In today’s world, people are facing a wide range of critical and pervasive threats and situations that call for firm and incorporated response. The concept of “Human security” is the critical response to the current insecurities as a guiding principle; it is useful to tackle interconnected threats and risks. It brings together the concerns and practices that deal with the many faces of fundamental freedoms – “freedom from want”, “freedom from fear” and “freedom to take action on one’s own behalf”. Human security represents generating systems that give people the building block of survival, dignity and livelihood. It gives emphasis to the complex relationships between disarmament, human rights and development.
As security challenges become more complex and various new actors attempt to play a role such as NATO, UN, EU and Arab League, we need a shift in model. Policies and institutions must respond to the current insecurities in stronger and more integrated ways. The focus must broaden from the state to the security of people – to human security. Through the efforts of different actors, the current insecurities should be addressed, security strategic concept should be reconsidered and common strategies should be formulated among them to tackle the threats.
Human security complements state security, furthers human development and enhances human rights. It provides two general strategies: protection and empowerment.
In the Middle East, the current insecurities (human rights violations, gender inequality, lack of participatory governance and poor management of the development process) make the region one where heads of state tend to place the security of their regimes over the security of the people. The region currently faces a period of social protest and change; people in the Middle East are seeking a comprehensive change stage addressed by popular revolutions rejecting all kinds of repression, abuse and the confiscation of freedoms.
A wave of protests has erupted throughout the Middle East. A combination of the global financial crisis, rising costs of living, high unemployment — especially of educated youth, frustration from decades of living under authoritarian and corrupt regimes leading to a wave of rising anger. As we have witnessed within the first weeks of 2011, the Tunisian and the Egyptian people have promoted a fundamental change in government and leadership within their countries. Other, more violent processes of protest and rebellion are taking place in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria.
Different studies provided an assessment of the possibility of a human security approach taking root in the region and shifting state priorities from regime survival to citizen wellbeing.
The question now is how to advance the security of people. Achieving human security requires building on efforts to address the full range of critical and pervasive threats facing people:
- Protecting people in violent conflict and from the proliferation of arms.
- Protecting and empowering people on the move
- Protecting and empowering people in post-conflict situations
- Economic insecurity – the power to choose among opportunities
- Working to provide minimum living standards everywhere
- Developing an efficient and equitable global system for patent rights
- Health for human security: According higher priority to ensuring universal access to basic health care
- Knowledge, skills and values – for human security.
Finally, the major efforts should be undertaken to refine the very concept of “Human Security” through research and expert meetings, to put human security at the core of the political agenda at both national and regional levels and, most important of all to engage in innovative action in the field to respond to the needs of most vulnerable populations.
Speech delivered at the Palermo Atlantic Forum, 10th June 2011.