Plataforma regional sobre acceso a la justicia de las personas en condición de vlnerabilidadInvitación a formar parte de la Red IncidiendoFacebookRevista IIDHAula Interamericana VirtualCentro de Asesoría y Promoción ElectoralPublicaciones en líneaRed IncidiendoSeguridad HumanaCongreso Los Tribunales Internacionales de Justicia: Su Papel en la Resolución PacíficaBiblioteca Digital

Pacto Interamericano por la educación en derechos humanosEl IIDH impulsa la educación como clave del futuro democráticoMarco EstratégicoInforme Iteramericano de la educación en derechos humanosPropuesta curricular y metodológicaEx-alumnos de los cursos interdisciplinarios en derechos humanos

What is Human Security?

   •   Background
   •   Concept
   •  Summary
From State-centric security to human security 
Prior to the creation of the United Nations, the dominant concept of security was centered on the State and the principle of State sovereignty, as was set out in the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648 and whose influence continues.
Security centered on territorial integrity, political stability, military and defense arrangements and economic and financial activities.[1] It was understood that States would pursue power, which implied that the gains of one side would come as a result of the losses of the other. According to these traditional ideas, the State monopolized the rights and means to protect its citizens and the power of the State and its security were established and broadened in order to maintain order and peace.[2] History has demonstrated that the security of the State is not necessarily the security of the people, a clear example of which are the two World Wars. 
The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims that “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,” which clearly establishes the centrality of the human being. In addition, the Declaration affirms that the “disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.”
The phrase “freedom from fear and want” incorporated into the Declaration was first used by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the United States in his speech to Congress on January 6, 1941, in which he enumerated the four freedoms designed to bring his country closer to the world: freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear. Freedom from want and fear were later mentioned in the Atlantic Charter, signed on August 14, 1941 by Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, and President Roosevelt. These concepts, in the opinion of Edward Stettinius, then US Secretary of State, would be the integral components of the strategy of peace of the UN: “The battle of peace must be fought on two fronts. The first is the security front where victory spells freedom from fear. The second is the economic and social front where victory spells freedom from want. Only victory on both fronts can assure the world of an enduring peace.” [3]
These are the bases for rethinking the concept of security, which is no longer based on the traditional ideas of sovereignty, territory or military power, but rather on achieving freedom from fear and freedom from want. These are also the bases that establish the right to human rights: they all have the search for human dignity as a common root
Nevertheless, the Cold War, the period that followed the Second World War, reinforced the concept of State-centric security, with the further difficulty of the threat of a nuclear attack by any of the contending powers.
The doctrine of national security was imposed in Latin America and the countries of the region, with some exceptions, underwent the most difficult moments of their history, with bloody dictatorships, a lack of respect for human rights and the imposition of totalitarian systems. The concept of security was associated with this idea of national security
However, a series of reports produced by the UN attempted to conceptualize a broader idea of security:[4] In the mid-1970s, the G77 established links between underdevelopment and security
  • In 1980, the Independent Commission on International Development Issues (known as the Brandt Commission) was established. It argued that peace included the eradication of hunger and inequality;  
  • In 1982, the Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security (Palme Commission) referred to morality in international affairs;
  • In 1987, the report of the World Commission on Environment and Development (Bruntland Commission) focussed on the relationship between the environment and conflicts;
  • In 1990, the South Commission (chaired by Julius Nyerere) listed poverty, environmental dangers, the deficiencies of democracy and deindustrialization as some of the causes of insecurity.
The 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights has been joined by nine universal instruments that cement the juridical-conceptual framework of human rights: universal, transnational, irreversible, indivisible and progressive. These instruments are:
  • International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (1965);
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (1966);
  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (1966);
  • Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (1979);
  • Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (1984);
  • Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989);
  • International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (1990);
  • International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (2006);
  • Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006).
During the 1990s, the UN, given the impetus of the first seven instruments cited, which had been adopted by that time, laid the foundation for the conceptualization of human security.
The Report on Human Development of 1994
The 1994 Report on Human Development pointed out the need of a profound transition in thinking -from nuclear security to human security. "The concept of security has for too long been interpreted narrowly: as security of territory from external aggression, or as protection of national interests in foreign policy or as global security from the threat of a nuclear holocaust. It has been related more to nation-states than to people (...) Forgotten were the legitimate concerns of ordinary people who sought security in their daily lives".[5]
The Report defined human security based on two principal aspects: "It means, first, safety from such chronic threats as hunger, disease and repression. And second, it means protection from sudden and hutful disruptions in the patterns of daily life -whether in homes, in jobs or in communities".” [6] The Report establishes the following essential characteristics: 
  • Human security is a universal concern. It is relevant to people everywhere, both in rich countries and in poor countries. The degree of the threats may vary from one place to another, but they are real.  
  • The components of human security are interdependent. When the security of a people is endangered anywhere in the world, all nations are likely to get involved. 
  • Human security is easier to ensure through early prevention than late intervention
  • Human security is people-centered. "It is concerned with how people live and breathe in a society, how freely they exercise their many choices, how much access they have they have to market and social opportunities -and whether the live in conflict or in peace"
According to this Report, the threats to human security may be classified into the following seven categories
  • Economic security 
  • Food security
  • Health security 
  • Environmental security
  • Personal security
  • Community security 
  • Political security

