|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Sixty-sixth General Assembly
112th Meeting (AM)
Human Security ‘More than an Abstract Concept’ — for Hungry Family, It’s Food
on the Table, for Refugee, it’s Shelter from Conflict, General Assembly Told
Deputy Secretary-General: as Consensus Sought, There Was Progress ‘on the Ground’;
Assembly President: Time for Agreement on Common Understanding, Application to UN
With General Assembly delegations gathered to seek common ground on the concept of human security and its possible application in the work of the United Nations, senior officials called for comprehensive, people-centred strategies to tackle current and emerging threats, so millions of people struggling each day with a sense of profound insecurity could “build towards a future that is more peaceful and prosperous for all”.
Reminding Member States that human security “is more than an abstract concept”, Deputy Secretary-General Asha Rose-Migiro said that, indeed, for a hungry family, human security meant dinner on the table. For a refugee, it was shelter and a safe haven from the storms of conflict or disaster. For a woman caught in conflict, it was protection from harm. And for a child living in poverty, it was the chance to go to school.
“This concept goes beyond threats to physical safety. People around the world suffer abiding fears and anxiety because they lack enough food, a place to live, a job, health care, education, and the freedom to live in dignity,” she told the meeting, convened to discuss a new report by the Secretary-General outlining key aspects towards forming a common understanding on human security based on the views expressed during consultations with Member States; and identifying areas where its application could bring added value to the Organization’s work (document A/66/763).
Human security called for people-centred, holistic actions that helped Governments and communities to strengthen early warning about looming crises, identify the causes of insecurity, and take steps to close policy gaps. “Even as we continue to work for a consensus on a common understanding of human security, there is progress on the ground,” she continued, noting that the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security had supported over 200 projects in 70 countries. The Fund’s resources were making a measurable difference in people’s lives, she said.
In just over two weeks, the international community would have an important opportunity to further advance the cause of human security at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, known as “Rio+20” after the Brazilian city in which it would be held. A once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform ideas and aspirations into bold action, Rio+20 should also provide mechanisms that “stimulate our economies to create decent jobs; provide social protection to the poor and vulnerable; and support a healthy environment. This will significantly advance human security,” she said.
In opening remarks, Assembly President Nassir Abdulaziz al-Nasser said that the international community was recognizing more and more that the well-being and dignity of people were fundamental to long-term security, peace and development. “The contemporary challenges facing us are the very issues that we have at the top of our agenda in the General Assembly,” he continued, noting that recent discussions on those issues had made it clear that the nature of modern-day adversity required more holistic, integrated and sustainable solutions.
It was in such a context that the United Nations could serve in addressing the broader issues around human security. People’s insecurities were linked across all three pillars of security, development and human rights. “There is an urgent need to bring policies and institutions together in a far more effective way than the stand-alone or fragmented responses that we see,” he said, stressing also that addressing human security required that the international community bring together those dealing with those three pillars to advance comprehensive and integrated solutions that were focused on people, their protection and the environment.
“In this way, we can address the root causes of vulnerabilities,” he said. Commending the work that had been carried out thus far to advance the human security agenda, he said that now it was time for Member States to “take a momentous step forward” and strive to achieve consensus on a common understanding of the concept and how it could be best applied to the activities of the United Nations. Such a step should help move politics and actions towards new and more sustainable consideration and more effective international collaborations.
When delegations took the floor to weigh in on the issue, all applauded the Secretary-General’s comprehensive and well thought-out assessment, with most speakers strongly supporting the notion of human security. Several delegations, including Thailand and Australia, provided specific examples of how their respective Governments’ policy responses — “even if we don’t label it as such” — applied the concept of human security to address multidimensional challenges. Most delegations stressed the need to ensure that individuals and communities lived free of fear and free from want.
However, several speakers said they remained cautious about many aspects of the concept, with some stressing that it should only deal with development issues identified by Governments concerned and that it must never include the use or threat of use of force. Many speakers reiterated that the concept must not be linked in any way to the controversial “responsibility to protect”, and supported the Secretary-General’s recommendation that human security must respect the United Nations Charter principles regarding State sovereignty. But, others said that coming to a “common understanding” rather than agreeing on a solid definition would be a licence for powerful countries to intervene in their internal affairs.
“Who will it protect?” “What values does it promote?” “By what means will the threats in question be addressed?” Those were among the questions posed by Venezuela’s representative, who echoed the call of several other speakers when he said that the current international environment was unequal and that “certain States and elites” held disproportionate power, which they used at the expense of others.
“Implementation of the concept of human security must be grounded in development and not weapons,” he said, stressing that such security could only be possible if the patterns of income, consumption and lifestyles were restructured, if all military bases were closed, if military aid was transformed into economic aid, if equitable access to global markets was ensured for poor countries, and if the major international financial institutions were overhauled. Finally, he said the concept “must not, under any circumstances, serve as a Trojan Horse for topics under the jurisdiction of the General Assembly to be incorporated into the agenda of the Security Council”. The human security agenda must focus on development and, as such, efforts to advance it must remain under the Assembly’s purview.
Speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network, the representative of Jordan said that his delegation commended the decision to seek a common understanding, “as we find the notion of human security better described as a number of agreed parameters rather than a precise definition”. What mattered was that within such a common understanding, the three pillars of human security — peace and security, human rights and development — received equal attention.
Each Member of the Human Security Network was encouraged to freely prioritize the topics they were most concerned with. The same should apply to all United Nations Member States. Indeed, at the end of the day, helping people on the ground was what really mattered. Any debate about the common understanding should not divert attention from taking action to improve human security for people all over the world. Finally, the Network, with Jordan as the group’s chair, would be co-facilitating negotiations on a new resolution on human security, together with Japan.
For his part, Japan’s representative said that human security was a tool for assisting Governments in identifying widespread and cross-cutting threats to the prosperity of their people and the stability of their sovereignty, by emphasizing the interlinkages among the three pillars of the United Nations system, namely, peace and security, development and human rights. He also stressed that potential misinterpretation or misuse of human security should be avoided in its application.
Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, Egypt, Cuba, Mexico, Switzerland, Russian Federation, South Africa, Costa Rica, India, Brazil, Chile, Malaysia, Pakistan, Syria, Iran, China and Philippines.
The representative of the delegation of the European Union also spoke.
In other business, the Assembly, acting on the recommendation of its Fifth Committee (Administrate and budgetary), appointed Hitoshi Kozaki of Japan as a member of the United Nations Staff Pension Committee for a term of office beginning today and ending on 31 December 2012.
The General Assembly had before it the Secretary-General’s report on human security that serves as a follow-up to the outcome of the Millennium Summit (document A/66/763). The report has been prepared based on General Assembly resolution 64/291, in which the body requested the Secretary-General to seek the views of Member States on the notion of human security, including a possible definition, and submit a report to its sixty-sixth session.
In the present report, the Assembly is requested to consider the text and agree upon a common understanding on human security as outlined in section VII; support the application of human security in the work of the Organization and to discuss with the different entities of the United Nations system on how best to apply human security in United Nations activities; take note of the lessons learned from project activities funded by the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security and to expand the application of human security to the national and sub-national levels; encourage Member States to give financial support to the valuable work of the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security; invite the Secretary-General to report on progress in applying human security in United Nations activities and the lessons learned in its application at the national and sub-national levels to the General Assembly every two years.
The Assembly also had before it the Fifth Committee’s report on appointment of members and alternate members of the United Nations Staff Pension Committee (document A/66/544/Add.1).
NASSIR ABDULAZIZ AL-NASSER, President of the General Assembly, said that concerns for human security were not new; civilizations past and present had placed the survival, livelihoods and dignity of their peoples at the forefront of their aspirations. Yet, the world today was becoming increasingly interlinked, and major events tended to impact human insecurities within and across countries. “The greatest threats facing the world today cannot be solved in isolation,” he said, adding that the international community was recognizing more and more that the well-being and dignity of people were fundamental to long-term security, peace and development.
People’s aspirations were routinely frustrated and left unrealized when they were faced with sudden economic and financial crises, natural disasters, violent conflicts, as well as with other adversities, such as human trafficking, health challenges and massive population displacement. Continuing, he said that such threats could also evolve into broader and more intractable crises that all too often moved from national and regional levels to become international security challenges. “The contemporary challenges facing us are the very issues that we have at the top of our agenda in the General Assembly,” he said, noting that recent discussions on those issues had made clear that the nature of modern-day challenges required more holistic, integrated and sustainable solutions.
It was in such a context, he said, that the United Nations could serve in addressing the broader issues around human security. People’s insecurities were linked across all three pillars of security, development and human rights. “There is an urgent need to bring policies and institutions together in a far more effective way than the stand-alone or fragmented responses that we see,” he said, stressing also that addressing human security required that the international community bring together those dealing with those three pillars to advance comprehensive and integrated solutions that were focused on people, their protection and the environment. “In this way, we can address the root causes of vulnerabilities,” he said.
Human security provided a viable framework to bring various approaches into a coherent and concerted effort that put people at the forefront of decision-making. That dynamic and practical framework would recognize the need for differentiation based on varying contexts. “It capitalizes on our competitive advantages, bringing about better targeted, better coordinated and more cost-effective responses,” he said, explaining that all this called for nationally-driven solutions that were embedded in local realities. It should also strengthen the capacities and resilience of Governments, communities and individuals. “And with its focus on prevention, addressing human security in this strategic manner, will compel us to be proactive,” he said.
Commending the work that had been carried out thus far to advance the human security agenda, he said that now, it was time for Member States to “take a momentous step forward” and strive to achieve consensus on a common understanding of the concept and how it could be best applied to the activities of the United Nations. Such a step should help more politics and actions towards new and more sustainable consideration and more effective international collaborations. “With human security strengthened, I believe people can reach their full potential, thrive in the present and build towards a future that is more peaceful and prosperous for all,” he declared.
