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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.

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 United Nations Development Programme's 1994 Human Development Report[1] is considered a milestone publication in the field of human security, with its argument that insuring "freedom from want" and "freedom from fear" for all persons is the best path to tackle the problem of global insecurity. Frequently referred to in a wide variety of global policy discussions [2] and scholarly journals,[3]

Critics of the concept argue that its vagueness undermines its effectiveness;[4] that it has become little more than a vehicle for activists wishing to promote certain causes; and that it does not help the research community understand what security means or help decision makers to formulate good policies.[5]


UNDP's 1994 definition[]

Dr. Mahbub ul Haq first drew global attention to the concept of human security in the United Nations Development Programme's 1994 Human Development Report and sought to influence the UN's 1995 World Summit on Social Development in Copenhagen. The UNDP's 1994 Human Development Report's definition of human security argues that the scope of global security should be expanded to include threats in seven areas:

File:UN Human Development Report 2008.svg

Coloured world map indicating Human Development Index (as of 2008). Countries coloured green exhibit high human development, those coloured yellow/orange exhibit medium human development, and those coloured red exhibit low human development.

The 2003 map

  • Economic security — Economic security requires an assured basic income for individuals, usually from productive and remunerative work or, as a last resort, from a publicly financed safety net. In this sense, only about a quarter of the world’s people are presently economically secure. While the economic security problem may be more serious in developing countries, concern also arises in developed countries as well. Unemployment problems constitute an important factor underlying political tensions and ethnic violence.
  • Food security — Food security requires that all people at all times have both physical and economic access to basic food. According to the United Nations, the overall availability of food is not a problem, rather the problem often is the poor distribution of food and a lack of purchasing power. In the past, food security problems have been dealt with at both national and global levels. However, their impacts are limited. According to UN, the key is to tackle the problems relating to access to assets, work and assured income (related to economic security).
  • Health security — Health Security aims to guarantee a minimum protection from diseases and unhealthy lifestyles. In developing countries, the major causes of death traditionally were infectious and parasitic diseases, whereas in industrialized countries, the major killers were diseases of the circulatory system. Today, lifestyle-related chronic diseases are leading killers worldwide, with 80 percent of deaths from chronic diseases occurring in low- and middle-income countries.[6] According to the United Nations, in both developing and industrial countries, threats to health security are usually greater for poor people in rural areas, particularly children. This is due to malnutrition and insufficient access to health services, clean water and other basic necessities.
  • Environmental security — Environmental security aims to protect people from the short- and long-term ravages of nature, man-made threats in nature, and deterioration of the natural environment. In developing countries, lack of access to clean water resources is one of the greatest environmental threats. In industrial countries, one of the major threats is air pollution. Global warming, caused by the emission of greenhouse gases, is another environmental security issue.
  • Personal security — Personal security aims to protect people from physical violence, whether from the state or external states, from violent individuals and sub-state actors, from domestic abuse, or from predatory adults. For many people, the greatest source of anxiety is crime, particularly violent crime.
  • Community security — Community security aims to protect people from the loss of traditional relationships and values and from sectarian and ethnic violence. Traditional communities, particularly minority ethnic groups are often threatened. About half of the world’s states have experienced some inter-ethnic strife. The United Nations declared 1993 the Year of Indigenous People to highlight the continuing vulnerability of the 300 million aboriginal people in 70 countries as they face a widening spiral of violence.
  • Political security — Political security is concerned with whether people live in a society that honors their basic human rights. According to a survey conducted by Amnesty International, political repression, systematic torture, ill treatment or disappearance was still practised in 110 countries. Human rights violations are most frequent during periods of political unrest. Along with repressing individuals and groups, governments may try to exercise control over ideas and information.

Since then, human security has been receiving more attention from the key global development institutions, such as the World Bank. Tadjbakhsh, among others, traces the evolution of human security in international organizations, concluding that the concept has been manipulated and transformed considerably since 1994 to fit organizational interests.[7][2]

Freedom from Fear vs Freedom from Want and beyond[]

In an ideal world, each of the UNDP's seven categories of threats would receive adequate global attention and resources. Yet attempts to implement this human security agenda have led to the emergence of two major schools of thought on how to best practice human security — '"Freedom from Fear"' and '"Freedom from Want"'. While the UNDP 1994 report originally argued that human security requires attention to both freedom from fear and freedom from want, divisions have gradually emerged over the proper scope of that protection (e.g. over what threats individuals should be protected from) and over the appropriate mechanisms for responding to these threats.

