The Duck of Minerva

What Exactly is a “Human Security Perspective” Anyway?

28 June 2010

I use that term a lot, and I’ve been realizing that  it’s unclear to many people what that actually means. As Roland Paris pointed out years ago,  the term means different things to different people; in fact my own empirical research suggests as much. So as I think ahead to teaching a course on this subject in the Fall, I thought it might be useful to nail down what the term generally means to me when I use it. My first stab at doing just that is now posted at Current Intelligence.

A teaser:

To me, a “human security perspective” is a set of propositions and analytical assumptions about the relationship between the security sector and the protection of fundamental human rights. It overlaps with and is distinct from both conventional national security thinking and conventional human rights thinking, and it boils down to three propositions that can be applied to any policy situation:

1) Human security is global security as if people instead of states mattered;

2) The security sector is both a threat and an indispensable tool for the protection of human security and

3) The key goal should be to maximize the protection of civilians within the rule of law…

Human security is akin to a foreign policy position I would call “progressive realism.” It puts humans and humanity at the center of the equation, but it does so pragmatically rather than naively. It promotes thinking outside the box while assuming that the wider good may sometimes require uncomfortable tradeoffs. It borrows from just war thinking a prioritization of the most vulnerable groups in society, and a willingness to resort to force only within certain narrow guidelines and with a great degree of restraint. It borrows from globalism a sense that the protection of vulnerable groups everywhere should be the concern of those with the power to assist and protect them – because it is right and also because it is ultimately in our interest. Yet it borrows from political realism an understanding of what it takes to get from here to there, a willingness to see the forest despite the trees, and an understanding of the unavoidable relationship between ethics and power.

Go check out the rest. I would be very interested in feedback.

[cross-posted at Lawyers, Guns and Money]