|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-fourth General Assembly
89th Meeting (AM)
General Assembly Concludes Human Security Debate, with Some Speakers Saying Idea
Too Imprecise, while Others Describe It as Forward-Thinking, Adaptable to UN
Also Adopts Text on Comprehensive Review of Peacekeeping Operations
Meeting for a second day on the concept of human security, the General Assembly today heard appeals for clarity on a notion that, to some, remained too abstract and imprecise for international application, but to others was forward-thinking, synergistic and adaptable to the work of the United Nations.
The Assembly’s discussion this morning centred on the Secretary-General’s report on human security (document A/64/701), following its consideration of a report of the Fourth Committee (Special and Decolonization) on the “comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects”.
Azerbaijan’s representative was among several speakers who understood the achievement of human security as an antidote to modern-day problems — poverty, armed conflict, high food and energy prices, easy access to small arms and light weapons, and financial and economic crises — though the exact method for attaining human security was yet to be defined.
He recalled the Assembly’s last discussion on human security at a thematic debate in May 2008, where, despite a divergence of views, States had widely emphasized the need for a new culture of international relations calling for comprehensive, integrated and people-centred solutions to such problems. To date, notable effort had been spent to define the notion since it was first introduced as a distinct concept in the 1994 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report. But, to be successfully applied, he pointed out, certain “behavioural parameters” must first be set, based on normative standards set by the United Nations Charter and international law.
As explained by several countries holding similar views to Azerbaijan, those parameters were respect for national sovereignty and the territorial integrity of States and non-interference in the domestic affairs of other States. To his understanding, and that of many countries, the pursuit of human security was expected to strengthen States and reverse the debilitating effects of war and violence, where national sovereignty, integrity and unity were gravely undermined.
The concept of human security was also viewed by Member States as having important applications for economic and social development work, with the representative of Honduras pointing to useful ideas in the Secretary-General’s report on how States might apply that concept to improve standards of living. He pointed out that human security encompassed human rights concerns in the pursuit of security, making it different from the traditional concept of security. In that respect, human security was intimately linked to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and other human development goals.
Agreeing, the representative of the Solomon Islands said achieving human security for his country meant eradicating poverty, achieving sustainable development and taking action at the international level to guarantee the survival of the most vulnerable. But, he was among a group of people voicing the view that the Secretary-General’s report did not fully address questions raised at the last debate. By proposing to tackle global issues through country-based projects, he said, the Secretary-General was addressing symptoms rather than causes.
He also argued that the historical responsibility of States that had triggered some of the financial problems affecting his country were overlooked by the report. If the international community was to take corrective measures, he said commitments to mechanisms such as the Brussels Programme of Action for Least Developed Countries and others must be honoured. There must also be a stronger relationship between the United Nations and countries, where a country presence was a must.
Another speaker who addressed how the concept might be applied to the United Nations was the representative of Republic of Korea, who suggested that the concept be treated as a new approach to problem-solving, rather than an embodiment of binding principles. Thus, if applied to the work of the United Nations, the human security approach would add a human face to its activities, helping focus efforts on individuals and communities through robust protection and empowerment.
Also speaking today were the representatives of India, Pakistan, Slovakia, Jamaica, Libya, Nepal, Gabon, Chile, Bolivia, Austria, Ecuador, Norway, Nicaragua, Monaco, Colombia, Comoros, Guinea, China, Iran, Sudan, Algeria, Qatar, Lebanon, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Georgia, Mongolia and Armenia.
In other business, the Assembly adopted without a vote a resolution on the comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects, contained in a report of its Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization).
In it, the Assembly noted “widespread interest” among Member States in contributing to the work of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations — established in 1965 to conduct a comprehensive review of all peacekeeping issues. Through the resolution, the Assembly endorsed the main points of the Special Committee’s report from its 2010 session, which, among other things, addresses cooperation with troop-contributing countries.
Paragraphs 15 to 228 of the report, cited in the text, addressed several areas, including restructuring of peacekeeping, guiding principles, definitions and implementation of mandates, safety and security, and conduct and discipline. They also touched on such issues as strengthening operational capacity, strategies for complex peacekeeping operations, triangular cooperation between the Security Council, Secretariat and troop- and police-contributing countries, cooperation with regional arrangements, enhancement of African peacekeeping capacities and developing stronger United Nations field support arrangements, among others.
Also in that wide-ranging report, the Special Committee urged the Secretariat to consult with troop-contributing countries when planning any change that would have an impact on the personnel, equipment, training and logistics requirements — such as changes in military tasks, mission-specific rules of engagement, operational concepts, or in the command and control structure.
The Assembly will meet again at a time to be announced.
The General Assembly met this morning to conclude its consideration of the Secretary-General’s report on human security. (For background, please see Press Release GA/10942.)
