Thursday, March 7, 2013

HUMAN SECURITY An International Perspective

An International Perspective

Ashikaga Shimane Kaikan
Ashikaga, Tochigi, Japan
11 April, 2000

The concept of Human Security evolved in the 1990s and is now widely accepted as a theme under which numerous issues are discussed. It is a concept under which various groups including the United Nations, Universities and NGOs discuss contemporary problems. The Human Development Report published by the United Nations Development Fund (UNDP) has in the 1990s provided us with a broad approach to human well-being and the study of the social and economic problems facing the world.  As the 1999 report states:
"Getting income is one of the options people would like to have. It is an important but not an all-important option. Human development includes the expansion of income and wealth, but it includes many other valued and valuable things as well.

“For example, in investigating the priorities of poor people, one discovers that what matters most to them often differs from what outsiders assume. More income is only one of the things poor people desire. Adequate nutrition, safe water at hand, better medical services, more and better schooling for their children, cheap transport, adequate shelter, continuing employment and secure livelihoods and productive, remunerating, satisfying jobs do not show up in higher income per head, at least not for some time."

Human Security and National Security

Human Security is an expression that offers an alternative approach to the more widely used national security concept. National security is concerned with defense, militarization, manufacture and trade in weapons including nuclear weapons and research, pacts and alliances among states - all these apparently for defense but often in reality used for aggression and domination.

There are numerous examples that can be cited. In the second half of the 20th century the best known example was the Vietnam War. The United States fought this war claiming that it was vital for its national interests and security. This is now regarded as a major failure and defeat for the US. The Gulf War against Iraq is another notable example. Whatever Saddam Hussein's faults including the annexation of Kuwait, the Western Powers supported by several other states used the United Nations to attack Iraq, primarily to retain control over oil fields in the Middle-East. Here again the war was fought to promote the national interests of the powerful industrialized nations. The main victims of both wars were children and the poor.

In the second half of the 20th century we have in addition seen the growth of the national security-state. In such a state, the security forces are used by authoritarian and dictatorial regimes to control their own citizens in order to preserve power in the hands of a few wealthy people - the upper class of land owners, owners of industries and business tycoons. Political freedoms are curtailed, trade union activity is prohibited and the press controlled. A kind of crony capitalism is prevalent. Corruption including kickbacks from foreign aid and investment is extensive.

Examples in Asia in recent years were the Philippines under Marcos and Indonesia under Suharto. Both were over-thrown by people's power. Such regimes were and are common in Latin America and Africa. Another form of the national security-state is one in which economic and political power is concentrated in a ruling class within one ethnic group. The minorities are oppressed and discriminated against. Attempts to assert their rights lead to repression. The classic example was South Africa during the period of apartheid where a minority of whites oppressed the black majority. In such a state power gradually shifts to the police and the army and grave violations of human rights take place.

Peoples' Security

Prof. Mushakoji says that by Human Security we mean peoples’ security. “Peoples’ security is different from “National Security” for all peoples who do not exclusively identify with the “nation-state”. The modern “nation-state” is ready to protect its citizens provided they do not question its legitimacy and its national project … The “minorities” may receive protection from the state if their integration is advantageous to it and is accepted by the “majority.” … the (i.e. majority identity group) as well as the state constitutes often a threat against which they have to protect themselves. How the United Nations can guarantee the security of such peoples is a question which increases in importance everyday.” (Mushakoji Kinhide, PRIME, Meiji Gakuin University, Nov.1994). This is one dimension of the crisis in several states.

“The post-cold war era is increasingly witnessing a phenomenon of what some have called “failed states” the implosion of countries like Rwanda, Somalia, Yugoslavia, and others … several countries are among the ranks of what Professor James Rosenau of George Washington University calls “adrift nation-states” … the media and many other observers now almost habitually ascribe the outbreak of civil wars and the collapse of entire societies to just one factor: the resurfacing of “ancient ethnic hatreds” revolving around seemingly irreconcilable religious and cultural differences.” In reality the causes are far more complex.

