In World of Unpredictable Threats, Expanded Concept of Security Needed to Encompass Broad Range of Conditions Endangering Survival, Dignity, General Assembly Told

14 April 2011
GA/11072

In World of Unpredictable Threats, Expanded Concept of Security Needed to Encompass Broad Range of Conditions Endangering Survival, Dignity, General Assembly Told

14 April 2011
General Assembly
GA/11072
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Sixty-fifth General Assembly

Informal Thematic Debate

AM & PM Meetings


In World of Unpredictable Threats, Expanded Concept of Security Needed to Encompass


Broad Range of Conditions Endangering Survival, Dignity, General Assembly Told


Deputy Secretary-General: UN Already Bringing Vision of ‘Human Security’ to Life;

Panels Address:  Approach to Defining Human Security; Application and Added Value


In a world where threats could be as sudden and unpredictable as a tsunami or as protracted and unyielding as an oppressive dictatorship, an expanded paradigm of security was needed to encompass the broad range of conditions threatening people’s survival, livelihoods and dignity, United Nations Deputy-Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said today, as she opened the General Assembly’s informal thematic debate on human security.


From natural disasters and entrenched poverty to outbreaks of conflict and the spread of disease, the dramatic events of recent weeks had underscored the vulnerability of developed and developing countries alike, she said.  Since the 2005 World Summit, where leaders agreed that human security concerned both “freedom from fear” and “freedom from want”, States had offered valuable insights and, notably, last year, the Assembly had adopted a resolution recognizing the need to continue discussions and agree on a definition.


Fortunately, discussions aimed at “getting a precise fix” on what human security was — and was not — had not hampered efforts to bring the vision to life, she said, noting that the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, in over a decade of existence, had supported nearly 200 projects in some 70 countries.


Citing the late Mahbub ul Haq, who had pioneered thinking on the topic, she said:  “human security is a child who did not die, a disease that did not spread, an ethnic tension that did not explode, a dissident who was not silenced, a human spirit that was not crushed”.  She urged that those thoughts guide efforts today to make a meaningful difference in people’s lives.


General Assembly President Joseph Deiss ( Switzerland) said in opening remarks, “It is up to you, Member States, to provide guidance on the definition of human security.”  Expressing hope today’s debate would make a substantial contribution to that end, he said that in an interdependent world, Governments must discuss how survival, means of subsistence and human dignity were the very foundation of security.


While national security remained an essential condition for peace — and a prerogative of States — it was increasingly recognized that security must be considered in a broad approach that took into account the risks inherent in today’s world, he said.  Human security provided a framework that allowed for capitalizing on the comparative advantages of various players, reinforced the coherence of their objectives and coordinated actions in a way that addressed the needs of the individual.


Echoing those comments, Yukio Takasu, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Human Security, said in closing remarks thatgreat strides had been made since 2005, with broad consensus that human security could be understood as a comprehensive concept encompassing the freedom from fear, the freedom from want and the freedom to live in dignity.  There also appeared to be consensus around the need for policy norms, rather than a legal instrument.


A much clearer understanding of human security should be established, he said, to avoid misinterpretation or abuse of the concept, and the 2005 World Summit outcome document provided a starting point for such work.  The Assembly also was following up on work carried out by other regional organizations, including the African Union, Organization of American States and League of Arab States, among others.  “We have very rich material to build on,” he said.


Other areas of agreement outlined that human security should be distinct and distinguished from the responsibility to protect, that implementation must be carried out in full respect of the United Nations Charter and that States bore the primary responsibility of protecting and empowering their people.  As the list of insecurities was long — ranging from food insecurity to youth unemployment — he urged identifying priority areas for consultative action.  He would be available for informal consultations with Member States and open to written submissions.


Today’s thematic debate followed those held in May 2008, May 2010, and July 2010, and aimed to contribute to discussions on a notion of human security, as outlined in resolution 64/291 (2010), which called for continued consideration of the topic.  With that in mind, the first of two interactive panels — on “A possible approach for defining human security” — heard a lively debate on the idea that human security represented a point of convergence for the United Nations’ most important goals of peace, security and human development.


