Highlighting a Human Security Approach

9 May

Co-sponsored by the Human Security Network (Austria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland and Thailand, with South Africa participating as an observer) and the Human Security Unit (HSU) of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), a high-level event was held yesterday at UN headquarters both underscoring the importance of a human security approach to multi-faceted challenges and celebrating the recent adoption of General Assembly resolution 66/290. This resolution adopted last September marks the first time the General Assembly (GA) was able to agree on a common understanding of the concept. The high-level event featured remarks from the Secretary-General as well as his Special Adviser on Human Security, Mr. Yukio Takasu, who was appointed in 2011.

Global Action is deeply invested in supporting a cross-cutting, broad-based approach to a robust human security agenda. As noted by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in his remarks to the event, it is imperative to identify comprehensive solutions to an inter-linked program of human security as it is impossible to end poverty without empowering women and girls, to ensure respect for human rights without addressing climate change, or to tackle security sector reform without guaranteeing equitable prosperity in communities. Global Action fully embraces this comprehensive approach and welcomes the inclusion of human security as a central factor, particularly with a view towards developing a robust post-2015 development agenda, which can help address a plethora of interlinked security challenges. The GA resolution provides a solid, basic framework for moving the concept forward and mainstreaming its characteristics across the range of UN activities to better address shifting peace and security concerns.

The human security concept provides a useful entry point for dealing with prevailing security issues. First introduced in 1994 through the UN Development Programme (UNDP) in the “UN Development Report: New Dimensions of Human Security,” the term has evolved over the last decade. The 1994 UNDP report highlighted four characteristics of human security—universal, people-centered, interdependent, and early prevention – as well as seven interconnected elements, namely economic, health, environmental, personal, community, and political. Subsequently, in 2001, an independent Commission on Human Security was established to elaborate on the understanding of the term and to develop it further as an operational concept. In 2004, the HSU was established under the auspices of UNOCHA to mainstream the human security concept in UN activities, which also manages the UN Trust for Human Security (UNTFHS) that finances activities carried by the UN and/or UN-mandated organizations to translate the human security approach into practical actions.

The importance of the consensus adoption of UNGA resolution 66/290, “Follow-up to paragraph 143 on human security of the 2005 World Summit Outcome,” rests in its inclusion of a common understanding of the notion of human security. The resolution also welcomes the “Secretary-General’s Report on Human Security” (A/66/273) from 2012 upon which a GA plenary meeting was held in June 2012 and around which consultations were held. The resolution outlines the following characteristics of human security—(a) freedom to live in dignity and free from poverty and despair; (b) a people-centered, contextual, comprehensive, and prevention-focused approach; (c) recognition of the inter-linkages between peace, development, and human rights; (d) clear distancing from the responsibility to protect norm and its implementation; (e) non-inclusion  of the use or threat of use of force and ; (f) national ownership and governmental responsibility. The resolution also calls on the Secretary-General to submit a report to the sixty-eighth session of the GA on the implementation of the resolution seeking first the views of member states.

A strong commitment to mainstreaming human security and a common understanding of the concept, while allowing some flexibility in its implementation, are welcome developments that will serve the international community well in addressing diverse, root causes of insecurity. The translation of a somewhat abstract concept, human security, into concrete action is also an important exercise that is often not seen in many others aspects of UN work. The UNTFHS has carried out over 200 activities in 80 countries increasingly applying this concept in field operations across all global regions under the primary ownership of local individuals. This conversion of the abstract into the concrete is a challenge for many working simultaneously on security and development issues.

Ultimately, a robust human security agenda cannot be pursued in silos, but rather must take into account cross-cutting contributors to insecurity. As the international community continues to embrace a more well-defined human security concept, the world will be better equipped to humanize the concept of security and help it evolve into one that is much more reflective of today’s transnational challenges.

 

–Katherine Prizeman

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