The Challenge of Human Security
By John Bond OAM
In September 2012 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on Human Security, which it describes as ‘an approach to assist Member States in addressing widespread challenges to the survival, livelihood and dignity of their people.’
This indicates a growing global recognition that security is not just a matter of armies and alliances. In many countries, these things do little to answer the insecurity in which their citizens live. Despotism, corruption, environmental stress, poverty are all causes of tension and conflict. National security depends finally on human security – on enabling every person to feel secure.
Many NGOs, governments and individuals grapple with these aspects of security. Sadly, all too often their contribution is undervalued in the allocation of resources. Threats to national security tend to make better politics.
But this is changing, in part due to the growth of social media. In the Arab Spring countries, through organisations such as Avaaz, citizens are discovering how their collective voice can shape the policies of their country.
Human security is a corollary of this trend. As the General Assembly Resolution states: ‘Human security requires greater collaboration and partnership among Governments, international and regional organizations and civil society.’
With greater involvement comes greater responsibility. The Caux Forum for Human Security, launched in 2008, has annually brought several hundred government and civil society representatives to Caux in Switzerland, with the aim of building the trust, and developing the skills, which enable human security approaches to be implemented successfully.
The Forum was launched by Ambassador Mohamed Sahnoun, formerly Special Advisor to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Sahnoun recognised the need to make human security understood as viable, and as a moral imperative. In this he has won the support of many public figures. As former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said last year, ‘The Caux Forum unapologetically seeks to inject an ethical dimension into the public policy space.’
The Forum explores human security through five of its components – just governance, inclusive economics, healing memory, intercultural dialogue and living sustainably. Each of these offers opportunities for creative initiatives at every level from the individual up to government policy.
These initiatives call for many capacities; the Caux Forums focus particularly on the attitudes and relationships that make collaborative approaches possible. It brings together people from a wide range of backgrounds, enabling participants to discover how to work together across cultural, religious, economic and philosophical divides. Forum participants are now working with the South Sudan Government on a five-year programme for national reconciliation, in the Sahel countries on projects for land restoration, in Eastern Europe on dialogue between opposing factions in tense situations. These and many other actions are outlined in the Forum conference reports.
John Bond OAM is the Coordinator of theCaux Forum for Human Security.