Human Security and Education

In defining security, it is important that human security not be equated with human development. Human development is a broader concept, defined as a process of widening the range of people’s choices. Human security means that people can exercise these choices safely and freely.
Two conceptualizations of security now define most state security policies. The traditional policy of national security, where the state is referred to as the main object of security, and the new policy of human security, which emphasizes the individual security as being the main object. The concept of human security was first introduced to a wider set of policy makers with the publication of the fifth Human Development Report, New Dimensions in Human Security, released by the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in 1994. The report defined human security as “safety from chronic threats such as hunger, disease and repression…and protection from sudden and hurtful disruptions in the patterns of daily life”. The concept of human security emerged during the decline of the cold war as security concerns began to shift from national confrontations, to the realization that security threats could come in different ways.
Under the leadership of Mahbub ul Haq, the UNDP sought to clear out the complexity of the post-Cold War security environment. Ul Haq argued that the time had come for the UN to accommodate the growing concern for human security after being focused on peacekeeping between states during its 50 year history. He challenged world leaders to move away from the concept of national security to that of human security and particularly insecurity rooted in poverty.

Human Security and Basic Education:
Literacy and schooling is central to the expansion of human capability and is a critically important component of human development. Human security stands, on the shoulders of human development and this applies especially strongly to the critical role of elementary education.
Human security does relate to “human development” and “human rights,” and even to “national security” and to “individual dedication,” but it is not the same as any of them. The responsibility of promoting human rights and reducing human insecurity falls on all institutions and agencies – national and international, public and private, formalized and informal, and so on.
Basic education influences human security in the following ways:
Illiteracy and innumeracy are forms of insecurity in themselves. So the first and most immediate contribution of successful primary education is a direct reduction of one form of deep rooted insecurity.
Basic education can be very important in helping people to get jobs and gainful employment.
When people are illiterate, their ability to understand and invoke their legal rights can be very limited. Thus, the lack of schooling can directly lead to insecurities by distancing the deprived from the ways and means of countering that deprivation.
Illiteracy can also stifle the political voice of the underdog and thus contribute directly to their insecurity. The enabling power of basic education in making people more effectively vocal is central to human security.
Studies have clearly shown that relative respect and regard for women’s well-being is strongly influenced by such variables as women’s ability to earn an independent income and be educated participants in decisions within and outside the family.

There is considerable evidence that the fertility rates tend to go down sharply with greater empowerment of women. In a comparative study of the different districts within India, it emerges that women’s education and women’s employment are the two most important influences in reducing fertility rates. There is also much evidence that women’s literacy tend to reduce the mortally rates of children. These connections between basic education of women and the power of women’s agency are quite central to understanding the contribution of school education to human security in general.
Finally, the human security perspective on basic education must also deal with the school curriculum. Schooling can be deeply influential in the identity of a person and the way we see each other. Religious schools like the Madrassas have fueled fundamentalism in Pakistan; and in India, cultural and educational narrowing is being advocated by some political groups. Even in Britain today the faith-based Muslim, Sikh and Hindu schools focus on learning about “one’s own culture” and tends to reduce severely the educational opportunities that could help informed choice on what to believe and how to live. Hence openness of curriculum can be quite central to the role of education in promoting human security. If the schools fail to do that we not only reduce their basic human right to learn widely, but also make the world much more unsafe.

Human security and Canada:
Canada is routinely identified as one of the other early promoters of human security. Human security fits Canada’s identity as a secure, middle power state that can use its place in the international system to build coalitions to make the world a better place. There was a steep increase in stories identifying Canada as a human security actor beginning in 1996 with then Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy advocating human security as a response to changing times that require a new, broad agenda focusing on the security needs of the individual. Canada’s role in the campaign to ban landmines and the beginning of its promotion of human security overlapped. The campaign also created ties between Canada and Norway that lead to the creation of the Human Security Network. Axworthy, used the meetings of existing multilateral institutions such as NATO and ASEAN to promote human security to a geographically diverse set of states viewed as having similar interests. Leaders from a group of states, as well as, participants from non-governmental organizations formally launched the Human Security Network at the first ministerial meeting in 1999 in Bergen, Norway. The Human Security Network is a self-identified collection of like-minded countries, from all regions of the world, which maintains dialogue on questions pertaining to human security and also engages with civil society on human security.
Although Canada continues to play a role in the Human Security Network, its active stage of promoting human security has ended with the departure from political power of the key entrepreneurs like Mr. Axworthy, who introduced the idea to the international community in the late 1990s. On the other hand, the number of stories in the international media that discuss human security has increased steadily over time indicating that the concept is embedded in the international system.

