The security revolutionCHANGING THE CULTURE OF SECURITY : FROM HARD TO SOFT SECURITY – THE POWER GRAB OF SOFT POWER : THE HUMAN SECURITY MOVEMENT AND THE COMMISSION ON HUMAN SECURITY
The post-cold war global revolution that has already transformed the culture of development (sustainable development), of government (governance, partnerships with civil society and business), of democracy (participatory democracy), of the enterprise (corporate social responsibility), of gender relations (gender equity, reproductive health), of human rights (right to choose, new rights), of education (global ethic) has more recently spread to security, a territory that had perhaps so far remained more or less unaffected by the new global values, with institutions that could have provided a forum for an open democratic debate that never took place. Next to the new culture of rights, the culture of peace, the culture of participation and partnerships, the culture of choice, the culture of consensus, there is now a culture of security, and there is a new security paradigm.
Catalyzing a diffuse movement in favor of a broader concept of security, an independent commission closely linked to the UN system - the Commission on Human Security, issued a report entitled « Human Security Now, Protecting and Empowering People ». The background of this commission is presented in item 3 of this report.
The Commission’s report argues in favor of a change in the culture of security. Broadening security, it integrates in it as “inseparable parts” (2, p. 130) human rights, conflict prevention, humanitarian work, social development, alongside hard military issues. The report, presented to Kofi Annan on May 1st, 2003, lays down the agenda. The agenda is ambitious and calls for change. It provides, reads the report, "an impetus for all countries, whether developed or developing, to review existing security, economic, development and social policies”.
Bearing the same features as all the new paradigms the UN produced in the 1990s (see item 2 in this report), the security revolution belongs to the global consensus but brings it one step further along the same revolutionary process of change. It builds on the consensus and reinforces it. Conversely, the global consensus paves the way for a quick, easy and broad acceptance of the new human security concept. Those who endorsed the UN world conferences are likely to readily accept human security as further « progress » : the EU, the OSCE, the global NGO community, the global left. In addition, there are signs that developing countries, the African Union, NEPAD, led to believe that human security means real development, will also support the new agenda.
Many are now reflecting on what to do about the stalled process of the Security Council reform, what identity to give NATO and the OSCE, how to shape international security in the face of the new threats. The trend that connects hard security to soft issues is now quietly but quickly gaining momentum in an array of informal but influential fora worldwide. This trend must be taken seriously as an essential determinant of the debate. The human security report reveals that the movement is structured, its visionaries, intelligentsia, pioneers and leaders are already in place, they have a ready-made agenda and are building global alliances. Human security is already not only advocated but implemented by some states (such as those belonging to the Human Security Network, see item 5 in this report), a variety of non-state actors and informal mechanisms, including some security and multilateral organizations. The creation of a ministry for human security in Thailand is setting a precedent.
All in all, the security revolution will lead to another round of power transfer from sovereign states and traditional democratic institutions to the UN, its various agencies and NGOs. It is also already entangled in UN ideology, the conceptual framework of the post-cold war global agenda of sustainable development and its various components. Soft developments deserve far more attention than they generally receive. Soft processes eventually turn into hard ones when they are allowed to gain a critical level of cultural impact.
The purpose of this report is to raise awareness of the challenges posed by the new human security concept. A passive attitude amounts to passive engagement in the movement. It would only further empower the unelected, and further undermine the responsibility and leadership of elected representatives and decision makers, since the security revolution unfolds outside traditional democratic structures. Do we want to take on our responsibilities, or wake up in a new culture, with its set of new structures, values, governance mechanisms and laws, in which we would feel foreign, incapacitated, and obliged to cooperate with non-states actors in the practical implementation of a new security approach that the unelected forged – not the elected who represent the people?
The security revolution is soft, quiet and cultural, both conceptual and procedural. Conceptually, it produced the new paradigm of « human security ». Procedurally, the revolution shifts power and influence to the UN system, UN agencies, non-governmental actors, academia, humanitarian organizations, women's groups. As mentionned, human security bears the characteristic features of all the new paradigms, and these are well known. Let us recapitulate some of these features, and see how the report applies them to human security.
- The shift from hard and formal power to soft and informal power, in other words, the shift from institutions, states, the market, national boundaries, whatever is deemed "top-down" and setting limits on the individual’s "right to choose", to « people ». Human security explicitly focuses on people RATHER than on states. The Commission "takes people, not the state, as its starting point. People means not only individuals, which is a Western concept, but also communities." (4) Let us emphasize incidentally that the cultural revolution has an unhealthy dialectical approach of people, implicitly setting them AGAINST the state, the market and institutions.
