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Human Security in Global Era

Updated: March 20, 2010 11:46 am

The new mantra in international relations is the slogan “human security”. The concept of human security is being juxtaposed to the traditional concept of national/ state security. Canada has become one of the foremost advocates of human security. The term ‘security’ means a condition in which the physical existence of something has been protected and preserved. Therefore, aiming at “national security” means attempting to protect and preserve the nation through military means. And “Human Security” should mean a situation in which the life, the body and the well-being of the human person have been protected through the use of physical force.

            Human security is not a new concept. It was discussed during 1860s at the foundation of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and during the 1940s in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Development Report (1995) of the UN Development Program used the phrase “human security” but without any implications. “The real wealth of the nation is its people and the purpose of development is to create an enabling environment for people to enjoy long, healthy and creative lives. In the era of global world of shrinking time, shrinking space and disappearing borders, people are confronting new threats to human security sudden and hurtful disruption in the pattern of daily life. Global era has given new characteristics to conflicts. Humanity is at the crossroad with respect to dealing with multiple threats.

            In the Post Cold War understanding of security, the meaning and interpretation is a complete contrast. Now security is more inclusive and encompasses the political, economic, military and non-

military strands with considerable emphasis on the economic performance of the nation-state in an increasingly interdependent, free market, export-oriented world.

            The idea of human security is generally though to go back to the UNDP report of 1994. Closely associated with the idea from the beginning was the consulting economist, the late Mahbub ul Haq, who had earlier played a key role in the construction of the Humane Governance Index (HGI) and who was subsequently the moving force behind the more recent Human Governance Index. According to Haq, human security is not about states and nations, but about individuals and people. He argues that the world is “entering a new era of human security” in which “the entire concept of security will change and change dramatically”.

            The traditional conception of security emphasis territorial integrity and national independence as the primary values that need to be protected, human security pertains above all to the safety and well-being of all the people, everywhere in their homes, in their jobs, in their streets, in their communities, in their environment.

            Thus, the concept of human security involves a fundamental departure from an orthodox international relations security analysis that has the state as the exclusive primary referent object. Instead, human beings and their complex social and economic relations are given primacy with or over states. Heinbecker asserts that human security is about ‘the ability to protect people as well as to safeguard states’. In some human security formulations, such as that of Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, human needs rather than state needs are paramount. Axworthy believes this to be so in the aftermath of the cold war, when intrastate conflicts have become more prevalent than interstate conflicts.

            These conflicts are fought with low technology, and in contrast to the very beginning of the twentieth century, most of the casualties now seventy five per cent are civilian. For Axworthy, human security includes security against economic privation, an acceptable quality of life, and a guarantee of fundamental human rights. The quality aspect of human security is about the achievement of human dignity which incorporates personal autonomy, control over one’s life and unhindered participation in the life of the community.

            Emancipation from oppressive power structures is they global, national and local in origin and scope, is necessary for human security. Human security is oriented towards an active and substantive notion of democracy, one that ensures the opportunity for all to participate in the decisions that affect their lives. At the global level, states have the authority and responsibility to attend to the human security needs of their citizens. Weak state-society relations mean that states often hinder rather than help the achievement of human security by all their citizens. Global governance institutions also play a crucial role. They set global development policy and fix, apply and monitor the global entitlement rules.

            Globalisation has shown a dark underside. Transnational phenomena like terrorism, illicit drugs and crime, environmental degradation and inflictions disease, financial and economic instability put global individual at risk. Instantaneous communication, rapid transportation, increasingly porous borders, and rising business, cultural and academic ties have undeniably and unalterably merged the whole world into a common destiny. The security or insecurity of others has become very much our own security or insecurity.

            The aim of the human security agenda is to construct a global society in which the safety and well-being of the individual is an international priority and a motivating force for international actors: a society in which international humanitarian standards and the rule of law are advanced, woven into a coherent web-protecting the individual.

            The security of the people should become the uppermost concern of governments. More attention needs to be paid to income and job security of the people, to environmental security and to security against crime. National security is best achieved where human security satisfactorily prevails.

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