Also before it was a draft resolution on the comprehensive review of the whole question of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects, contained in a report of the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) (document A/64/407/Add.1). The Fourth Committee approved the text on 12 May, after considering the report of the Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, which met at Headquarters from 23 February to 19 March. (Please see Press Releases GA/PK/203, GA/PK/204 and GA/PK/205).
HARDEEP SINGH PURI (India) said the concept of human security from a layman’s perspective might appear obvious — freedom from fear and want, and the right to live with dignity for all individuals in order to fully develop their potential. But, as noted in the World Summit Outcome document, there was a need to clearly define the concept in the multilateral context. The basic framework for that discussion had been provided in the same report, which referred to the three mutually interlinked issues of security, livelihood and dignity, with the individual at the centre. In the Assembly’s discussion on the definition, it was important to ensure that “human security” was clearly situated within the bedrock of international relations and domestic governance: non-aggression; non-interference in the domestic affairs of States; the right to national self-defence; and State sovereignty. The definition also needed to recognize the primary role of States and Governments for realizing human security. “Obviously, there can be no place for interventionism,” he stressed.
He added that the concept must be people-centred and should go beyond the narrow framework of protection from physical insecurity, like war and conflict, to a much broader framework to encompass multidimensional and comprehensive parameters, with development as an important pillar. The Secretary-General’s report had meticulously established a direct link between persistent and chronic socio-economic challenges faced by all States and the recent global crises. In that regard, it was imperative to stress the need for genuine international cooperation, recognizing the inherent constraints many developing countries faced in trying to garner internal and external resources. India was committed to ensuring the rights and dignity of its citizens, and the thrust of its socio-economic development had focused on inclusive growth. The concept of human security must be adopted comprehensively to help every human being explore his or her potential, while pursuing a life of dignity in a safe and healthy environment.
ABDULLAH HUSSAIN HAROON (Pakistan) said human security called for a gradual approach, in which models such as poverty eradication were developed for subsequent replication as human security projects. In order to foster trust, human security interventions needed to be made in those areas that were acceptable to all Member States.
He said it was just as important to address entrenched systematic inequalities like agricultural subsidies that negatively affected the developing agrarian economies, as it was to promote agricultural productivity in developing countries through technological transfer. Similarly, it was essential to expand the scope of human-security-related work beyond humanitarian agencies, so that they included developmental entities, including such United Nations agencies as the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). Such agencies’ input would help impart greater clarity and relevance to the concept of human security.
With regard to different attempts to define the impetus for human security, the report identifies three common elements: current and emerging threats; protection and empowerment of people; and non-encroachment on State sovereignty. While those elements could provide a basis for further discussion, there was a need to avoid subjective interpretations of current and emerging threats. In his view, human security should be a unifying rather than a divisive concept and should promote intercultural, interreligious and interfaith dialogue, cooperation and understanding. Additionally, the right to food, adequate housing and sanitation, and adequate standards of health should be indispensable parameters for human security.
KIM BONGHYUN (Republic of Korea) said his Government recognized all contributions made to date on the notion of human security to the work of the United Nations. He viewed it as a useful concept to complement the traditional concept of security, linking that traditional conceptualization with concepts relating to development and human rights. In that sense, the notion of human security was a point of convergence of many different thoughts. His Government viewed it as a new approach to existing questions, rather than a binding principle. Rather than a top-down approach, it brought a human face to the forefront of the Organization’s work. It was a broad idea that could be put in place in the field, focused on individuals and communities through robust protection and empowerment. As such, it could prove an important tool to help States make greater progress on international goals in real and tangible terms.
He said the Secretary-General’s report updated States on key developments since 2005 relating to human security. It outlined the principles and ways that it could be applied into current organizational practices and priorities. It provided a definitional overview as it related to national sovereignty and the principle of the responsibility to protect. By applying it to different and varied priorities, the report conjoined that notion to tangible issues that affected, not just the Organization’s work, but that of the entire world. Much had been said of the multidimensional impact of the economic and food crises, health problems and climate change, as contrasted with security needs when preventing violent conflict and building and keeping peace. In his view, applying the concept to those situations did not usher in an additional fold to the work of the United Nations, but was a way to reinforce and complement its activities. He was confident that the concept would play an important role in the future, bringing benefits from its forward thinking and synergistic applications.
MILOŠ KOTEREC (Slovakia) said his delegation strongly supported the concept of human security, because it reflected the close links among the three pillars of the United Nations — security, development and human rights. Even though the concept required thinking about security in a new way, one that put people at the centre, it should nevertheless serve to complement the Organization’s activities, while not adding layers to its structure. Further, while the concept of human security was broadly defined, its singular components had already been developed and were being pursued, including, just to mention one example, the establishment of the Peacebuilding Commission.