  • Freedom from Fear — This school seeks to limit the practice of Human Security to protecting individuals from violent conflicts while recognizing that these violent threats are strongly associated with poverty, lack of state capacity and other forms of inequities.[8] This approach argues that limiting the focus to violence is a realistic and manageable approach towards Human Security. Emergency assistance, conflict prevention and resolution, peace-building are the main concerns of this approach. Canada, for example, was a critical player in the efforts to ban landmines and has incorporated the "Freedom from Fear" agenda as a primary component in its own foreign policy. However, whether such “narrow” approach can truly serve its purpose in guaranteeing more fruitful results remains to be an issue. For instance, the conflicts in Darfur are often used in questioning the effectiveness of the "Responsibility to Protect”, a key component of the Freedom from Fear agenda.
  • Freedom from Want — The school advocates a holistic approach in achieving human security and argues that the threat agenda should be broadened to include hunger, disease and natural disasters because they are inseparable concepts in addressing the root of human insecurity[1] and they kill far more people than war, genocide and terrorism combined.[9] Different from "Freedom from Fear", it expands the focus beyond violence with emphasis on development and security goals.

Despite their differences, these two approaches to human security can be considered complementary rather than contradictory.[9] Expressions to this effect include:

  • Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous Four Freedoms speech of 1941, in which "Freedom from Want" is characterized as the third and "Freedom from Fear" is the fourth such fundamental, universal, freedom.
  • The Government of Japan considers Freedom from Fear and Freedom from Want to be equal in developing Japan’s foreign policy. Moreover, the UNDP 1994 called for the world’s attention to both agendas.
  • Surin Pitsuwan, current Secretary-General of ASEAN cites theorists such as Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Houme to conclude that "human security is the primary purpose of organizing a state in the beginning.".[10] He goes on to observe that the 1994 Human Development Report states that it is "reviving this concept" and suggests that the authors of the 1994 HDR may be alluding to Franklin Roosevelt's Four Freedoms speech without literally citing that presentation.

Although "freedom from fear" and "freedom from want" are the most commonly referred to categories of human security practice, an increasing number of alternative ideas continue to emerge on how to best practice human security. Among them:

  • G. King and C. Murray.[11] King and Murray try to narrow down the human security definition to one's "expectation of years of life without experiencing the state of generalized poverty". In their definition, the "generalized poverty" means "falling below critical thresholds in any domain of well-being"; and it is in the same article, they give brief review and categories of "Domains of Well-being". This set of defition is similar with "freedom from want" but more concretely focused on some value system.
  • Caroline Thomas.[12] She regards human security as describing "a condition of existence" which entails basic material needs, human dignity, including meaningful participation in the life of the community, and an active and substantive notion of democracy from the local to the global.
  • Roland Paris.[13] He argues that many ways to define "human security" are related with certain set of value and lose the neutral position. So he suggests to take human security as a category of research. As such, he gives a 2*2 matrix to illustrate the security studies field.
Security for Whom? What is the Source of the Security Threat?
Military Military, Non-military, or Both
States National security

(conventional realist approach to security studies)

Redefined security

(e.g., environmental and economic [cooperative or comprehensive] security)

Societies, Groups, and Individuals Intrastate security

(e.g., civil war, ethnic conflict, and democide)

Human security

(e.g., environmental and economic threats to the survival of societies, groups, and individuals)

  • Sabina Alkire.[14] Different with those approaches seek to narrow down and specify the objective of human security, Sabina Alkire pushes the idea a step further as "to safeguard the vital core of all human lives from critical pervasive threats, without impeding long-term human fulfilment". In a concept as such, she suggests the "vital core" cover a minimal or basic or fundamental set of functions related to survival, livelihood and dignity; and all institutions should at least and necessarily protect the core from any intervention.
  • Lyal S. Sunga.[15] In 2009, Professor Sunga argued that a concept of human security that is fully informed by international human rights law, international humanitarian law, international criminal law and international refugee law, and which takes into account the relevant international legal norms prohibiting the use of force in international relations, will likely prove more valuable to international legal theory and practice over the longer term, than a concept of human security which does not meet these conditions because these fields of law represent the objectified political will of States rather than the more subjective biases of scholars.

