Definition of Human Security

The term Human Security was first popularized by the United Nations Development Program in the early 1990s. It emerged in the post-Cold War era as a way to link various humanitarian, economic, and social issues in order to alleviate human suffering and assure security.

The issues Human Security addresses include, but are not limited to, the following:

• Organized Crime and Criminal Violence
• Human Rights and Good Governance
• Armed Conflict and Intervention
• Genocide and Mass Crimes
• Health and Development
• Resources and Environment

Human Security focuses primarily on protecting people while promoting peace and assuring sustainable continuous development. It emphasizes aiding individuals by using a people-centered approach for resolving inequalities that affect security. One of the major failings of Human Security, according to its critics, is that it is too all encompassing and that it fails to achieve its ambitious goals for improving the human condition. Still, the relevance of this concept for addressing the world’s most pressing issues seems clear. Security has gone global. It is no longer simply related to the security of nation states. The security of the individual now directly impacts the security of the state and vice versa.

In describing what Human Security is, former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan writes in the Foreword to Human Security and the New Diplomacy:

“During the cold war, security tended to be defined almost entirely in terms of military might and the balance of terror. Today, we know that ‘security’ means far more than the absence of conflict. We also have a greater appreciation for nonmilitary sources of conflict. We know that lasting peace requires a broader vision encompassing areas such as education and health, democracy and human rights, protection against environmental degradation, and the proliferation of deadly weapons. We know that we cannot be secure amidst starvation, that we cannot build peace without alleviating poverty, and that we cannot build freedom on foundations of injustice. These pillars of what we now understand as the people-centered concept of ‘human security’ are interrelated and mutually reinforcing.”

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals, passed in 2000, were one attempt to codify the scope of Human Security and make it measurable. Now, Human Security has entered the daily vocabulary of government officials, military and non-government personnel, humanitarian aid workers, and policymakers. The relevance of protecting human beings for international security has now been recognized, but it is the implementation that is proving difficult.

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