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          • Year: 2003
          • Human Security: Concepts, Characterstics, and Main Problems

          • 16. november 2003. Prof. dr Zlatko Isaković, The Institute of International Politics and Economics, Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro & The United Nations University, Tokyo, Japan

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          In this work the term "security» means striving for freedom from threats. A more complex definition of this phenomenon could present it as a state whose qualification depends of a few kinds of assessments based on perceptions: first, of threat directed to the certain protected object (perceived as a value). Second, the qualification depends of threat perceptions and insecurity feelings based on the perceptions, i.e. at least relative unprotectedness of the object. Third, the qualification may depend of the object’s capabilities for its protection and their perceptions and assessments. Fourth, the mentioned perceptions, assessments, feelings, qualification should be based on certain objective (in)security indicators although security decision makers mainly utilise for this purpose just own perceptions and assessments of the (in)security. The 1994 Human Development Report defined human security as individual human being’s «safety from chronic threats and protection from sudden hurtful disruptions in the patterns of daily life». This kind of security is composed of seven types of security: environmental, personal physical, food, community, health, economic and political security.

          Among contemporary authors’ definitions, one can mention the Gunnar Lassinantti’s 1999 words that this kind of concept is concerned with personal security touching upon such aspects as protection against violence and crime, also accessing to the values associated with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of Child as work, housing, food, water, education, medical and health care, etc. Within the final political report by the co-chairs of the Commission on Human Security, Sadako Ogata and Amartya Sen presented to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, 1 May 2003, the term human security is defined as "protecting vital freedoms", i.e. denotes "protecting people from critical and pervasive threats and situations, building on their strengths and aspirations" as well as creating systems that give people the building blocks of survival, dignity and livelihood. Human security connects different types of freedoms - freedom from want, freedom from fear and freedom to take action on one's own behalf. To do this, it offers two general strategies: protection and empowerment. Human security may serve as a catalytic concept that links many initiatives and security fields.

          The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) developed a "Human Security Agenda" with the topics peace support operations, protection of civilians, governance and accountability, conflict prevention, and public safety. The practice of the Agenda implementation has had forms of the negotiation of arms control agreements (particularly for landmines, small arms, and other weapons causing widespread human suffering), aid for post-conflict peacebuilding, improving UN prevention and early warning capabilities, supporting the new International Criminal Court and other establishing legal bodies. Within each theme, Canadian government chose sub-issues such as war-affected children or other groups of persons deserving special attention, rapid deployment of peacekeepers, security sector reform and individual criminal accountability, trans-national organized crime and early warning. To help implement the Agenda, a Peacebuilding and Human Security Division was created within the DFAIT.

          The presented ideas of human security have a few important characteristics. First, if one analyses the briefly mentioned and numerous other definitions and practices within the field of human security, one could see that the phenomena is considered and defined in rather different ways. The problem is not a new one at least within social sciences fields. Namely, it is known that there are rather serious problems and differences in defining several phenomena, like war, peace, security in general and some of its kinds, some of human rights (especially those of their third generation), etc. Second, the human security and all other concepts represent a sort of "analytical lenses": they can provide just an insight into a group of chosen more or less interrelated and similar problems. Since human security concept represents a very complex idea, it requires a methodology with an adequate complexity. The purpose is to provide making clear as much points as it is possible, and to push aside as little of them as it is possible.

          The human security concept and practice is based on the premise that a human being and his/her community are the main objects of protection, and the states have the primary responsibility for her/his/its security. This way of thinking is a very different one in comparison with the one featuring authoritarian regimes in which individuals, their communities, and organisations (other than states) are subordinated to the state in almost all regards.

          A source of the problems is the fact that human security is attempted to be provided or improved by preventive and preemptive wars (the first is aimed to decrease enemy’s power before it is mobilised for an attack, and the second is an attack for preventing of a close attack). The protection is also attempted by humanitarian interventions in inter-state conflicts (like the conflicts in Kosovo) and providing humanitarian and other aid (housing, asylum) during and/or after wars. It is possible that a declared goal (providing or improving human security, for example by humanitarian intervention) could be more or less in discordance with the real ones (arranging the world in accordance with own interests and needs, becoming more powerful actor, establishing own domination, defeating enemy, or competitor, eliminating, or oppressing opponents, etc.).

          Human security and other mentioned concepts are supposed to be implemented everywhere, i.e. they are considered as globally applicable and thus universal. However, their implementations can differ through space and time. We could add that the civic security concept (covering, briefly, protection of civic society and the ways in which it functions) is in some points and to some degree familiar with human security concept.

          The author of this work defines human security in general as striving for freedom from threats by human beings in all fields of their life (from political and business to family relations and from internal to international relations). The human (in)security perceptions, assessments, feelings, and qualifications should be based on the existence of certain objective (in)security indicators. Research and dealing in general with human security field requires creating and utilising a complex methodology. The methodology should be capable to provide answers to the key questions within the field. First, one should assess what is (not) a threat to a certain human being or community, i.e. create insecurity indicators. One has to determine in what way a certain actor, phenomenon, or relationship threatens human being or community, in which period and space.

          The discussed concept is the result and expression of human striving for security practically lasting through all history. Since this goal as well as many others can hardly be achieved permanently, the search is in practice endless. There is no human being or community that can be considered as fully or absolutely secure. The events of the 11 October 2001 in New York and Washington showed that even the most politically powerful and developed human communities can be considered as just more or less (in)secure and that all of them have "weak spots".

          Prof. dr Bary Buzan concluded that security experts and other people risk because "what is perceived as a threat, and what can be objectively assessed as threatening, may be quite different. Real threats may not be accurately seen. Perceived threats may not be real, and yet still have real effects" (for instance, security dilemma). The meaning of these words is general enough to cover the whole human history and to be universal, but they - if applied to different human and other situations in different historical and geographic points - provide different concrete results and bases for security conclusions and assessments. The meaning of human security and threats differ through time and space, also depending (as it was mentioned) of human (in the first place decision makers’) perceptions, feelings, values, capabilities, possibly utilised security indicators, etc.

          One could conclude that since the end of the Cold War there has been going on the disintegration of statecentric and militarycentric concept of security (state, military and/or national security), and the peoplecentric concepts have been placed in the conceptual centre. Security concepts oriented towards state protection have been slowly replaced by human (and civic) security giving protection priority to individuals along with community and society.

          The very idea of human security could be misused by power-thirsty decision makers in their international and internal struggles, disputes, invasions, aggressions, etc. Regarding to some states these phenomena could be compared with the strivings for proclaiming even most distant parts of the world to be zones of national security interest, and even smallest changes are considered to be attacks to national security since they are in discordance with interests of these states (this was stressed by prof. dr Vojin Dimitrijević and prof. dr Radoslav Stojanović). Thus, these problems require a cautious, serious, and complex approach to numerous important questions within human security field. Although one can consider that the world is participant and witness of the integrative (for instance, globalisation) and disintegrative processes, a reconfiguration or reshaping of anarchy is going on in international relations. Implementation of the human security concept could decrease, but also increase the anarchy.

        • Tags: human rights, human security, theory, concept, Security, practice
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