He went on to say that Slovakia, as the initiator of the Group of Friends on security-sector reform, placed human security at the centre of its activities in that area. Linking security and development, the need for security-sector reform was often a precondition for conflict prevention and sustainable post-conflict development. Indeed, there was solid evidence that, in some cases, failure to carry out security-sector reform had led to the collapse of peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts. Such reform should, therefore, be accompanied by initiatives in other areas, such as governance, transitional justice, accountability and human rights, among others. It would take hold only if it improved the daily lives of the people and communities concerned.
TOFIG MUSAYEV (Azerbaijan), aligning his statement with that of the European Union, recalled the Assembly’s thematic debate on 22 May 2008 reflecting on the scope of the human security concept. Despite the obvious divergence between some, States had emphasized the need for a new culture of international relations that called for comprehensive, integrated and people-centred approaches. Already, notable contributions had been made to define the notion since it was first introduced as a distinct concept in the 1994 UNDP Human Development Report. In light of that, he took note of key human security initiatives undertaken by Governments, organizations and bodies of the United Nations system, regional and subregional intergovernmental organizations and by non-governmental organizations.
He noted that the Secretary-General’s report referred to a need for an expanded paradigm of security, so as to better address the multifaceted challenges faced by States today. At the same time, human security depended on a number of factors, the first being the need to ensure behavioural parameters based on normative standards set by the United Nations Charter and international law. War had a grave effect on civilians and, indeed, on States themselves, threatening their very existence, undermining their sovereignty, integrity and unity. War also resulted in massive forced displacement and the creation of mono-ethnic areas, resembling the terrible concept of ethnic cleansing. In that context, protection of civilians and upholding humanitarian law — with a special focus on vulnerable groups such as children, women, the elderly, refugees and internally displaced persons — was essential. The concept of human security, to his understanding, was expected to enhance the sovereignty of States, as well as to focus on long-term prevention of and people-centred responses to global problems.
RAYMOND WOLFE (Jamaica) said his delegation supported the holistic approach taken in the 1994 Human Development Report, which had argued in favour of a new paradigm of sustainable development, a new form of development cooperation and a restructured system of global institutions, characterized as “freedom from fear” and “freedom from want”. It had subsequently been argued quite convincingly that the concept of human security touched on all pillars of the United Nations work — peace and security, human rights and development. The concept sought to distinguish between traditional notions of national security that focused on protection of a State from external threats, and to give greater credence to the protection of individuals and communities.
He said Jamaica could agree with several of the issues highlighted in the Secretary-General’s report on human security, among others, that a people-centred approach was necessary to solve global threats and challenges; the approach to addressing human insecurity must be tailored to local contexts; and human security was inconsistent with interference in the internal affairs of sovereign States, as well as with the use of force against sovereign States. At the same time, Jamaica remained cautious about the overall application of the concept, as, among other things, it remained mired in controversy because of the lack of consensus over its precise definition, the precise threats from which individuals should be protected and the appropriate mechanisms for responding to such threats. “Human security is an emerging theme, but not an accepted norm under international law,” he said, expressing further concern that the Secretary-General’s report called for “mainstreaming” of the concept in United Nations activities. “Has there been General Assembly approval for [such] mainstreaming?” he asked.
ALI KURER (Libya) said an essential part of human security was that Governments should retain the main role of safeguarding their citizens, determine what threatened them and the means by which those threats would be addressed. Indeed, national and regional mechanisms in Africa were examining the ills affecting the continent and setting up initiatives to address such issues as climate change, poverty and drought, among others. The guiding principle of partnerships for development should be equality and sovereign integrity, including the non-use of force or imposition of unilateral sanctions that could severely and unjustly impact civilian populations. Libya supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation to reinforce multilateral cooperation through the United Nations by respecting the independence of peoples. “This is a new world culture that requires equal treatment and cooperation […] to ensure the betterment of all peoples.”
SHANKER DAS BAIRAGI (Nepal) stressed that, in fashioning strategies based on the notion of human security, it was important to keep in mind that relevant conditions might vary significantly between countries and communities, and to underscore the sanctity of national authority and responsibility as indispensable and paramount for providing security to people and promoting their well-being. The concept, therefore, must be defined in conformity with the principles of the United Nations Charter.
He said that freedom from fear and want, and the right to live in dignity already formed the bedrock of the Charter, but the gap between rich and poor was widening, exacerbated by crises and creating “a humanitarian crisis of a colossal scale”. In that light, meeting the challenges of human security required an enhanced flow of resources, a supportive international environment and adequate policy space for developing countries to begin to rectify global inequalities and improve the plight of their peoples. He looked forward to forging an enhanced global partnership for that purpose at the upcoming New York conference to review the Millennium Development Goals.
