Free «Peace and the Concept of Human Security» Essay Sample


Human security has been defined differently by a number of scholars. Mahbub Ul-Haq’s research team while writing the Human Development report of 1994 defined Human security as ‘on one hand, the safety from threats such as hunger, disease, and repression, and on the other hand,  protection from sudden and harmful disruptions in the patterns of daily life whether in homes, in jobs or in communities.’ The concept of human security basically expresses concern for the security of every individual regardless of country of origin or even the place of residence. It creates or emphasizes on the interrelation of underdevelopment, violation of human rights and the insecurity faced by people living in conflict zones (Alkire, 2003, 9). It is based on using processes that enable people to build on their individual strengths and aspirations by exercising freedom of choice. Human security entails building systems that can be used as building blocks for a people’s survival, livelihood and dignity. These systems may include political, environmental, cultural, economic, military and social systems. Human security focuses on protecting basic right and freedoms of individuals and this entails protecting them from threats such as hunger, disease, government repression and the consequences of pollution. It is also about the effects of armed conflicts, repressive governments and state dysfunction on the helpless civilians of a given state. The concept of human security does not consider the states, but the people, as the primary referents for security. And it is for this reason that the human security concept is effective in working towards, and attaining world peace.



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The Basis for the Concept of Human Security and Peace

The human security and peace concept is based on statistics collected from all over the world, mainly by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and other humanitarian organizations. These data show that currently there are over 920 million people suffering from hunger and starvation, over 2 billion people cannot access clean water and other sanitation facilities thus risking exposure to very many preventable infections, and at least 1 billion people are currently affected by one or more tropical diseases. The statistics also show that at least 2.5 billion people are currently suffering from acute poverty, poor health and severe illiteracy, almost a million people are constantly exposed to some form of violence, over 20 million are suffering from preventable diseases, and at least 15 million people die from hunger related causes.

This shows that problems with the economy and access to health facilities are the major menaces to humanity compared to violence. Also, the statistics show that the civil wars and intrastate conflicts account for over 90% of the suffering caused by unrest and that unarmed persons account for more than 80% of the victims. More harm is therefore done within the state borders.

This data enables human security enthusiasts to link the concept with attaining peace by focusing on policies that can address the issues that are raised in the statistical analyses.  

Categories of Approaches to Human Security

There are four main approaches to the concept of human security. The first and most basic approach is the ‘basic human needs’ approach which focuses on providing a ‘freedom from want and a freedom from threats.’ This approach focuses on ensuring that the basic essentials of life are accessible to the given population. This is usually done by the state authorities or the international community in conjunction with humanitarian organizations in cases where the state has failed to provide for its citizens. The second approach is the ‘interventionist’ approach and it entails international intervention when a state fails to protect its people. This is usually applied when a state is by itself a threat to the security of its citizens and more so when there are internal conflicts and civil war (Frank, 2012, 47). The third one, ‘developmentalist’ approach focuses on issues of cultural diversity and provision of sustainable political, economic and democratic development. It focuses on upholding the rights and freedoms of the various cultural and political communities that co-exist within a given population. The ‘new security’ approach focuses on new threats that are emerging as a result of changes in technology, economics and politics of today. These threats include human and drug trafficking, epidemics, terror attacks, and cyber war among others. All these are nontraditional threats that need to be addressed under the concept of human security.

The Course of Achieving Human Security

Human security is achievable through a process that involves five basic steps.

Problem identification: For any given population that is being studied, the prevailing atmosphere should be weighed in order to determine what the problem is. Knowing the primary cause is paramount to finding the needed solution. While the problems could be many and cutting across various aspects, it is important to note that for peace to be achieved all these causes have to be dealt with conclusively to avoid a recurrence that will undermine the already made efforts of progress (Brahimi, 2007, 64). If a population suffers from a lack of political and economic development, the other problems likely to be countered are a lack of democracy, violence from state operatives and extreme poverty. While all these result in an acute lack of peace, the solution can not come from one place. All the problems of a population therefore needs to be identified as the first step towards finding a concrete solution.

Risk Assessment

Individuals facing risks tend to over estimate their risks and build anxiety over a perceived threat. Others however tend to under estimate the threat and live in oblivion of impending dangers. In order to avoid both of these situations, a comprehensive risk assessment is necessary to obtain the accurate estimates of a given risk. In doing this, perceptions of the affected individuals will be accurately relevant and the risk impact can be mitigated through applicable mechanisms such as relocation in case of predicted hurricanes, flashfloods or landslides.