    “Roughly half of the world’s countries have experienced some kind of interethnic strife in recent years.” There are “233 minority groups at risk from political or economic discrimination. These groups encompassed 915 million people in 1990, about 17 percent of the world’s population. “One of the continuing legacies of colonial and imperial rule is that boundaries are often arbitrary – drawn not to reflect local realities, but to serve the purposes of the imperial masters… following independence, civic life in many of these states continued to be split along ethnic lines, with one group ruling at the direct expense of the other.” (State of the World 1997: A Worldwatch Institute Report on Progress Toward a Sustainable Society, Lester R. Brown et al, Worldwatch Institute, 1997.
p. 117-118.)

United Nations as a Human Security Institution

The alternative approach that of Human Security, while recognizing the need for legitimate national security, asserts that there is a vital link between development and peoples' security. The problems that emerge with development, modernization and urbanization are numerous. These include human rights, the right to work and earn a decent living, basic needs like food, clean water, shelter, health care, education, and welfare - especially for children and old people, the environment and gender issues. Human security is an umbrella term that includes all the major problems we have in modern society.

This concept favors transforming the United Nations into a Human Security Institution. The perception that people have of the UN and the Security Council in particular is that of an organization primarily concerned with war and peace. The use of military force and peace-keeping at the point of the gun receive excessive importance. There are often deep differences among the world's peoples regarding the UN's role in these matters. Human security as defined above is increasingly being recognized as an important role of the UN. Member states and especially citizens should press for a greater role by the UN in giving top priority to Human Security concerns.

This is an insecure world for the majority of the people. It is impossible to discuss all these issues in today's lecture. I have chosen some major issues that are relevant to teachers and educators. This does not mean that these are more important than the others. All the issues are interrelated. For example literacy, infant mortality and life expectancy are connected. These again are dependent on the availability of schools and adequate medical facilities. Expansion of the educational and health care systems require infrastructure that facilitates transportation and communication. These include roads, railways, electricity and telephone facilities. Access to information through newspapers, radio and television is important especially in poorer countries. All these in turn require economic development.

A Message for Teachers and Educators

But before I take up some of these issues I have one comment to make. I have often heard Japanese people say that they do not know about the problems in several Asian countries because they do no have enough information. This is not quite correct. It is true that both print and electronic media in Japanese do not give enough information. The situation is now much better than ten years ago. However, even now, the media tends to focus on the curious and the exotic, on what is trivial and entertaining - infotainment rather than relevant knowledge. This is one of the major failures in post-war Japanese society. In Europe there is greater awareness.

Japanese post-war society has been influenced too much by the consumer oriented American way of life. In the Meiji period and early Showa years Japan was highly influenced by Europe. But in America consumerism and ignorance is constantly challenged by sections of the media, distinguished journalists, writers, eminent intellectuals, activists, and numerous organizations such as NGOs and some churches with a strong commitment to justice, human rights and welfare of peoples in the poorer countries of the world.

In the USA the main stream media like the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post give wide coverage to the problems mentioned above. These papers are now freely available in Japan, especially the supplements carried by the Daily Yomiuri and the Asahi Evening News without extra charge. CNN, CBS and BBC bilingual news broadcasts and documentaries available in Japan also give valuable information.

In addition it is possible to down load from the Internet tons of information within a few minutes. In fact there is too much information. But this is of course in English. By reading the newspapers and listening to the news you can gather a lot of information and at the same time improve your English. There is therefore no longer any excuse for Japanese people to say that we do not have enough information. If people are ignorant it simply means that they are not interested or do not care about the sufferings of people denied human security. It is a question of commitment and whether you are prepared to give a little bit of your time to create a better world.

Today numerous publications on the issues mentioned above are easily available in several languages including Japanese. I recommend in particular the Human Development Report and UNICEF reports published by the UN annually. These should be read by teachers and educators. When you first read them they may appear to be difficult. Data (facts and figures) on many problems are provided country by country in these reports.

