Civilising ourselves, resolution by resolution – advancing the concept of ‘human security’

Ideas drive political action.  They come from the deep well of philosophical and religious belief. They are disciplined by science, and flourish through the medium of literature and the arts.

And through UN resolutions.
Once upon a time, like the past 5,000 years, the safety of the individual was taken to be dependent on a ruler’s benign protection.  Virtually to this day the notion of national security, even in the age of nuclear deterrence, has rested on protection of the individual from a 20-megaton punch by means of the massive apparatus of the state in the form of retaliatory or pre-emptive ICBMs, and ballistic missile shields.  How safe we all felt.

Now, slowly, and with painstaking deliberation, we are starting to civilise ourselves.

We are beginning to realise that human security is less atavistic, more existential.  It has to do with the individual and the children – the survival and dignity of the person – food security, clean water, adequate sanitation, educational opportunity, minimal crime, effective health services.

And, perhaps most startling of all, that the state is there to serve the security of the individual, not the other way around as it has been since The Beginning.

All this is quite revolutionary.  There are revolutionaries, intellectual ones, in and around the United Nations.  Mahbub ul-Huq and Inge Kaul conceived the idea of Human Development Index, back in 1990.  Amartya Sen conceived the idea of human security a decade later. The Millennium Summit launched an Independent Commission in 2000 to develop the idea.  The result was the report ‘Human Security Now’ in 2003.

In its World Summit Outcome Document of 2005, the UN stressed the right of people to live in freedom and dignity, free from poverty and despair.  Governments recognised that all individuals are entitled to freedom from fear and from want, and to develop their human potential.  The General Assembly undertook to discuss and define the notion of ‘human security’ (resolution 60/1, para. 143).  Thus a global idea is born.

Five years later in May ‘10, the General Assembly convened a formal debate, taking note of the ‘on-going efforts’ to define the notion of human security.  It asked the Secretary-General to seek the views of member states.

So the UNSG duly did this, submitting his report to the Assembly in April ’12, identifying the ‘core values’ of human security and a ‘common understanding’ of the concept.  First up is climate change.  Next are peace-building, poverty alleviation and health.  The Assembly is invited to endorse the common understanding, the ways the UN can strengthen human security, and for governments to bank-roll its realisation.

On 6th of this month, the Assembly did just that, in resolution A/66/L.55Rev. 1. And so an idea grows into maturity.  Over a decade after conception.

The same month leading scientists warn of a looming global disaster in the form of final collapse of the Arctic ice cap within four years, with ‘terrible implications’ for potential methane release that could accelerate global warming.

Ideas, human ideas, are conceived too late, born too painfully, struggle to develop too late.

And we race against time.

13 Comments Posted

  1. I gather Iran may only be trying to protect itself from Israel’s threats. A vicious circle of violence which SOMEONE needs to bring to a halt.. All based on fear and power..etc…

  2. @bruno32

    Given that Iran has never attacked another sovereign nation and has no nuclear capacity, your inane comment can safely be ignored.

  3. Nice words Kennedy,but When Iran hits the nuclear button,global warming and human security will take on a whole new meaning.

  4. Furthermore (!) – if I may………the changes in weather-patterns in recent times would certainly suggest a shift; however it seems to me that the incessant arguments for or against ‘climate-change’ are counter-productive, drawing attention right away from the fact that as far as our policies and actions now and in future are concerned it doesn’t matter who is right. The point being that we ALL KNOW that we humans are doing MANY things which go against the laws of Nature, and are causing upheavals in health and the outlook for people, animals, the earth, water, air, soil and food upon which we all rely. Therefore we should make huge efforts to change our behaviour and to avert the dangers and try to correct the symptoms – whether from climate or whatever else! As long as we are fighting about the causes,not much will be done to rectify any of these problems…

  5. Hemp, (n.)

    A plant from whose fibrous bark is made an article of neckwear which is frequently put on after public speaking in the open air and prevents the wearer from taking cold.

    LINEN, n. “A kind of cloth the making of which, when made of hemp,
    entails a great waste of hemp.” — Calcraft the Hangman.

