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© MONUC Photo/Martine Perret
Villagers walk past a UN Volunteer human rights team investigating the 2003 Lendu militia crimes against civilians in the area. Bogoro, Democratic Republic of Congo, 12 October 2006.

DNP and Security

The idea that armed violence and war should be prevented or at least controlled is enshrined into the very essence of the U.N. Charter. The Preamble states that future generations should be saved from the scourge of war. The system of collective security the UN founders adopted focused exclusively on military threats to security. Today, peace and security are no longer viewed only in terms of the absence of military conflict. The common interests of all people are also seen to be affected by poverty, hunger, environmental degradation and human rights violations which are often at the heart of national and international tensions. The collective search for global stability is grounded in the complex interactions between security, development and human rights. They are inseparable.

Threats to security

Every State is obligated to protect the welfare of its people. If a State is not able to safeguard the dignity and safety of its citizens, this can lead to internal conflict that eventually threatens international security. Civil war, disease, and poverty increase the likelihood of State collapse. Anything that weakens a State's institutions or its ability to govern leaves it vulnerable to becoming a haven to international terrorists or organized crime. The UN recognizes the important role States play in combating threats to international peace and security.

The threats to international peace and security in today's global geopolitical environment go beyond the potential for conflicts between States. According to a report to the Secretary-General entitled, A More Secure World: Our Shared Responsibility , there are six clusters of threats:

  • poverty, infectious disease, environmental degradation
  • inter-state conflict
  • internal conflict
  • weapons of mass destruction
  • terrorism
  • transnational organized crime.

The UN plays an important role in defining and developing the concept of human security. With their experience in humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, and their specialized agencies, the UN has been able to articulate better than any institution that there are in fact, many grave dangers to people besides military threats.

The notion of human security is key to understanding the proliferation of weapons. There's a maxim in the human rights community that thousands of deaths are mere statistics. But one death is a tragedy. Human security never loses sight of the tragic dimensions of every life that is lost to a weapon. This human dimension is at the heart of Disarmament and Non-Proliferation Education.

To be sure, not all Member States in the UN support the hman security approach. Some of the reasons why many States adhere to traditional security paradigms include whether or not a state is actively involved in a security dilemma or struggling for a balance of power; whether states are active in manufacturing and selling weapons; and whether states are currently purchasing weapons for military purposes.

International security is complex and many creative strategies are often needed at the same time to resolve conflicts and achieve peace. There are many reasons to advocate for disarmament and non-proliferation but the most important issue is the preservation of life - the life of individual human beings and the natural envrionment which sustains life. These dimensions are often missing in security studies.

The study of state security has shifted in recent years to include the security of the individual person, otherwise known as human security. Learn more about how the dominant theories of security have evolved.