- NGOs and « civil society » as the powerhouse of the revolution : “Civil society plays an unprecedented role in setting the security agenda and policies.” (1)
- Forging new concepts, alleging that traditional concepts are outdated. Because security challenges have become more complex, emanate more and more from internal sources rather than external aggression and, reads the outline of the report, “various new actors attempt to play a new role, we need a shift in paradigm” (3, p. 1). The need for change may be true, but the way it is operated is arbitrary, not democratic.
- Constructs that are "imperatives": a new concept has been forged, it is presented as an imperative to which there is no alternative and which must be "urgently" adopted and implemented: “we require urgently a new consensus on security”. The sense of urgently is emotionally driven.
- Consensus-building: once there is a « broad-based consensus » on the new concept, it is mainstreamed in institutions, and NGOs and other actors monitor its implementation: “Human security should be mainstreamed in the work of global, regional and national security organizations.” (2, p. 131)).
- At the top of the agenda : policy documents emphasize that the new concepts must be placed at the top of the agenda at all levels: “the Commission on Human Security proposes that a global initiative be mobilized to place human security at the top of local, national, regional and global agendas.” (2, p. 131)
- Focus on implementation and action. When consensus is allegedly achieved and formalized, the focus shifts from awareness-raising to implementation and monitoring, a phase that lays the ground for juridical verification a few years down the road.
- Absence of clear definitions, vagueness of the new concepts (see item 10 in this report): « Definitions change according to circumstances. We did not feel that we wanted to have THE definition. Human security is a process of change. Human security means many different things. » (4)
- Holism : The new paradigms are all « broader » than traditional concepts - in UN language, « holistic », « inclusive », « integrated ». Human security relates the traditional concept of security to the new socio-economic agenda of the UN and includes, as the report makes clear, the equity principle, reproductive health, gender equity, the rights approach, civil society participation, sustainable development, poverty eradication, foreign direct investment, education for all, health for all, private sector partnership, good governance, empowerment, HIV-AIDS prevention, the Millennium goals... But the targets of human security « must go well beyond the Millennium Development Goals » (2, p. 131). The Commission, says J. Cels, takes the UN global conferences and the Millennium goals as “building blocks because they are major achievements. At the same time, there are shortfalls. The Millennium Goals do not take conflicts into account. Among the twenty poorest countries, the majority are in conflict.” (4) The process of holism is dynamic, always integrating new components in what seems to be an unending process of change.
- The new paradigms allegedly do not substitute old paradigms, but are said to « complement » them. As a result, human security coexists with state security, but human security and state security do not coexist on equal terms. The new concept is dynamic. National defense and security are on the wane or on the defensive. In a regime of coexistence, the new paradigms progressively transform tradition from within.
- The new paradigms are all balance systems between different components. Human security balances people’s protection and their empowerment. Protection involves “norms, policies and institutions essential to shield people”, and it implies a “top-down approach” (rule of law and democratic governance). People’s empowerment regards the “role of people as actors and participants” in decision-making, and it implies a “bottom-up approach”. The view of the Commission is that there is, at the moment, too much emphasis on protection. “US soldiers are building schools in Iraq. Why are the people not doing it?” wonders Cells. The balance must be redressed in favor of the bottom-up approach.
At the UN Millennium Summit, Kofi Annan called for « freedom from want » and « freedom from fear ». Sensitized to his call by the financial crisis of South East Asia at the end of the 1990s, the government of Japan proposed setting up an independent Commission with a two-year mandate to develop the concept of human security « as an operational tool for policy formulation and implementation » (2, p. 153). The mandate of the Commission was also to promote public understanding of the « imperatives » of human security, and propose a « concrete programme of action to address critical and pervasive threats to human security. »
The Commission started operations in June 2001 and ended them in May 2003. Its work was financed by the government of Japan, the Rockefeller Foundation, the government of Sweden, and the Japan Center for International Exchange. It was supported by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Development Programme, the UN Office for Project Services and several governments, in particular the Austrian government. It was assisted by a number of UN bodies, including the World Health Organization, UNESCO, UNICEF, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, UNAIDS, the International Labor Organization, the UN Secretariat, the UN University, the World Bank, the World Food Programme, but also Amnesty International, Save the Children, the Carnegie Endowment of Peace, the Ford Foundation, the OSCE, the Trilateral Commission, the World Economic Forum among many other organizations.
The Commission recommended setting up an Advisory Board on Human Security that will promote and follow-up on the Commission’s report.