    Ambrose Bierce – The Devil’s Dictionary


    Being from the USA, I have some clue what my country has been up to. “No good” does not begin to cover it. 🙂

  6. @BJChip

    There have been many voices saying that the Narcotics convention was put in place by the USA & pressure has been brought by their sucessive administrations to BLOCK any moves to reform or repeal it.

    It has been said that this is just a ‘conspiracy theory’ BUT the result is obvious to anyone who looks into it. It seems that the USA is the driving force behind the Drug War & the increasing uses of fossil fuels (many of the products, once made from Hemp).


  7. Thankyou, KENNEDY GRAHAM, The hope is that when humanity -in every country – is sufficiently sickened by aggression and suffering, and is WILLING TO SHARE the goods, resources and wealth of this world, then JUSTICE may be done – by some system such as is envisaged by the SHARE-INTERNATIONAL Organization, whereby each nation must declare what it has of all those ‘assets’, beyond its NEEDS – so that a method of RE-DISTRIBUTION can be implemented; What, other than SHARING & JUSTICE, – the awareness that WE ARE ALL IN THIS LIFE TOGETHER – will stop WAR?? How many are prepared to live without the luxury and grandiosity which prevails in mainly Western countries??

  8. Zedd

    Don’t you find it a bit curious that that convention is the only one that anyone ever HAS paid attention to? I sure do… and the situation with Pot and Vietnam and the US government of the day and our following their lead in everything seems to me to have a lot to do with it.

    The UN hasn’t got what I’d call an unblemished record with respect to its resolutions. I think Sam characterized it pretty well…

    something to learnedly quote from the armchairs of power just before sending your people out to chuck a bit of white phosphorus around

    Which is why I don’t much think that the UN is going to do any actual GOOD with respect to climate change. Apart from the organization of the IPCC and its reports.

    It has no power to act unless all the members of the Security Council (including the USA) decide it is time to act, and that is NOT happening.

    The US was behind the convention on Narcotic Drugs, just as much as it is NOT behind any action on climate change, and it was wrong then about both the drugs and the war, is wrong now about its stance on climate change… and the RWNJ loons will never forgive the left for being right about those things.

    Shame that, because they DO have a point about big government being a an uncertain tool.

  9. The U.N. also passed the Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs 1961, which has seen millions criminalised for what many see as exercising ; Freedom OF Choice’ replaced by ‘Freedom FROM Choice’ It also saw the banning (until recent times) of HEMP that was used for many bio-friendly products now made from Fossil Fuels : Plastics, Petro-chemicals (Papermaking) Petroleum etc. etc. SHAME

    I say “they have a lot to answer for !”


  10. And the trouble with ‘civilising ourselves’ (I’m quite civilised already, thanks) through UN resolutions is that next to nobody, citizens or governments, takes a blind bit of notice of them. For citizens, UN resolutions are of no interest, for governments they are something to learnedly quote from the armchairs of power just before sending your people out to chuck a bit of white phosphorus around.

  11. “We are beginning to realise that human security is less atavistic, more existential… All this is quite revolutionary.”

    Actually quite a few human societies have known this all along and have never forgotten it. ‘We’ is a dangerous word at the best of times. Maybe by ‘we’ you mean academics and state functionaries educated in the elitist, pro-state, European tradition?

  12. Mr Rose raises the notable obfuscator Monckton? My goodness… and without a single link. I have to guess what references he is using. No trouble really… I think of him as “the Lord of the Lies” and he is far too prominent given his incredible record of inaccuracy.

    Anyone who actually troubles themselves to read his work and the work of the scientists in detail knows why we find him incredible.

    THIS is Christopher Monckton:

    … and this is an analysis of his startling revelations. Caught with his pants on fire.

    …and this is a reasonably cogent analysis of his absurd approach to climate science.

    Here on Sea Ice:

    Here on his claims about IPCC data:

    The man is, and always has been, a total waste of intellect. He has brains and uses them to obfuscate, embellish and mislead.

    So is that all ya’ got? Monckton?

    What excuse are you going to make when the Ice is gone?

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