In that context, some cautioned that human security did not replace or supersede the concept of development and should not be conflated with the responsibility to protect.  Others rejected any linkages between human security and the responsibility to protect, saying that a definition of human security should be based on development and encourage people to exercise their right to development.  A few speakers expressed concerns about that aspect of security, especially in relation to the use of force.


The panel featured presentations by:  Olusegun Obasanjo, former President of Nigeria and Founder of the Centre for Human Security; Frene Ginwala, former Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa, and Member of the Commission on Human Security; Jennifer Leaning, Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at Harvard School of Public Health; and Amitav Acharya, Professor of International Relations and Chair of the ASEAN Studies Center at American University.  Margareta Wahlström, Assistant Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, moderated the discussion.


In the second interactive panel, on “Human security — its application and added value”, delegates examined whether human security represented a practical approach for addressing the root causes of the myriad threats in today’s world.  Some speakers stressed that an ambiguous concept could not easily be brought into action.  It would be better to work within the frameworks set by different countries.  Others argued that such a broad concept could only be achieved when various aspects of human organization — individual development, national governance and international elements — converged in a complementary framework.


Moderated by John Ging, Director of the Coordination and Response Division of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs,the panel featured four panellists:  Sonia Picado, President of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights and Member of the Commission and Advisory Board on Human Security; Cheick Sidi Diarra, Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States; Andrew Mack, Director of the Human Security Report Project at Simon Fraser University and former Director of the Strategic Planning Office in the Executive Office of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan; and Hans-Günter Brauch, Chairman of Peace Research and European Security Studies and Fellow at the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security.


The General Assembly President also delivered concluding remarks.


The General Assembly will reconvene in plenary at a time and date to be announced.


Background


The General Assembly met today to hold a one-day thematic debate on human security, which aims to support the goals set out in resolution 63/291 (2010) and contribute to discussions on a notion of human security.


Today’s debate follows those held on 20 and 21 May 2010, and in July 2010, when the Assembly adopted its consensus resolution entitled “Follow-up to paragraph 143 on human security of the 2005 World Summit Outcome”.  That paragraph recognizes that “all individuals, in particular vulnerable people, are entitled to freedom from fear and freedom from want, with an equal opportunity to enjoy all their rights and fully develop their human potential”.


Panel I:  ‘A Possible Approach for Defining Human Security’


Moderated by Margareta Wahlström, Assistant Secretary-General for Disaster Risk Reduction, the panel featured four speakers:  Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President of Nigeria and Founder of the Centre for Human Security; Frene Ginwala, Former Speaker of the National Assembly of South Africa and Member of the Commission on Human Security; Jennifer Leaning, Professor of the Practice of Health and Human Rights at Harvard School of Public Health; and Amitav Acharya, Professor of International Relations and Chair of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Studies Center at American University.


Opening the panel, Mr. OBASANJO said the trilogy of freedoms that were generally accepted as the core elements of human security — freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom to live in dignity — were good, but were not good enough.  In his analysis, the starting point for a definition of human security must be the survivor, because unless you survived, you could not enjoy that trilogy of freedoms.  As such, the concept of human security involved the survival, welfare, well-being and wellness of a person and groups of persons within a community.  Additionally, human security must be ensured and guaranteed by Governments at the local and national levels, as well as the international community.  It was only from that point that the other freedoms, as well as the right to live in dignity, followed.


He further emphasized a focus on the actors or agents whose action or inaction actually led to breaches or neglect of human security.  That focus must start with the individual and expand outward to the family, community, local government, religious organizations, state government and international community, he said.


Suggesting that it was time for a human security index, akin to the human development, he acknowledged that while such an undertaking might not be easy, it might start with identifying specific actions that led to a breakdown in human security and work towards identification of the actors responsible for those breaches.  Among other things, a human security index would make it possible for every country to be indexed on human security, allowing for critical vulnerabilities to be pinpointed and addressed.


Noting that she would highlight the work and conclusions of the Commission on Human Security next, Ms. GINWALA said the understanding of human security had, over time, converged as a composite of many elements, varying from society to society and shaped by the experience and perceived vulnerabilities of each one.  Attempting to define the concept of “human security” had been difficult for the Commission, which focused on the vital core of human life, as well as the fundamental freedoms and protections from widespread threats.


