Time to expand concept of global ‘Human Security’

A Commission on Human Security, co-chaired by Sadako Ogata, former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, is to be established.

Sponsored by the Japanese government, the organization’s mandate is to broaden the concept of “human security.”

About 10 influential individuals, including co-chair Amartya Sen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Science, will serve as global representatives and will put together a final report in two years time.

Despite moving from one century to the next, problems of wars and refugees continue to plague mankind.

The proliferation of weapons is unceasing. As one means of grappling with such difficult issues, the establishment of the commission is worthwhile.

The phrase “human security” first came into usage in the 1990s in relation to protecting people of developing nations from problems such as ethnic and religious disputes which produced large numbers of refugees, AIDS, unemployment and poverty.

“Human security” means taking a united stand against those threats which endanger the lives and dignity of individuals. This is how the United Nations Development Program’s 1994 Human Development Report explained the concept.

The report advocated all countries reduce military spending and divert the funds to education and health care.

It is probably reasonable to suggest that this way of thinking is gradually taking root in international society.

In a report to the U.N. Millennium Summit last autumn, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, reflecting the reality that during the previous 10 years more than five million people had been victims of internal disputes around the world, pointed out that security, previously recognized as protection against external aggression, had now come to include the dimension of protecting communities and individuals from internal violence.

This reflects a recognition that it is not possible to prevent ethnic disputes or achieve regional peace and stability unless, irrespective of national borders, internal violence and oppression, exploitation and poverty are confronted.

Probably the first issues for the new commission relate to making clear the future significance and effectiveness of human security throughout the world, as well as the way in which humanitarian intervention and conflict prevention should be undertaken.

This concept is not valid simply for humanitarian crises such as natural disasters, including earthquakes and floods, and refugees.

Threats such as environmental breakdown, famine and poverty in one country will at some stage impact on neighboring countries.

It is probably necessary that China and other Asian countries all share this understanding.

To implement this concept, Japan places emphasis on providing relief to refugees and economic development, while European countries and the United States are concerned about conflict prevention, human rights and democracy. It is important that the commission endeavors to bridge the gap between these two approaches. To make use of this concept within the realities of international politics, support for it must be broadened and life breathed into it.

In tandem with the new commission’s discussions, focus should also be placed on domestic reform. Surely it is necessary to amend the current situation where mobilization of international disaster relief teams is restricted to natural disasters and where they are not able to provide medical support to refugees.

Following a proposal by deceased former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi, theTrust Fund for Human Security was established at United Nations headquarters in New York in 1999, with funding of a little under 10 billion yen ($86.2 million) being donated by Japan. Prime Minister Yoshiro Mori intends to increase the fund by 10 billion yen ($86.2 million) but we would request that full information be disclosed at this time concerning what is to be done with those funds.

Now that the banner of “human security” has been unfurled, in line with that concept, it is necessary to have a further look at Japan’s diplomacy, commencing with its assistance to developing countries. (The Asahi Shimbun, Feb. 12)