After the UN Millennium Summit, Japan established a UN Trust Fund on Human Security, accessible to UN agencies, to implement the Commission’s recommendations. It contributed 200 million dollars to the Fund. Japan also granted 120 million dollars for 2003 to a bilateral human security civil society initiative. Responding to criticisms about the ODA, the Japanese government wants “bilateral” assistance to go directly to NGOs instead of states. This is setting an important precedent.
The Commission was co-chaired by Amartya Sen (Nobel Laureate in Economics, 1998) and Sadako Ogata (former UN High Commissioner for Refugees), and constituted by ten commissioners:
- Lakhdar Brahimi, UN Under Secretary-General and Special Representative of the Secretary General for Afghanistan;
- Lincoln Chen, Director, Global Equity Initiative, Harvard University and former Vice President of the Rockerfeller Foundation;
- Bronislaw Geremek, historian, former prime minister of Poland;
- Frene F
- Sonia Picado, President of the Board of Directors of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights;
- Surin Pitsuwan, Member of Parliament and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Thailand;
- Donna Shalala, President of the University of Miami and former Secretary of Health and Human Services, US;
- Peter Sutherland, Chairman and Managing Director, Goldman Sachs International, Chairman of BP and former Director-General of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade;
- Albert Tevoedjre, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Côte d’Ivoire, former Deputy Director General of the International Labour Organization and former Minister of Planning, Benin;
- Carl Tham, Swedish Ambassador to Germany and former Secretary-General of the Olof Palme Center.
- Sonia Picado, President of the Board of Directors of the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights;
According to Johan Cels, the Commission on Human Security brought together two human security schools of thought, thereby creating a third and new school, that of a fully integrated human security system :
- the first school, the Human Security Network (HSN), an informal group of thirteen like-minded governments, addresses the changing nature of conflict, focuses on internal conflict, and addresses issues such as anti-personnel landmines, the fight against HIV-AIDS, children soldiers, the control of small arms and light weapons, the integration of “gender” into peace-keeping operations, the implementation gaps of international humanitarian and human rights law, conflict prevention, human rights education, civilian conflict, the role of non-state actors in building human security, the International Criminal Court – issues which have come together under “human security”.
Austria, Canada, Chile, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, The Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland, Thailand, and South Africa as an observer, belong to the HSN. At the level of Foreign Ministers, they “maintain dialogue on questions pertaining to human security” (5). Launched in Norway in 1999, the network emerged from the landmines campaign. Meetings at Foreign Ministers level take place yearly. The network views human security as "both a measure of global security and a new agenda for global action." (5) The HSN ties human rights, democratic governance, the culture of peace and the peaceful resolution of conflicts to the UN global consensus on the 1990s: "Promoting sustainable human development, through the alleviation of absolute poverty, providing basic social services for all, and pursuing the goals of people-centred development, is necessary for building human security." (5) The way the UN and many of its partners interpret sustainable development, as seen in previous IIS reports, is not neutral and straightforward. The network enthusiastically supports the “crucial role of NGOs as key non-state actors partners in developing, advocating, building and implementing human security.” (5) It recognizes the “invaluable expertise, energy and commitment devoted by NGOs to progress across a range of key issues relevant to the security of people.” (5) Ministers, “recognizing these contributions, undertook to work nationally and in international fora to promote greater engagement, inclusivity and transparency between governments and civil society on human security issues.” (5) In other words, the network is one of innumerous supporters of the global consensus.
- The second school is that of the UN Development Programme. It focuses on the developmental aspects of human security: health, education, human rights, environment, gender disparities, inequality. The 1994 UNDP Human Development Report had focused on human security. This school basically identifies with the socio-economic agenda of the UN, the global conferences of the 1990s and the Millennium Goals.
As all the new paradigms, which are all holistic concepts, human security cannot be implemented by states alone. It demands a shift from states to partnerships with NGOs, businesses and international institutions, from a sectoral to an intersectoral or multistakeholder approach. Human security, therefore, as all other concepts which cannot be implemented by states alone, reinforces governance to the detriment of government, global governance to the detriment of sovereignty, informal soft power to the detriment of traditional democratic power.
“What you have at the moment, argues Cels, is a compartmentalized response from the humanitarian agencies, the development agencies, those working at security, the UN, governments, NGOs… Nobody really talks to each other openly… Development actors do not deal well with conflict situations. They say that in conflict, development should not take place and they tend to withdraw. But there is growing recognition that, even in conflict, development, of a different nature, can take place. In post conflict situations, there is a gap between humanitarian and development work; it takes time, after the humanitarian work, before development takes place. We cannot continue to function in compartments.” (4)
The intersectoral approach and holism require radical changes, “a fundamental rethinking of current institutional arrangements and policies” to “overcome the existing compartmentalization of policies and programmes along institutional divisions of work – along security, development and assistance lines”.