Relationship with traditional security[]

See also: Political realism

Human security emerged as a challenge to ideas of traditional security, but human and traditional or national security are not mutually exclusive concepts. Without human security, traditional state security cannot be attained and vice-versa.[16]

File:Europe map 1648.PNG

Europe after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648

Traditional security is about a state's ability to defend itself against external threats. Traditional security (often referred to as national security or state security) describes the philosophy of international security predominance since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 and the rise of the nation-states. While international relations theory includes many variants of traditional security, from realism to idealism, the fundamental trait that these schools share is their focus on the primacy of the nation-state.

The following table contrasts four differences between the two perspectives:

Traditional Security Human Security
Referent Traditional security policies are designed to promote demands ascribed to the state. Other interests are subordinated to those of the state. Traditional security protects a state's boundaries, people, institutions and values. Human security is people-centered. Its focus shifts to protecting individuals. The important dimensions are to entail the well-being of individuals and respond to ordinary people's needs in dealing with sources of threats.
Scope Traditional security seeks to defend states from external aggression.Walter Lippmann explained that state security is about a state's ability to deter or defeat an attack.[17] It makes uses of deterrence strategies to maintain the integrity of the state and protect the territory from external threats. In addition to protecting the state from external aggression, human security would expand the scope of protection to include a broader range of threats, including environmental pollution, infectious diseases, and economic deprivation.
Actor(s) The state is the sole actor, to ensure its own survival. Decision making power is centralized in the government, and the execution of strategies rarely involves the public. Traditional security assumes that a sovereign state is operating in an anarchical international environment, in which there is no world governing body to enforce international rules of conduct. The realization of human security involves not only governments, but a broader participation of different actors,[18] viz. regional and international organizations, non-governmental organizations and local communities.
Means Traditional security relies upon building up national power and military defense. The common forms it takes are armament races, alliances, strategic boundaries etc. Human security not only protects, but also empowers people and societies as a means of security. People contribute by identifying and implementing solutions to insecurity.

Relationship with development[]

See also: International development and Development economics

Human security also challenged and drew from the practice of international development.

Traditionally, embracing liberal market economics was considered to be the universal path for economic growth, and thus development for all humanity.[19] Yet, continuing conflict and human rights abuses following the end of the Cold War and the fact that two-thirds of the global population seemed to have gained little from the economic gains of globalization,[20] led to fundamental questions about the way development was practiced. Accordingly, human development has emerged in 1990s to challenge the dominant paradigm of liberal economy in the development community. Human development proponents argue that economic growth is insufficient to expand people’s choice or capabilities, areas such as health, education, technology, the environment, and employment should not be neglected.

Human security could be said to further enlarge the scope for examining the causes and consequences of underdevelopment, by seeking to bridge the divide between development and security. Too often, militaries didn’t address or factor in the underlying causes of violence and insecurity while development workers often underplayed the vulnerability of development models to violent conflict . Human security springs from a growing consensus these two fields need to be more fully integrated in order to enhance security for all.

The paper "Development and Security" by Frances Stewart argues that security and development are deeply interconnected.[21]

  • Human security forms an important part of people’s well-being, and is therefore an objective of development.
    An objective of development is “the enlargement of human choices”. Insecurity cuts life short and thwarts the use of human potential, thereby affecting the reaching of this objective.
  • Lack of human security has adverse consequences on economic growth, and therefore development.
    Some development costs are obvious. For example, in wars, people who join the army or flee can no longer work productively. Also, destroying infrastructure reduces the productive capacity of the economy.
  • Imbalanced development that involves horizontal inequalities is an important source of conflict.
    Therefore, vicious cycles of lack of development which leads to conflict, then to lack of development, can readily emerge. Likewise, virtuous cycles are possible, with high levels of security leading to development, which further promotes security in return.

