Friday, 29 June 2012


For a hungry family, human security means dinner on the table” says UN Deputy Secretary-General. So what does human security stand for?

On June 4, 2012, in New York, during the General Assembly plenary meeting on human security, the Deputy Secretary-General remarked: “…For a hungry family, human security means dinner on the table.  For a refugee, human security is shelter and a safe haven from the storms of conflict or disaster.  For a woman caught in conflict, human security is protection from harm.  For a child living in poverty, human security is the chance to go to school…” (DSG/SM/620-GA/11247)

Indeed, human security is, and, ought to be much more than an abstract concept developed over years of discussions.

Since the GA Resolution 64/291, and even before, much was voiced about human security. The term can be considered as an emergent concept, but the idea that feeds it may date back to the foundation of the International Committee of the Red Cross in 1860s based on the doctrine of the security of people that was further formalized in the subsequent documents of the UN Charter, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Geneva Conventions.

In 1994, the UNDP Human Development Report set the lines for a fresh aspect of the term “human security” dealing with its concept and complexity, highlighting non-traditional threats as an attempt to address human security towards the International Development Agenda. The Final Report on Human Security of the UN Commission on Human Security was released in 2003, and contributed not only for the reconfirmation of the concept, but also for the addition of new elements to further thinking.

Fundamentally, the protection and the empowerment of people are the core components behind the achievement of human security goals. According to Mrs. Sadako Ogata, the first refers to the norms, processes and institutions required to shield people from critical and pervasive threats and the latter emphasizes people as actors and participants in defining and implementing their vital freedoms.

For the UNDP Commission, Human Security means “to protect the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfillment” (1). The key word, here, is vital: the freedoms that are the essence of life, those elementary rights that cannot be denied to anyone in order to provide a life with dignity. The extensiveness of the definition is intentional to have an impact on political, social, environmental, economic, cultural and military policies and systems, for only by providing this holistic condition it would be possible to strengthen the building blocks of survival, livelihood and dignity (2).

Even after years of discussions, there is still no consensus on an adequate definition of what Human security, but there is an agreement that it was thought to be dynamic, flexible and comprehensive enough to incorporate the three main agenda items of peace, security and development (3) in order to attain “freedom from fear” and “freedom from want”.

Despite the fact that Its people-centered approach brings the universal principle of human dignity into light, it confirms that Human Security demands collaborations of governments, civil society, communities and businesses, in partnerships of common purpose (4) to be concretely felt in the daily lives of people.

Undeniably, Human Security must not remain a potential and abstract concept, it ought to become concrete actions and measures, It ought to become implemented policies and strategies, and it ought to allow the full safety and empowerment of people worldwide.

By Giselle Pinheiro Arcoverde

(2) (3) HUMAN SECURITY NOW: Commission on Human Security – Final Report. New York, 2003.

(4) REPORT OF THE HELSINKI PROCESS ON GLOBALIZATION AND DEMOCRACY TRACK ON “HUMAN SECURITY”.Empowering people at risk: human security priorities for the 21 st Century. In:

For the final report on human security visit:

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