking, health pandemics and unanticipated d financial and economic downturns. Threats like these have a tendency of acquiring a transnational dimension (Black 2016). Moving beyond the archaic perceptions of security that solely focuses on peripheral military aggressions. Secondly, human security is essential as an inclusive approach, utilizing a wide array of new opportunities for tackling the threats in a cohesive manner (Mitchell 2014). The threats concerning human security is too grim to be tackled alone by conventional mechanisms. Therefore, they need a renewed agreement that identifies the interdependencies and linkages national security, human rights and development.
The aim of human security is to move away from the outdated, state-centric perceptions of security that primarily focuses on the safety of the states from the aggression and violence of the military, to a concept that focuses on the security of the individuals, their empowerment and protection. The concept draws attention to the swarm of threats that tamper with different facets of human life, highlighting the border between human rights, development and security. It also promotes a newly integrated, people-centered and coordinated approach to ensuring peace, development and security both within and across the borders of a nation.
One of the primary features of human security is that is combines the ‘human’ aspects of security, development and rights. It displays the characteristics of being multi-sectorial, people-central, context-specific, comprehensive and prevention-oriented. Human Security being a concept that is people-oriented, it makes the individual the center of analysis (Koenig 2017) . Likewise, it takes into consideration a wide range of scenarios that threatens the livelihood, dignity and survival, and locates that threshold beneath which the life of human beings is threatened intolerably. The concept of human security is also modeled on multi-medium comprehension of insecurities. Human security, therefore involves a wider understanding and consideration of threats, including the grounds of the insecurities which relates to economic, environmental, community, health, food, political and personal security. Further, human security underlines the interconnectedness of responses and threats while addressing the insecurities.
What needs to be understood is human security encounters several threats interrelated and re-enforcing in two ways. Firstly they are interlinked by the domino effect, that is each threats makes room for more and feeds on the other. For instance, vehement conflicts can lead to poverty and deprivation, which in turn has every possibility of leading to depletion of resources, education deficits, infectious disease etc. secondly, the threats initially limited to a particular area is most likely to spread to a broader region and can impose negative externalities for international and regional security. This interdependence is of central importance in policy-making since it implies the difficulty, rather impossibility of tackling human insecurities in isolation only through stand-alone and fragmented responses. Human security instead involves all-inclusive approaches that emphasize the need for multi-sectorial and cooperative responses that unites the schemas of those that deal with development, human rights and security.
How does human security change the way people think about security studies?
The advocates of Human Security highlight the complications of the sources and root causes of insecurity among the population of human beings in differing locations and situations. They address crucial issues and respond to critical questions like “what are the circumstances under which individuals feel secure?” in more theoretical terms, in a manner that is more convincing than traditional security studies. Meeting ordinary and regular aspirants that people relish most is the basis through which human security is ensured (Gomez and Gasper 2013). Some of these aspirations include sound health, schooling for kids, safety from violence, adequate shelter, food (Clay 2013) for the self and the family and most importantly, freedom from persistent threats, their right to live a life that is free from threat and fear caused by it. The central argument is that these non-traditional approaches to security studies critically determining the state of national and human security. This circumstance however separates the relationship between state-society and international relations. In other words, the realm of domesticity is exclusive and central to human security.
The content and nature of all insecurities are varied and are related mostly to paradigms of the non-traditional theories (, 2018). They take into consideration the political demands issued by insurgency and terrorism, voluntary and forced migration that are the aftermath of political and sociological conflict, displacements and degradations in the environment caused by development projects and natural disasters and other matters concerning starvation, farmer suicides and poverty. At the core of these security concerns are nutritional and livelihood concerns, violations in Human Rights, plummeting access to public utilities, askew  and uneven distribution of natural resources, technological interventions and harmful development, natural disasters, ill-disposed production systems and market-oriented reforms. Not all the mentioned concerns are included in the framework of traditional studies in security.
In order to challenge global injustices and inequalities with the help of Human Security, there must be collaboration between a country’s attitude to global health and its foreign policies. Unfortunately, the interest the people have always been less important than that of the state. (, 2018). The advent of a treatise on human security was the result of coming together of factors when the Cold War was ending. These defied the authority of the State based paradigms of security measures and briefly assisted the emergence and formulation of a broader concept of security. The condensed risk of nuclear-powered combat between the nations in power, and spread of democratization and international human rights models open the space in which both concepts and development security can be reconsidered. Simultaneously, the mounting number of inner vicious conflicts in countries like Africa, Asia and Europe resulted in the perceptions of national and international security, which has failed to address the challenges and issues of the security environment post the Cold War era.
The chief possible indicators of movement towards and customized notion of security primarily lies in the progress of global society’s take on human rights of individuals to confront and combat the potential threats from powerful States. (Donnelly 2013).
As the ‘other’ threats imposed on security do not tamper directly with sovereignty, they have been customarily treated as issues of nation building involving developmental dynamics and socio-political exigencies. They have been for so long, deliberately kept out of debates regarding national securities or any other agendas for that matter. For example, despite farmer suicides, deaths due to hunger, conflicts prompted by deprivations, the crucial issue of food security and border protection of boundaries have never been linked. The festering tension relating to security and national borders still persists just as predominantly.
The framework of Human Security
Norway and Canada in May 1998 declared that Human Security stood to be the chief principle in their framework of foreign policy. Further 9 countries formed the Network of Human Security later in 1999. The members include Greece, Canada, Austria, Netherlands, Switzerland, Thailand, Slovenia, Jordan and Mali. Japan adopted the concept of human security in 1998 but remained autonomous from the Network of Human Security (Bailey 2016). The network have a set of officially declared principles.