Further, it could also be said that the practice of human development and human security share three fundamental elements[22]:

  • First, human security and human development are both people-centered. They challenge the orthodox approach to security and development i.e. state security and liberal economic growth respectively. Both emphasize people are be the ultimate ends but not means. Both treat human as agents and should be empowered to participate in the course.
  • Second, both perspectives are multidimensional. Both address people’s dignity as well as their material and physical concerns.
  • Third, both schools of thought consider poverty and inequality as the root causes of individual vulnerability.

Despite these similarities, the relationship with development is one of the most contested areas of human security . "Freedom from fear" advocates, such as Andrew Mack,argue that human security should focus on the achievable goals of decreasing individual vulnerability to violent conflict, rather than broadly defined goals of economic and social development. Others, such as Tadjbakhsh and Chenoy, argue that human development and human security are inextricably linked since progress in one enhances the chances of progress in another while failure in one increases risk of failure of another.[23]

The following table is adopted from Tadjbakhsh[24] to help clarify the relationship between these two concepts.

Variables Human Development Human Security
Values Well-being. Security, stability, sustainability of development gains
Orientation Moves forward, is progressive and aggregate: “Together we rise” Looks at who was left behind at the individual level: “Divided we fall”
Time Frame Long term Combines short-term measures to deal with risks with long term prevention efforts.
General objectives Growth with equity. Expanding the choices and opportunities of people to lead lives they value. “Insuring” downturns with security. Identification of risks, prevention to avoid them through dealing with root causes, preparation to mitigate them, and cushioning when disaster strikes.
Policy goals Empowerment, sustainability, equity and productivity. Protection and promotion of human survival (freedom from fear), daily life (freedom from want), and the avoidance of indignities(life of dignity).

Relationship with human rights[]

See also: Human rights

Human security is indebted to the human rights tradition (the ideas of natural law and natural rights). The development of the human security model can be seen to have drawn upon ideas and concepts fundamental to the human rights tradition. Both approaches use the individual as the main referent and both argue that a wide range of issues (i.e. civil rights, cultural identity, access to education and healthcare) are fundamental to human dignity. A major difference between the two models is in their approach to addressing threats to human dignity and survival. Whilst the human rights framework takes a legalistic approach, the human security framework, by utilizing a diverse range of actors, adopts flexible and issue-specific approaches, which can operate at local, national or international levels.

The nature of the relationship between human security and human rights is contested among human security advocates. Some human security advocates argue that the goal of human security should be to build upon and strengthen the existing global human rights legal framework.[25] However, other advocates view the human rights legal framework as part of the global insecurity problem and believe that a human security approach should propel us to move above and beyond this legalistic approach to get at the underlying sources of inequality and violence which are the root causes of insecurity in today's world.[26]

Gender and human security[]

Human security focuses on the serious neglect of gender concerns under the traditional security model. Traditional security’s focus on external military threats to the state has meant that the majority of threats women face have been overlooked. By focusing on the individual, the human security model aims to address the security concerns of both women and men equally. Women are often the worst victims of violence and conflict: they form the majority of civilian deaths; the majority of refugees; and, are often the victims of cruel and degrading practices, such as rape.[27] Women's security is also threatened by unequal access to resources, services and opportunities.[27] Human security seeks to empower women, through education, participation and access, as gender equality is seen as a necessary precondition for peace, security and a prosperous society.[27]

Prevent, react, and rebuild[]

See also: Responsibility to protect

Human security seeks to address underlying causes and long-term implications of conflicts instead of simply reacting to problems, as the traditional security approach is often accused of doing. "The basic point of preventive efforts is, of course, to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, the need for intervention altogether,"[28] while an investment in rehabilitation or rebuilding seeks to ensure that former conflicts do not breed future violence. The concepts of prevention and rebuilding are clearly embraced as the “responsibility to prevent” and well elaborated in "The Responsibility to protect report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty."


While there are numerous examples of the human security approach in action, two notable global political events with direct ties to the human security agenda include the development of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) principles guiding humanitarian intervention and the passage of the Ottawa Treaty banning anti-personnel landmines.

