What is Human Security?

Although its intellectual roots can be found in the 1940s, the concept of Human security (HS) first called attention when it was widely used in the UN Development Programme’s 1994 Human Development Report. Highlighting seven components of HS (economic security, food security, health security, environmental security, personal security, community security and political security), this report aimed to broaden the concept of security beyond narrow conceptions of state defence against external military threats. This traditional security conception based on the state security approach argues that security is provided by state institutions such as police and military.

However, in the post-cold war period when new threats (such as corruption, ethnic conflicts, human and arm trafficking, vulnerable system of information, access to judiciary etc.) appeared out of state control, old institutions of security have turned out to be ineffective. In an increasingly complex world, national borders are no longer dividing lines between security and insecurity. Since EU enlarged with the inclusion of the new member states around a ‘cross border citizenship’ conception, it has faced complicated insecurity issues. The concept of HS entered into the EU agenda in the 2000s in such a context when traditional security instruments become ineffective to resolve these insecurity issues. Including ‘freedom from fear’, ‘freedom from want’ and ‘right to live with dignity’ dimensions, HS refers to the security of individuals and communities. By means of a bottom up approach which refuses a top down security approach, it “humanizes security”. Thus, it offers a framework to deal with the new insecurity issues which have a transnational and cross border aspects. Realising these possibilities that the concept of HS offers, two reports were prepared by EU. In the Barcelona report, released in 2004, the need for a HS doctrine and a relevant legal framework was emphasised. Following this report, another report was released in 2007. This Madrid report focused on defining the concept of HS and how to deploy EU capabilities in this regard.

An introduction to Human Security approach

Concept of security has traditionally been associated with states than individuals, but certain developments in the contemporary world such as evident disparities of economic opportunities both within and between states; violent conflicts, socioeconomic deprivation, diminishing nonrenewable resources leading to increased number of human trafficking, immigrants and refugees, manifest xenophobia in both rhetoric and violence towards migration and minorities have made it more relevant to focus over the ‘individual’ as the prime dimension of security. HS, as the organizing concept of the network, represents an alternative approach to the security of individuals and communities referring to both ¨freedom from fear and ¨freedom from want¨. HS encompasses the well-known concepts of conflict prevention, crisis management, and civil-military relations and furthers them through widening the definition of ¨insecurity¨ and adding a human rights and human development based perspective to security policies. Putting individual-agency at the centre of the problem, questioning the scope and institutional structure of security provision, and extending and altering the perception of ¨threats¨ by taking into account the political, economic and social dimensions of security, HS implies a paradigm shift in traditional security mentality and policy-making. At the EU level, HS does not only give rise to a new-strategic narrative that has the potential of introducing new elements to EU Foreign Policy, in particular to Neighbourhood Policy, but also provides new insights for various other EU policies; (a) by integrating the objective of political stability based on democratic values to the debates on security; (b) by exploring economic and environmental aspects of security that create non-traditional security challenges, such as social exclusion, informal and illicit economies, organised crime, and poverty; and (c) by tackling the shortcomings related to good-governance and public sector reform from an alternative point of view.

HS dimension recognizes that the state borders are increasingly porous and more crucially, nation-state paradigm is no longer adequate to guarantee changing security needs. “Peaceful” and “secure” environment does not just mean the absence of war, but ‘securing’ the respect for human rights’ and social justice through increased cross-border cooperation, with an understanding of ‘common security’.

HS approach envisions a democratisation process in which respect for human rights becomes the organising principle of policy-making, as governments are focused on what makes citizens safe and adequately provided for and that mechanisms exist for individuals and groups to take decisions about their own lives. It also implies democratisation, transparency and accountability in policy-making as a part of the transformation from a closed elite model of governance to one based on the interests and participation of all citizens. Thus HS is appropriate as an overarching theme to guide civil society’s role in challenging and holding governments to account, and in shaping public debates about policy and reform processes, and promoting universal values and norms, as part of a necessary paradigm shift for re-imagining the role and nature of the state in the context of EU membership.

What we mean by a “Citizens’ Network”

Citizens’ Network for Human Security is a joint initiative with partner organisations from Bosia Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Greece, Kosova, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey, whose objective is to contribute to the forming of a cross-border citizens’ network for peace, inter-societal reconcilliation and human security.

