Wednesday, 1 August 2007

Resource- Where does Human Security fit in?

Human Security Review has a great post called 'Human Security 101'.

Great introduction to the competing views of precisely what human security means. While human security is an excellent concept destined to change the way we think about security, at the field level it hasn't really been 'operationalized' by states in their foreign policies, or by IOs in their programs. There should be clear links to the questions of how civilian agencies working in hostile environments view their own security, though this is rarely the case- there is a worrying disconnect between 'their' security, and that of the beneficiaries and their environment. Some of these disconnects were touched upon by the Feinstein Institute's report, 'Mapping the Security Environment: Understanding the perceptions of local communities, peace support operations and assistance agencies'.

'Human security is a relatively new concept and there is much disagreement as to its precise meaning. Below is the definition used by Human Security Review.

Human security looks at security from the level of the individual, as opposed to the state or international system. That is, human security concerns the protection of individuals and societies.

This is not the only definition. Some definitions focus on violent threats to individuals (genocide, conflict, civil war, insurgency…). Human Security Review takes a broader perspective, arguing violence (also called personal security) is only one of many threats to the individual (environmental, health, food, etc…). This broad view of human security is presented in the graphic below.


The horizontal axis represents different types of security while the vertical axis represents levels of analysis. What all definitions of human security agree on, is the level of analysis. The level of analysis is fundamental to human security and separates it from more other perspectives of security. Traditionally security has been viewed from the state level. Many confuse national security and human security, and for good reason. There is much overlap between the concepts and often national security policies are indistinguishable from human security policies. Often, but not always.

Imagine two presidential security advisers in the United States before an imminent nuclear war. One advisor, Mr. Naton, looks at security from the state level (national security). The other advisor, Mr. Hume, looks at security from the individual level (human security). Their different level of analysis matter.

Looking from the national security perspective, Mr. Naton want to secure the entity of the United States. He recommends the core / most important members of the government be placed bunkers. His goal is to protect the government (represented by Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court) and thus the entity of the state survives. That is, he is concerned with threats to the state.

Alternatively looking from the human security perspective, Mr. Hume wants to secure the individuals (who happen to live in the United States). He recommends as many people as possible be placed in bunkers. His goal is to protect the individuals living in the United States. That is, he is concerned with threats to individuals.'

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