Human security and the United Nations (UN), European Union (EU):
Chapter 2 of the 1994 UNDP Human Development Report, ‘New dimensions of human security’, is seen as the first major articulation of the concept. But in recent years, key UN member states have shifted their advocacy from human security to the responsibility to protect. This is because of the ambiguity surrounding the concept of human security; and the lack of a clear distinction between human rights and human security. In 2001, the Commission on Human Security (CHS) was formed, and under the leadership of Sadako Ogata and Amartya Sen, the Commission was asked to promote public understanding, engagement and support of human security and its underlying imperatives; to develop the concept of human security as an operational tool for policy formulation and implementation; and to propose a specific programme of action to address critical and pervasive threats to human security. The resulting report provides a detailed articulation of the Human Security concept, and it argues that whereas development is focused on achieving equitable growth and sustainability, human security goes further to address the ‘conditions that menace survival, the continuation of daily life and the dignity of human beings’. According to the CHS definition, the aim of human security is ‘to protect the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfilment.
As for the EU, a shift towards human security was first proposed in 2004 by a study group that reported to Javier Solana, the High Representative. The Barcelona Report defines human security as representing a departure from the state as the referent of security, and towards an emphasis on protecting individuals and communities. A follow-up report at Madrid three years later, entitled ‘A European way of security’, elaborated the concept of human security in greater detail. Internal pressure on the EU to articulate and justify its foreign policy ambitions, became the strongest driver of a human security agenda.

A comparison of the UN and EU experiences suggests that the EU may be well positioned to implement and champion a human security agenda. But questions remain, example – How are human rights protected within a human security approach, and how are the two different?….etc. One important lesson learned from the UN experience with human security is that institutionalization cannot compensate for poor conceptualization. Hence, whoever champions the Human Security cause in the future, whether its the EU or some other organization, two things need to be done:
Need to have a clear concept of Human Security:- One way of doing this is by using a threshold-based concept. Rather then viewing human security as a list of threats, all of which must at all times be considered security issues, the concept could instead be viewed in terms of a threshold, so that any threat in any location passing this threshold could become a security threat. This definition limits the inclusion of threats by their severity rather than their cause.
Need to have a clear narrative for how to use Human Security:- Champions of the concept must be clear on how the concept will be translated into practical action, and why it presents a better alternative to traditional approaches. They have to make it clear, as to how the concept can deliver a peace while delivering security, and not just national security.

Some have argued that the Human security is ‘the dog that didn’t bark’, in that its integration into the mainstream of policymaking has reinforced, rather than challenged, existing policy frameworks. But it does not mean that the concept is not useful.
The real threats to human security in the next century will arise more from the actions of millions of people than from aggression by a few nations-threats, and it will take various forms such as disparities in economic opportunities, environmental degradation, drug trafficking, international terrorism etc. One of the key challenges, will be in detecting the warning signals of these threats, so that a timely prevention action can be taken.
Human security is not guaranteed by military might alone but through creating positive social and economic conditions. This can be achieved by giving everyone the opportunity to develop his or her own capacities; and by ensuring that everyone has equal access to economic opportunities. Effective health and education services will play a crucial role in achieving this goal. And when human security and social integration are ensured, human development can progress too.


About pritamkabe

Originally from Bombay, India. Relocated to the United States in 1997 for attending graduate school at The University of Texas. Completed my Masters in Electrical Engineering in 1999 and then worked in the Hi-Tech industry for the next 11 years in Austin, Texas. I have a passion for travelling, meeting new people, and experiencing new cultures...and i've been very fortunate to have gotten the opportunity to travel quite a bit. Sports and food are my other big passions in life. Some life-changing experiences in my life a years ago changed my perspective of life, after which, just have an engineering job was not meaningful to me anymore. Hence i quit my engineering career, and I'm now motivated to give back to society and make a positive impact in some way. To get started on that journey, i went back in graduate school, and recently graduated as a "Mid-Career Fellow in Foreign Service", from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, at Georgetown University, Washington DC. Currently in New Delhi, India, on a research fellowship, to learn about the educational issues in India, and brainstorm my ideas about technological interventions for resolving those issues.
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