Human Security & Agenda 2030

Human Security & Agenda 2030:

A crucial ingredient to achieve sustainable development

Today’s world is an insecure place for many. These insecurities due to internal political instability often involving bitter sectarian violence, with heavy human losses and forced displacements, generating unrelenting cycles of suffering and loss. In addition to pressures of climate change, natural disasters and health pandemics, placing considerable stress on a fragile social, political and economic systems of those least capable of responding. Widening inequalities and disparities of income and wealth across and within countries, leaving large groups behind and marginalized. These threats, if not addressed early, can grow exponentially, spilling into all aspects of people’s lives, destroying entire communities and resulting in a more intractable crisis that often spill-over into broader national, regional and international insecurities. Faced with multiple insecurities, what is required is a greater acknowledgment of the added value of human security. With human security assured, there can be national, regional and international security.

To better understand the manifestation of threats on people’s lives, let us consider their impact on the different areas of human security:

  1. Economic insecurity: unemployment, lack of access to credit and other economic opportunities
  2. Food insecurity: hunger, famine
  3. Health insecurity: deadly infectious diseases, malnutrition, lack of access to basic health care
  4. Environmental insecurity: environmental degradation, resource depletion, pollution
  5. Personal insecurity: violence in all its forms, lack of rights and access to opportunities
  6. Community insecurity: inter-ethnic, religious, identity-based tensions, crime, conflicts
  7. Political insecurity: political repression, human rights abuses


The concept of human security is quite new in comparison to human rights. It needs not to be seen as a competing concept vis-a-vis human rights instead it must be taken as an effective approach in creating favorable conditions to enjoy human rights. It focuses on individuals but more widely on values and goals such as dignity, equity, and solidarity. Furthermore, human security not only secures human rights but it also addresses the potential threats to these rights and the types of institutions and governance arrangements required to sustain them. Interestingly and equally significantly, the Helsinki Accord of 1975 reaffirmed human rights as a key element of international security and stated that respect for human rights would no longer be a matter of domestic jurisdiction. Human security can bring accountability mechanism beyond state borders.

Therefore, at its most basic level – human security recognizes three freedoms to be fundamental to people’s lives and aspirations.

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  1. Freedom from fear: Threats to the safety of people (all forms of violence);
  2. Freedom from want: Threats to basic needs (economic, social and environmental aspects of life);
  3. Freedom to live in dignity: Threats to human rights and by extension access to services and opportunities.


More comprehensively – human security calls for protection and empowerment strategies. Protecting people in a systematic, comprehensive and preventative way, including the establishment of the rule of law, good governance, social safety nets. Empowering people so as to develop their resilience and their capacity to mitigate and respond to current and future crises.


 Four principles to achieve human security


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  • People-centered (focuses on the individual and highlights the universality and primacy of these 3 freedoms to individuals);
  • Comprehensive (looks at the totality of people’s sense of security — economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community, political, etc., … and develops multi-sectorial solutions that bring the expertise of different actors);
  • Context-specific (no ‘one-size fits all’ but based on the specific context);
  • Prevention-focused (not just fixing things but making lasting change — looks at root causes and considers sustainable solutions – comprehensive, capacity building, early warning and preventive).


The added value in applying the human security approach at the UN: promotes integrated responses that harness the political, humanitarian and development work of the UN system; Allows for the inclusion of different programming principles such as equity, resilience, early warning, social harmony, poverty reduction, sustainability, etc.; And provides the evidence for why and how different UN and non-UN entities must come together based on their expertise, resources, and comparative advantage.

This contributes to enhancing the UN’s work, in partnership with others, towards more resilient societies, where people are safe from chronic threats such as natural disasters, abject poverty, disease, violence, and repression, and protected from sudden and hurtful disruptions in their daily lives exercised more freely.

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Civil Society: Bridging the Gap

Any idea either in terms of human rights or human security may not gain currency unless it gets consistent activism from society. Both the concepts stand for the common people. In today context the role civil society has transformed tremendously. Today it is not confined to national boundaries, but it has crossed it. It is commonly understood that civil societies largely stand for the greater good of the common individual. Indeed, globalization has led to the emergence of a system of global civil society that seeks to address and manage several areas of transnational activities. Global civil society comes with increased transnational interaction and networks, new centers of political power alongside the state, and the growth of transnational civil society. Various national and international non-governmental organizations have been granted special status by the United Nations in monitoring several common people related concerns.

However, the focus of the argument is that without the consistent activism from the civil society such ideas would remain futile. Civil society plays a role of checks and balance between state and society for the common good. It keeps pressing the state for its welfare role regarding its citizens. It not only keeps a watch for individual welfare but also time to time facilitates the state in order to aware it to some of the key issues. In the Third World context, it has got a very crucial role as the state often accused of not reaching out people. These organizations often help the state to implement its key social welfare programs effectively. Civil society is seen as a key partner with the state in the development sphere. It fills the gap. Arguably it is correct to emphasize that in order to achieve a minimum level of human security in the Third World the civil society activism is very important. Several flagship programs are initiated but due to the lack of proper infrastructure and reach of the state, these programs could not yield expected outcomes. Therefore, in order to build a strong nation and empowering people through such models and concepts which are directly related to people then state need to have a culture or system of active civil society


Human Security and Agenda 2030 – Reaching the most marginalized and leaving no one behind

With its emphasis on those most vulnerable, human security initiatives result in participatory and inclusive frameworks that address the root causes of exclusion, strengthen social networks, build resilience, improve peaceful coexistence and advance sustainable development.

The SDGs require context-specific analyses at the local level. A focus on human security leads to a deeper understanding of the local context, including the root causes of vulnerability, their inter-linkages, and their combined impact. The application of human security addresses not only developmental challenges but also challenges stemming from other factors, such as, violence, environmental degradation, etc., that impede economic growth. This results in more proactive, targeted and sustainable outcomes that can improve the realization of the SDGs.


Bridging the divide between humanitarian relief and development assistance!

A mix of factors come together to generate situations that are often complex and multidimensional. Human security underscores the need for joint analysis, planning and implementation among humanitarian and development organizations and provides the rationale and evidence by which to transcend this divide. At its core, human security is rooted in the notion that threats to people are seldom singular in nature. Rather, a mix of factors come together to generate situations that are complex and multi-dimensional.

Such an understanding results in a response framework in which the needs, vulnerabilities and capacitates of crisis-affected countries are continually assessed and encompasses all key stakeholders from governments to civil society, including those responsible for emergency relief, rehabilitation and long-term development.

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Paulina Pochrebiennik

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