Human Security Policies
Numerous initiatives launched by international, governmental and non-governmental organizations are making the concept of human security recognizable and are entrenching it firmly into public policies. These policies shape society and lives in order to achieve the highest possible level of safety, security and personal dignity. Human security is increasingly being adopted as a doctrine to guide foreign policies and international development assistance, as well as a policy tool for planning in the fields of security, development and humanitarian work.
To define human security policies, we could use two terms – policy and politics. The term policy would refer to decision making activities in the public sphere which are important to the community. Using the term politics, would limit the interpretation to advocating the interests of a community. It is important to note the key differences between traditional security policy and human security policy.
Human security approaches and policies focus on the physical and material safety and dignity of people globally, and not on the military and strategic interests of individual states, which is the case with traditional security policies. Defending human life is more important than defending states and personal integrity is just as important as territorial integrity.
Wars between states are still a major global problem, and together with civil wars (intra-state conflicts), pose major threats to human security around the globe. Use of threat and force has not been reduced in international policies as the war in Syria shows. Additionally, human security is also increasingly threatened by disasters, state collapse and widespread human right abuses.
As human life and its protection is always the highest priority for people, human security policies place an emphasis on addressing a wide range of threats, on prevention, and lived experiences and a bottom-up approach rather than a focus on territory and elite agendas as in classic security. From the perspective of human security peace always comes before war, incentive for cooperation before armed conflict, and transparency and factual reporting on military operations should replace secrecy and propaganda when providing information.
Human security policies involve a much wider spectrum of actors who need to contribute to security. While military and police forces are the principal guarantee of security in the traditional approach, for human security policies, civil society is an important actor as well. Civil society, among other things, plays a part in arms control and may help bring about disarmament, as seen in disarmament programs “goods for weapons” in Central America, Eastern Europe and Africa, under the auspices of local non-governmental groups. Civil society plays a key role in promoting compliance with national laws, and in verification of international treaties (this is the case, for example, with conventions on the prohibition of the use of landmines), in generating information and a bottom up perspective and in improving the legitimacy and sustainability of policy responses.
The importance of human security policies is also reflected in seeking to bring together security and development. The development of a community plays an important role in supporting disarmament, removing incentives for violence and criminalised economy, and when striving for security of a community, development is considered at the same time, as a way of ensuring peace. Conflict can be seen as ‘development in reverse’.
Threats to human security are interconnected and often produce a domino effect. For example, violent conflicts often arise out of marginalization, deprivation and poverty and in turn can lead to resource depletion, infectious diseases, education deficits, etc. Also, threats cannot be contained within a given country or area but can spread into a wider region and have negative impacts on regional and international security. Therefore, human security involves a comprehensive approach, emphasizing both multiple sources of insecurity faced by individuals and groups, and the need for cooperative and multi-sectoral responses, and which brings together various actors involved in development, security and human rights.
Human security has a double focus, concentrating on protection and empowerment. Protection implies a “top-down” approach. It is recognized that people face threats that are beyond their control (e.g., natural disasters, financial crises and conflicts), and human security therefore requires protecting people in a systematic, comprehensive and preventative way. States have the primary responsibility to implement such protective policies. However, international and regional organizations, the civil society and non-governmental actors as well as the private sector also play a role in protecting people from various sources of insecurity they are exposed to.
Empowerment implies a “bottom up” approach and aims to develop capabilities of individuals and communities to develop their full potential, to make appropriate decisions and find ways to participate in maintaining human security for themselves and others.
From the perspective of the protection and empowerment framework, human security policies aim to identify problems in the existing security infrastructure and to find ways to relieve them. At the same time, a key feature of human security policies is that they are contextualised. They should recognise the specific nature of threats and possibilities for action. By encouraging participatory processes, the human security approach supports the development of a network of diverse actors and establishing formal mechanisms for their cooperation. This can enhance the dialogue between government institutions and citizens and lead to an increase in trust and greater civic engagement, as well as improve social cohesion.