A good risk assessment enhances the people’s perception of their prevailing human security status by providing accurate data. It allows for the planning and implementation of mitigation processes that are intended to cushion the individuals from the probable risk impact. Risk assessment allows for a low forecast variance by providing accurate data that is then interpreted to give the few truly possible eventualities. In so doing, it allows for new workably practical intervention strategies to be formulated.


After a comprehensive risk assessment process, the pending problem can be prevented if possible. For example if the risk is a swine flu (H1N1 virus) outbreak, the preventive measure applicable is vaccination for all persons at risk of catching the virus. While prevention is not usually as easy as a vaccination, it is a crucial step in implementing human security. It includes preventing a population’s problems from turning into a full blown crisis. The HIV/AIDS pandemic has been dealt with prevention measures like creation of mass awareness on the disease, and promoting preventive measures, such as, abstinence, safe sex and faithfulness. The developed countries and other humanitarian organizations have funded countless campaigns to prevent it from blowing up. The pandemic is however still a crisis and might claim up to 100 million lives in Africa over the next ten to fifteen years according to some risk assessment reports (Dalal-Clayton, 1997, 43).

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Protective measures include providing the individuals with whatever it is that they have previously been denied. It is a protection from threats and wants and it can include provision of education, economic empowerment, provision of health and sanitation facilities among other things. In countries like Afghanistan, protection measures included the provision of security personnel to ensure that the security of individuals is not threatened.


While compensation is not always a practical idea, it is sometimes necessary in providing human security. Refugees sometimes need a source of income as they settle in their new residence, and some casualties of war also require sustenance upon recovery. Providing compensation is intended to make life better for these victims of political, social and sometimes even cultural injustices.

Arguments for the Human Security Concept

As a means of understanding conflict and insecurity patterns: Human security has been generally defined as ‘a freedom from threats and a freedom from want.’ Keeping this definition in mind, it is good to note that conflicts usually arise as retaliation for deprivation of basic essentials of life. For example, a particular part of a country can rise up in rebellion against the prevailing leadership to protest a lack of economic development. This conflict is an effort to achieve economic development and eradicate poverty, and in the absence of the human security concept, it could be viewed as just another attempt to gain attention.

Understanding the unfulfilled needs of a people and monitoring how they react in various circumstances enables one to formulate an insecurity pattern that is predictable and therefore easy to deal with. This allows for mitigation by identifying the problem, carrying out a risk assessment, taking preventive measures where possible, providing protection from the threats and offering compensation where applicable.

When a state is a threat to its people: The human security concept acknowledges that sometimes the state poses a threat to the security of its citizens, and in these cases there is a need for global interventionism. For example, there are times when the military expenditure empties the government’s treasury leaving little money to take care of the citizens’ other needs. This leads to a neglect of social welfare by the state authorities thus pushing the individuals to demonstrate, participate in riots, rebellions and even public outcries in order to seek the audience of the international community. A deprivation of the people’s rights by the state results in a threat to the survival of an entire nation. An intervention by the international community is this case is very necessary in order to sustain the peace of the region by avoiding further manifestations of civil unrest. This can only be attained by providing the causal ‘want.’

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In crafting security and development policies: Security and development policies that are focused on the individual are considered as legitimate and effective as the primary interest is achievable without having to compromise the livelihoods of the people. These policies focus on the people in most dire need of support and attention, thus creating equality and respect for the individual.

In shaping security practices: Good security practices are intended to protect the individual from threats. Practices that place the individual first are often shaped by the human security concept in trying to uphold peace.

In rooting out terrorism: After 9/11, the concept of human security has been useful in maintaining global peace and sanity while fighting against terrorism. Human security argues that while fighting back a terror attack with another terror attack might be workable strategy, the innocent people who are likely to be victims of these vengeance attacks need to be protected from that threat. Also, at the risk of justifying terrorism, the human security concept seeks to understand why there are terrorist attacks in the first place. The terrorism is usually as a result of some deprivation, and while it is unjustifiable, the human security concept does not advocate for revenge but rather provide a solution for the terrorist communities by providing armed intelligence and humanitarian aid. A lack of human security had purportedly fed the global terror machine and upon realization that foreign entities under duress could pose a threat to the developed countries, it was inevitable to seek universal human security as a means of ensuring global peace and co-existence.

As a guide for bureaucratic concerns: After a risk assessment, decision makers are well informed on what issues they face as a state and this enables them to single out the various aspects that they need to concern themselves with as priority issues. 