MARIANNE ODETTE BIBALOU (Gabon) welcomed the Secretary-General’s report, saying that the concept of human security defined therein was largely based on the need to ensure solidarity and peaceful coexistence; in essence, peace, security and development “with a human face”. The report addressed a number of interlinked issues, such as sustainable development and the need to protect and promote human rights. Gabon had long sought to ensure the well-being of its people, as well as that of refuges in the country. On the subject of refugees, she said that her Government was working closely with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to ensure that the population had what it needed, and a number of projects had shown “encouraging” results, including in areas such as training and education. In addition, she welcomed the recent decision by Japan to provide resources, through the Human Security Trust Fund, for Gabon to carry out further activities to address the situations of refuges and vulnerable populations living in her country.
JORGE TAGLE (Chile), associating himself with the statement of Costa Rica on behalf of the Human Security Network, declared that the cornerstone of human security was the dignity of every human being without distinction. Unlike classical security based on the nation State, human security was supranational, making each person the focus of rights in the international arena.
His country viewed human security as an emerging concept involving a commitment by Sates to develop completely within the sphere of law and multilateralism in order to care for their citizens and for all individuals, wherever they came from. That also presupposed progress in the conceptualization of security, and international support for the concept had been growing, because of the recognition of the individual in international law and because of the importance assumed by respect for human rights on the international agenda.
Like any bold and peremptory doctrine, human security had had its detractors and problems, he said. Some distrusted the idea, seeing it as a pretext for intervention. Yet, as emphasized in the report, one of the ultimate goals of human security was to strengthen national institutions. Further, he believed that the efforts being made to operationalize the concept of human security today would bear fruit in practice, so as to reflect the contribution of human security to providing a new way of dealing with the threats and the problems on the international agenda.
MARCO ANTONIO SUAZO (Honduras) said the human security concept had important applications for economic and social development work, suggesting an approach that was aligned with the principles of the United Nations Charter. The Secretary-General’s report contained ideas on the types of applications useful to States, and could prove a good reference as the Assembly considered its various agenda items. After yesterday’s panel discussion, some States had raised doubts about its scope, and most recognized that it was not clearly defined and still required study. Contrary to the traditional concept of security, “human security” had broadened the concept to encompass human rights concerns in the pursuit of security. In that respect, the concept of human security was intimately linked to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals and other human development goals.
For its part, he said, Honduras had a consolidated human development policy in its national plan, aimed at bringing about domestic security. Indeed, the initiative of Japan and others to promote that concept was worthy of wide international attention; human security was vital to the survival of people in a globalized world, with all its attendant crises, and it was everyone’s responsibility to formulate policies to deal with those many varied threats.
JAVIER LOAYZA BAREA (Bolivia) said that, having considered the report, he considered the definition too abstract and imprecise for international application. The use of the concept in one country could not be automatically rolled out internationally, since many other considerations would come into play, such as respect for national sovereignty and even international security concerns. It was not sufficient to simply say that the concept did not imply the use of force; it was fundamental to establish a clear understanding that there could be no form of international interference in the domestic affairs of States.
He said the report left many questions open, such as what to do when weak Government institutions were found to be a cause of human insecurity. Who had the right to determine when a Government was weak? The financial crisis had been brought about by weak institutions in developed States and had led to serious human insecurity throughout the world — did that mean that the international community could intervene in the institutions of the North? Similarly, what was to be done regarding to price instabilities brought about by the policies of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank? What of the insecurity brought about by foreign military bases on peaceful continents, or of the use of genetically modified organisms that negatively affected human health and nature?
Continuing, he pointed out that the report called for countries to cooperate to reduce tension arising from climate change, but it did not discuss what to do with developed countries and their greenhouse gas emissions, or how they should settle their ecological debt to developing countries, which were other sources of human insecurity. In the future, the concept of human rights and human development might be linked to human security, but that should not open the door for the Security Council to occupy itself with matters not normally on its mandate. Well-being should not be framed as being free from fear. Rather, what States should be doing was to promote human life in harmony with nature, ensuring that human rights were protected, and bringing about justice, equity and sustainable development for the full enjoyment of human rights.
CHRISTIAN EBNER (Austria), associating himself with the European Union, said his country was strongly committed to human security through its membership in the Human Security Network. The Austrian Government appreciated efforts to carry the human security agenda forward within the United Nations system and saw the Secretary-General’s report as an “excellent basis” for discussions.
He listed three areas in which the concept had provided useful guidance to the Austrian Government — protection of civilians; women, peace and security; and children and armed conflict. Protection of civilians was a key priority during Austria’s current term as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. That was why it had taken the initiative to present a resolution on the protection of civilians — resolution 1894 (2009) — which addressed gaps in the Organization’s efforts to provide protection. It laid out concrete measures to improve the protection of civilians on the ground. No conflict justified breaches in international humanitarian law or the refusal of access for humanitarian workers to civilians in need. Equally, no conflict justified impunity for those who had committed serious crimes against civilians.
