chapter  1
22 Pages

Human security: A new label for old challenges?

The growing focus on human security since the 1990s has engendered considerable debates and fostered several fundamental questions of security debate: security for whom, what threats, protection by who, and with what means security should be achieved? While various conceptions of human security emerge as both tools for academic analysis and means for policy practice as a result of such debates, all concerned agree that the primary goal of human security is to achieve the security of people. Disagreements have emerged regarding the scope of security and the methods that can be used to achieve the security of people. Exploring the debates of the human security concept will illustrate its key components. This chapter, therefore, sets out the genesis of the current human security debates and various distinctive views on the concept of human security. It attempts to examine both normative and practical implications of the concept and explain how the term is interpreted and suggested in this book when exploring human security in Southeast Asia.

The concept of ‘security’ is claimed a ‘contested concept’ (Kolodziej 2005:18; Baylis 1997: 194). This is partly because ‘security’ is ambiguous and elastic in its meaning. There is a common view that it implies freedom from ‘danger, risk, anxiety, or apprehension’ (Smith 2003: 1138). However, there is the serious conceptual (and normative) problem of determining the main focus of enquiry: ‘individual’, ‘state’, or ‘international’ security. The traditional understanding of security in international politics and international theories lies in security for states (Baylis 1997: 194). With the rise of the nation-state, collective strategic security became central in political discourse throughout the twentieth century, being enforced by diplomatic and military formations. As a result, most discussions on security were dominated by the idea of ‘national’ or ‘state’ security, particularly during the Cold War period, which was largely defined in militarized terms – protecting national interests and territory from outside (Shani et al. 2007: 1). The main interest for both academics and policy-makers tended to be in the military capabilities that their own states should develop in order to deal with the threats that faced them.