In broadening the scope of peace campaigns: Rather than continuing to focus on international relations as a means of achieving world peace, the human security concept advocates for internal analyses. Recognizing that peace develops from the individual and goes up the hierarchy, the concept focuses attention to satisfying the individuals before the states. Peace campaigns according to this concept entail poverty eradication, measures against hunger and starvation, policies against preventable diseases and provision of clean water and sanitation services for those in need regardless of country of residence (United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, 2012, 1-54).

In modifying or supplementing traditional state-centric security policies: Traditional state-centric security policies were a threat to the individuals as they undermined the security of communities. The concept advocates for a modification of these policies to place the individual as a referent of security in order to ensure that the life and dignity of these people are put before state security. The concept acknowledges that while the security of the state is important to the people, an over emphasis of state security can often be to the detriment of the human welfare. Legitimate security policies are, therefore, required to focus on the individual as the primary beneficiary of security (UN General Assembly, 2008, 1-27). 

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Considerations of the Human Security Concept

The concept of human security considers that individuals are the basic units of the state. In placing these individuals as the referent of security, the human security concept does not intend to put them in opposition with their state authorities but rather charge the authorities with putting the security of their citizens first. It does not recommend or encourage individuals to break away from the state, but rather expects the state to value and respect human life and dignity. This concept acknowledges that the state is the best guarantor for the peace and well being of the individual, and a fully functional state is one which is focused on implementing human security by protecting the individuals from threats and want. The human security concept simply demands that the lives and dignity of individuals be placed before state security at all times.

All individuals are considered as equal in the spirit of human security. The concept seeks to protect vulnerable and marginalized persons like women, children, refugees and the disabled persons among other categories. This is so as to avoid undertones of restlessness and oppressive policies that take advantage of the voiceless. The human security concept seeks to fight for the rights of the minority as a way of ensuring a peaceful co existence of communities and individuals (Martin & Owen, 2012, 32)

The concept of human security is borderless. The rights and freedoms of individuals are protected regardless of their areas of residence. The concept requires that all respectable state authorities protect their citizens and thus it creates a global peaceful society.

The human security concept considers that there are some fears that arise from knowing the consequences of today’s actions such as pollution. It requires for a risk assessment process in suspicious situations and this enables the analyses of problems that may not be affecting us now, but will in the future. This information is then used to mitigate the impact of these problems. This feature of the concept is important for cushioning individuals from future natural catastrophes that result from current pollution levels.

Dimensions of Human Security

Using George MacLean’s theory, the human security concept is broken down into a number of fundamental objectives that are required as a standard or threshold for achieving human security.

To protect individuals from any form of violence or harm: The basic and agreeable definition of human security is that it is ‘a freedom from threats and a freedom from want.’ A state authority is primarily responsible for providing security for its citizens through conducive and functional security policies that focus on the people. Security is important for individuals since insecurity brings about a lot of anxiety. Living in a secure place where one is protected from violence generally promotes the well being of the individual thus fostering peace. Societies that do not have sound policies on security often experience public outcries through demonstrations, mob justice, among other actions that bring about even more insecurity. Riots too are sometimes as a result of the society protesting against the state authority’s negligence on matters regarding the security of its citizens. In order to avoid such incidences that would undermine the peaceful existence of a given society, state authorities need to focus on creating a secure environment for its citizens and in doing so, also promote peace.

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Another objective is to make basic essentials of life accessible to all people: Among the world’s biggest killers, extreme poverty ranks top. Populations living below a stipulated poverty threshold often have shorter life spans. This is because they lack the basic essentials such as clean water and sanitation facilities, adequate food supplies, good shelter, access to medical facilities and basic education. Due to the extreme poverty, these populations suffer severely and often die from preventable diseases due to a lack of relevant and accurate information and their inability to access medical facilities because of their financial capabilities or the lack of it. Extreme poverty brings about rampant crime, and this undermines the security of the other individuals who are the victims of these criminal activities perpetrated in the quest to get out of extreme poverty (Roberts, 2007, 89).

In making basic essentials accessible to all individuals, the various state authorities not only save the lives of citizens but also uphold human dignity and security by eliminating crime that’s driven by necessity.  To protect individuals from crime and terrorism: While crime and terrorism are a state’s enemy, tackling them from a basis of the individual is in line with the concept of human security. Crime undermines the well being of the individual as much as that of the state and terrorism puts nations at risk of total destruction. To protect its boundaries from terror attacks, nations would be capable of completely annihilating the threat regardless of the innocent individuals who will be affected.

However, under the human security concept, nations react to terrorism by protecting their citizens from any future attempts without having to severely punish innocent individuals. Sovereign states are expected to uphold human security at a global level and this entails respecting the lives and dignity of the residents of the terrorist countries by not planning retaliatory attacks that would lead to a loss of lives and destruction of infrastructural resources to catastrophic proportions (Doyle & Nicholas, 2006, 24).

