The western roots of human security

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When Mahbubul Haq, a Pakistani, first articulated the concept of human security in a 1994 UN Development Programme (UNDP) report as an alternative to territorial and military security through a focus on individual security and sustainable development, he was drawing on a range of antecedents that had long been critical of realist thinking. 1 Indeed, realist responses to his work can be seen in the reluctance of some states to accept it for fear that it might undermine their sovereignty. 2 Its later reincarnation as a crucial element of a liberal international system can be seen in the ‘Responsibility to Protect’ usage of the concept, and in the subsequent High-level Panel Report. 3 Today, human security is taken to be a central concept across much of the UN system and by many member states and donors, although when it comes to the concept of humanitarian intervention, the consensus appears weaker. 4 Many have written about the roots of human security from the perspective of the post-Cold War environment, or its links with the UN system, 5 but little has been written that examines the deeper roots of the concept emanating from a genealogy of mainly western political thought. 6 In its broadest incarnation, human security is broadly defined as freedom from want and freedom from fear: positive and negative freedoms and rights. This has broadened the level of analysis in international relations, and brought social and economic insecurities to the fore. Discussion of human security has occurred in the context of the wide acceptance of the liberal peace as being the objective of most forms of intervention in conflict zones, ranging from democratization to human rights, the rule of law, development, and free-market reform. This has entailed normative changes that have transformed the nature of political community. These developments, and the issues related to human security, have raised the need to consider collaborative action. This also raises the problem of agency vis-á-vis human security in the context of the securitization of the individual, and in the context of the many actors involved in its provision.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHuman Security in East Asia
Subtitle of host publicationChallenges for collaborative action
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages17
ISBN (Electronic)9781134033850
ISBN (Print)9780415467964
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2008

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2009 Editorial selection and matter Sorpong Peou; individual chapters the contributors. All rights reserved.


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