ASHA-ROSE MIGIRO, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General, said that while today, Member States were carrying forward years of discussions on human security they should remember that it was more than an abstract concept. For a hungry family, human security means dinner on the table. For a refugee, human security was shelter and a safe haven from the storms of conflict or disaster. For a woman caught in conflict, it was protection from harm. And for a child living in poverty, it was the chance to go to school. “This concept goes beyond threats to physical safety. People around the world suffer abiding fears and anxiety because they lack enough food, a place to live, a job, health care, education and the freedom to live in dignity,” he said.
Human security called for people-centred, holistic actions that helped Governments and communities to strengthen early warning about looming crises, identify the causes of insecurity, and take steps to close policy gaps. “Even as we continue to work for a consensus on a common understanding of human security, there is progress on the ground,” she continued, noting that the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security had supported over 200 projects in 70 countries. The Fund’s resources were making a measurable difference in people’s lives.
From rebuilding war-ravaged communities to protecting people exposed to extreme poverty, economic shocks and natural disasters, the Fund, she said, “is creating change that lasts.” It was responding to the complex problem of traffic in people, arms and illicit substances. And it was helping reduce and prevent violence in cities. “I hope that the valuable lessons learned from the Trust Fund’s projects can be applied to other United Nations activities around the world,” she added.
She went on to sad that the international community had an important opportunity to advance the cause of human security in just over two weeks at the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro, known as “Rio+20”. That Conference would be a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform ideas and aspirations into bold action for sustainable development. The run-up to Rio had already borne fruit. The themes of the conference had generated a global debate – on equity, on the green economy in the context of eradicating poverty, and on the institutional framework for sustainable development.
“The issues are complex, and that is reflected in the intensity of the negotiations. But we see great engagement from Governments, and we expect up to 130 Heads of State and Government to attend,” she said, adding that such political officials would be joined by an estimated 50,000 business leaders, mayors, activists and investors. Rio should provide the international community with a new roadmap for sustainable development. One of the most important deliverables should be agreement on a process to define a set of sustainable development goals that would build on the Millennium Development Goals.
“ Rio should also provide mechanisms that stimulate our economies to create decent jobs; provide social protection to the poor and vulnerable; and support a healthy environment. This will significantly advance human security,” she said, urging Member States to carry out their discussions with the goal of helping the millions of people who struggled each day with a sense of profound insecurity and who deserved to overcome poverty and despair, and live in freedom and dignity.
IOANNIS VRAILAS, the representative of the delegation of the European Union, said the promotion of human security was one of the Union’s priorities for the sixty-sixth General Assembly. The three pillars of the United Nations were interdependent and should mutually reinforce each other. As the landmark Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development approached, it was appropriate to reaffirm that sustainable development could not be achieved without respecting and promoting democracy, human rights, the rule of law, good governance, education, the role of youth and gender equality. The Secretary-General’s report rightly recalled that human security was about linking the three pillars through the protection and empowerment of individuals. The respect for all human rights and the rule of law should remain at the core of any application of the human security approach. Human rights should be mainstreamed and integrated into all aspects of the work of the United Nations, including human security.
As for areas of United Nations work where the human security approach could be applied, the Union noted with appreciation the Secretary-General’s non-exhaustive list of proposals, he said. The Union understood security in a broad, holistic manner. Indeed, preventing threats from becoming sources of conflict early on was at the heart of its approach to security. Human security in peacebuilding should also include the conflict prevention dimension, which implied building strong civil societies, developing early warning systems, providing mediation and advancing gender empowerment. Special attention should also be paid to countries’ post-conflict threats, focusing on areas ranging from reconciliation services to mine clearance, depending on the country’s needs. Pursuit of the Millennium Development Goals, in particular ensuring food and nutrition security for the estimated 1 billion people suffering from chronic hunger, remained a major concern and key priority for the European Union. Other areas of work were also worth exploring, including areas where the potential for enhanced cross-regional cooperation existed, such as the attention to vulnerable groups, persons with disabilities or the protection of women and children, and including in situations of armed conflict.
The concept of human security was open to a variety of different interpretations and the Secretary-General’s application of human security should not add additional layers to the work of the United Nations, he said. In line with the programmatic and action-oriented approach, it would be important to extract lessons and best practices from existing projects in the field. The European Union welcomed that over 200 projects had been carried out with the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security.
ZEID RA’AD ZEID AL-HUSSEIN (Jordan), speaking on behalf of the Human Security Network, said the focus of the notion was on the protection of individuals from critical and pervasive threats to their physical and psychological safety, dignity and well-being. Special attention should be paid to vulnerable groups, including persons with disabilities, as well as children and women. The Human Security Network was of the view that there should be no general prioritization of certain threats over others and, in that sense, supported the notion contained in the report of a non-exhaustive list of threats. Prioritizing only certain areas would mean conceiving of threats as separate and independent problems, whereas in reality they were interconnected and often mutually reinforcing.
What further qualified threats as “human security threats” was that they were critical and pervasive, he said. They threatened to cut into the core activities and functions of human lives. Threats to human security were also pervasive, in that they were large-scale and widespread. To illustrate, in the Network’s collective experience, such threats had included environmental pollution, natural and man-made disasters, armed conflicts, their impact on civilians and the peacebuilding efforts in their aftermath, challenges to ensuring food and nutrition security, health and the impact of financial and economic crises, as well as the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms.
