Every day human cataclysms vie for headline space: Hunger and disease plague the war-riven Congo; the Sudanese government stonewalls United Nations peacekeepers; Myanmar’s oppressive regime blocks aid for cyclone victims. Increasingly, it seems, the world’s trouble spots are afflicted by both man-made miseries — civil wars, terrorism, genocide — and natural disasters. And the two are often linked: Poverty and scarce resources can trigger armed conflict, while politically unstable or oppressed regions suffer more from the effects of drought and other calamities.
Roughly two decades ago, some political strategists began arguing that traditional approaches to international relations and national security were no match for such complex combinations of strife. Calling their framework “human security,” these strategists took as their starting point the notion that, just as states should be protected from outside threats, their people were not truly secure unless they were protected from disease, hunger, and fear. The notion simmered quietly in development and diplomatic circles but was largely disregarded by academic scholars.
In the past dozen years, however, the human-security paradigm has established a presence in academe. “Part of the reason is that we have more instability and threats due to the rapid growth of globalization,” says Lincoln C. Chen, director of the Global Equity Center at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. And “part of it is due to the holistic nature of the concept, which gives it intellectual agility.” (Click here for the full story. Subscription only.)