Advancing global security is a challenge for which world leaders cannot afford failure. We have reached the end of the millennium with too many tragic reminders of how a majority of the world’s six billion people live without security – at risk of being killed, persecuted or abused; of abject poverty that fosters hopelessness and threatens human welfare. This is true for some 22 million refugees among others worldwide who are of concern to my office – the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). There are living testimonials that the absence of human security inevitably leads to, or perpetuates, forced human displacement.
The challenge for the international community now is to determine how best to develop new mechanisms to respond to the fluid and fragmented crises we continue to face, thereby ensuring and maintaining the security of threatened people. With the end of the Cold War, security threats increasingly shifted from external aggression to internal tensions. In the past year alone my office confronted major emergencies stemming from internal unrest in such places as Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, East Timor, Kosovo and Sierra Leone.
The international community must focus on two central goals as it moves towards strengthening global security: how to protect conditions of human security; and how to promote them. We must be able to resort to options that are appropriate and proportional to the situation they are meant to tackle. “Soft measures” alone, such as international presence through humanitarian agencies, are essential, but may not always be sufficient. “Hard” measures, such as international military intervention, appear equally insufficient alone to prevent war, or to create a safe environment for those who want to return home after a conflict has ended.
The security of people must not only be ensured but also be sustained. The international community must give more coherent support to societies emerging from conflict. The transition from conflict to peace is a vital period that links conflict resolution with development efforts. I am very concerned by the gap that currently exists between humanitarian intervention during conflicts, and the beginning of long-term development programmes in the post- conflict period.
This gap is particularly of concern in refugee situations. Very often, recently returned refugees are among those who suffer most from the lack of resources available to build peace. This in turn can provoke the recurrence of conflict and fresh displacement of people.
During the transition to peace, it is equally important to create conditions for the co-existence of divided communities. This means not only providing resources but also fostering reconciliation. The willingness of national and local authorities to restore inter- communal dialogue is indispensable, but so is a positive attitude by the people concerned. Peaceful co-existence must be accepted by divided communities living together again, rather than simply forced upon them. It is in this acceptance that lies the key to a secure society. The atrocities committed against Roma and Serbs in Kosovo are a stark reminder of the challenges and risks facing divided communities.
Over 50 years after the signing of the UN Charter, a central aim of which is to “maintain international peace and security,” we continue to live in a world which is both dangerous and frightened. Human security requires a collective and comprehensive effort. Together, countries must focus on democracy building, human rights, economic development, and other issues vital to promoting human security.
Only then can we ensure that every woman, man and child are safe, regardless of their ethnicity, nationality or religion. Our global security depends on it.