He said threats to human security should be prevented from becoming sources of conflict early on. Peacebuilding should, therefore, include a conflict prevention dimension, which implied building strong and prosperous communities, vibrant civil societies, developing early warming systems, promoting national reconciliation and strengthening capacities for peaceful mediation and advancing gender empowerment and the equal participation of women in decision-making processes. Special attention should be also paid to countries’ post-conflict threats, focusing on areas ranging from reconciliation services to mine clearance, depending on the country’s needs. The realization of human security might involve not only Governments, but a broader range of different actors such as civil society, regional and international organizations, non-governmental organizations, local communities and the private sector. Each Member of the Human Security Network was encouraged to freely prioritize the topics they were most concerned with. The same should apply to all United Nations Member States. Indeed, at the end of the day, helping people on the ground was what really mattered. Any debate about the common understanding should not divert attention from taking action to improve human security for people all over the world. Finally, the Network, with Jordan as the group’s chair, would be co-facilitating negotiations on a new resolution on human security, together with Japan.
JOHN F. SAMMIS (United States) welcomed the Secretary-General’s report, and emphasized his Government’s belief that the concept of human security - as it was focused on the individual - was reflected in the fundamental values that had become part of the core principles of the United States; including the freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. The United States believed that the concept provided a valuable framework for global progress and development, including towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.
He went on to say that his delegation agreed with the report’s focus on the connection of human security to human rights and sustainable development. As discussions progressed on the concept, the focus should be on what Governments could do to protect, promote and ensure the social, economic and political rights of their citizens. When Governments did that, it was not only nations that thrived, but individuals. He said that efforts should also be made to identify ways the concept of human security could be advanced throughout the United Nations system and to carry forward the Organization’s work to protect people from such threats as poverty, hunger and social exclusion.
MOOTAZ AHMADEIN KHALIL (Egypt) thanked the Secretary-General for his “comprehensive and well-balanced” report, which identified the main features of the concept of human security and which took into account the reservations many Member States had regarding the possible definition, scope and use – or misuse – of that concept. The report reaffirmed that the concept should not entail the use or threat of use of force and that it should be implemented in line with the United Nations Charter, especially the respect for State sovereignty and territorial integrity. It also clarified that the notion of human security was distinct from the responsibility to protect, both theoretically and in terms of implementation, he said, adding that the Secretary-General’s report also recognized that Governments retained the primary role for achieving the security, development and human rights parameters of human security for their own people.
“We have to recognize that the prolonged discussion of the concept of human security over the last several years was not questioning the value of the concept itself, but rather it reflected the suspicion that it might be used to justify unwanted interventions in vulnerable countries for political reasons irrespective of the real needs and priorities of their peoples and at the expense of their social and political stability,” he said. The Secretary-General’s report had addressed such suspicions head-on, and had provided clear examples of activities that were not controversial and which did not provide much room for misuse.
At the same time, Egypt would suggest that, to advance work on the concept and to provide the necessary assurances that it would not be misused, the next phase of the discussions should focus on methods of application in the work of the United Nations. Those should include, among others, that the application of that concept should not be considered in the Security Council, but rather always by the General Assembly, where all members had the right to participate in the decision-making process. It should never include the use of force and be based on the consent of concerned States. He said that Egypt also believed the application of the concept must be decided upon “by consensus if not unanimity.” Those simple safeguards would contribute to unlocking the debate on human security and would provide a bulwark against future abuse of the concept.
NADIESKA NAVARRO BARRO ( Cuba) said the well-prepared report struck a better balance among Member States’ views than other similar attempts to tackle the concept of human security. She recalled that the 2005 World Summit had noted the need to agree on a definition of that concept, while the report before the Assembly did not call for deciding on what human security was, but on agreeing on a “common understanding.” Such a move might be fraught with troubling challenges and lead to long, drawn out discussions that would not help advance the matter.
She said that Cuba believed the concept should be considered as different from the “responsibility to protect”; it should never be accompanied by the use or threat of use of force; and it should comply with the tenets of the United Nations Charter, including State sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs. Moreover, the concept should not generate new legal obligations for Member States. She said that Cuba continued to believe that the main global threats to human security lay in the continuing arms race, the threat of global nuclear war, climate change and the persistence of an unfair and inequitable economic order. There could be no human security while the super-Powers spent more on arms than on saving lives. There could be no human security unless the right to development was seen as a priority for countries of the South. And there could be no human security while the environment was under increasing threat from unchecked production and consumption. Finally, she said that all discussion on the concept of human security must take place within the framework of the General Assembly.
YANERIT MORGAN ( Mexico) said any confusion should be avoided with regard to the notion of human security, and its scope should not be broadened to include any legal obligations. There were three added values offered by the human security approach. First, the application of human security in the decision-making of States would help implement their policies. Second, human security served as a catalyst for such United Nations goals as development and human rights. Third, the notion of human security empowered individuals and communities and shielded them from threats to security.
Human security complemented State Security and vice versa, she said. Those two concepts were mutually enhancing. Mexico supported the Secretary-General’s recommendations in the report, as well as the important activity of the United Nations Trust Fund on Human Security. She stressed the importance of enhancing the work of the United Nations, Governments and other actors.