Human security objectives are meant to protect individuals from pandemic diseases: Pandemic diseases include influenza, tuberculosis, small pox, HIV/AIDS and H1N1. These diseases are not only contagious but also preventable through vaccination or living by healthy practices. It is a state’s responsibility to provide relevant information and policies that will protect its citizens from such diseases. Doing so not only ensures the survival and development of a people, but that of a nation as well.

Various governments in developed and developing countries alike have devoted a lot of their resources to dealing with pandemic diseases so as to ensure their continued existence. In so doing, they protect their citizens from these diseases thus increasing their wellbeing as individuals.

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The other aspect is protect individuals from forced migration: Forced migrations are usually as a result of conflicts, either interstate or intrastate. In requiring state authorities to protect their citizens from forced migration, the human security concept intends to make it the responsibility of each state to ensure that there are no conflicts being brewed within its borders. While it would be hard for nations to uphold this requirement especially when the conflicts are government sponsored, the concept expects the prevailing political atmosphere of each nation to be conducive for its residence and this is a condition for attaining peace. Weak, failing or corrupt states pose a serious threat to their citizens and in setting this requirement, the concept aims to improve the functionality of state authorities so as to reduce the frequency of conflicts that could lead to situations of forced migration.

Another objective is to protect individuals from political corruption: Political corruption undermines the right of individuals to good governance. Corruption promotes impunity and this stagnates the economy of a given state, thus the citizens are not provided with equal opportunities for economic development. By protecting individuals from political corruption, the concept intends that the citizens of any given country are provided with the necessary resources that facilitate their financial growth as individuals.

To protect individuals against violation of human rights: Violation of human rights is a big challenge when dealing with state security. Most traditional state security policies were built around the state as the referent, but in this human security concept the individual is accorded the referent position. All considerations for security purposes revolve around the individual with the sole aim of protecting the individual before the state so as to ensure that the very state that should guarantee an individual’s safety does not undermine it for the sake of state security (UNDP. 2004, 13).

Another aim is to protect individuals from gender based violence: Gender based violence is a basic deprivation of human rights as it does not respect a person’s individuality. Whether domestic or otherwise, gender based violence oppresses the victim regardless of his or her status in life, be it financial, social or professional. Having policies that are against violence whether gender based or otherwise is a way through which a state can protect its vulnerable citizens and in so doing, respect the human security concept. This promotes peace by eliminating violence from the lowest possible settings.

Peace initiatives are meant to prevent misuse and overuse of national resources: Misusing national resources by the elite few of a given state widens the gap between the so poor and the so rich. This in turn pushes more people into the extreme poverty category. A good state authority should work towards bridging the gap between the upper and middle class families and this can be achieved by preventing the misuse of national resources. Overusing national resources on the other hand can lead to national poverty and environmental degradation. Protecting the population from uncertainties based on diminishing national resources is relevant in upholding human security since national poverty is a threat (Poku, Neil & Joao, 2007, 1164).

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Another aspect is to ensure political, economic and democratic development: Creating a sound political, economic and democratic environment provides a country’s citizens with opportunities that enhance growth at the individual level. When people are able to make their own choices without restrictions, they are able to live in peace knowing that whatever happens is as a consequence of their own choices. Economic development is a way of getting people out of abject poverty, thus freeing them from want and fear of uncertainty in the future. Moreover, human security objectives are meant to provide environmental sustainability: Environmental sustainability eliminates the fear of catastrophic repercussions of environmental degradation.   

Other objectives include: to uphold the rights of political and cultural communities. Respecting the rights of political and cultural communities helps to prevent upheavals caused by marginalized or oppressed communities (King, & Charles, 2002, 72) This therefore helps to keep the peace. Finally, security objectives are meant to curtail pollution. Pollution leads to health hazards and severe climatic changes. And while it is not possible to entirely eliminate all forms of pollution, state authorities should try to counter the effects by promoting practices that are environmental friendly.

Jorge Nef, however, had a different opinion on the dimensions of the human security concept. He stated that human security has five dimensions that are actively interlinked by a set of bridges. In his analysis, the five dimensions are ecology, economy, society, politics and culture. The bridges on the other hand are resources, society forces, ideology, and brokers and alliances. He said that ecology and economy are interlinked by resources, economy and society are interlinked by society forces, society and politics are interlinked by brokers and alliances, and politics and culture are interlinked by ideology. These dimensions of human security break down the entire concept of how it helps to attain world peace (Ryerson, 2010, 164).

