Academic journal article Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

Human Security, Humanitarian Intervention, and Third World Concerns

Academic journal article Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

Human Security, Humanitarian Intervention, and Third World Concerns

Article excerpt

Concepts come and go; they do not stay around forever. "Human security" is in, "Humanitarian intervention" is on its way out. (1)

The attenuation of global rivalries in the nineties raised new hopes and paved the way for realizing the dream of building a sustainable peace through global consensus and humanitarian law. It evoked expectations that the international community, led by the United Nations, would go beyond inter-state military threats and focus on the developmental and human rights issues which were sidelined during the long decades of the Cold War. Innovative notions like human security, peace-building, and global governance enriched the lexicon of international relations.

However, the initial optimism has been short lived. The decade following the end of Cold War has seen an unprecedented spurt of violent conflicts and other non-traditional security threats; the international community is divided as never before. Although the hotbeds of most of these conflicts are in the developing South or the Third World, (2) their ramifications are directly felt all the way into the Northern heartland in the form of refugee outflows, drug trafficking, organized crime, and health epidemics. The scourge of terrorism along with the rising scale of structural and cultural violence, have discounted the initial euphoria that the world would be a safer place after the end of the Cold War. Moreover, the unbridled sweep of globalized commerce, often to the detriment of the poverty-stricken Third World, the unabashed pursuance of unilateralism by the world's sole superpower, and an increasingly feeble role of the United Nations has demoralized a large chunk of democratic opinion the world over. (3) The Agenda for Peace, which signaled a new era of international peace and security not long ago, no longer serves as a blueprint for security in the new millennium. (4) The acrimony and contentions over "so-called" humanitarian interventions have led the scholars to doubt its continuing relevance. There is also a growing skepticism about the notion of human security in the Third World. How do we account for these paradoxical developments?

The paper explores the ramifications of human security as an alternative security discourse and the problem of evolving a universally accepted framework to implement it. It also analyzes the convergent and divergent perspectives on humanitarian intervention, particularly the fault lines between humanitarianism and realpolitik. The focus is on the Third World concerns and prospects of forging a truly global consensus on these critical issues.

From State Security to People's Security

It has never been easy to conceptualize the notion of security around some universally agreed parameters as, "it involves not only the capabilities, desires and fears of individuals and states but also the capabilities, desires and fears of other individuals and states with which they interact." (5) It has meant different things for policy makers and analysts in different times and involves such subjective questions as: Security for whom? Security from what? And, by what means? Moreover, the dominant political and strategic community invariably has the upper hand in molding the discourse on security, both in national and international society. "Security is an empowering word" remarks Navnita C. Behera, "[i]t both sets political priorities and justifies the use of force. The way security is understood and used profoundly affects the way political life is conducted." (6) It is therefore critical to unravel the political and intellectual lineage of the traditional security discourse before delineating the concept of human security.

The traditional notion of security has derived typically from the growth of nation-states in Europe. Having resolved their internal security challenges through a long and arduous process of state building, the European nation-states understandably defined security exclusively in the context of a state's ability to counter external threats to its state's vital interests and core values. …

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