Human Security and Diplomacy

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    In any overview of contemporary security concepts, human security is contrasted with the traditional and dominant state-centric understanding of security. For advocates of the former concept, the referent object of security, or the entity to be secured, is the individual human being. For advocates of state-centric security, the referent object is the state – a stance encapsulated in the concept of ‘national security’. Human security is now a core component of the contemporary debate about the meaning and definition of security. The inclusion of the human security concept in the debate has much to do with a long-standing dissatisfaction with state-centric approaches among critical security scholars and with the post-Cold War reorientation towards intra-state security, the site of much human insecurity. Beyond the conceptual challenges that it presents to the state-centric understanding of security, human security is championed by many scholars and practitioners concerned with the human insecurities resulting from underdevelopment and political violence inside states. This chapter makes two main arguments that contribute to the present debate about human security. First, there have been two waves of debate around the concept. The first, which began in the early 1990s, took place on two fronts: on the one hand, it was a dispute between advocates of human security and supporters of the traditional statecentric approach; and on the other hand, it was an argument between different schools of human security. The ‘broad school’ was primarily concerned with problems of underdevelopment issues, while the ‘narrow school’ focused on organized political violence inside states. The second debate, which has been evolving over the last few years, engages in more detail with the practical agenda for human security. This is an important development, since the value of any security concept is, in part, judged by its capacity to guide positive practical change. Within the narrow school – which is the focus of this chapter – the practical agenda has a number of dimensions; one of them is connected to the evolving practices for supporting the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P) principle and its three component parts – the responsibilities to prevent, react and rebuild. That said, in many respects, the debates surrounding R2P often overlook their fundamental intellectual and empirical connections with human security, and hence the importance of the concept is sometimes missed. The second argument made in this chapter is that the practical agenda of human security/R2P largely omits a critical discussion about the processes of implementation, in particular the role that diplomacy plays in advancing the practice of human security. Diplomacy is obviously involved in all three components of the R2P agenda, yet a critical review aimed at identifying and ameliorating shortcomings is missing. To make these two arguments, the chapter is in three parts. The first reviews the first debate; the second analyses the practical focus of the second debate; and the third outlines the importance of bringing in a debate about diplomacy and human security and suggests some directions for research.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Security Studies
    Editors Victor Mauer & Myriam Dunn Cavelty
    Place of PublicationLondon
    PublisherRoutledge, Taylor & Francis Group
    ISBN (Print)9780415463614
    Publication statusPublished - 2010


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