Human Security and Conflict

Ho-Won Jeong

Human security is supposed to respond to ordinary people's concerns such as chronic threats, including hunger, disease, and political oppression.
Thus the goals of human security include elimination of poverty, access to food, provision of health care, reduction in environmental degradation, protection from threats of war. The most important dimensions of human security, therefore, entail the well-being of individuals and groups and non-military sources of threats (as opposed to external threats to states). It may well be conceived that human security can be achieved by satisfaction of basic material needs and emancipation from oppressive power structures.

The notion of human security is better understood in opposition to a state centric security paradigm. Human needs are important issues in dealing with sources of threats. In particular, human security is contrasted with such aspects of state-centric, national security paradigms which stress protection of territory from external threats and dependence on deterrence strategies. Security decision making power is centralised and limited to a small number of elite.

State centric security paradigms are not adequate to understanding violence against civilian populations during internal conflict situations. The efforts for the maintenance of state boundaries often lead to denial of demand for autonomy and self-determination by minority groups. A state can be seen as threats to individuals and groups if its apparatus is used to maintain dominant group interests and use coercion to suppress the demand of marginalised groups.

Short-term peace enforcement functions can be employed to stop killings and support humanitarian assistance missions. However, heavy reliance on military means for maintaining order would not bring about long term social harmony and stability. It is important to recognise the root causes of conflicts (often social and economic) and develop strategies which can produce durable and sustainable effects of peace. The realisation of human security requires broad participation of diverse sectors of society in rebuilding violence torn societies.