Because the vital core of life varied from society to society, the Commission had refrained from proposing drafting an enumerated list of what human security was, favouring instead a dynamic framework for human security, she said.  In that context, any universally agreed definition would resemble a picture painted in broad strokes that could then be refined by each society as it identified its own vulnerabilities.  Such a framework would include universally agreed rights ranging from basic human rights to “third-generation” rights related to such areas as the environment.  Keying off such a framework, local realities and capacities would define local solutions.


She went on to note that when the Commission was established, it was commonly thought that conflict posed the greatest threat to Africa’s peoples.  Yet, because the Commissioners themselves had not agreed with that assumption, they undertook a study of vulnerabilities, which had overwhelmingly identified socio-economic concerns, rather than conflict, as the greatest threat.  A different set of priorities would undoubtedly emerge today, since, following 9/11, societies understood that neither oceans nor wealth insulated them from threats.  Natural disasters, too, would be higher on today’s list.


Before concluding, she reiterated the need for a broad view of human security, arguing that if threats and vulnerabilities were considered broadly, multi-sectoral interventions would be called for in order to prevent threats.


Focusing on human security and conflict, Ms. LEANING stressed that human security was destroyed by war, while its erosion was one cause of war.  Efforts to rebuild in war’s aftermath would not succeed, if actions did not focus on restoring human security.  In her view, the concept of human security must include a psycho-social aspect composed of a person’s sense of home, a link to the wider community and hope in the future.  Attention to those components during all phases of conflict was, she stressed, foundational to all policies aimed at preventing conflict, establishing peace and rebuilding societies in the wake of conflicts.  In that sense, the notion of home was based on the fact that humans had strong attachments to place — from the sounds and smells of cooking to the existence of a certain particular tree or the particular structure of the stars at night.  The focus was, thus, on kinship links, as well as the communal institutions and daily processes built around them.  Additionally, hope was measured in many ways, including future-oriented actions, such as saving for a child’s education, or buying a fruit tree.  Where hope had been lost, decisions were often made on a short-term basis.


Stressing that war’s impact on these three elements was sweeping, she said it was also considerable on post-conflict scenarios.  That was especially true in terms of a war’s duration and intensity, which not only drastically affected the capacity for hope, but also led to widespread urban destruction, disorientation and loss of history.  In addition, the incidence of atrocities affected individual and group identity could lead to bitter trans-generational trauma.  Moreover, speaking of “post-war” was actually a breezy and inaccurate construct, because a war’s reach extended to the minds and memories of human beings.


Still, the major issues in “post-war” reconstruction were restoring a sense of security by providing good policing and administrative regularity, she said, adding that rebuilding roads and re-establishing communications were also critical to restoring mobility.  That, in turn, would allow the local population to come together and talk about what they wanted and needed to rebuild their lives, she said, suggesting that restoring mobility was one area where the international community could particularly focus.  She also noted that those who had lived through war or were first returning from flight were often stunned, making them bad problem-solvers.  People needed time to get a sense of their lives.  Restoring order would go a long way to aiding that process.


Mr. ACHARYA said that from the mid-2000s onwards, there had been a convergence of views regarding the definition of human security and it was now a question of prioritizing its many strands.  Ironically, the people who were at the receiving end of threats to human security were left out of a largely academic debate.  While micro-studies or targeted case studies had largely been avoided, his two studies of two poor conflict-affected regions of India had broken ground.  Among their findings was that people who were poorest lived in the most fear:  76 per cent of those with 1,000 rupees or less felt a great deal of anxiety, while only 60 per cent of those making more than 10,000 rupees felt that much anxiety.  He had also found that the policies of the State — including specific initiatives carried out to address human security — had the potential to create human insecurity.  For example, people feared the military as much as the militant groups fomenting the local insurgency.  Among other things, that meant that States bore some responsibility for human insecurity, he said.


According to these studies, the people living in these conflict zones feared being killed by the effects of poverty, Government corruption and nepotism, and unemployment more than the actual conflict, he said.  Moreover, the idea of “peace dialogues” was their most favoured policy to resolve a conflict, with two thirds of citizens preferring talking over strengthening military responses, or even granting autonomy to militant or insurgent groups.


