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Human Security: Perception, Persuasion And Planning – Analysis


Basically, the idea of human security is not static and has to be adjusted in order to promote human development in a ever-changing society. In the classical formulation security is about how states use force to manage threats to their territorial integrity. Now it is no longer confined to the military or territorial threats to a state but also considers non-military threats.


The emphasis has shifted on the internal source of threats emanating from within the boundaries of the state, such as, coercive diplomacy, economic and, psychological warfare, political subversion, defamatory propaganda, terrorism and political violence. The central question – how safe and free are we as individual is the result of the growing dissatisfaction with prevailing notions of development and security in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s. The reports of various commissions on security and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have focussed a lot the cause of human security.

Themes of human security

In the context, the Classical theory of human security refers to the security of territorial state and it has been criticized on grounds more than one. It laid too much emphasis on force in a world where there were weapons of mass destruction and interdependence is knitting nations together willy-nilly. In the circumstances security cannot be restricted to military threats as rival states may also deploy other kinds of threats against each other’s territorial integrity and domestic political order. There may also be various non-state actors and even natural catastrophes. However a large and more fundamental critics of security go further to suggest that security cannot be restricted to the well-being of the state. But in this context what is central or should be central – is the protection and welfare of the individual citizen or human being.

The basic themes of human security have been elaborated in a series of reports prepared by multinational independent commissions composed of prominent leaders, intellectuals and academics. In the early years of 1970s the Club of Rome groups produced a series of volumes on the ‘World problematique’ which narrated “a complex of problems troubling men of all nations: poverty; degradation of the environment; loss of faith in institutions; uncontrolled urban spread; insecurity of employment; alienation of youth; rejection of traditional values; and inflation and other monetary and economic disruptions”.

Commission’s recommendations

In line, the 1980s witnessed two independent commissions in order to change thinking on development and security. The first was the Independent Commission on International Development Issues chaired by Willy Brandt and second, the Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues, chaired by Olof Palme. The first Commission issued the North-South report in 1980 and in its introduction, it noted that the heart of the matter was the “will to overcome dangerous tensions and to produce significant and useful results for nations and regions- but first and foremost, for human beings- in all parts of the world”.

It also argued the necessity of a North-South engagement for development. The second Commission authored the famous Common Security report which drew attention towards alternative ways of thinking about peace and security. Apart from focussing on military issues and the staples of national security, it acknowledged that in the Third World security was also threatened by “poverty, deprivation, and economic inequality”.


A new thinking in matters of human security began to grow rapidly with the end of Cold War in the first part of the 1990s. First the Stockholm Initiative on Global Security and Governance issued a call for “Common Responsibility in the 1990s. It referred to challenges to security other than political rivalry and armaments and dealt also with threats that stem from failures in development, environmental degradation, excessive population growth and movement, and lack of progress towards democracy.Four years later its sentiments were echoed in the Commission on Global Governance’s report, “Our Global Neighbourhood” which maintained that the concept of global security must be broadened from the traditional focus on the security of states.

Related concepts of human security

In the context of human security two concepts- human rights and human development need to be analysed first. Basically human rights refer to all human beings having universal or status to which we are entitled simply by being human. It is not limited to providing all human beings with the needs for their physical subsistence but involves a certain degree of minimal comfort beyond merely keeping one’s organs working because human subsistence also consists of being able to function. Having grown out of the liberal traditions of the 18th century Europe, the concept had roots in the philosophical traditions of most civilizations which ranges for over two thousand years.

Typically human rights are categorized as two–negative human rights and positive human rights. The concept of negative human rights denotes actions that a government should not take as it follow mainly the Anglo-American tradition. It was codified in the United States Bill of Rights, the English Bill of Rights and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom and freedom of speech, religion and assembly. On the other positive human rights denote rights that the state is obliged to protect and provide. It follows mainly the Rousseauian Continental European legal tradition and is codified in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in many constitutions of contemporary world. Examples of such rights include: the right to education, to a livelihood, and to legal equality.

The concept of human security and human rights is incomplete without human development. Generally, while analysing human development, three approaches are used to measure the well-being of the people. The first one is, physical quality of life index which contains three indicators–adult literacy rate, infant mortality and life expectancy. The second approach is basic needs approach which argues that the basic needs of adequate nutrition, primary education, health sanitation, water supply and housing available to the poorest to a reasonable extent. The last, being the human development index approach, is the most widely used index.

The prime mover of human security

In the history of human security 1994 was an important year. In it, Haq’s approach to human security was outlined in his paper “New Imperatives of Human Security”, which answered the question ‘ security for whom. He says simply ‘Human security is not about states and nations but about individuals and people’. Elsewhere he wrote normatively, ‘we need to fashion a new concept of human security that is reflected in the lives of our people, not in the weapons of our country. In answer to the question what values will we seek to protect, he clearly counts that individual safety and well-being in the broad sense are the prime values. He laid especial emphasis on how can human security be achieved?

In the same year (1994), the UNDP’s Human Development Report was published which included a section on human security. It insists as Haq did, that the contextual object of human security is individual or people. The Report also cited the founding document of the UN and its original delineation of security as ‘freedom from fear’, ‘freedom from want’ and the equal weight to territories and to people. In nutshell, human security relates directly to the protection of every individual simply by being a human.

Dr. Rajkumar Singh

Dr. Rajkumar Singh is a University Professor for the last 20 years and presently Head of the P.G. Department of Political Science, B.N. Mandal University, West Campus, P.G. Centre,Saharsa (Bihar), India. In addition to 17 books published so far there are over 250 articles to his credit out of which above 100 are from 30 foreign countries. His recent published books include Transformation of modern Pak Society-Foundation, Militarisation, Islamisation and Terrorism (Germany, 2017),and New Surroundings of Pak Nuclear Bomb (Mauritius, 2018). He is an authority on Indian Politics and its relations with foreign countries.

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