Criticisms of the Concept of Human Security and Peace

The concept of human security and peace has a number of criticisms on its workings. The first main argument against this concept is that the definition of human security is so broad that it is not definitive at all. This however is to the advantage of most policymakers who use this wide framework to fit a number of programs that suit the needs of the policy being made. The arguments of human security are based on the nature of security and how deprivation of basic human essentials can result in conflicts (Hudson, 2005, 53). Scholars of human security all argue that most populations in the world suffer more from internal conflicts, hunger, diseases, environmental pollution, various forms of violence, and even their state authorities. While treating the individual, and not the state as a referent for security, the human security concept acknowledges that a strong functional state is the main requirement for individual security. The entire concept of human security is therefore centered on policy orientation with a major aim of influencing a change in security and development policies so as to positively impact on the social welfare of world populations and eventually the achievement of global peace.

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Securitization policies differ in different states. With its non definitive definition of human security, the concept allows for state by state interpretations of security threats. In formation of development and security policies, a particular state’s definition of a security threat could infringe on the rights of individuals. This however is countered by using the interventionist approach whereby a state is considered to have failed to protect its citizens from insecurities. In so doing, international community can reverse the situation and improve the quality of life of these citizens either by offering them refugee status outside their home countries or by negotiating with the state authorities for universally acceptable security policies.

Relevance of the concept of Human Security and Peace

The human security concept is wide enough to fit a range of programs that are useful to policymakers. The concept’s framework is effective in that it enables policy makers to consider ‘quality of life’ and ‘general development’ issues as those affecting state security. It has been used in global interventionism processes by developed countries and humanitarian organizations to help eradicate poverty and resolve persistent conflicts in the developing countries. The human security concept has been useful in shaping not only security but also development policies in some states like Japan and even Canada at some point in history (Newman, 2008, 84).

It has clearly established the interrelation of peace and other primary factors affecting the lives of individuals and in doing so enabled the vision of world peace to look clearer and more achievable. This concept has fostered an in depth analysis of the peace aspect by looking at individual threats and wants and finding out hoe they affect the person’s perception of peace. This has allowed for a clearer vision on how to attain absolute world peace through satisfaction of the individual needs and protection from threats and want. Arguments for and against human security all agree that the individual should be the primary referent and beneficiary of security policies. This concept is policy relevant and therefore useful for policy makers. It is designed with a desire to progressively change security policies through active engagement with policy making processes (Caroline, 2001, 63)


The human security concept is effective in working towards, and attaining world peace because of the various ways in which it eliminates problematic situations. As a concept, human security has a number of strong points that make it indispensable in the quest for world peace. The human security concept allows for a broader and much deeper analysis of security as it has a large capacity that covers a variety of issues that affect security. In doing this, the concept is able to show how the defense system of a country can lead to a deprivation and violation of rights thus undermining the quality of life of the citizens. In its broad framework, the concept acknowledges the importance of the state in providing human security by protecting its citizens from extreme poverty, preventable diseases, all forms of violence, and other factors that can undermine the well being of an individual (Seidensticker, 2002, 1-65).

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The human security concept also attracted more attention to the issue of states by shifting the security reference from state to individual. This caused the state to be at focal point on how it was going to protect its citizens from both threats and want. This also put pressure on governments as they had to modify their security and development procedures to reflect their respect for human life and dignity (Paris, 2006, 62). In addressing gender issues, the concept of human security has brought forward the forms of violence that were not recognized in the traditional state –centric security policies. These include prostitution, rape and domestic violence and they are all gender based. The concept of human securities allows for these forms of violence to be recognized as undermining the quality of life of the victims who are usually, though not always, women and children.

This concept has enabled security studies to consider those with vulnerabilities as well as those with insecurities. For example, through the human security concept, the plight of child soldiers, as well as that of the girl soldiers, can be extensively addressed in order to rescue this population from the ordeals of being in a war at a tender age. The human security concept allows individuals to make their own choices and live by their own definitions of being human. In doing this, it allows for emancipation of individuals thus promoting constructive freedom amongst the citizens. Having the freedom to make a choice and live by it without restrictions improves the quality of life of individuals. The human security concept advocates for a shift in the focus of security and development policies from the state to the individuals and this allows each individual to define his or her own security needs. In doing this, the concept broadens the coverage of factors that affect security thus putting a demand upon the international community to fulfill the security needs of the entire world population. All these special attributes of the concept of human security heavily contribute to its efficiency as a means of achieving global peace.


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