The intersectoral approach implies that all actors endorse a common agenda (which is what human security is supposed to be) and that their work is coordinated by some system that stands above all of them (which is what global alliances are supposed to do – see item 7 in this report).
The UN took global normative leadership in the 1990s in all areas (human rights, sustainable development, health and education for all, gender equity and so on). At various degrees, the new norms now affect the policies of most governments, businesses, civil society organizations in all parts of the world. The global cultural revolution spread like wildfire. It was successful.
But there are signs that the UN now no longer seeks to play a leadership role. Innumerous informal networks now develop "around" the UN to implement the new vision. The UN belongs to the new networks, but no longer occupies a position of exclusive leadership.
The authors of the Human Security Report advocate the development of “alliances of key actors ... – networks of public, private and civil actors who can develop norms, embark on integrated activities and monitor progress and performance”, (2, p. 142) alliances that "could in turn embrace other networks, especially within the security community, working on related issues” (2, pp. 142-143). They also recognize that “numerous loose networks, involving a wide range of actors, are already formulating and implementing human security agendas.” (2, p. 142)
The idea of such alliances being normative - a logical unfolding of the partnerships culture, is revolutionary and deserves the greatest attention. It needs to be careful analyzed and monitored. Isn't the world, and many Western nations in particular, drifting away from traditional democracy if "loose networks" become normative, make policy, implement it and monitor its implementation? The report is explicit about these alliances creating another source of legitimacy, a so-called horizontal legitimacy: "The goal of these alliances could be to create a kind of horizontal, cross-border source of legitimacy that complements that of traditional vertical and compartmentalized structures of institutions and states.” (2, p. 142) The new legitimacy would be founded on the new global ethic, not on universal values.
The Commission wants to link the efforts of these groups "in national, regional and global alliances" and to give them a structure. It proposes “the development of a core group made up of interested states, international organizations and civil society, around the United Nations and the Bretton Woods institutions, to forge links with disparate human security actors in a strong global alliance.” (3, p. 4) The word “around” (“around the UN”) is revealing of the new trend just described above.
We note that the formation of the new alliances, set up to implement the agenda of the global consensus, make it clear that the so-called "global consensus" in fact only belongs to alliances of interested partners. The global consensus is not global if only interested states and a host of civil society partners and businesses own it. Alliances also paradoxically mark the end of multilateralism: if only “interested states” belong to them, alliances are not multilateral, and neither is their agenda. They have no right to claim global normative leadership. The danger, if governments and the silent majority passively allow the development of informal global alliances, is that they will effectively acquire that leadership incrementally and by stealth, and critically change the culture of security.
The human security movement will go forward. Aware of this, governments must open a democratic debate on the agenda of human security, and real people must freely decide whether they want to identify with it. Governments must also be aware that by joining global human security alliances, they will put in jeopardy their capacity to govern and make decisions, in other words their sovereignty, to a significant extent.
The goal of the commission does not seem to create a new institution (« it is clear that huge new bureaucracies are not the answer » 2, p. 142), but to work and change things through informal alliances, the Internet, a parallel movement that complements the work of institutions. They also seek, naturally, to incrementally change existing institutions from within.
The Commission on Human Security has kept a low profile and sought to avoid tackling institutional arrangements, which would be too controversial. Members of the Commission want to be « realistic » : changing the policy is, in the present context, difficult. The Commission will not do it. It is a political issue. Member States have to do it. A lot of the international security debate has focused on institutional questions since the end of the Cold War, and has been sterile. The Working Group on the reform of the Security Council has stalled since its creation in 1993. The strategy of the Commission has been to seek wide cultural acceptance of the concept first, to quietly change the culture of security: according to Cels, « if you can change the debate, broaden the debate, you will have achieved a lot. » (4) NGOs will help do so. The next annual NGO meeting at the UN Department of Public Information will deal with human security in September.
If human security "goes forward”, the plan is then, according to Cels, “to look at the next stage: what will be required at the institutional level. The last G-8 meeting took note of the report, which at least brings an opening for a discussion of the report at a high level, also beyond the UN. This is not a question only for the UN; it is a question for all, also for civil society, NGOs…” (4).
Human security does already have institutional implications. A number of security organizations have already made a certain linkage between security, human rights, humanitarian issues. The OSCE is likely to reinforce the trend. The report proposes « placing human security formally on the agenda of security organizations at all levels. » (3, p. 2). Since the report came out, there have already been a number of briefings to members of the Security Council.