JOSÉ LAUTARO DE LAS OVALLES COLMENARES ( Venezuela) said his delegation remained cautious about implementation of the concept of human security, as there was, among other things, still no agreed definition. “Who will it protect?” “What values does it promote?” “By what means will the threats in question be addressed?” Meanwhile, Venezuela recognized the innovative contribution made by the 1994 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) report on human security, and shared the view set out therein that development policies must be focused on the welfare of individuals and communities and mot simply in macroeconomic indicators.
He said Venezuela also shared the position that the current international environment was unequal and that “certain States and elites” held disproportionate power, which they used at the expense of others. “Implementation of the concept of human security must be grounded in development and not weapons,” he said, stressing that such security could only be possible if the patterns of income, consumption and lifestyles were restructured, if all military bases were closed, if military aid was transformed into economic aid, if equitable access to global markets was ensured for poor countries, and if the major international financial institutions were overhauled.
While acknowledging that the Secretary-General’s report stressed that human security must be based on the Charter, he said the concept “must not, under any circumstances, serve as a Trojan Horse for topics under the jurisdiction of the General Assembly to be incorporated in to the agenda of the Security Council”. The human security agenda must focus on development, and as such, efforts to advance it must remain under the Assembly’s purview.
TSUNEO NISHIDA ( Japan) highlighted three points addressed in the Secretary-General’s report. First, it provided a clear and comprehensive picture of Human Security by illustrating the course of discussion on it, its core values and its scope. As a result, the report presented a common understanding on human security based on the views expressed by Member States. Second, the report indicated States retain the primary role for ensuring the survival, livelihood and dignity of their populations. Japan was of the view that human security was a tool for assisting Governments in identifying widespread and cross-cutting threats to the prosperity of their people and the stability of their sovereignty, by emphasizing the inter-linkages among the three pillars of the United Nations system, namely, peace and security, development and human rights.
Third, the report articulated that “human security does not entail the threat or the use of force and is implemented with full respect for the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations,” he said. Japan stressed that potential misinterpretation or misuse of Human Security should be avoided in its application. The report made a clear distinction between human security and the responsibility to protect in line with separate provisions in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Resolution.
The notion of human security was already being applied to policies and measures carried out both at national and regional levels, including the African Union, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), as well as United Nations agencies, including United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), he said. Recognizing the role of the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, Mr. Nishida announced his country’s new contribution of $10 million to the Fund. Japan, together with other like-minded countries, was preparing to propose a new resolution, to agree on a common understanding and to further promote human security. Member States were invited to informal consultations co-chaired by Japan and Jordan, the chair of the Human Security Network.
DAMIAN WHITE ( Australia) said that comprehensive, integrated and people-centred approaches to global policy concerns were becoming more important than ever, as challenges became more complex. Protecting and empowering populations was essential to shaping long-term, effective and sustainable responses because it built capacities, understanding and resilience among communities and individuals. “We need to ensure our collective actions are not fragmented, that they focus on prevention and that they benefit directly affected populations,” he said, adding that the human security concept provided a normative framework to do just that, which was the reason Australia supported it.
“Many of us have grappled with how to define the concept of human security,” he continued, but, he said the situation of small countries, and specifically small island developing States, provided a gripping example of what it meant. Small island countries grappled with simultaneous threats of sea-level rise, extreme weather events, declining fish stocks and changes in traditional patters of subsistence agriculture. For such countries, the interconnectedness of such threats was unambiguous; the need for a comprehensive approach to ensure the ongoing security of their populations was clear. The concept of human security provided an effective framework for such as response, he said, noting that many States had already begun to place the principle at the core of their responses to multidimensional threats “even if we do not label it as such”.
“Our collective actions to combat food insecurity, for example, recognize the intersections between the root causes of conflict, the effects of drought, famine, population growth, ongoing distortions in world food markets and additional factors such as climate change,” he continued, stressing that in recognizing the need for broad context-specific response, such actions were, effectively, human security in practice. An essential aspect of all of that was enabling citizens to live in dignity and without fear of physical harm. He called for a focus on local security challenges and stressed Australia’s belief that humanitarian and security programmes to combat land mines and light weapons were essential parts of development. Overall, he said the Secretary-General’s report had provided the clarity that many Member States had been seeking. Also, it provided insightful analysis on how the concept of human security could benefit the work of the United Nations, and it was important for Member States to provide the necessary support for implementing it.
PAUL SEGER ( Switzerland), associating himself with the Human Security Network, said that traditionally, the terms “State” and “security” were closely linked to each other: Security was understood to protect, first and foremost, the nation State and its institutions from threats, both domestic and foreign. As a result, the State authorities maintained the monopoly over the use of force. But, the State was not an abstract entity which could be disassociated from its population and, therefore, security could not be limited to protecting the State for its own sake. That was why the concept of human security became important: human security was understood as putting individuals at the centre of attention, as compared to the classical State-centred approach. The two approaches were not contradictory, but rather should complement each other. The focus of human security was hence on the protection of individuals from critical and pervasive threats to their physical and psychological safety, dignity and well-being.
