Wednesday, April 23, 2008

HS, SS... and no we are not talking about ships.

Human Security has been defined as the following by the UN Development Program (UNDP):

• Economic security (assurance of basic income)
• Food security (physical/economic access to basic food)
• Health security (minimum protection from disease and unhealthy lifestyles)
• Environmental security (protection from short and long-term ravages of nature/ protection from man-made threats/ protection from deterioration of natural environment)
• Personal security (protection from physical violence: from state/external state/individuals etc.)
• Community security (protection from loss of traditional relationships and values and from sectarian/ethnic violence)
• Political security (whether people live in a society that honors their basic human rights)

Stemming from this, there are two methods for achieving the above ends.

First there is what is called Freedom from Fear. This is considered to be the most pragmatic approach to HS, as it seeks to achieve protection from physical violence while still acknowledging the linkages of this form of security to the above listed areas. It is this approach that Canada has taken as its foreign policy initiative (check the links on the right, under Places to go, things to see).

The other approach is called Freedom from Want. This method contends that the elements defining Human Security (above) are inseparable. This strategy has a strong emphasis on development, where Freedom from Fear might emphasize peacekeeping, disarmament and treaties banning weapons systems, such as land mines. The fact that this approach aims to alleviate threats in so many areas has led it to be considered less feasible in the current state of affairs.

However, at present, we see the linkage between the seven elements defining Human Security. The passage quoted on April 22nd, from the New York Times, outlined how rising food costs have led to widespread demonstrations and violence in Haiti. In other regions of the world, the food crisis has meant force dietary changes. In Liberia, the high price of rice has seen an increase in the consumption of pasta. (see this) Some have taken it lightly: "Liberians traditionally only eat rice with sauce. This might be an opportunity for us to diversify our diets," but perhaps more caution would be advisable.

As the Ebola virus, the West Nile virus, SARS, Bird Flu, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy and HIV/AIDS have so morbidly confirmed, the linkages between animal disease and human disease are not negligible. The present food crisis notwithstanding, Africans have been diversifying their diets for decades, turning more and more towards animal-consumption. In 2006, 600 million wild animals and 2 billion kilograms of bush meat were consumed on this continent.

In essence, the case for Human Security over traditional State Security (the type of security currently practiced by most states in what they perceive is a semi-anarchical international system. This is characterized by State-centred decision making, deterrence, the building of national power, large defense budgets, NATO, preemptive strikes etc.) is a strong one. With 85% unemployment rates, desertification, AIDS, drought, famine etc, the number of civil wars and genocides on one continent cannot be attributed to coincidence. There is a correlation here, and the solutions do no lie one state pitted out against another.