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Opinions of Sunday, 1 August 2010

Columnist: Bayor, Justin

What Is Human Security And National Security?

By Justin Bayor
National Network Coordinator

In order to understand human security, it is essential to first look at the orthodox approach to security. The orthodox approach or westphalian concept of security, has its roots in the rise of the modern nation state in seventeenth century Europe. The first and perhaps the most significant factor shaping the behaviour of states was the idea that the international system was fundamentally anarchic with no overall governing authority to enforce rules, norms, laws, or more widely, some conception of international justice.

In such a self-help system, no state could be sure that its security would be guaranteed by any other body no matter how firm an alliance might appear at any given time. The supposed universal rationality of state actors meant that they would, by and large, converge around similar international policies and aspire to similar goals in order to render themselves as secure as possible in what was a perpetually insecure system. Most important to this assumption was a military framework that served to act as a minimum deterrent to external aggressors who could threaten the sovereignty of the state, embodied in its territory, boundaries, political institutions, and the general population’s right to self-determination.

What was therefore important for orthodox security on the basis of these assumptions was that in the international realm states pursued policies that were above the demands of any single group in society. The state society relationship, therefore, was separated from international relations, and this separation was necessary for security in the domestic realm. The interest of national security were said to be above and beyond those of any single group in domestic politics simply because if a state was not externally secure, there could be little hope of the goals of domestic politics (the good life for example) ever being realised. Thus, the state was the neutral arena within which the complexities of domestic political and social life could be played out.

However, dissatisfaction started growing with the orthodox or westphalian concept of security, one which reified the state and sanctioned the use of military power in defence against threats to territorial autonomy and domestic political order. This tradition was blind to the polymorphous nature of social power-gender, class, ethnicity, religion and age-and its development within and across territorial boundaries. The inter-sections between the various power bases created complex matrices of human rights abuse within the domestic jurisdiction of many nation-states. These abuses either remained invisible or were purposely concealed in the name of national security and social and/or cultural order. In addition, new non-military security issues with human rights implications emerged and acquired trans-national characteristics in conjunction with the intensification of global economic integration.

The dissatisfaction thus witnessed a fundamental departure from the traditional or orthodox realists thinking of security, which views the state as the exclusive primary referent object. Instead, human beings and their complex social and economic relations have now been given primacy with or over states, in line with the neoliberalist view of security.

Therefore, in today’s world ‘when we think about security we need to think beyond battalions and borders. We need to think about human security, about winning a different war, the fight against poverty.’ The UNDP notes that ‘For too long, the concept of security has been shaped by the potential for conflict between states. For too long, security has been equated with threats to a country’s borders. For too long, nations have sought arms to protect their security. For most people today, a feeling of insecurity arises more from worries about daily life than from the dread of a cataclysmic world event. Job security, health security, environmental security, security from crime, these are the emerging concerns of human security all over the world’.

Thus, human security, sometimes defined as 'Freedom from fear' and 'freedom from want' has now become the catch phrase of an approach to security in the post cold war era. Often referred to as 'people-centred security' or 'security with a human face', human security emphasizes the complex relationships and often-ignored linkages between human dignity, human rights, human poverty and development. Today all security discussions demand incorporation of the human dimension.

But for some scholars, human security is both about ‘the ability to protect people as well as to safeguard states’, whilst in some human security formulations such as that of former Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy, human needs rather than states needs are paramount. Axworthy believes this to be so in the aftermath of the cold war as intrastate conflicts have become more prevalent than interstate conflicts.
Human security is in essence an effort to construct a society where the safety of the individual is at the centre of the priorities..,; where human rights standards and the rule of law are advanced and woven into a coherent web protecting the individual...’’. The United Nations Commission on Human Security, defines human security as ‘the protection of the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfilment, which stresses the importance of opportunities and choices to all human life”.

It is also important to note that all proponents of ‘human security’ agree that its primary goal is the protection of individuals. But consensus breaks down over what threats individuals should be protected from. Proponents of a narrow concept of human security, focus on violent threats to individuals, while proponents of a wider concept of human security argue that the threat agenda should be broadened to include hunger, disease and natural disasters because these kill far more people than war, genocide and terrorism combined.

In this light, National Security is not just about the security of the state. It is about the security of the state and also the security of the individuals within the state. It is basically about the protection of the individuals within the state whiles upholding the state. It is about protecting the individuals against violence as well as from hunger, disease, disaster etc. If lots of people are unemployed, then they are hungry and therefore it is a national security issue. If farmers’ crops are being destroyed by Fulani herdsmen and they go hungry, then it is a national security threat. In brief, National Security is both about the ability to protect individuals within a state as well as safeguard the state.