The report takes stock of changes that have already taken place in the Security Council: « The UN Security Council has gradually broadened its understanding of threats to global peace and stability to include massive refugee movements, HIV/AIDS and serious human rights violations." The report advocates more changes: "That understanding has to be broadened further to include an array of other human security issues, so that mechanisms can be developed to respond to them. That requires emphasizing the security of people along with military security. It also requires normative frameworks and new programmes to address the specific insecurities of different communities and groups. » (2, p. 131).
Cels argues that the traditional Security Council approach, which just looks at threats to international peace and security, is too narrow. According to him, one needs to move away from a debate about military interventions to a debate on a much more integrated approach, that includes human rights, good governance, poverty eradication, gender, fair trade, education and health, etc. In other words, the Security Council must work in much closer cooperation with the UN ECOSOC and its partners. The ECOSOC has become the center of gravity of the UN system since it led the post cold-war global consensus-building exercise.
This idea of better coordinating all UN bodies around a common agenda (the global consensus) has been quietly driving UN reform for a few years, but until recently the Security Council had remained unaffected. The last reform report of the Secretary-General, dated 9 September 2002, reads as follows: “Comprehensive approaches to conflict prevention and resolution, and to building sustainable peace, require the involvement and support of other organs of the United Nations. The Security Council must turn to the General Assembly and the Economic and Social Council when required and these bodies, in turn, may have to adapt their own procedures and institutional practices in order to be able to discharge their responsibilities.” (6, par. 22). Kofi Annan's reform report also mentions the interaction between the Security Council and NGOs: “The Security Council has also adopted some innovative and creative measures to allow non-governmental voices to be heard by its members. The Arria formula, for example, enables non-governmental organizations to give testimony to Security Council members in relation to specific rises, as well as on such issues as children in armed conflict, outside of official meetings.” (6, par. 137)
We have already said that “human security does not seek to supplant state security, but rather to complement it.” Let us see how and why, and try and understand what “complement” means and implies.
According to Cels, “state security looks outwards, human security looks inwards.” (4) Incidentally, since most conflicts are internal today, there is a lot to do for the advocates of human security.
Human security is said to be founded and centered on “people”, and the report adds: “not on states”. At the root of the new concept is an unhealthy separation, a dialectical division between people and the state. The report reads: human security “complements state security by being people-centred” (2, p. 2). This implies that states are not people-centred, that democracy does not work, that “people-centeredness”, whatever this means (see vagueness of definition in item 10 of this report) must be promoted outside of state structures. The implication reveals the state of crisis Western democracies are in, and this is the real issue, not the broadening of the security concept.
The use of the verb “complement” rests on the assumption that states are top-down, remote from people and not serving them, or, in some cases, even threatening their own people. “The state, reads the report, remains the fundamental purveyor of security. Yet it often fails to fulfill its security obligations – and at times has even become a source of threat to its own people. That is why attention must now shift from the security of the state to the security of people – to human security.” (2, p. 2) Exceptional cases (one may think of Saddam Hussein’s regime as a typical example) where the state is a source of threat to its own people, are used to draw sweeping conclusions about the urgent need to forge a new security paradigm, that is of course meant to be globally normative – i.e., imposed on all. Reality reveals the incoherence or utopian character of the new paradigm. In situations where the state is a threat to its own people, soft means just don’t work.
The report explains that the international community urgently needs a new paradigm of security “because the security debate has changed dramatically since the inception of state security advocated in the 17th century. According to that traditional idea, the state would monopolize the rights and means to protect its citizens. State power and state security would be established and expanded to sustain order and peace. But in the 21st century, both the challenges to security and its protectors have become more complex.” (2, p. 2) The proponents of the new paradigm arbitrarily decide that “states no longer hold the monopoly over security issues.” They explain that “our security understanding needs to respond to … the growing role and contributions of civil society and community leaders.” NGOs would be, in the security domain as in all the others, the new source of legitimacy, which would legitimize their empowerment.
As opposed to state security, which has a sectoral focus, human security “seeks to protect people against a broad range of threats to individuals and communities and, further, to empower them to act on their own behalf. And it sets to forge a global alliance to strengthen the institutional policies that link individuals and the state – and the state with a global world. Human security thus brings together the human elements of security, of rights, of development.” (2, pp. 2-4) There is a logical connect between what “people-centeredness” is interpreted to mean and the power shift to soft power.