Humanitarian intervention[]

Main article: Humanitarian intervention

The application of human security is highly relevant within the area of humanitarian intervention, as it focuses on addressing the deep rooted and multi-factorial problems inherent in humanitarian crises, and offers more long term resolutions. In general, the term humanitarian intervention generally applies to when a state uses force against another state in order to alleviate suffering in the latter state (See, humanitarian intervention).

Under the traditional security paradigm humanitarian intervention is contentious. As discussed above, the traditional security paradigm places emphasis on the notion of states. Hence, the principles of state sovereignty and non-intervention that are paramount in the traditional security paradigm make it difficult to justify the intervention of other states in internal disputes. Through the development of clear principles based on the human security concept, there has been a step forward in the development of clear rules of when humanitarian intervention can occur and the obligations of states that intervene in the internal disputes of a state.

These principles on humanitarian intervention are the product of a debate pushed by United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan. He posed a challenge to the international community to find a new approach to humanitarian intervention that responded to its inherent problems.[29] In 2001, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) produced the "The Responsibility to protect", a comprehensive report detailing how the “right of humanitarian intervention” could be exercised. It was considered a triumph for the human security approach as it emphasized and gathered much needed attention to some of its main principles:

  • The protection of individual welfare is more important than the state. If the security of individuals is threatened internally by the state or externally by other states, state authority can be overridden.
  • Addressing the root causes of humanitarian crises (e.g. economic, political or social instability) is a more effective way to solve problems and protect the long-term security of individuals.
  • Prevention is the best solution. A collective understanding of the deeper social issues along with a desire to work together is necessary to prevent humanitarian crises, thereby preventing a widespread absence of human security within a population (which may mean investing more in development projects).

The report illustrates the usefulness of the human security approach, particularly its ability to examine the cause of conflicts that explain and justify humanitarian intervention. In addition, it could also act as a paradigm for identifying, prioritizing and resolving large transnational problems, one of the fundamental factors that act as a stimulus for humanitarian intervention in the first place. However, human security still faces difficulties concerning the scope of its applicability, as large problems requiring humanitarian intervention usually are built up from an array of socio-political, cultural and economic problems that may be beyond the limitations of humanitarian projects.[30] On the other hand, successful examples of the use of human security principles within interventions can be found.

The success of humanitarian intervention in international affairs is varied. As discussed above, humanitarian intervention is a contentious issue. Examples of humanitarian intervention illustrate, that in some cases intervention can lead to disastrous results, as in Srebrenica and Somalia. In other cases, a lack of clarity as to the rules of when intervention can occur has resulted in tragic inaction, as was witnessed during the Rwandan genocide. One example is of a successful humanitarian intervention and also of humanitarian principles being applied is East Timor which, prior to its independence, was plagued with massive human rights abuses by pro-Indonesian militias and an insurgency war led by indigenous East Timorese against Indonesian forces. A peacekeeping mission was deployed to safeguard the move to independence and the UN established the United Nations Transitional Administration in East Timor (UNTAET). This not only dealt with traditional security priorities, but also helped in nation building projects, coordinated humanitarian aid and civil rehabilitation, illustrating not only a successful humanitarian intervention but also a effective application of human security principles.

Anti-personnel landmines[]

Main article: Ottawa Convention
File:Ottawa Treaty members.svg

██ State Parties to the Ottawa Treaty

In contrast to the traditional security discourse which sees security as focused on protecting state interests, human security proponents believe that Anti-personnel mines could not be viable weapons of war due to the massive collateral damage they cause, their indiscriminate nature and persistence after conflict. In particular, they argue that Anti-personnel mines differ from most weapons, which have to be aimed and fired since they have the potential to kill and maim long after the warring parties have ceased fighting. The United Nations has reckoned that landmines are at least ten times more likely to kill or injure a civilian after a conflict than a combatant during hostilities.[3] The effects are also long-lasting. The ICBL estimates that anti-personnel mines were the cause of 5,751 casualties in 2006. [4] Whereas traditionally, states would justify these negative impacts of mines due to the advantage they give on the battlefield, under the human security lens, this is untenable as the wide-ranging post-conflict impact on the day-to-day experience of individuals outweighs the military advantage.