The questions of from what threats people should be protected, by whom and how, were very much context-based, he said. His delegation, therefore, advised against the search for a precise “scientific” or legal definition of the concept, because that could end up limiting its very use. Switzerland commended the approach in the Secretary-General’s report, which sought to forge common understanding on human security rather than define it. He believed agreeing on a common understanding was as close as the General Assembly could get with regard to human security.
Within that common understanding, the three pillars of human security – namely peace and security, human rights and development – received equal attention, he said. Switzerland advised against singling out or prioritizing certain fields of activities of the United Nations as “human security activities”. All Member States should be free to prioritize the topics they were most concerned with. Human security above all was an ordering idea, which should guide the United Nations as a whole. Any debate about the concept of human security should not divert attention from taking action, both at the national and at the international levels, for people all over the world whose very existence, dignity and fundamental well-being was being threatened today.
DMITRY I. MAKSIMYCHEV ( Russian Federation) said his delegation had studied the report and thanked the Secretary-General for it. The outcome of the 2005 World Summit had outlined the main issues regarding the concept of human security and the report provided a basis for moving forward on the principles. He said that human security was quite simply a people-centred approach to responding to development challenges and extending sustainable development for all. Such efforts should include mitigating natural disasters and responding to other global challenges. Once a definition was agreed upon, it should be clear, understandable and leave no room for misinterpretation.
Indeed, he said that agreeing on a definition was a much more solid basis for future work in the area than agreeing on a “common understanding”. The Russian Federation believed human security must be based on the principles of the Charter and national ownership. The international community must provide support to countries to help them address development challenges. No country must impose its view on human security on others, and the Russian Federation believed the concept was in no way linked to the responsibility to protect. Human security must be outlined in light of existing international arrangements regarding such matters as human rights and sustainable development. The Russian Federation was willing to contribute actively in the substantive discussion on the matter, which should take place within the United Nations system.
DOCTOR MASHABANE ( South Africa) stressed the need to continue discussions towards arriving at a common understanding on the concept of human security. His Government supported the inclusion of academia and civil society in those discussions. South Africa subscribed to the notion that human security measures should assist the global South, and especially Africa, to realise sustainable development and human security through the creation of conditions enabling communities to live free and secure lives, in which their fundamental human rights were protected and where they were guaranteed access to health, education and food, as well as an environment free from poverty and exploitation.
He believed that human security should address three issues, namely: poverty eradication in its broadest sense and as a realization of the Millennium Development Goals; underdevelopment and the prevention of the increasing marginalization of many in the developing world as a result of the unequal benefits of globalization; and prevention and eradication of communicable diseases such as HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria as well as infectious diseases. There was a direct correlation between insecurity and denying persons the right of access to resources, in particular, food and basic services. In the absence of fair and equitable access to resources and opportunity, the prospects of achieving people-centred development would be compromised.
The notion of human security was particularly relevant to Africa, he said. Key African Union institutions such as the Pan-African Parliament (PAP, 2004), the Peace and Security Council (PSC, 2004), and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD, 2001) strongly underscored Africa’s commitment to human security. And the establishment of those institutions was a tangible demonstration of the strong commitment by Africa’s leadership. All regional initiatives must by necessity recognize the centrality of the United Nations and the United Nations Charter (1945), the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, (1948) and such pacts as the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966); the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966); and the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action on Human Rights.
EDUARDO ULIBARRI ( Costa Rica) said the report provided a good basis for future United Nations action on the concept of human security. He said that all delegations should recall that the main elements of the concept were already set out in the outcome of the Assembly’s 2005 World Summit. First and foremost, the outcome had stressed the people-centred nature of the human security approach, as well as the fact that it should be based on the Organization’s three main pillars. That outcome had also stressed that all people, especially the most vulnerable, should enjoy the right to achieve their full capacities.
“Human security is progress, which both complements and frames the traditional model of security, which was focused on the States,” he said. The Secretary-General’s report had also highlighted the strong relationship between human rights, security and development and, as such, human security must be approached in a comprehensive manner. While stressing the importance of humanitarian law, he cautioned against the “securitization” of human rights issues, which might lead to the very problems the concept of human security sought to address. He went on to say that, while Governments bore the main responsibility for ensuring human security, it was nevertheless essential to include civil society and regional organizations in such efforts. Above and beyond the significant progress that had been achieved in terms of agreement on the basic elements of the concept, what was really necessary was to continue the effort to address the individual needs of the world’s citizens, inside and outside the United Nations.
MANJEEV SINGH PURI ( India) said the discussions over the conceptual framework for human security had been long and drawn out. That was not surprising since human security issues and related threats and vulnerabilities naturally varied from one situation to the other. India looked at the human security framework as one which guided responses to challenges confronted, rather than a policy goal in itself. The common understanding outlined in the United Nations Secretary-General’s report provided a good basis to carry forward discussions towards an accepted and clearly articulated “common understanding” on human security. India had been stressing many of these elements in its statements on the subject.
