Human Security – a remedy to poverty, migration, climate change, and pandemics?

by Thorsten Koch, MA, PgDip

ASPI’s podcast ‘The Bigger Picture,’ in a recent episode, hosted Mary Kaldor, Director of the Conflict and Civil Society Research Unit in the LSE Department of International Development. Kaldor also serves as Professor of Global Governance. Discussing the subject of Human Security, she recalled that in her earlier works, she had coined the term ‘Cosmopolitan Human Security’ – a combination of security, human rights, as well as a celebration of diversity. At the core of this concept lies the rule of law and, correspondingly, more legitimacy of political institutions. Citizens in Western countries expect ermergency services to step in when there is an emergency, protecting them and providing them with aid, which can bolster trust in institutions.

Kaldor sees Human Security as “an alternative concept” to classical security. Contrary to the stance commonly advanced that nation-building has failed, she opts for this very endeavor. Focusing mainly on counter-terror efforts, then, will provoke resistance by marginalized actors. As in other contemporary conflicts, with regard to Afghanistan, for instance, justice was not “taken seriously,” which, ultimately, fuelled Islamists’ most recent insurgency. On the other hand, citing a positive example, the anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden, rather than killing pirates, has pirates arrested. Parallel to that, “fishing licenses on the Somali coast” are handed out, providing a more viable course.

Human Security, as Kaldor sees it, is more complex than the simple idea of “deep-rooted conflict[s] between two sides,” at a time when non-state actors perform kidnappings, lootings, embezzle humanitarian aid, and are engaged in smuggling drugs. In recent developments, private security contractors have become more and more prominent, given that nations “do not dare” risking the lives “of regular forces.” There is a major disadvantage to this: the tendency of privatization means taking action out of the framework of state functioning.

Kaldor is of the opinion that instead of employing military means, one ought to reinforce policing and promoting prosperity in order to alleviate “extreme” inequalities. A goal should be to organize democracy nationally, in a globalized and growingly interconnected world, in which, however, “frightening networks [have been springing up] on the Internet.” The goal can, as Kaldor advanced, only be achieved “if we don’t lose control” amidst more and more bureaucratization and the advent of international organizations taking on national competences. The latter may lead to difficulties in doing “things on a national level.” The solution, then, might be to become both “more global and more local.”

Security culture can at times be irrational and “old-fashioned,” Kaldor said. Linkages even exist in many cases between specific security cultures and authoritarianism. On the bright side, UN peacekeeping missions have been expanded in recent years, Kaldor said.

Solving the issues of regular people should in future be the top priority, although this is easier said than done. Poverty, migration, climate change, and Covid-19 “are all deeply interconnected” and call for fresh ideas to be carried out globally. If one imagined a nation with “inadequate health systems” and refugee camps, Human Security should provide not only emergency services and disaster control but should entail more grounded and lasting forms of help, with Human Security benefiting all human beings, thus Kaldor’s still utopic perspective which, albeit, might ultimately end many different kinds of “forever wars” and mysogeny. Hence, Human Security may perhaps be successfully carried by the next generations of people, in nations worldwide.

31 October 2021

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