The Ottawa Convention, which led to the banning of anti-personnel landmines, is seen as a victory for the Human Security agenda. The Ottawa Convention has proved to be a huge step forward in the ‘Freedom from Fear’ approach. In Ottawa, the negotiations were moved outside traditional disarmament forums, thus avoiding the entrenched logic of traditional arms control measures.[31] According to Don Hubert,an advocate of Human Security from the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, the main reason for its success was a multilateral focus. While INGO’s like the UN and the ICRC remain the key players along with middle power states like Norway and Canada, its actual power and push comes from the involvement of a host of civil society actors (NGOs) and the general public.[32] Human Security proponents believe that this treaty has set new standards in humanitarian advocacy and has acted as a landmark in international lawmaking for a more secure world.

Critics of the treaty, however, caution against complacency on its success. Many states, they point out, have neither signed nor ratified this convention. They include China, Russia and the United States who are major contributors to the global weapons trade.[33] Second, even though there were a diverse group of civil society actors, the real influence on the treaty came from the ones in the ‘global north’. Third, cynics may argue that the success of this campaign stems from the fact that these weapons were outdated and of limited military value and this treaty just helped to accelerate a process that would have happened anyway.[34]


Tadjbakhsh introduced seven challenging questions on the concept of human security on September 13, 2005 at the “Human Security: 60 minutes to Convince” discussion held at UNESCO:

1) Can there be an agreement on definitions? Without a consensus on the definition of human security, it will be difficult to implement and decide on a common human security program. Today, there is an agreement that human security should be taken from a people-centered more than a state-centered approach, but as mentioned above, the definition or scope of human security is still vague.

2) Is the rise of “National Security” disrupting the process of expanding human security? Since the September 11 attacks, the attention on security has become more on national security rather than human security. According to a study by Christian Aid, “the year 2004 saw $1 billion in aid was diverted to the war on terrorism at the expense of poverty and MDGs.” As the focus has shifted from a bottom-up approach to a top-down approach, this has also meant that the investments made are strategically long-term plans rather than short term, and this has been reflected in the amount of spending. Military expenditures as of 2004 were apparently “twenty times larger than aid outlays,” as stated by the SIRPI Yearbook 2004. The question now is, is it too late to revive the focus of state and national security to human security?

3) Who is responsible for implementation? Much discussion today has been in regards to the approach of human security, but with little emphasis on who is in charge of implementing it. Many states have “adopted it as a foreign policy tool” but it has mostly been disregarded “as a domestic policy on development and human rights.” Also, people seem to be absent in the process of human security; “people are not passive recipient of security,” or victims of its absence, but active subjects who should contribute directly to identifying and implementing solutions to security problems.” There also lies the lack of mandate for IGO's to act in times of need. The genocide in Rwanda and to a certain degree the acts which are currently occurring in Darfur seem to point to this direction. The lack of the strong political will to act in times of dire need has been cited by former UN-Secretary General Kofi Annan as a major speedbump to eliminating immediate security threats.

4) What are the priorities and trade-offs? “Which of the many threats that exist deserves the most attention?” There is no prioritization or “hierarchy” today on which issues are more important than others. This can cause difficulties in establishing goals and directing resources on specific solutions to immediate problems. Specifically under the current context of the world, where there are so many growing problems, including increasing food prices, scarce fresh water sources and the ever-prevalent threat of regional instability in "hotzones" around the world; it seems necessary to have some sort of an agenda as to what threat must be contained first.

5) Can a “true inter-sectoral agenda” be implemented? Are we ready or able to create “inter, or better yet, intra-sectoral interventions?” There needs to be more focus on “relationships,” how an intervention can positively or negatively affect other areas and how these effects can improve the human security intervention approach. However, as idealistic as this sounds, the question is how we will implement this when there is a "lack of interdisciplinary approaches among donors and governments”? Once again this also raises the issue of the scope of security. Under current status quo it is primarily states and IGO's that are the primary actors in any security crisis, whereas it is the individuals of the states that are actually at harm. While NGO's and other humanitarian organizations do raise efforts to focus on individuals, there is still a massive gap between the two.