The concept of human security must avoid the securitization of the economic and social discourse, and concentrate on capacity-building and the empowerment of people, he said. The concept must be people-centric and should go beyond the narrow framework of protection of population from physical security, like war and conflict, to a much broader framework to encompass multidimensional and comprehensive parameters, with development as the central pillar. It was evident that the absence of development and growth would adversely affect “freedom from want” and “freedom from fear”. India was of the view that the idea of human security needed to eschew the idea of the interventionist approach. The understanding of human security needed to be clearly anchored within the framework of the United Nations Charter and principles of State sovereignty, which were the bedrock of international relations.
The Secretary-General’s report identified four areas where human security could bring particular added value to the work of the United Nations, namely climate change; post-conflict peacebuilding; global financial and economic crisis and the Millennium Development Goals; and health and related challenges, he said. Those areas encompassed challenges that were not necessarily confined within national boundaries. To deal with the complexity and multidimensional linkages at the national, regional and international levels, it was imperative to stress the need for genuine international cooperation. Such international cooperation must recognize the inherent constraints many developing countries faced, especially in mobilizing internal and external resources for socio-economic and developmental activities and also must strive for solutions that were embedded in local realities and based on national ownership. India’s efforts for social and economic transformation had focused on improvement in quality of life in an inclusive manner, bringing the fruits of economic development to all sections of its society, particularly in rural India and among the vulnerable. It was India’s belief that a comprehensive approach to human security was the only way that that concept would help every human being explore his or her potential to the maximum, while pursuing a life of dignity in a safe and healthy environment.
JAKKRIT SRIVALI ( Thailand) welcomed the Secretary-General’s report as an important step forward regarding human security and supported its recommendations. The report set out a common understanding of the concept and identified an emerging consensus around which advancing it could be framed. For Thailand, which had long supported the concept of human security and its practical application, such affirmation was indeed helpful. In addition, Thailand believed the common understanding outlined in the report could be a foundation for consideration of future consensus applications of the concept within national and international contexts.
He said that his delegation particularly appreciated the report’s identification of specific areas where a human security approach could be useful to the Organization’s work. In Thailand, for example, the concept informed and guided the Government’s people-centred, holistic and integrated policy formulation and implementation. Following such a path had enabled the country to address the global financial crisis, health-related challenges and achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in a pragmatic and sustainable manner. Further, Thailand’s national effort against human trafficking had benefited from the human security approach. As the concept had been helpful in guiding his country, he hoped to be able to share Thailand’s experiences with other delegations and to build partnerships that benefited all.
SÉRGIO RODRIGUES DOS SANTOS ( Brazil) said the Secretary-General’s report tackled many concerns raised by his Government and other delegations in previous debates. For instance, he welcomed the reaffirmation that the human security approach was consistent with the purpose of the United Nations Charter, including sovereignty and territorial integrity. Human security must always be regarded as a framework for the action of the States. Brazil also recognized the value of the distinction between the human security approach and the responsibility to protect. In his country’s view, development and human rights could not always be viewed through the lens of security. However, sustainable peace required a comprehensive approach to security, which acknowledged its linkages to development and human rights. Non-military challenges must be dealt with by non-military approaches.
Brazil also appreciated the report’s indication of areas of the United Nations activities, where the human security approach could be of added value to the Organization and Member States, he said. However, further elaboration would be needed in order to demonstrate the usefulness of the human security approach in concrete terms. He also sought further information, especially an assessment of the results achieved by the projects carried out with the support of the Human Security Trust Fund. Brazil was of the view that any possible unintended misuse of the notion of human security stemming from a lack of a multilaterally agreed understanding, or from a concept deemed too vague, should be avoided. Brazil remained committed to reaching an agreement on the definition of human security in the General Assembly.
OCTAVIO ERRÁZURIZ ( Chile) said the Secretary-General had sought to identify elements that could be agreed upon by Member States and which could be used as a basis for action in the future. Chile welcomed the report and noted that it stressed that Governments were responsible for ensuring the human security of their peoples and that the concept should be used to help them overcome security and development challenges. Indeed, States must determine where the international community could provide such help, as well as where assistance and support might prevent human security challenges. With that in mind, he said that early warning systems were critical to prevent or ease the impact of disasters and emergencies. At the same time, he said that some challenges, including those posed by climate change, must be addressed at the upcoming Rio+20 conference. Chile supported the Secretary-General’s initiative to appoint a special adviser on human security and believed that the lack of a definition of the concept should not hamper the broader effort to advance the Organization’s work in that area.
HUSSEIN HANIFF ( Malaysia) said his Government approached the notion of human security rather cautiously, as there was not an agreed definition to it thus far. It was necessary to continue to try to find an agreed definition based on paragraph 143 of the World Outcome Document. The paragraph committed all to further discuss and define the notion of human security. Malaysia could accept a general and broad understanding. Working towards an agreed definition accepted by all could only help in allowing the notion to be further developed and applied in the future. One’s understanding of human security might differ significantly from others, bearing in mind the difference in culture, historical background, and levels of development and capacity between various countries.