Stressing that people overwhelmingly took a holistic view of human security, he advocated conducing micro-studies to flesh out the broad strokes of the current debate.  It was his view that micro-studies were more possible than a global human security index, which might not be methodologically sound.  Among the tools he suggested that could be used to translate data to policy were human security impact assessments and human security mapping exercises.  Finally, he stressed that, as the international community continued to debate the notion of human security, it must take people into account.  Only by bringing them into the picture would a “policy-relevant” understanding of human security be possible.


During the ensuing dialogue, several delegates said human security represented a specific point of convergence for the most important goals of the United Nations, including the maintenance of peace and security and the promotion and protection of human rights and development.  Human security was not a binding legal principle, several argued, underlining its flexible bottom-up approach and people-centred ethos.


As they debated the need for and importance of arriving at a concrete definition of human security, several speakers supported a pragmatic and practical approach, arguing that, rather than elaborating a strict and detailed definition, a common understanding on the added value of the human security approach should be forged.  It was time, one speaker argued, to move past prior debates on the definition to develop concrete policies to address human insecurity.


The debate about the definition should not prevent a focus on the issues related to human security that face people every day around the world, many said.  One speaker proposed creating an index of threats to human security — from natural disasters to war, terrorism and immigration — as well as a threat map.


One speaker argued that debate on human security should not be restricted to a discussion of the relative advantages of its definition, since States had already taken that step with the passage of A/RES/64/291.  He stressed that the Government should ensure the human security of its citizens.  And the international community should aid in those efforts only at the request of a particular Government.


Responding, Mr. OBASANJO said there was a need for consensus in accepting and adopting a general definition of human security that was acceptable to all.  While he agreed that the definition was not “one size fits all”, there must be a certain basic minimum that could be agreed on to ensure the security of human beings.  Once simple, basic, fundamental and common ground was established, work could proceed toward local contexts.


Ms. GINWALA underscored the conclusion of the Commission on Human Security that the obligation to ensuring human security fell to Governments, not the international community.  Thus, the concept of human security had diverged from the concept of the responsibility to protect.  As for human security’s scope, she reiterated that, because the concept was dynamic, its definition must not be exclusionary.  A restrictive definition would be a step backwards.  She advocated elaborating a broad framework that took — just as the United Nations Charter did — as its starting point the people, not the Governments, of the world.


Ms. LEANING said it was necessary to distinguish between actual threats to security — which were, as delegates suggested, a long, evolving list — and the perception of those threats by human beings.  The value added by the current discussion was the recognition from major States that what mattered in the concept of security was not the amount of weapons amassed, but people’s survival.  Evidence suggested that societies that met the survival needs and aspirations of their people were less likely to engage in either intrastate or interstate conflict.  Nevertheless, sufficient time had not yet been spent on considering how threats were perceived.  Doing so would illuminate what mattered most to people and what they believed was most threatened.  She agreed that, in real crisis settings or severe conflicts, people from various cultures did not have highly divergent lists.  In her view, the progress made so far in the human security debate had been absolutely transformative in both academic and field settings.


Mr. ACHARYA said, in response to question about the need for a detailed definition, that such a definition was unnecessary.  If the price of a definition was the lowest common denominator, or one that limited imagination and approach, it was preferable not to have one.  While progress had been made on human security, it had been uneven.  For example, he heard very little about human security in Washington, D.C., even from an administration with a very human face.  At the same time, it was not accepted that people were at the heart of national security.  He agreed it would be hard to resolve the role of the State, which played an ambiguous role and sometimes compromised human security.  Thus, in his view, some criteria must be laid down to identify what activities and polices were acceptable and what were not.  He was not arguing, however, for intervention.  While a local focus was important, it should not be used to exclude or delegitimize relevant concepts.


He further stressed that, because the creation of a definition was a political process, the world’s Governments must make that effort rights here in the General Assembly.  But, if a common working understanding, rather than a concrete definition, was the only possible outcome that would also be acceptable.


In a second round of comments, several delegates rejected any linkages between human security and the responsibility to protect.  Others expressed concerns about the concept of human security in relation to the use of force.  In that context, one speaker said it might be worthwhile to focus on what human security was not, such as the responsibility to protect.  It might be equally useful, although more academic, to consider what might have been done differently in a range of scenarios had a human security approach been applied.


