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Human Security: Concept and Evolution in the United Nations

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In 1994, the Human Development Report of the un Development Programme (undp) drew for the first time global attention to the concept of ‘human security’, which has led to a series of debates in the United Nations.1 The report emphasized that without the promotion of ‘people-centered development’ none of the objectives of the global development agenda can be achieved, neither peace, human rights, environmental protection, reduced population growth, nor social integration. The idea of the human security concept is to approach security beyond a purely State-focused military angle, but also include humanitarian, political, economic and social perspectives. In 2001, un Secretary General Kofi Annan reemphasized in the Millennium Report that the ‘freedom from want’ and ‘freedom from fear’ embrace more than the absence of violent conflict, but encompasses human rights, good governance, access to education and health care and ensuring that each individual has opportunities and choices to fulfil his or her potential. In 2005, the World Summit Outcome Document called for defining the scope of human security in the General Assembly more precisely. In 2012, the un General Assembly finally adopted a common understanding of the human security notion.This article gives an overview of the evolution of the human security concept in the United Nations. It looks at its historical development, codification attempts and the recent debate in the General Assembly. The article highlights arguments of critics and advocates of the human security approach, who have been trying to identify linkages between security, development and the respect for human rights. The article describes the status of international practice, indicating the trend of gradual implementation of human security aspects in national, regional and international policy frameworks. The term ‘human security’ has eventually entered the active vocabulary of governmental officials, diplomats, military decision-makers, humanitarian and other non-governmental organizations, serving increasingly as a reference point for more comprehensive policy planning with regard to security and development challenges.


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