6) How can we better understand conflicts? It is important to understand conflicts in order to resolve and prevent them, and it is easiest to understand conflict during times of conflict, “both to address conflict prevention and for rebuilding and reconstruction in post conflict-stages.” Today, we question how well do we really understand conflict? How can we improve our understanding of it?

7) How can we best implement human security and not do harm? In the past, when human intervention was taken in countries such as the former Yugoslavia, Somalia and Rwanda, some have argued that more harm was done than benefit. Interventions must be better “targeted, implemented, monitored, and coordinated” to decrease “dependency, power and patronage of certain groups.” Something must be done to ensure that future interventions do not cause harm, but the question now is how.[35]

Elsewhere Tadjbakhsh [36] noted that measurement of Human Security has been difficult. She noted the lack of consensus on one definition, data, and formulation as challenges. However, she also stated that "these challenges do not mean that measuring Human Security is a futile exercise. On the contrary. To become a malleable concept, especially for policy makers, there must be a way to recognize it and measure it."

Formulation of a Human Security Index and an environment for discussing same[]

As if to answer the points above, a Human Security Index [37] was prototyped and released in 2008. Project coordinator D. A. Hastings notes that “if one were challenged to create an index on the condition of people-centric Human Security, such as the authors of the Human Development Index faced in 1990 and expanded qualitatively in 1994, one could now begin to do so – at least for the sake of discussion and resultant improvements.” 200 countries are included in this Human Security Index. The release document and a United Nations Bangkok Working Paper [38] publish and discuss:

  • An Equitability/Inclusiveness Enhanced Human Development Index – in which each of the components of the HDI (education, health, and income) are modified by an indicator of equitability in an attempt to adjust, for example, for the gap between the indicator of Gross Domestic Product Per Capita (adjusted for purchasing power parity) and the desired measure of financial resources “in the pocket” of a typical person in a country. In that index some countries with relatively equitable ratings compared to their Human Development Index (such as Iceland, the Slovak Republic, and Estonia) do relatively well, whereas some countries with relatively inequitable ratings compared to their HDI (such as Ireland, Greece, and the USA) do less well.
  • A Social Fabric Index which enumerates human security with respect to environment, diversity, peacefulness, freedom from corruption, and info empowerment. This was blended with the Human Development Index to form the prototype Human Security Index.

Besides the papers cited here, several workshops and discussion seminars have been held toward an improved formulation of HSI Version 2, anticipated for release late in 2010, according to project Website[39] The release note of HSI Version 2 [40] notes that Version 2 attempts to connect to concepts on the Triple bottom line of John Elkington as well as to goals of the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress.[41]

See also[]