The Commission on Human Security, which recently produced the new paradigm of “human security”, refrains from clearly defining it and “proposing an itemized list of what makes up human security.” (2, p. 4) According to its chair, Sadako Ogata, “the concept of security means different things to different people” (1), and human security would broadly encompass a wide range of interpretations. “Whereas state security is focused,” reads the Commission’s report, “human security is broad”. (2, p. 6) Indeed, while the core content of the old, traditional paradigms was clear and precise, vagueness is the main characteristic of the new paradigms.
The reluctance to provide clear definitions for the key terms of the new global consensus, such as sustainable development, reproductive health, gender, governance has become a pattern at the UN. Definitions, when they exist, are at best vague descriptions, they are all encompassing, open-ended, informal or semi-official, generally at least a paragraph long, containing fuzzy language that does not recognizably refer to democratic traditions or even clearly departs from the language of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of universal values. As an example, the key terms of the human security definition are “vital core of life” and “essence of life”.
The Commission on Human Security’s « definition » of human security starts as follows : « to protect the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfilment. Human security means protecting fundamental freedoms – freedoms that are the essence of life. It means protecting people from critical (severe) and pervasive (widespread) threats and situations. It means using processes that build on people’s strengths and aspirations. It means creating political, social, environmental, economic, military and cultural systems that together give people the building blocks of survival, livelihood and dignity”. (2, p.4)
The informality of this definition could convey the impression that the Commission pursues a low profile goal, but this is not the case. The goal is radical change. As the definition reads, it is about “creating” new “systems” in all domains - in brief, about creating a new society resting on a new value system. In sharp contrast with the vagueness of its purpose, the revolution is compelling. Relativistic in its content, the revolution is dogmatic in its process.
There are several reasons for the new paradigms’ lack of conceptual clarity. First, they lack substantial content. As all revolutions, they are primarily processes of change.
Second, the new paradigms are all “people-centred”, and this means, in UN language, that they all relate to people’s access to “free choice”, and free choice is interpreted in an arbitrary sense. There are as many choices as people arbitrarily decide to make, and it is impossible to encompass them all in a single definition. Hence human security means “to protect the vital core of all human lives” and “the vital core of life” is defined as “a set of elementary rights and freedoms people enjoy. What people consider to be “vital” – what they consider to be “of the essence of life” and “crucially important” – varies across individuals and societies. That is why any concept of human security must be dynamic.” (2, p. 4) S. Ogata’s definition highlights the importance of free choice. To her, human security means to be “free from fear of being killed, persecuted or abused; free from the abject poverty that brings indignity and self-contempt; free to make choices.” (1)
Human security, as all new concepts, will keep on dynamically evolving as people will expand their choices. It is not established on firm ground. Yet it claims to set the foundations for a new order.
The Commission’s report refers to Kofi Annan’s definition of human security, which is not any clearer than its own: “Human security in its broadest sense embraces far more than the absence of violent conflict. It encompasses human rights, good governance, access to education and health care and ensuring that each individual has opportunities and choices to fulfil his or her own potential. Every step in this direction is also a step towards reducing poverty, achieving economic growth and preventing conflict. Freedom from want, freedom from fear and the freedom of future generations to inherit a healthy natural environment – these are the interrelated building blocks of human, and therefore national security. (Annan 2000)” Kofi Annan’s definition does nothing else than integrate all the components of the global consensus on sustainable development that the UN built over the last decade.
The Commission’s definition of human security also relates the new concept to human dignity and states that « people’s horizons extend far beyond survival, to matters of love, culture and faith. » Human security reaches out to « developing the capabilities of individuals and communities to make informed choices. » It starts from the « recognition that people are the most active participants in determining their well-being. » (2, p. 4) While the introduction of human dignity, love, culture and faith in the global consensus may appear as a positive development, because they have been absent from it so far, there is also the danger of framing these very essential components of human life within the consensus’ value system of free choice, thereby subduing them to the « superior » value system of the consensus.
Human security and people-centred sustainable development, as all the new people-centred paradigms of the last decade (that are purposed to operate a global cultural shift from institutions, the state and the market to “people”, a shift that is perhaps the most important in the global cultural revolution of the last decade), raise the question: what is the nature of the human being? What are “people”? Can the anthropological view of global norm-setters be taken for granted? Is their view universal? Can it be accepted by all cultures, traditions and people as their own? To start with, do they have an anthropological view of the human being?
