Academic journal article Global Governance

Human Security: A Challenge to International Law?

Academic journal article Global Governance

Human Security: A Challenge to International Law?

Article excerpt

The concept of human security, which emerged in the 1994 UNDP Development Report, is on its way to changing the practice and institutions of global governance. The underlying issues of human security--a focus on the individual, the waning of state sovereignty and the rise of new actors, the shift in our understanding of security, the need and risks of "saving strangers" through humanitarian intervention, the reform of the Security Council, the conduct of complex peace missions, and the adequate reaction to new threats--pose a challenge to international law. As a value-based and people-centered approach to security, human security will contribute to normative changes in the international legal order. KEYWORDS: human security, international law, United Nations, state sovereignty, humanitarian intervention.

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Human security has become a catchphrase in the global debate on the changing meaning of security. Over a period of ten years, the concept of human security has begun visibly to influence, change, and challenge global politics, institutions, and governance. Although the idea of human security was preceded by similar concepts in reports of global commissions--the Palme Commission, (1) the Brandt Commission, (2) the Brundtland Commission, (3) and the Commission on Global Governance (4)--human security as a distinctive new concept was created and shaped by Mahbub ul-Haq in and around the 1994 UNDP Development Report. (5) Soon afterwards, the Canadian government took up the idea of human security and formulated it as a foreign policy priority. (6) On the initiative of Canada and other countries, the Human Security Network was created as a coalition of the like-minded with the aim of advancing human security globally. (7) Japan has taken an interest in human security and supports a variety of initiatives. (8) The Commission on Human Security, (9) set up in 2001 and cochaired by Amartya Sen and Sadako Ogata, has concluded its work and published its final report. (10) The UN Trust Fund for Human Security was established in 1999. (11) In 2003, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan set up the Advisory Board on Human Security, (12) and a Human Security Branch has been established in the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Vienna. (13)

The concept has also attracted the interest of the academic community. Institutes, centers, programs, and certificates on human security have been established. (14) An increasing number of publications on human security now make their way into libraries. (15) A news bulletin on human security is being published regularly. (16) Conferences, seminars, and workshops produce an ever greater number of academic papers on human security. (17) An annual human security report, edited by the Centre for Human Security at the University of British Columbia, begins publication in 2005. (18)

Different from other academic disciplines, international law has been reluctant to respond to the rise of human security, and the potential of human security as a possible global normative framework has attracted less attention. In order to analyze the impact of human security on the global agenda, the normative underpinnings of the concept and the consequences of its application in policymaking for the international legal order deserve to be looked at in more detail. Are human security concerns already covered by international law? Is it nothing new to international law at all, or is human security a challenge to international law? If human security is nothing new to international law, where has it been hiding? If it is a challenge, what areas of international law are affected? Do we wish to accommodate the concept of human security in international law and, if so, how? How would a human security approach affect lawmaking, law enforcement, and international institutions? If we wish to pursue a human security agenda on the global level, is international law the appropriate tool for fostering human security, or is it in its present state an obstacle? …

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