Referring next to Council resolution 1325 (2000) on women peace and security — which called for support for women’s participation, prevention of violence against women, their protection and their role in peacebuilding — he said Austria strongly welcomed the establishment of the post of Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Sexual Violence in Armed Conflict, and the appointment of Margot Wallström. In addition, Austria was also committed to the protection and assistance to children in situations of armed conflict.
FRANCISCO CARRIÓN-MENA (Ecuador) recognized that the Secretary-General’s report was a solid attempt to set out the various aspects of the concept of human security. He was certain that the Assembly’s discussions would lead to a consensus among Member States on all outstanding issues. Ecuador believed in undertaking all activities to provide better lives for all its citizens and, in that regard, had adopted a broad sustainable development policy. One aspect of that policy had been the decision to leave undisturbed substantial oil and natural gas reserves in one region of the country that was rich in those resources. By taking such a stand, Ecuador was protecting the traditional lands and resources of the indigenous people that lived in that area, as well as protecting its forest and other biodiversity.
He said that the policy also had international implications, especially since the decision not to drill for oil helped lower the overall level of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. Ecuador was pursuing sustainable development and human security in line with its own interests. In the international context, human security was a “work in progress”. Since it was a multidimensional concept that focused on human beings, it should examine the situation of migrants and displaced persons. The overall effort to apply the concept should be guided by the principles and purposes of the United Nations Charter, especially the respect for State sovereignty and territorial integrity. It should also aim to promote sustainable development. He hoped that the issue would continue to be discussed in the Assembly, where Member States could work together without fear or suspicion.
MONA JUUL (Norway), aligning herself with Costa Rica’s statement on behalf of the Human Security Network, said the time had come for all to give “human security” the attention it deserved, both at the national and the international stage. The concept “connects the dots” of an interdependent world. It also provided direction to the promotion of better policy coherence, in order to make policies for peace, human rights and development mutually re-enforcing through a framework for international cooperation that would enable the State and local communities to protect the freedom of their people — freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom to live in dignity — by empowering the individual human being.
She said the concept of “human security” had particular relevance in a world where rapid global integration had created not only great economic gains, but also an unprecedented concentration of wealth and power — thus undermining social stability and peace. It could do for protection and peace what the concept of human development had done for economic policy thinking, namely bring equality, fairness and justice into the equation.
MARÍA RUBIALES DE CHAMORRO (Nicaragua) welcomed the convening of the meeting so the concept of human security could be discussed in an open and transparent manner, especially since the international community had not reached a consensus on the issue. She was concerned that the Secretariat had undertaken certain activities to promote the concept. In fact, the genesis of the mandate of the Secretary-General’s report was unclear, since the Assembly’s 2005 World Summit had called for further activities to discuss and define the scope of the human security concept. That was what was happening in the world body right now. Nicaragua defined human security within the parameters of its own national development framework. That model should guide all States.
She said the individual Nicaraguan citizen was at the heart of the national development policy, which aimed to ensure equality and promote growth by overcoming poverty and eliminating hunger. A special focus was women, children and African descendents living in the country. Nicaragua believed that a citizen’s power also derived from shoring up Government institutions to make sure they addressed the needs of the people. She urged Member States to recognize that the subject of human security should continue to be discussed in the Assembly, where 192 States had a voice and a vote, and could hopefully come to a consensus conclusion. In the meantime, if the international community was really concerned about human security, it could make more effort to ensure that the Palestinian people could build a State on their own lands, that all States lived up to their official development assistance (ODA) commitments, and that no effort was spared to tackle the impact of global warming.
ISABELLE PICCO (Monaco) said upholding the right of people to live in freedom, shielded from poverty, misery, fear and need, was at the heart of all States’ concerns as the Assembly prepared to evaluate progress on the Millennium Development Goals. The Secretary-General’s first report on human security was significant in that it provided an outline of the evolution of the concept. In effect, the world had been working to ensure that all people, including the most vulnerable, could exercise their rights and realize their potential under equal terms. It was widely recognized by States that most modern-day threats were interlinked and transnational, demanding a coordinated response. Governments must, thus, build robust institutions to facilitate development, promote and respect the rule of law, forestall perilous situations by supporting early warning systems and identify the causes of problems to reduce their impact.
CLAUDIA BLUM ( Colombia) said the General Assembly was the most appropriate forum for States to examine and define the concept of human security. Given its implications, it was essential that there be broad participation by all States in Assembly discussions, so as to arrive at consensus. Colombia understood security as a condition occurring out of democracy, socially responsible investments and social cohesion based on freedoms. Its Government had taken action in each of those areas in line with notions on development, security and protection of rights, as expressed at the 2005 World Summit.
