7 Pages


Human security is a growing concern around the globe and an evolving concept in the discourse of security. Since the concept was first introduced in the international arena during the 1990s, the idea and its utility have been widely debated in academia and policy circles around the world. The idea has been mentioned on many occasions by international, regional and sub-regional organizations, as well as by various governments.1 The varied interpretations of the concept along with noticeable disagreements prove the degree to which it has attracted all who debate the notion, its value, and its utility. Human security principally concerns the security of individuals and

communities, in marked contrast to the traditional discourse that emphasizes the security of the ‘state’, or that of a territory or government. This traditional discourse is by no means irrelevant to human security, given the continued salience of the state in international relations. However, there are mounting debates regarding the purpose of security. The notion of human security proposes a shift in our point of reference, placing people as the focal point of security considerations for both analysis and policy. Most obviously, human security is endangered during times of armed

conflict or war, when people’s physical safety is being threatened. Threats to people’s security, however, arise not only from missiles, bombs, and bullets but also from war-exacerbated disease and malnutrition. This can be witnessed in the living conditions of the millions of refugees and internally displaced persons in Iraq, Afghanistan, occupied Palestinian territories, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Colombia, Sierra Leone and Sudan. War-exacerbated disease and malnutrition caused more deaths than missiles, bombs and bullets do in most of today’s armed conflicts (Mack 2005: 7).2 Thus, human security is also about the conditions of people’s daily living. Even in the absence of actual physical violence, people continue to suffer from fear. Mack points out that people are ruled by fear in highly authoritarian states, emphasizing the increasing level of state repression in half of the developing world over the last 20 years (Mack 2005: 7). In such cases, the question of human security is about more than people’s safety and their living conditions; it is about their

dignity. Furthermore, there are numerous threats to people’s physical safety and living conditions even in the absence of armed conflict. These threats include the ravages of natural disasters, fatal diseases, environmental hazards, unemployment, and food shortages, although traditionally these were not considered security concerns. The perspective of human security obviously widens the overall scope of security. Nevertheless, none of these human security issues are new. Throughout

human history these situations caused an untold number of deaths, created harsh living conditions, resulted in physical and psychological humiliations and thus were major threats to human security. Internal wars and rebellions caused an immense number of casualties since ancient times, as seen in the An Shi Rebellion (756-63) and the Taiping Rebellion (1850-64) in China, the Great Paraguayan War (1864-70), and the Russian Civil War (1917-23).3

Moreover, estimates of the number of casualties in the Russian Civil War reveal more deaths by starvation and disease as a result of the war than by engagement in battle.4 Similarly, it is estimated that the Taiping Rebellion caused far more civilian than military casualties.5