To begin with you should choose two or three problems and study them. Gradually you can broaden the scope. You can form your own study circles, either in your place of work or within the community in which you reside. Or you can form a group among your friends. It is important that school libraries equip themselves with books, newspapers, periodicals and audio-visual aids and encourage clubs to focus on these issues. Curriculum and syllabus of courses provided in schools should give high priority to Human Security concerns.

A Quick Look at some Socio-Economic Facts and Indicators

I have selected a few topics for discussion today. We have made copies of tables and charts (in English and Japanese) taken from (1) The State of the World's Children 2000 - UNICEF  (2) The Human Development Report 1999 and (3) Associated Press Document on the High Human Cost in All Wars.

Using these I intend to focus on (1) The Growing Gap between the Rich and the Poor. (2) Children and Education. (3) Social and Economic Indicators relating to Literacy, Infant Mortality, Life Expectancy, GNP per capita and Military Expenditures in selected countries.

A World Without Borders

We live in a world that is being rapidly transformed into a totally integrated global society where troubles in one part soon affect other parts of the world. Global warming and environmental issues are a good example. Rapid population growth, urbanization, poverty and wars including ethnic conflict make people take risks. Refugees by the millions cross nation-state borders in search of security.

Human Security is global. Borders cannot totally restrict the movement of people. Poverty, diseases, and pollution that poverty breeds cannot be confined within national boundaries. Illegal trafficking in arms and drugs are universal. The big gap in incomes between rich and poor countries attracts migration. People in the rich countries must realize that helping poorer countries to develop is an essential investment in their own security. Human security has to be understood as preventive action. It is better to prevent rather than wait until the problems become too big to cure.

As Johan Galtung states, "human security can be seen as an umbrella concept … and relates the concept to peace in general via four other concepts: human rights, social development, women and human settlements." (International Symposium on Human Security in Asia Pacific Region, December 1997, PRIME, Meiji Gakuin University, Tokyo.)

The above symposium focussed on a broad range of issues relevant to human security by both scholar-activists and activist-scholars. Academics in Universities in particular have a responsibility to relate their study to practice. Activists in turn should make an effort to sharpen their intellectual understanding of the problems that they confront in practice.  

Efforts are being made by several groups in Asia and other parts of the world. These are signs of hope. One such group with which I have been associated is the Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives based in Hong Kong. It is a fellowship of concerned Asian scholars. Founded in 1980 conferences have been held in Thailand 1982, Indonesia 1985, India 1988, Philippines 1992, South Korea 1996 and in Sri Lanka March 2000. The leadership and activities of ARENA has now passed on to a younger generation with women playing a major role. In Colombo, Sri Lanka, 24-29 March this year the theme was "Re-Imagining Asia: Towards Alternative Concepts of Human Security, Movements and Alliances in the Twenty First Century." ARENA's programs and publications constantly seek Alternatives.

As ARENA Coordinator Jeannie Nacpil-Manipon states in "locating the possibilities and locating the possible … the word impossible doesn't seem to exist anymore." Returning from that meeting in Colombo I bring this message to you - especially to those of you who are young teachers. You face a world burdened with many problems. But it is also a time of great challenges and opportunities. We must look for the signs of hope and seize the opportunities that come our way...

As Secretary-General of the UN, Kofi Annan states,

"There is no trust more sacred than the one the world holds with children… The State of the World's Children 2000 begins and ends with the premise that the wellspring of human progress is found in the realization of children's rights. It spells out a vision in which the rights of all children, without exception, are realized. The challenge, as so often, lies in the implementation of good intentions. Let us summon all our courage and commitment to make it so. Because a child in danger is a child who cannot wait."

We must believe that Human Security is an attainable target if each and every one of us makes a small contribution. It must begin with power that comes from knowledge, and through participation in movements and alliances of people with people. It calls for "creative daydreaming" study and action. 

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