Human security should be defined in such a way as to promote friendly relations between countries, engender a sense of cooperation on socio-economic and cultural matters and promotion of human rights, and guarantee non-intervention in the domestic affairs of States. Human security should not change, but promote, the application of existing political agreements and international frameworks. The report mentioned the importance of the concept in dealing with complex threats, as well as its role in empowering individuals and prohibiting the use of force by States against other States. In addition to that, she said, a final definition must clearly delineate the responsibility of States that could not be delegated elsewhere. The Assembly must also determine areas where the concept was applicable. It should examine other problems not mentioned in the report, where human security was a factor. Above all, there needed to be intergovernmental consensus on the issue, in order for States to make headway.
SAID MOHAMED OUSSEIN (Comoros) said it was important to examine the human security concept in light of the responsibility to protect, the right to development and the protection and promotion of human rights. His delegation believed that the report had served to alleviate many of the concerns that most Member States had. The document should serve as an important tool for regional structures to examine the links between security and development. He believed that discussions on the concept should continue in the Assembly and that Member States should devote more attention to ensuring sustainable development for all and promoting human rights for all.
ALPHA IBRAHIMA SOW (Guinea) said the Secretary-General’s report took stock of initiatives and major programmes devoted to human security undertaken by Member States and United Nations agencies. His delegation had participated in many discussions on the issue and was pleased to see a consensus emerging on the need to adopt people-centred strategies that were based on the principles of the Charter. The African Union took a human-centred approach that sought to ensure good governance and sustainable development.
Guinea believed it was essential to develop and expand human security projects, especially in fragile and post-conflict States. The United Nations was the best forum to pursue that aim, particularly as there was a dire need to bolster cooperation to address challenges in such areas as climate change, peacebuilding and poverty eradication, among others. More attention should be paid to those countries that might fall short of the Millennium Development Goals. Moreover, he urged the Assembly to remember that HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis remained the main causes of maternal and infant mortality on the planet. He called for renewed political will and innovative ideas to generate more resources for the Human Security Trust Fund.
COLLIN BECK (Solomon Islands), associating himself with the Pacific Islands Forum and the small island developing States, noted that ambiguity in the concept’s definition had to do with another concept — the responsibility to protect. But, at the end of the day, for the Solomon Islands, human security was about poverty eradication, sustainable development and global action to guarantee the survival of the most vulnerable. It was also about correcting imbalances in the world, where some had too much food and others did not have enough. The world was getting more militarized and human rights principles continued to be politicized, making application of the concept distant and vague. As a country emerging from conflict in 1999, his country’s calls for assistance during a period of ethnic conflict had not been heard until 2003, when neighbours in the region had come to its aid. What was troubling was that concepts might look good on paper, but in practice, their application was at times left wanting, such as the Peacebuilding Commission, which had only reached out to four countries.
He said systematic approaches to many of the world’s problems — correcting the international system, including concluding the Doha Round; making globalization work for all; getting a legally binding agreement on climate change; creating a global fund on health pandemics; and halting the production of weapons — were left out as solutions. Also, he wanted to note that the Secretary-General’s report had yet to address questions raised at the last debate. It was proposing a fragmented approach to addressing global issues through country-based projects. It was also creating a false sense of stability, by addressing symptoms rather than causes. As disasters made fragile countries more vulnerable, the historical responsibility of those that triggered the problems was overlooked. If the world was to take corrective measures, commitments to mechanisms such as the Brussels Programme of Action and others must be honoured. There must also be a stronger relationship between the United Nations and countries, with a United Nations country presence a must. Long-distance relationships weakened multilateralism.
LA YIFAN (China) said the concept of human security pertained to many different fields, and his delegation considered that it was still a broad and abstract idea that did not enjoy international consensus. Member States needed to engage in further discussion on the matter to arrive at a clearer definition of the concept and mechanisms through which it would be applied. In all that, China believed that Governments retained the primary responsibility of ensuring the security of their citizens.
The international community and global and regional structures could provide assistance, but while doing so, they must respect the wishes of countries concerned, as well as respect the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter. He said that, in the current international system, developing countries continued to face serious challenges. The wider international community should, therefore, strengthen its efforts to address the “development challenge”, especially for African nations and least developed countries, and help them build their capacities towards achieving sustainable development.
ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran) said that, while it would be nice “if we could expunge our memories”, the current unjust international system remained intact and the powerful few continued to rule — and make the rules — regardless of how the weak suffered. “The discussions and the way they are conducted, for instance in this very building, leave very little space for putting one’s faith in the current international system and multilateral architecture,” he said, expressing particular trepidation about the selectivity of the issues placed before the Organization, from last year’s discussion on the responsibility to protect to this week’s debate on human security. There was no consensus on human security. The debate on that concept was yet another example of selectivity, where certain subjects were being considered, not because of their merits or for what they could contribute to humanity as a whole, but because of their appeal to a few.
