What is human security? How is it different from the concept of national security?
Human security is an emerging paradigm for understanding global vulnerabilities whose proponents challenge the traditional notion of national security by arguing that the proper referent for security should be the individual rather than the state. Human security holds that a people-centered view of security is necessary for national, regional and global stability. According to UN Commission on Human Security (2003), the objective of human security is to safeguard the “vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfillment.” Human security does not necessarily contradict traditional concept of “national security”, but it does put more emphasis on protecting the rights of individual humans rather than securing the sovereign rights of nation-states.
Within the course of globalization, where the role of the nation-state as a solitary actor in international relations is being threatened, the concept of human security has risen as an alternative view in approaching global security. The concept emerged from a post-cold war, multi-disciplinary understanding of security involving a number of research fields, including development studies, international relations, strategic studies, and human rights. The 1994 Human Development Report (by UNDP) defines the scope of human security to include these seven areas: economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community, and political security—in summary, various low politics area that does not revolve around state-centric or military concerns.
There are largely two branches concerning human security. One view is to consider human security as a matter of “freedom from fear”, and the other is to consider it to be about “freedom from want.” The terms derive from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech of 1941, where he declared four fundamental freedoms that people everywhere in the world ought to enjoy. Starting from his initiatives, “freedom from want” of human security focuses on non-military and non-traditional security concerns such as poverty, environmental degradation, disease, etc. On the other hand, “freedom from fear” focuses on armed conflicts and violence against individuals. Despite the differences between these two conceptions of human security, they both regard the individual as the referent object of security, and both acknowledge the role of globalization and the changing nature of armed conflict in creating new threats to human security.
One can say that the growing emphasis on human security basically backs up neoliberal ideas such as economic interdependence, democratic peace, and humanitarian intervention. The classic state-centric and militaristic realist view of security is being challenged with the concept of human security. In implementing human security, the role of international organizations (intergovernmental or non-governmental; e.g. International Criminal Court) are bound to be stressed, since no one state has the sole authority or enough interest concerns to take the moral high ground (at least in theory). The time of national security being automatically equated with its citizen’s security has passed. Even if one does not condone the unilateral deprivation of state sovereignty in the name of neoliberal values, one must consider the need of promoting basic human rights of citizens under predatory states or inefficient states.
I too have concerns about human security in the form of “freedom from want”, where the development issues are critical. In spite of efforts put together by UN in UNDP, MDGs, UNIFEM, etc., the underdevelopment issue is still critical and poverty problems are not being resolved. This is mostly because the international aids are often targeted to just quench the immediate thirst of impoverished people around the world, not to help establish fundamental infrastructures in escaping the poverty. In many cases of sub-Saharan Africa and North Korea, we can witness that predatory or inefficient states are standing in the way. Therefore, it is my personal suggestion that there must be a supranational organization that guides and supervises the process of implementing socio-economic, industrial, and educational infrastructures in LDCs, which basically execute the same functions and authorities that UN has in settling of international military disputes. You do not just give away the fish, but you teach them how to catch one.