One speaker stressed that human security must be understood as a human-centred approach, rather than a concept, suggesting it must not replace or supersede the concept of development or be conflated with responsibility to protect. She also warned against the unintended misuse of the concept in the absence of an agreed definition.  Despite the potential conflict between human security and State sovereignty, human security must nevertheless constitute a primary responsibility of the State, she said.


Speakers also questioned the value of human security as policy tool, given its potential applicability to a wide and diverse range of problems.  One speaker requested more specificity on how a human security index could be used by policy makers and how the international community and the United Nations could organize its efforts to listen to people.


Responding, Mr. OBASANJO reiterated that certain minimum common denominators could be applied in a human security index, which could be used, as the human development index was, to gauge a country’s relative progress.  He said the difference between human security and national security, was that latter tended to involve the use of the military to preserve territorial integrity, while the former addressed the social and development aspects of individuals or groups within the State.  Human rights were not synonymous with human security, he said, suggesting, however, that if human rights were protected, human security would benefit.


Ms. GINWALA agreed that a respect for human rights was integral to human security.  Countries should not be complacent in believing that their people were immune from vulnerabilities.  To the extent that a Government’s policies ignored the needs of its people, it risked launching a downward spiral into human insecurity.


Ms. LEANING said that the distinction between human rights and human security deserved more constructive and deliberate thought.  In her view, human rights existed as the international regulatory regime established by the various treaties, which placed undeniable obligations on their State signatories.  In contrast, human security was a non-legal and analytic policy discussion relating to the welfare of human beings in nation States at a particular point in time.  In that context, a human security index was relevant.  Moreover, human security should be understood as a much more fluid — and, therefore, much less absolute —construct.  It could be potentially extraordinarily helpful for policy makers, and it would be mistake to link it to a larger geo-political context.


Mr. ACHARYA said that, despite initial scepticism, he now believed, after having participated in the discussion, that the world community was much closer to a definition of human security.  Regarding a human security index, he suggested that regional organizations might have a better understanding of the local context that also avoided parochialism.  At this point, the idea of human rights was a legal concept, while human security was a political construct.  It also operated from a community perspective, rather than an individual one, as human rights did.


Participating in the discussion were representatives of the Republic of Korea, Mexico, Japan, Switzerland, Nepal, Russian Federation, European Union, Egypt, Venezuela, China, Argentina, Brazil, Thailand and Cuba.


Panel II:  ‘Human Security — Its Application and Added Value’


Moderated by John Ging, Director of the Coordination and Response Division of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the panel featured four panellists:  Sonia Picado, President of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights and Member of the Commission and Advisory Board on Human Security; Cheick Sidi Diarra, Special Adviser on Africa and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States; Andrew Mack, Director of the Human Security Report Project at Simon Fraser University and former Director of the Strategic Planning Office in the Executive Office of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan; and Hans-Günter Brauch, Chairman of Peace Research and European Security Studies and Fellow at the United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security.


Taking the floor first, Mr. DIARRA said, despite the fact that there was enough wealth in the world to feed and shelter all its inhabitants, hundreds of thousands of people had lost their lives to violence, while others suffered from poverty, hunger and disease.  Indeed, a better understanding of the links between security and development was needed.  A human security approach recognized the fundamental human rights of individuals, requiring States and their institutions to protect citizens from all forms of abuse, so people could live free from fear.


The value of human security as a concept was that it forced consideration of security as more than just the absence of conflict, he said.  It must seek to protect against a broad range of threats, including human rights violations, a lack of access to basic services, and the threat of social exclusion.  It required empowering people to act on their own.  It required examining security and development as two irrevocably intertwined issues.  Such an approach, if truly embraced, could help address problems of many least developed countries in Africa and elsewhere.


For the United Nations, it required exploring interrelated activities to simultaneously address security and development, he said.  Job creation, efficient education programmes and access to services like microfinance and health care all could reduce the risk of economic and social deprivation.  While development gaps must be addressed, it was also critical to strengthen the rule of law and move towards a culture of conflict prevention.  Similarly, the problem of unaccountable political and economic governance systems highlighted the need to establish those that allowed the marginalized to participate in decision-making processes.  “Freedom from fear and freedom from want are within reach,” he said.