“Concepts are regularly and cynically misrepresented, taken out of context or applied arbitrarily against a few, whenever and however desirable by the most powerful,” he continued. The tendency to promote human security, as currently understood, as the panacea for all humanity’s misfortunes was an attempt to create a “mega concept” that bundled the three pillars of the United Nations work: development, peace and security, and human rights. Without a clear definition, the concept could be easily misinterpreted and misused. He stressed that the current understanding of human security seemed to overlook the root causes of the myriad crises facing humankind.
Most of the crises were not due to the lack of human security, and would not be cured by using it, he said. He stressed that a host of recent crises — from food and energy price spikes to financial turmoil — had been systemic in nature and could only be tackled at that level. Indeed, tackling them required first addressing long-standing inequalities and persistent systemic failures driven by the “misconduct of a few at the expense of suffering of the rest”. If, as advocates of the concept claimed, the concept aimed to address root causes, perhaps they should consider that the same five countries were the main sources of “human insecurity” on the planet, in that they, among other things, spent the most on arms; derived the highest incomes from the arms trade; were the main destinations of illicit financial flows and victims of human trafficking; and the main greenhouse gas emitters. Member States should continue to probe the root causes of human insecurity and who were the main entities responsible for it. That would be a vital starting point towards ensuring sustained human security for all.
KHALID MOHAMMED OSMAN SIDAHMED MOHAMMED ALI (Sudan) said human security was a long-standing concern for humankind. For instance, in Islam, the Koran dedicated a special chapter to freedom from want and fear. Perhaps other religions had similar references. For its part, the Assembly had not yet reached a clear-cut definition, yet the Trust Fund had already embarked on activities in the area of human security. That being the case, States should agree, through the General Assembly, on a practical definition on which the United Nations should base its actions. Such a definition should pay full respect to international law and principles of the United Nations Charter, such as respect for national sovereignty, non-interference and respect for the territorial integrity of States. It should acknowledge the primary role of States in determining security needs, and that security issues were a matter of national ownership that could only be addressed with the prior consent of States.
He noted that definitions of human security differed from one region to another, although there were many international threats faced by all countries in common: climate change; poverty; armed conflict; high food and energy prices; small arms proliferation; financial crisis; foreign occupation; and unilateral sanctions. Human security should not be politicized by “those who created crises”. Instead, the concept of human security should be used as a platform for providing United Nations and international support to tackle regional threats or even national threats. Preventive diplomacy by the United Nations was, at times, pivotal for achieving sustainable development.
DJAMEL MOKTEFI ( Algeria) said the report took stock of advances in human security under various definitions, providing food for thought. It outlined country experiences. But, any decision taken on the issue would necessary fall under the ambit of the General Assembly. In pursuing those discussions, States must conform to United Nations Charter principles, specifically those concerning respect for national sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in the domestic affairs of States, as well as respect for the rights of people under foreign occupation.
He pointed to the possibility that human security could be used as pretext to interfere in the internal affairs of countries, and wondered about the meaning of one passage in the Secretary-General’s report asserting that human security could not be applied through the use of force. For him, that language created the opposite effects of giving rise to suspicion rather than comfort. The report also outlined a framework for partnerships between citizens and Governments, but it was unclear whether human security principles were circumscribed by the State. He asked for clarity on human security and its link to the responsibility to protect. He thought that human security was separate from that principle, and could only be applied with the consent, and at the request of, a particular State.
To dispel confusion, he asked for clarification, as well, on the difference between human security and the concepts of sustainable development, human development and social development. He feared that the new concept could take States further from their goal of identifying and tackling existing challenges. As it stood, the concept was too broad, and might lead to an absence of clarity and analytical rigour. It would be premature to make any decisions on how to integrate the concept of human security into United Nations activities.
ALYA AHMED AL-THANI (Qatar) said the concept of human security must be discussed within an intergovernmental framework, particularly since there was no consensus on the topic. The concept of human security was not new and her delegation welcomed the concept’s noble objectives. But, the application of that concept should adhere to international law and the aims of the United Nations Charter. While the report touched on many issues, it ignored matters related to foreign occupation and the use of force. There was a nexus between security, development and human rights, and Qatar’s relevant policies were people-centred in order to safeguard individual rights. One of the foremost of those aims was to ensure adequate education for all. Qatar would continue to work with other States to discuss and further refine the concept of human security.
TOUFIC JABER (Lebanon) said that, in considering the value of the concept of human security, it was important to note the increase in interaction between peoples, sectors and challenges around the world, as well as the fact that civilians were paying the heaviest price in modern conflicts, thus increasing the interconnectedness of the three pillars of the United Nations — security, development and human rights. It was true that a narrow understanding of security in that context might omit consideration of grave risks to persons, such as poverty, climate change, occupation and migration.
On the other hand, he asked if those risks would be easier to handle and mitigate if they were bundled into one concept. Despite other legal and conceptual international frameworks, fragrant violations of human rights were rampant and millions still suffered from famine. While the question of the proper framework was discussed, he reasserted his country’s support, without compromise, for the “right of peoples and individuals to be free from fear, free from want and free to exercise their right to live in freedom, with dignity”.