It is in the logic of the effort to build a global “people-centred” consensus that it should end up with a reflection on human identity. This is what the report of the Commission on Human Security seems to initiate, with a section at the end on “clarifying the need for a global human identity”. The report explains that human security is more centred on the individual than development, which is “aggregative”, because “any larger unit-an ethnic group or a household-may discriminate against its own members”, and “this is especially so for women”. (2, p. 10)
The report does not clarify what it means by “global human identity” – again, the new paradigm of “global human identity” lacks a clear definition - but focuses on certain values such as “compassionate attitudes”, “ethical outlooks”, toleration of opposition, respect for diversity, global citizenship, empowerment, non-discrimination, inclusion, participation, choice. Global human identity would be indirectly defined in reference to a new, global, “people-centred” ethic, which would be an ethic of free choice, and this ethic would have its own duties and obligations: “The notion of duties and obligations complements the recognition of the ethical and political importance of human security.” (2, p. 10).
The phrasing of the report - “clarifying the need for a global human identity” - seems to suggest the intention of forging a global human identity, as if there was a need to do so. Indeed, the report underlines the importance of education and information – the way to shape a new human identity, a new ethic.
“In a world replete with divisive messages, children and adults will not always adopt the mindset of global citizens in an interdependent world. To achieve long-term human security, education should promote understanding of people’s multiple identities and of the interlinkages within the common global pool of learning. The most effective way to nurture a future generation of educated, empowered and responsible decision-makers - who avert conflict and promote peace and growth - may be to develop methods of teaching that respect diversity.” (2, p. 141) The report advocates changing curricula: “Curricula should cultivate respect for other races, faiths, cultures and viewpoints, as well as respect for women”. It speaks about “eradicating inflammatory messages in private, religious and informal education facilities.” We note that global norm setters will be the arbitrary judges of whatever they consider to be “inflammatory messages”. Empowerment (i.e. fostering people’s ability to act on their own behalf, and on behalf of others) goes through providing education and information so that people “can scrutinize social arrangements and take collective action”. (2, p. 11)
We also note that the concept of diversity as conceived by the UN, is not founded on concrete individual or personal identity, but remains abstract and incrementally conducts to a collectivist-global identity. The new ethic fosters respect for diversity - not respect for personal identity. The difference in focus is great and highly significant.
Incidentally, there would be no need to forge a global human identity if the UN did not allow the anthropological foundations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to become increasingly eroded, with the proliferation and redefinition of human rights. In addition, many global norm setters at the UN are now Asian or non-Western and interpret human rights differently, because they relate them to a different value system. This raises a very fundamental question: are new global values, constructed values, going to slowly supersede by stealth universal values in multilateral fora, global governance and the global culture?
As seen in IIS 198, human security is said to “complement” state security. The verb “complement” conveys the impression that state security will remain intact in the new paradigm. But “complementarity” must be interpreted in the context of another sentence of the report that destroys that assumption: “attention MUST NOW SHIFT from the security of the state to the security of the people”. (2, p. 2) The goal is to construct a new value system, to culturally and globally shift from one mindset to another. Defending national boundaries, institutions, values, interests, which is what state security does, is no longer relevant in the new culture, because it is itself in the process of building institutions and values that will supersede the former system: “It is no longer viable for any state to assert unrestricted national sovereignty while acting in its own interests, especially where others are affected by its action. There has to be an institutional system of external oversight and decision-making that states voluntarily subscribe to. Why? Because nobody has a monopoly on being right (particularly when defending one’s own interests).” (2, p. 12) Needless to say, this is an implicit reference to the US. The report introduces a new concept, called “shared sovereignty”, and which basically means giving multilateralism a “monopoly” on being right. The report opposes the exercise of raw military power to democratic principles and human rights.
Human security is founded on the ideological assumption that it has become culturally unacceptable for the state to “monopolize” the rights and means to protect its citizens. According to the new ideology, the state MUST share its power, moral authority and responsibilities with other actors (mainly NGOs, international organizations, businesses) in practically all areas: security, health, education, human rights, development, governance. It does not have a choice. Human security, as all the new paradigms, thereby contributes to deconstructing the specific role of the state. Clearly, this also leads to a redefinition of, or destruction of, the concept of national citizenship, and to the emergence of global citizenship, or to what the report calls a “global human identity”, as it greatly contributes to diminishing the trust and bond between national citizens and the state.
Human security is a holistic concept focussing on “the lives of people and communities inside and across borders” (2, p. 6). It integrates, at least, the following ingredients: environmental pollution, massive population movements, transnational terrorism, infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, long-term conditions of oppression and deprivation, landmines, violent conflict, extreme impoverishment, ill health, illiteracy, catastrophic accident and illness, educational deprivations, lack of social protection, economic collapse, water shortages, human rights abuses, economic downturns… Incidentally, it is worth noting that the Commission categorizes transnational terrorism as a threat to human security, not to state security, which means that the new threat to security must be dealt with through the new approach.