Human Security Now
Subsequent to the Millenium Summit, held in September 2002, and at the initiative of Japan, the UN Commission on Human Security (CHS) was created, co-chaired by Sadako Ogata, former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and Amartya Sen, Nobel Prize laureate. In 2003 the CHS published its report “Human Security Now.” The report defined human security in the following manner: “human security means protecting the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfillment. Human security means protecting people from critical (severe) and pervasive (widespread) threats and situations. It means using processes that build on people’s strengths and aspirations. It means creating political, social, environmental, economic, military and cultural systems that together give people the building blocks of survival, livelihood and dignity.” [7]
Human security on the international agenda
Human security has guided the foreign policy of Canada and Japan. Canada has favored a more restricted idea of human security, defining it as “freedom from pervasive threats to people’s rights, their safety, or even their lives.” [8] For its part, Japan has advocated a broader vision, taking into account both the element of freedom from fear and freedom from want. [9] Moreover, Japan has actively promoted and supported the concept in the UN by being, inter alia, the founder and main donor of the UN Trust Fund for Human Security (UNTFHS), the promotor of the Commission on Human Security and the Friends of Human Security (FHS).
The 2005 World Summit and its follow-up
In the Final Document of the 2005 World Summit the Heads of State and Government refer to human security in the following manner: “We stress the right of people to live in freedom and dignity, free from poverty and despair. We recognize that all individuals, in particular vulnerable people, are entitiled to freedom from fear and freedom from want, with an equal opportunity to enjoy all their rights and fully develop their human potential.” [10] The Heads of State thus took a significant step toward the institutionalization of human security at the UN level, understanding it as the right to live free from fear and want. 
The Friends of Human Security was established in the UN in 2006, co-chaired by Japan and Mexico and comprised of 34 Member States. It is an unofficial, open-ended forum, whose purpose is to provide an informal forum for the UN Member States, as well as other international organizations to discuss the concept of human security from different angles in order to seek a common understanding of human security and explore collaborative efforts for mainstreaming the concept in the UN activities.[11]
The 62nd Session of the UN General Assembly in May 2008 was witness to a thematic debate on human security in which various countries participated. The Latin American countries that presented their positions or viewpoints were Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba and Mexico
At the 64th Session held in 2010, as a follow-up to the Millenium Summit, the Secretary General presented a report on human security. The report updates the progress achieved in promoting human security since the 2005 World Summit.