CARLISLE RICHARDSON (Saint Kitts and Nevis) said his country was a small island developing State that was also a heavily indebted middle-income country. Those characteristics had placed it in a precarious position, vulnerable to shocks, yet beyond the periphery of urgent attention. Too often, it was given cursory consideration. For that reason, his country saw one aspect of human security as the need for its people to be free from the fear of underdevelopment and all that that entailed. Being dependant on donors, Saint Kitts and Nevis had seen its economic options wither away. In turn, crime was on the rise among youth. Non-communicable diseases and infectious diseases were also a threat, as was climate change. As they continue to discuss the issue, States should ensure that they looked beyond their national interests and maintained an international focus. Freedom from fear and want, and the right to live in dignity were rights to be delivered to the entire international community, not just a select few.
ALEXANDER LOMAIA (Georgia) said one of the key dimensions of the human security concept focused on the necessity of dealing with the humanitarian consequences of wars and military conflicts. In that context, he pointed out two specific issues: the rights of displaced populations; and the promotion of human rights in occupied territories. While reversing the military and political consequences of foreign invasion and subsequent occupation might take years, something his region had witnessed during recent years, addressing the attendant humanitarian and human rights concerns was more urgent. Such concerns must be part of the human security concept.
He went on to say that the concept included the responsibility of any occupying Power to allow for unhindered humanitarian access, and it should spell out unequivocally solutions when populations were denied the right to receive an education in their mother tongue, were forced to participate in hostilities or were subjected to harassment because of their ethnicity. Concluding, he expressed the strong hope that the issues he had raised would be integrated into the ongoing negotiations on the concept of human security. The concept was multifaceted, and its comprehensiveness came from its very important humanitarian and human rights components.
ENKHTSETSEG OCHIR (Mongolia) said that, even though human security was still evolving, Member States could nevertheless use the broad-based definition of the concept, which encompassed freedom from fear, freedom from want and the freedom to live in dignity, as an important policymaking tool to address multifaceted challenges in today’s interconnected world. Mongolia believed human security could become a powerful force for reforming the United Nations and adapting it to the challenges of the twenty-first century. At the same time, the Organization was the best place to refine and advance the concept, and she believed it should be considered an issue that cut across major areas of the world body’s work. Going forward, more focus should be on vulnerable groups and countries hardest hit by crisis and threats such as climate change.
“As we see it, human security means safety for people from both violent and non-violent threats. […] It also entails empowering people and providing an environment for everyone to develop his or her potential and live a decent life,” she said. As a member of the Friends of Human Security, Mongolia was strongly committed to the concept and to promoting human-centred development. The country’s 1994 national security concept identified the advancement of human security as one of the fundamental pillars of strengthening national security. The Government had also established, last November, a human development fund designed to pool revenues from the country’s mining sector and implement targeted social transfers to alleviate the burden of the poor and vulnerable.
She said Mongolia was struggling to offset the impact of one of the country’s most severe dzuds, or extremely snowy winter, in which livestock were unable to find fodder through the snow cover and large numbers of animals died due to starvation and the cold. Some 7.5 million animals had been lost in the dzud, and 15 of the nation’s 21 provinces, home to some 800,000 people, had been declared disaster zones. The Government had undertaken a number of efforts and the public and private sectors had organized nationwide assistance campaigns. Yet, the breadth of the disaster had prompted the United Nations and the Government to launch a consolidated appeal last week for some $18 million to help bolster Mongolia’s disaster preparedness and response mechanisms. She singled out the Human Security Trust Fund, which had financed a number of projects aimed at providing social services and fostering human security in remote rural areas of the country.
KARINE KHOUDAVERDIAN (Armenia) said the noble goals of the evolving human security process, such as the promotion of peace and stability and the advancement of sustainable development at national, regional and international levels, required the full attention of all Member States. Her delegation appreciated the challenges regarding the efforts to define human security highlighted in the Secretary-General’s report, and agreed with others during the Assembly’s debate that it was important to focus on crucial areas such as human rights, economic development, social justice, climate change and environmental protection.
As Chair of the Commission on the Status of Women, she stressed the importance of protecting and empowering women, especially since the challenge of ensuring gender equality continued to undermine the security of women around the world. Moreover, women and children were disproportionately impacted by threats such as armed conflict and the spread of HIV/AIDS. With that in mind, she said, Member States must continue taking concrete steps to implement the Beijing Platform for Action and the Assembly’s special session “Women 2000”. Specifically on human security, she noted the concern that the concept might duplicate the United Nations work in such crucial areas. As such, it would be necessary to define the concept precisely “in order not to create tension between it and other concepts and development issues”.
* *** *For information media • not an official record