The ultimate objective of this network is to trigger a change in the state/national security oriented political culture towards the direction of human security, as such encouraging country and regional level democratisation processes. This is to be achieved in contributing to building of country and regional level partnerships.

The initiative favours an integrated regional approach that pays attention to country-specific problems and, yet, aims trans-national cohesion in terms of values and practices. To that end, an increased recognition of commonality of needs and problems, as well as enhanced ability to arrive at commonly developed resolutions is intended.

The network adopts a bottom-up modus operandi, based on capacity building, dialogue and interaction, targeting civic citizenship building, vertical and horizontal cooperation and joint action in regional and EU levels, as well as effectiveness in public policies and efficiency in the public sector.

The activities of this initiative is supported by the European Union.

Regional context: Western Balkans and Turkey

After the dissolution of former Yugoslavia, Western Balkans and its neighbourhood under the shadow of wars of violence of the last decade focused to the consolidation of democracy and economic development in an environment prone to the traditional security threats in the wider geographical area including Turkey, and mostly affected by non- traditional security challenges in the form of widespread informal and illicit economies, organised crime, poverty and social exclusion, extremism, often accompanied by the weakness of governance institutions as manifested in heightened incidence of public sector corruption, pronounced political apathy and disillusionment with democratic politics.

The simultaneous unfolding of economic and political opening, the wars in the region, and more recently severe impact of global economic downturn have resulted in deep economic and social dislocation across the region affecting the lives of millions of people unable to protect their livelihoods and to plan for their own future and that of their families. The quality of life for wide sections of the population in many countries has failed to improve substantially, and if anything, remains threatened in view of unfavourable more recent economic trends very much related to developments beyond individual countries themselves, especially in the European Union. As a result of the confluence of factors undermining economic growth, high structural unemployment has persisted over the last decade and have been on par with the levels typically associated with the world’s least developed countries. Poverty levels are generally high and rising, and so is inequality in terms of gender, ethnicity, and among different social groups. The corollary of this trend has been an increase in informal economy, which while providing temporary coping mechanism to its actors, has been a route to poverty and social exclusion. The consequences in terms of competitiveness and government revenues have been similarly pernicious. Cuts in public expenditures and haphazard welfare reforms have eroded social protection and worsen vulnerability of individuals and social groups across the region, reinforcing exclusion from economic and social life and undermining social cohesion.

The economic, social and security predicament of the people living in this region has also been negatively affected by its exposure to the activities of transnational organised crime. This space is the primary transit route for drugs destined to Western Europe, and a passage for arms and human trafficking; according to the UNODC an estimated 80 tons of heroin transit this area annually. A particularly sinister aspect of the organised crime activity in the region concerns close links with the agents of the state, often dating back to the period of wars and economic sanctions. This in turn undermines the integrity and legitimacy of the state, already compromised by its weakening capacity to provide public goods effectively and equitably.

In ex-communist Balkan EU member states (Bulgaria and Romania), we have witnessed a gradual abdication of the state from public function over the last 20 or so years. The prevalent belief after the collapse of communism was that a massive and abrupt democratic and institutional reform combined with a ubiquitous rule of the logic of the market will automatically convert the backward totalitarian systems into modern European societies. The newly established market relations were usurped by the former communist elites, and CSOs and citizens alike found themselves unprepared to oppose them and take advantage of the public good. Thus, on the individual level, there appeared a clearly perceived security and democracy deficit. Particularly Greece has witnessed a continuous social restlessness as a reaction of citizens’ to economic policies decided and dictated on EU level as a response the country’s economic downturn. Turkey, on the other hand, has suffered internal armed conflict around the Kurdish issue marked with normalisation of violence in the country, a polarisation in society especially created through dislocation of Kurdish population during the 90s. Turkey also faced with traditional security issues in its close neighbourhood, including armed conflicts in Iraq and recently in Syria, international tension around Iran, the ongoing Palestine problem. Security sector reform and coming in terms with the past created severe tension in the society already manifesting high degree of political polarisation. On the other hand, despite its economic growth, Turkey is also prone to new challenges to security with high level of informal employment and youth unemployment, insufficient regulation of economic activities, lack of good governance and participatory governance mechanisms, striking inequalities across society and extensive social exclusions, high level of discomfort and disbelief to law enforcement and legal system.