  1. 1.0 1.1 United Nations Development Programme (1994): Human Development Report
  2. 2005 World Summit outcome document, paragraph 143
  3. Human Security Journal / Revue de la Sécurité Humaine - Center for Peace and Human Security - FNSP/IEP Paris
  4. Paris, Roland (2001): Human Security - Paradigm Shift or Hot Air? In: International Security, Vol. 26, No. 2
  5. For a comprehensive analysis of all definitions, critiques and counter-critiques, see Tadjbakhsh, Shahrbanou & Chenoy, Anuradha M. Human Security: Concepts and Implications , London: Routledge, 2006
  6. World Health Organization, "Chronic Diseases"
  7. S. Tadjbakhsh, "Human Security In International Organizations: Blessing or Scourge?", The Human Security Journal, Volume 4, Summer 2007
  8. Human Security Centre. “What is Human Security.” Retrieved on 19 April 2008 from
  9. 9.0 9.1 Human Security Centre. Supra.
  10. Pitsuwan, Surin. Regional Cooperation for Human Security. Keynote address to the International Development Studies Conference on Human Security: The Asian Contribution. October 2007. online
  11. King, Gary and Christopher Murray. Rethinking Human Security. Political Science Quarterly, Vol.116, No.4 #585-610 online
  12. Thomas, Caroline. 2000. Global governance, development and human security the challenge of poverty and inequality. London and Sterling, VA: Pluto Press. See also in Sabina Alkire, "A Conceptual Framework for Human Security", Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security, and Ethnicity (CRISE), Working Paper 2, London: University of Oxford, 2003, #15 online
  13. Paris, Roland. 2001. “Human Security: Paradigm Shift or Hot Air?” International Security. 26:2.
  14. Sabina Alkire, "A Conceptual Framework for Human Security", Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security, and Ethnicity (CRISE), Working Paper 2, London: University of Oxford, 2003. online
  15. Sunga, Lyal S. 2009. "The Concept of Human Security: Does it Add Anything of Value to International Legal Theory or Practice?" in Power and Justice in International Relations Interdisciplinary Approaches to Global Challenges Power and Justice in International Relations (Edited by Marie-Luisa Frick and Andreas Oberprantacher) 2009 Ashgate Publishers [1]
  16. Human Security Centre. “What is Human Security.” option=content&task=view&id=24&itemid=59
  17. Walter Lippmann, U.S. Foreign Policy (Boston, 1943), p.51
  18. Jeong Ho-Won (undated): Human Security and Conflict. George Mason University. online
  19. Caroline Thomas, "Global Governance, Development and Human Security: Exploring the Links", Third World Quarterly, Vol. 22, No. 2, pp 167-168, 2001
  20. see Financial Times, 24 December 1994 and New York Times, 15 July 1996: 55
  21. Frances Stewart, "Development and Security", Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security, and Ethnicity (CRISE), Working Paper 3, London: University of Oxford, 2004
  22. Sabina Alkire,“A conceptual Framework for Human Security”, Centre for Research on inequlaity, Human Security and Ethnicity(CRSE), Working Paper 2, London: University of Oxford, 2003
  23. Tadjbakhsh & Chenoy, Human Security: Concepts and implications , London: Routledge, 2006
  24. S Tadjbakhsh, “Human Security”, 'Human Development Insights Issue 17, New York: UNDP HDR Networks
  25. Hampson, F., Madness in the multitude: human security and world disorder, Ontario: Oxford University Press, 2002
  26. Thomas, C., (2001) “Global governance, development and human security: exploring the links,” Third World Quarterly, Vol. 22(2):159-175
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 Haq, K., 'Human Security for Women,' in Tehranian, M. (ed.),Worlds Apart: Human Security and Global Governance, London, I.B.Tauris Publishers, 1999, p. 96 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Haq, 1999" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Haq, 1999" defined multiple times with different content
  28. ICISS "The Responsibility to Protect: Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty", Ottawa: International Development Research Council, 2001, p19
  29. ICISS "The Responsibility to Protect: Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, Ottawa: International Development Research Council" (2001)
  30. "Thomas, N. and Tow, WT. (2002) "The Utility of Human Security: Sovereignty and Humanitarian Intervention SAGE Publications, Vol. 33(2): 177-192"
  31. Don Hubert, "The Landmine Treaty: A Case Study in Humanitarian Advocacy" Watson Institute for International Studies, Occasional Paper #42, 2000, 36
  32. Hubert, Don "The Landmine Treaty: A Case Study in Humanitarian Advocacy" Watson Institute for International Studies, Occasional Paper #42, 2000
  34. Fen Osler Hampson, "Chap.5: Promoting the Safety of Peoples: Banning Anti-Personnel Landmines", from Madness in the Multitude: Human Security and World Disorder, Oxford University Press, 2002
  35. Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh, Human Security : The Seven Challenges of Operationalizing the Concept, "Human Security: 60 minutes to Convince", UNESCO, September 13, 2005-09-14, Paris France
  36. Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh, "Human Security", HD Insights Issue 17, HDR Networks, United Nations Development Programme, online (
  37. David A. Hastings, "Describing the Human Condition – from Human Development to Human Security", GIS-IDEAS 2008 Conference "Towards a Sustainable and Creative Humanosphere", 2008 online (
  38. David A. Hastings, “From Human Development to Human Security: A Prototype Human Security Index", United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, Working Paper WP/09/03, 2009 online (
  40. David A. Hastings, "The Human Security Index: an update and a new release", GIS-IDEAS 2010 Conference "Envisioning Environmental Security for Sustainable Development", 2010 online (

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