The framework of Human Security shares with it the conceptual space of Development and Sustainability, which is equally multidimensional, people-centered, and defined within the structure of human freedom and choices.  although human development is a wider term with holistic objectives that has the potential to capture the desires of different societies, whether they are  chronically poor or economically stable. Human development aims to ensure that the desires of individuals homes or communities are fulfilled and that they keep flourishing. Human Security, on the other hand has a scope which is rigidly delimited. Although both the approaches aim to address the problems of the underprivileged and the destitute, Human security has a preventative and systematic aspect. The approach of Human Security identifies and braces individuals and communities for emergencies, recessions, conflicts and other ill-fated incidents occurring in the society. Further, the activities of human security might have a relatively short time horizon, including works in emergency relief, peacekeeping and long-term institutional and human development. Human security is therefore deeply interconnected with human rights. Both the concepts are concerned with the identification of a fundamental set of collective concern that span from violence to poverty. It is rather a pedantic task to systematically conceptualize human security. This may be in part the nature and characteristic of presentation, since the analyses and rich catchphrases can be looked at with hope. Although, there is a huge emphasis on the enterprise of protection of human security. The failures are agonizing and the threats initiated by humans are disheartening. The possibility of success is far from rosy since the theory concerning the objective of human security itself is an incomplete and obscure one. According to the agenda of Human Security, whatever actions taken by the economic, scientific, political, diplomatic, technological, political and social institutions; whether they work on national, international and local level, they must commit to securing the core interests of the people everywhere in the society.
Complete commitment to humanitarian law and human rights lays the foundation for building human security. All countries advance their framework of human security by safeguarding and promoting the democratic governance and structures, human rights, cultural peace, and pacific consolidation of conflicts. Sustainable Human Development should be promoted through absolute mitigation of poverty, providing everyone with basic needs of survival, pursuing the aims of people-oriented development. All these are necessary for building a solid ground of human security. Added to this, some unique international approaches will be required for addressing the sources of the insecurities.
The agenda of human security have been receiving grim criticisms on several grounds, both form participants in the initiative who develop the concept of human security and from those that write on security and strategic studies. Some of the charges on the framework include vagueness, arbitrariness, incoherence and brevity. Despite the accusations, which in some cases are justified, the proponents of the concept continue to develop the idea of Human Security, by adding materials and resources that are substantial for the comprehension of the theory. The outcome is favorable; the conceptualization of human security has broadened the idea of security concepts and include wider concerns of security measures that need serious attention.
It is important to note that Human Security locates its threats in Terrorism, poverty, disease, drugs, pollution, environmental problems and failed states. Human Security represents the global south as a perilous threat to universal security. The arguments suggest that the events and discourse on Human Security serves to enable and legalize additional interference by States (especially the Western states). So there are some highly stimulating post-colonial criticisms of human criticisms suggest that the Human Security talk serves to support old expatriate power relationships revealing how the West have assumed to be the civilized state, portraying the East as the Barbaric ‘other’. The new discourses on Human Security is unbiased of polarities and broadens the traditional and non-inclusive approach to Security.
References and bibliography: (2018). Human vs. National Security | global-e. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Oct. 2018].
Adger, W.N., Pulhin, J.M., Barnett, J., Dabelko, G.D., Hovelsrud, G.K., Levy, M., Oswald Spring, U. and Vogel, C.H., 2014. Human security. Cambridge University Press.
Bailey, S., 2016. The UN Security Council and human rights. Springer.
Black, D.R., 2016. A decade of human security: Global governance and new multilateralisms. Routledge.
Clay, E. and Stokke, O., 2013. Food aid and human security. Routledge.
Collins, A., 2016. Contemporary security studies. Oxford university press.
Dodds, F. and Pippard, T., 2013. Human and environmental security: An agenda for change. Earthscan.
Dodds, F. and Pippard, T., 2013. Human and environmental security: An agenda for change. Earthscan.
Donnelly, J., 2013. Universal human rights in theory and practice. Cornell University Press.
Gómez, O. and Gasper, D., 2013. Human security: A thematic guidance note for regional and national human development report teams.
Joseph, J., 2013. Resilience as embedded neoliberalism: a governmentality approach. Resilience, 1(1), pp.38-52.
Koenig, M. ed., 2017. Democracy and human rights in multicultural societies. Routledge.
Krause, K., 2013. Critical perspectives on human security. In Routledge handbook of human security (pp. 96-113). Routledge.
Krause, K., 2013. Critical perspectives on human security. In Routledge handbook of human security (pp. 96-113). Routledge.
Martin, M. and Owen, T. eds., 2013. Routledge handbook of human security. Routledge.
Mitchell, A. (2018). Posthuman Security: Reflections from an Open-ended Conversation. [online] E-International Relations. Available at: [Accessed 10 Oct. 2018].
Mitchell, A., 2014. Only human? A worldly approach to security. Security Dialogue, 45(1), pp.5-21.
O’Brien, K. and Barnett, J., 2013. Global environmental change and human security. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 38, pp.373-391. (2018). Traditional Security vs Human Security | INTR11-100 – Introduction to International Relations | Thinkswap. [online] Available at: [Accessed 10 Oct. 2018].
Vietti, F. and Scribner, T., 2013. Human insecurity: understanding international migration from a human security perspective. J. on Migration & Hum. Sec., 1, p.17.
Vietti, F. and Scribner, T., 2013. Human insecurity: understanding international migration from a human security perspective. J. on Migration & Hum. Sec., 1, p.17.

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