18 January 2010

The Future of Human Security

The Future of Human Security

Human Security is often defined by two of FDR’s “four freedoms”: (1) Freedom from fear and (2) Freedom from want. Threats to those freedoms and the nature of their effects are as fluid and dynamic as everything else in our global security environment.

Dr. Charli Carpenter, an Assistant Professor of Political Science at UMass-Amherst (and “Duck of Minerva” maven), and her research team have been working to understand why some of these threats make their way onto the advocacy agenda, while others do not. Their work on transnational agenda setting is supported by funding from the National Science Foundation.

In the Summer of 2008, they asked the following question to about 6,000 Human Security advocates:

Name three or more specific issues that come to your mind when you think of human security today. An issue means something that human security specialists are actively concerned about.

Using the cloud-like visual display so popular these days, the results looked something like this, where the size of the word corresponds to the frequency with which the issue was mentioned:

Carpenter and her colleagues have recently completed a follow-up study using six focus groups with people around the world who are active in the Human Security network. With an eye to the future, they asked the focus group participants:

Which important global social problems in these thematic clusters had received too little attention by human security professionals to date?

The top 12 answers were as follows:

  1. Opthalmic Care in Developing Countries.
  2. Gangs. Going beyond the traditional concern about terrorist and insurgent groups, there is a growing threat from local-level, nonstate armed groups that compete with one another, and challenge state sovereignty and governance.
  3. Indigenous Land Rights. Many participants suggested this issue will become even more prominent with the advent of forthcoming initiatives to mitigate effects of climate change.
  4. Space Security. Concerns both about orbital debris and the possibility of new spaces extra-global spaces for human occupation. Can you say “lunar colony”?
  5. Role of Diasporas in Conflict Prevention. In particular, the impact of outsiders, particularly diasporas, in intractable conflicts worldwide.
  6. Workers' Right to Organize.
  7. Waste Governance. We all know that “S*** rolls downhill” and apparently in developing areas it comes to rest nearer to the population than one would like, creating a myriad of health and environmental problems. As Dr. Carpenter says: “It's not sexy like climate change but it’s a significant environmental issue for billions of people worldwide.”
  8. Sexual Orientation Persecution.
  9. Water. Sometimes referred to as “Blue Gold,” the important of usable water has been on the Human Security radar from quite some time, but is viewed as an increasingly pressing concern for development, health, and perhaps for armed conflict.
  10. Familization of Governance. Not only “Ol’ Boy” networks but “Ol’ Family” networks tend to dominate politics in many areas of the world, which hampers efforts at political reform and impedes initiatives to reduce corruption.
  11. International Voting Rights. Participant advocates spoke for a need beyond promoting state-level democratic processes and institutions, to highlight more specifically need for international or global representation
  12. Impunity for Death by Neglect. The notion here is that states ought be held more accountable for deaths resulting from governmental neglect (such as the 11 million children under five who die from preventable diseases each year), not just for those resulting from intentional acts of state violence.