The holistic, all-encompassing character of the new paradigms makes it difficult to operationalize them. Human security is an idealistic, utopian agenda.
While human security is a broad concept, the Commission on Human Security focused on six areas in particular:
- Protecting civilians in violent conflict. This implies strengthening norms and mechanisms to do so (which will in turn strengthen “normative” institutions), developing “comprehensive and integrated strategies, linking political, military, humanitarian and development aspects.” (3) The question is: who will devise those strategies? The UN? Global alliances? The report also proposes ending impunity of perpetrators of human rights violations. But what do human rights mean to the UN, if Libya chairs the UN Human Rights Commission?
- Migration. The Commission proposes exploring the feasibility of an international migration framework of norms, processes and institutional arrangements to regulate migration.
- Post-conflict situations. “Post-conflict situations, states the report, provide opportunities to promote change, to fundamentally recast social, political and economic bases of power – opportunities for including the excluded… erasing inequalities”. (2, p. 58) In an number of cases, such as Afghanistan to name just one, we have seen that post-conflict situations provided the UN and its partners with the opportunity to rebuild civil society on the basis of the new global values. “A new framework and a funding strategy are necessary to rebuild conflict-torn states”. The new human security framework will “emphasize the linkages among the many issues affecting people, such as ensuring people’s safety through strengthening civilian police and demobilizing combatants; meeting immediate needs of displaced people; launching reconstruction and development; promoting reconciliation and coexistence; and advancing effective governance. To be successful, it requires unified leadership for all actors close to the delivery point of human security.” (3)
- Economic insecurity – the power to choose. Human security focuses on sudden economic downturns, natural disasters and the social impact of crises, access to social security, land, credit, education and housing, equitable distribution of resources, social safety nets.
- Health for human security. “All health actors should promote health services as public goods… An equitable intellectual property rights regime needs to be developed to balance incentives for research and development with ensuring people’s access to affordable life-savings drugs. The international community must also form a global network of partnerships for health, promoting, for example, a global surveillance and control system for infectious diseases.” (3)
- Knowledge, skills and values. Respect for diversity is particularly important for human security. The report emphasizes girls’ education.
A Report of the Party of European Socialists by Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, entitled “Europe and a New Global Order – Bridging the Global Divides”, issued in May 2003, makes plain the connection between the human security concept and the global left. This report provides the platform for the “Global Progressive Forum” that will be held in Brussels in November 2003. The initiative is supposed to rally around a “progressive” globalist vision not only the global political forces of social democracy, but also the NGO movement, the anti-globalization and anti-war movements, trade unions, academia, “progressive” businesses, Davos and Porto Alegre. It seeks to build bridges with leading US democrats. Although it may be seducing to people from many different political backgrounds, the wider concept of security is a center piece of the leftist agenda.
Rasmussen declares that “Security is no longer just a military problem. For the world to be secure, we must deal with problems of democracy, economic globalization and environmental damage. New concepts, policies and instruments are needed. We must now take on more responsibilities than in the past, when confrontation between power blocks limited scope for international action. Even if these responsibilities have a military dimension, they must not be defined in such terms alone. Non-military concepts, policies and strategies must have at least the same priority as the military dimension now has.” (6, p. 78)
Rasmussen describes the three aspects of a European strategy for global security: “First, the principle of common security still applies to Europe and elsewhere. This principle recognizes that lasting security will not be achieved unless it is shared by all through cooperation on the basis on equality and justice. The multilateral system must be the centerpiece of any effort to bridge the global security divide. The UN system and respect for international law must be strengthened.
Second, we support the wider concept of sustainable security through a comprehensive approach to the causes of conflict. Many factors cause conflicts and keep them going – social tensions, environmental questions and more. They often have a human rights dimension...
The third aspect is value-based security. Democracy in all its forms is the best guarantee of security...
Using a wider concept of security means that we must develop a broader range of instruments to guarantee all aspects of security.” (6, p. 39)
- Remarks by Sadako Ogata at the fifth ministerial meeting of the Human Security Network, Graz, Austria, May 8, 2003.
- « Human Security Now, Protecting and Empowering People », Commission on Human Security, New York, May 2003.
- Outline of the Report of the Commission on Human Security.
- Conversation of Marguerite Peeters with Johan Cels, Liaison Officer, Commission on Human Security, New-York, June 16, 2003.
- Report of the UN Secretary-General - 9 September 2002 - A/57/387
- “Europe and a New Global Order – Bridging the Global Divides” - Report of the Party of European Socialists by Poul Nyrup Rasmussen, May 2003.