Next, Mr. BRAUCH said that, “while hazards cannot be prevented, their impacts can be reduced”, arguing for the creation of a fourth pillar of human security — freedom from hazard impacts — to complement the other three:  freedom from fear, freedom from want, and freedom to live in dignity.  The freedom from hazard impacts called for reducing environmental and social vulnerabilities and enhancing a society’s coping ability.


Recalling that the Friends of Human Security had discussed climate change since April 2007, he said that just “as we are the threat, through energy consumption, it is we who have to change our consumption and adapt governance structures to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by 50 per cent by 2050”.  That implied a shift from business-as-usual strategies towards an alternative sustainability paradigm.  A policy-focused human security approach to climate change would prioritize climate-induced security threats.


Also, in a human security approach, non-military means prevailed, he said, adding that the development of new scientific knowledge, its technological application and political implementation mattered.  Such an approach would allow policymakers and scientists to develop coping strategies.  That would mark a shift from “short-termism” to a legally binding, post-Kyoto regime to promote sustainable development.  Climate change directly impacted upon water, soil, food and livelihood security — all of which directly threatened human health.  It would exacerbate those problems if communities failed to create climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies.


Sharing one example, Ms. PICADO described a human security project carried out in a high-violence area in El Salvador that aimed to ensure freedom from fear.  In Latin America, where “machismo” was pervasive, women played a secondary role, making it hard for them to receive equal pay for equal work.  She discussed various steps to implement the project, saying that two factors had prevented access to dignity and access to safety:  a lack of human development and a lack of human rights.  Some estimates had shown there had been up to 500 deaths a day due to gang infighting and problems among other criminal organizations.


The project had fostered coexistence and she had been amazed to see how boys, girls and women had become more integrated in a poor area.  Girls had put on a dance show.  Women were empowered to both raise their children and maintain their artisan work.  The police were now close to the people, whereas in the past, there had been divisions.


More broadly, mayors were also vital to such projects and often more important than central Governments, she said.  Training people in alternative dispute resolution strategies — to revolvers and knives — was important.  Women also were key, and the culture of violence against women simply must change.  A better respect for children’s rights must take root, with all children provided with computers and training about how to launch a company.  “We should be proud to be promoting these efforts,” she said.  Coming up with a precise definition of human security was less important.


Rounding out the panel, Mr. MACK said that, with the end of the cold war, the risk of inter-State war had dropped dramatically.  In the first three decades following the Second World War, there were, on average, six international conflicts being fought around the world each year.  Since the end of the cold war, there had been less than one.  Security had become less about securing borders from external enemies and more about preventing internal violence.  What was needed was a new way of thinking about security.  Some believed the focus should be broader than “the scourge of war”.  Others rightly had pointed out that disease and malnutrition killed far more people than did war, and the concept of human security must embrace those threats.


At the Human Security Report Project, the concept of human security was narrow in the sense it focused on organized violence, and broad in the sense it examined the interrelationships between human insecurity and additional signifiers of human insecurity that were emphasized by proponents of the “broad school” of thought.  The single most robust finding to emerge from statistical research on the causes of war was that, as national incomes rose, the risk of war declined, meaning that high-income countries had a much lower risk of civil war.


While rising incomes played a role, other factors were more important, he said, noting that the end of the cold war had removed a major cause of international conflict from the international system.  It also had spelled the end of major power support for “proxy wars” in the developing world and had freed the United Nations to embark on a “huge explosion” of international security activism, through peacemaking and post-conflict peacebuilding.  Indeed, development, peacemaking and peacebuilding had reduced the number — and deadliness — of armed conflict around the world.  Tracking statistical trends and their driving factors could make a critically important contribution to policy formation.


When the floor was opened to comments, delegates examined whether human security represented a practical approach for addressing the root causes of the myriad threats in today’s world.  Some speakers stressed that an ambiguous concept could not easily be brought into action and, further, could not be linked to the responsibility to protect.  Without a precise definition, it would be better to work within the frameworks set by different countries.