As the Commission on Human Security stated "Human security is to protect the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfillment. Human security means protecting fundamental freedoms - freedoms that are the essence of life. It means protecting people from critical (severe) and pervasive (widespread) threats and situations". [12]
Human security integrates three freedoms: freedom from fear, freedom from want and the freedom from indignity.
Freedom from fear refers to protecting individuals from threats directed at their security and physical integrity and includes various forms of violence that may arise from external States, the acts of a State against its citizens, the acts of one group against others and the acts of individuals against other individuals.
Freedom from want refers to the protection of individuals so that they might satisfy their basic needs and the economic, social and environmental aspects of life and livelihoods.
Freedom from indignity refers to the promotion of an improved quality of life and enhancement of human welfare that permits people to make choices and seek opportunites for that empower them.
Human security has two strategies of action: protection and empowerment.
Protection is defined by the Commission on Human Security as “strategies set up by states, international agencies, NGOs and the private sector, (to) shield people from menaces.” It implies establishing “top-down” measures, recognizing that people face threats that are beyond their control (natural disasters, financial crises, conflicts). Human security requires systematic, comprehensive and preventive protection. States have primary responsibility to implement such protection, while other actors such as international bodies, civil society and NGOs play a pivotal role.
Empowerment is the “strategies (that) enable people to develop their resilience to difficult situations” and implies “bottom-up” measures that aim to develop the capacity of individuals and communities to make informed choices and to act on their own behalf. Empowerment not only enables people to develop their full potential but also permits them to participate in the design and implementation of solutions to ensure human security for themselves and others.
Human security is based on the following principles: [13]
People-centered. Human security places the individual at the center of the analysis and, therefore, considers conditions that threaten their survival, livelihood and dignity.
Multi-sectoral. Human security is based on a multi-sectoral understanding of insecurities and, therefore, in addition to national security it entails a broadened understanding of threats and their possible causes related to economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political security.  
Human security emphasizes the interconnectedness of threats and responses to them in two ways. "First, they are interlinked in a domino effect in the sense that each threat feeds on the other. For example, violent conflicts can lead to deprivation and poverty which in turn could lead to resource depletion, infectious diseases, education deficits, etc. Second, threats in a given country or area can spread into a wider region and have negative externalities for regional or international security".
• Comprehensive. Human security implies a comprehensive focus that emphasizes the need for cooperative and multi-sectoral responses that bring together agendas on security, development and human rights.
• Context-specific. Human security acknowledges that insecurities vary considerably across different settings and, therefore, promotes the search for contextualized solutions that appropriately respond to each particular situation.
• Prevention-oriented. In reaching the risks and root causes of insecurities, human security is aimed at prevention and introducing strategies of protection and empowerment. 
Based on: Mostafavi, Mehrnaz, Human Security Unit, OCHA at the CMC Finland organized Human Security Training on 21 April, 2009, Tuusula, Finland.
[1] Jolly, Richard and Ray, Deepayan Basu: The Human Security Framework on National Development Reports, UNDP, NHDR Occasional Paper 5, United Nations Development Programme, 2006, p. 3.

[2] Fernández Pereira, Juan Pablo: Seguridad Humana, Tesis doctoral, Programa de doctorado en seguridad y prevención, Departamento de Derecho Público y Ciencias Histórico-Jurídicas, Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, 2005.

[3]  Sunga, Lyal S.: “The Concept of Human Security: Does it Add Anything of Value to International Legal Theory or Practice?” en Power and Justice In International Relations, Ashgate, University of Innsbruck, Austria, p. 132.

[4] Human Security Unit (2010): Training Manual. Human Security Regional Training, New York, p. 10

[5] UNDP: Human Development Report, 1994, p. 4.

[6] UNDP: Human Development Report, 1994.

[7] Commission on Human Security: Human Security Now, New York, 2003, p. 4

[8] Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada: Summative Evaluation of the Human Security Program,

[9] Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan: Human Security,

[10] UN: Final Document of the 2005 World Summit, General Assembly, Sixtieth session, A/RES/60/1, October 24, 2005.


[12] Based on: Human Security Unit: Application of the Human Security Concept and the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations.

[13] Human Security Unit – OCHA (2010): Applying the Human Security Concept in Project and Programme Development, Implementation and Impact Assessment, Regional Training Workshop, San José, Costa Rica, 12-15 October.

La actualización y mantenimiento de este sitio es posible gracias al apoyo de la Agencia Sueca de Cooperación Internacional para el Desarrollo (ASDI), la Embajada Real de Dinamarca, la Real Embajada de Noruega, la Agencia para el Desarrollo Internacional de los Estados Unidos(USAID), la Agencia Canadiense de Desarrollo Internacional y la Embajada del Reino de los Países Bajos. Los aportes para el desarrollo de determinadas secciones se consignan en las páginas web específicas.

Las actividades del IIDH son posibles gracias a la contribución de gobiernos, entidades internacionales de cooperación, fundaciones, organizaciones no gubernamentales, agencias del sistema de Naciones Unidas, universidades y centros académicos.