Human security should not replace State security, he said, adding that Governments should retain the primary responsibility for ensuring the survival, livelihood and dignity of their people and population. Malaysia also believed that human security must be based on local realities, as the political, economic, social and cultural conditions varied significantly from country to country. National ownership was of utmost importance in the advancement of human security to the people of a country. The international community should complement the efforts of Governments upon their request. Also, the notion of human security was distinct from the responsibility to protect. The distinction should not only be confined to the application of the notion, but should also shun the possibility of using force or the threat of force on a State or its people. Malaysia firmly believed there was a need to rule out any possibility in resorting to humanitarian intervention, or even harmful sanctions, because it could not accept the paradox of creating insecurity in the name of human security, which would only defeat the purpose of the notion itself.
Malaysia was concerned about its broad application, which made any operational use of the notion difficult and complex, he said. In this day and age, there were a number of threats that individuals faced, depending on the situation in the country and in the region. Often, even solutions to certain threats were by themselves under threat as well. For instance, the problem of climate change and post-conflict peace-building required greater financial and human resources to overcome, but resources were difficult to acquire, especially in light of the global financial and economic crisis facing almost all governments, be they from developed or developing countries. In such a context, he sought further clarification on the application of human security.
MARGHOOB SALEEM BUTT (Pakistan) said that the Secretary-General’s report had set out some important points that would help smooth the way towards implementation of the concept of human security and to assuage many of the reservations of Member States. Indeed, the report had stressed strict adherence to the Charter, national ownership, and the fact the States themselves must identify the assistance that might be provided in that area. While “not conclusive”, the report had also set out the important links between economic, social and political rights and their links to the concept of human security.
Pakistan believed that overhauling and democratizing the international political and economic structures would go a long way towards ensuring the human security of all. He said that his delegation would follow the ongoing discussions and would urge Member States to avoid negotiations that might get bogged down in controversial issues. He hoped those discussions would continue to take place within the framework of the General Assembly.
MONIA ALSALEH ( Syria) said that her country had been one of the first States to show interest in the concept of human security and it had continued to stress the need to agree on a solid framework for its implementation. Syria believed that every effort should be made to ensure that there was no room for misuse or misinterpretation of the concept. Syria believed that any endeavour to reach a common understanding must be based on the principles of the Charter, including territorial integrity and State sovereignty. It should also be based on the needs as identified by the concerned State. Any attempt to redefine or limit such agreed principles must be rejected, she said, also calling for strict adherence to international humanitarian law, as well as to ensuring the right to self-determination and the right of all peoples to use and exploit their own national resources.
The overall effort to advance human security must be based on the right to development and, as such, every effort must be made to end inequitable economic practices and unfair sanctions regimes. Also, foreign occupation and domination must end. She also stressed that attempts to link the concept of human security with the responsibility to protect must be rejected. “We must ensure that if this concept were to be adopted, it must not be used selectively to hinder the development of small countries,” she said, stressing also that the concept targeted the promotion of human dignity to ensure that individuals lived free from hunger and poverty. Any definition of human security must aim to establish trust between States and must ensure the territorial integrity of all States.
MOHAMMAD HASSANI NEJAD PIRKOUHI (Iran) said the Secretary-General’s report offered some positive elements, particularly paragraph 36, which sought to address serious concerns Member States expressed during previous debates on the subject. Iran welcomed the report for its affirmation of the right and responsibility of national Governments in ensuring the survival, livelihood and dignity of their citizens. The report also recognized the complementary role of the international community in providing support to Governments, upon their request, in full respect for the purposes and principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter, such as sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference. Iran understood that human security did not entail additional legal obligations on the part of States.
The report, however, unfortunately failed to address the root causes of insecurity in the world and confined itself to community and national levels and almost fully overlooked systemic sources behind human insecurity and, accordingly, the responsibility of the perpetrators, he said. Several global challenges and crises, such as the current economic and financial crisis or other issues related to food, energy, climate and conflicts were clearly systemic. Solutions, therefore, should address the long-standing inequalities and persistent failures at the systemic level.
TIAN LIN ( China) said that his delegation noted that the Secretary-General’s report had citied the need to ensure that the concept of human security adhered to the purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, especially State sovereignty and territorial integrity. China continued to believe that the concept remained first and foremost a development issue. As such, the Organization must strengthen and scale up its efforts and activities aimed at ensuring the social and sustainable development for all people and communities. He said that China supported the efforts of Member States to arrive at a clear and unambiguous definition of human security that would, ultimately, ensure that all people lived free from fear and free from want, as set out in the outcome of the 2005 Summit.
EDUARDO JOSE ATIENZA DE VEGA ( Philippines) said his delegation supported the Secretary-General’s report and fully adhered to its suggestions regarding the activities of the United Nations where the concept of human security could be useful. To that end, he supported efforts to ensure that early warning and natural disaster risk reduction strategies were integrated into national development plans. He also supported a people-centred approach to post-conflict peacebuilding.
He said that applying a human security approach was valuable for developing countries, especially regarding social and economic matters. Philippines supported the report’s call for holistic efforts to mitigate the impact on such countries of economic shocks, or long-term economic downturns. Such frameworks were essential for countries where the poor lived in abject poverty and where such decisions impacted not merely changes in lifestyle, but were actually matters of life and death.
* *** *For information media • not an official record