Others argued that natural disasters, climate change, food and fuel crises and developing country needs all had security implications.  They must be pursued in line with national priorities and such United Nations Charter principles as sovereignty and non-interference in internal affairs.


In that context, one speaker noted that the unequal pace and selective approach of promoting one set of rights over others posed a challenge to a shared vision of human security.  Discussing the concept in the context of threats to peace raised a concern about a focus on selective situations.  Promoting social and economic rights and technology transfer to the developing world would better ensure decent living standards.


A few speakers said such a broad concept could only be achieved when various aspects of human organization — individual development, national governance and international elements — converged in a complementary framework.  The absence of legal obligations, the institutions to operationalize them, and the individual freedom to access social protections would undermine any concept of human security.  In that vein, one delegate asked about the perceived causes of human insecurity, saying that as long as “oceans” of poverty persisted alongside undemocratic governance, unjust trade practice and a general failure to honour international commitments, the world would continue to face threats to human security.


In that vein, several speakers said human security required the development of an integrated network of diverse stakeholders, including civil society and the private sector.  The focus could expand beyond non-governmental organizations to include the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).


Responding, Mr. DIARRA said he fully supported the comments by Chile’s representative, who had said that in the absence of any clear definition of human security, it was still necessary to build on the concept, particularly by taking specific supportive actions.  Noting that human security included various rights, he suggested a number of existing rights frameworks indicated what could be encompassed by human security and could function as a starting point for human security.  He also stressed that any definition — whether it was a working definition or something more definitive — must maintain the central role played by the State.  In addition, early warning systems should be put in place in order to prevent breakdowns in human security.


He said it was particularly important for African or landlocked countries that the approach include a focus on the right to development.  Moreover, it was a duty for States with weak institutions to continue consolidating those institutions to allow the State both to meet its duty as a regulator and to ensure minimum social services.  Concluding, he stressed that the right to food was a fundamental right that ensured the survival of the human race and was enshrined in the United Nations system.


Ms. PICADO again insisted that, while the human security concept was vague, it must nevertheless be pushed ahead within the State context.  In the face of more poverty, more famine, more conflict, communities could not wait for a definition.  Coming from a human rights standpoint, she noted that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was, at its birth, a collection of good intentions.  Yet, the world had moved forward to make of those good intentions a set of inalienable rights.  Similarly, as many had pointed out, the concept of human security was constantly evolving and it would take on more strength as the international community proceeded forward.


Turning to concerns about national sovereignty, she insisted that she did not see them.  Those who had been working on the Commission considered human security to be a State responsibility.  It was critical in ensuring human security, she said, to have a strong civil society.  Finally, she stressed that, in its set of ethics, globalization must have both respect for national sovereignty and respect for the human being.


Defining securitization, Mr. BRAUCH noted that many delegations had listed natural disasters or the environment among the hazards posed to human security.  To his mind, the linkage went both ways, if it was considered crucial, the pertinent question was whether value would be added by elaborating a fourth freedom to the three that already existed.  Remarking that the hazards posed by the environmental changes and natural disasters were transborder in nature, he pointed out that they were also not caused by other countries, and cooperation among nations was required to solve them.


He stressed that bringing in the dimension of security to this debate was not intended to legitimize the use of force, but only to encourage consideration of political strategies to cope with various hazards early on.  To his mind, there was added value in considering whether a fourth pillar of human security would encompass a whole new area that was, apparently, pertinent to many countries.


Next, Mr. MACK said it was clear that there were real concerns that human security could be used to instigate assaults on national sovereignty.  Among other things, that caused various delegations to advocate for a firm definition of human security.  However, many concepts in political life were extraordinarily ambiguous and, while security had historically been defined as the protection of the physical integrity of States, it had been used to justify pre-emptive, and even preventative, interventions.  In that context, he argued that no definition would definitively immunize against armed interventions and it was necessary to build a case-by-case working framework for human security, as was done every day in various contexts and, he said, was called politics.


Speaking in the discussion were the representatives of Bolivia, Ecuador, Pakistan, Morocco, India, Zambia, Switzerland (on behalf of the Human Security Network), Chile, United States, Costa Rica and Gabon.


A representative of the European Union also spoke.


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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.