What is Human Security?

The Human Security Approach01_resizeHuman security aims at ensuring the survival, livelihood and dignity of people in response to current and emerging threats – threats that are widespread and cross cutting. Such threats are not limited to those living in absolute poverty or conflict. Today, people throughout the world, in developing and developed countries alike, live under varied conditions of insecurity. These threats seriously challenge both Governments and people. Accordingly, human security underscores the universality and interdependence of a set of freedoms that are fundamental to human life: freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom to live in dignity. As a result, human security acknowledges the interlinkages between development and human rights.

Key Principles for Advancing Human Security

The Human Security Approach03_resizeThrough the protection and empowerment framework, human security promotes people-centered, comprehensive, context-specific, and prevention-oriented measures that seek to reduce the likelihood of conflicts, help overcome the obstacles to development and promote human rights for all.

People-centered: Human security considers the broad range of conditions below which the survival, livelihood and dignity of people, particularly those most vulnerable, are seriously threatened. Essential to human security is the advancement of social, economic, environmental, and cultural systems that together give people the building blocks for achieving peace, development and human progress.

Comprehensive: By understanding how a particular threat can negatively affect freedoms that are universal and interdependent The Human Security Approach02_resize(freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom to live in dignity), human security calls for responses that are comprehensive, multi-sectorial and collaborative. This ensures coherence, eliminates duplication and advances integrated solutions that give rise to more effective and tangible improvements in the daily lives of people.

Context-specific: Recognizing that the causes and manifestations of threats vary considerably within and across countries, and at different points in time, human security advances solutions that are embedded in local realities and are based on the actual needs, vulnerabilities and capacities of Governments and people.

Prevention-oriented: Looking at the root causes of a particular threat, human security identifies the structural (external or internal), as well as the behavioral changes that are needed to help mitigate the impact, and, where possible, prevent the occurrence of current and future threats.

Protection (top-down) and Empowerment (bottom-up): The protection and empowerment framework further guarantees the development of appropriate responses to a particular threat. By combining top-down norms, processes and institutions, including the establishment of early-warning mechanisms, good governance and social protection instruments, with a bottom-up focus in which participatory processes highlight individuals’ roles in defining and implementing their essential freedoms and responsibilities, human security improves local capacities, strengthens social networks, and ensures coherence in the allocation of resources and policies.


The Added Value of Human Security as an Operational Tool

First, human security focuses on widespread and cross-cutting threats to the survival, livelihood and dignity of individuals and communities and calls for a rethinking of security where the advancement of human security is fundamental to national development.

Second, human security is an approach that complements and strengthens human development and by doing so it puts in place the necessary requirements for achieving peace, development and human progress.

Third, human security addresses threats in an integrated, multi-dimensional and comprehensive way. This not only helps mitigate the impact of these threats but also reduces their expansion into broader and more intractable crises.

Fourth, by contextualizing the causes and manifestations of threats and their impact on people, human security highlights the actual needs, vulnerabilities and capacities of those impacted and strengthens the development of solutions that are targeted and prioritized.

Lastly, with people’s insecurities interconnected, human security provides a dynamic framework that capitalizes on the comparative advantages of a diverse network of actors. This ensures coherence, eliminates duplication and advances collaborative responses at the local, national, regional and international levels that together can yield much greater force.