A Cross-Border Type of Security


By: Gerald F. Witherspoon, Sr.

            Human security arguments hinge on the potentiality of elevating individual security to an equal or higher plateau of importance as state security. Some believe identifying all possible threats to human security is unnecessary and others believe that labeling all possible threats to individual security complicates political prioritizations. Nevertheless, the UNDP Human Development Report (1994) exalted security of individuals beyond that of states (Kettemann 2006). The Government of Japan issued the Commission on Human Security report (2003) articulating an individualized empowerment approach to human security. Further, the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) added credence to the notion that security was becoming more about human development (access to food, employment, and environmental security) than territorial and armament-basedsecurity. In 2005, The UN World Summit meetings led to several legitimizations, definitive formulations, and commitments to work toward the potential realization of human security. Wolfgang Benedek proffers “the concept provides for a holistic instead of sectoral, a participative instead of exclusive, and a preventive instead of reactive approach to international law (Kettemann 2006). Professor Mary Kaldor echoes this notion when stating “democracy and the rule of law can no longer be contained within borders (Kaldor 2012). Whereas Stephen Walt’s argument mirrors realist constructs of unilateral decision making (which uphold state sovereignty), Professor Kaldor makes it clear that globalization has brought with it an acute need to be informed from a multilateral standpoint. That is, genuine security cannot be realized by protecting certain individuals and borders, but the ‘security of individuals worldwide” (Kaldor 2012). In traditional terms, might was right, but the opinions of a globalized civil society are more concerning when they frown collectively on human rights violations. Civilians are crossing borders everyday searching for security. This analogously magnifies the potentiality that the security threats, faced by individuals, may pose a threat to national security as well. Therefore, when constructing foreign policy, assuming that sovereign states are the only actors worthy of analyzing will most likely lead to the insolubleness of security threats that plague the international community. On the contrary, humans fleeing from insecurities may underline another reality; a state of anarchy perdures to this day. To that note, the idea of human security may be more utopian than essentially realized, but it is evidentially internalized universally and individuals have been concerned about human safety since at least the 1860s (Dorn 2013).

Illuminating Threat Prospects

            If ALL states focused on human security and upheld individual human rights the national security of EACH state would be protected. The problem, however, is history has consistently demonstrated that expecting ALL states to cooperate on any given agenda is utopian in itself. Anarchy continues to rule the globe and the hardline realist approach appreciates this reality. ALL states have not committed to respect individual or human security (by signing binding treaties) and many of the members who have signed have not essentially codified their commitment domestically through unambiguous legislature. Focusing on human security offers a framework for analyzing threats to national security because it illuminates the prospects for individual state transgression. Once individual states have been exposed as a threat, there must be action taken to mitigate the risk. Hopefully the action will not result in a diminished position of power.

The Doctrine of Human Security

            The US will require support to realize any progress toward the proliferation of human security. It goes without saying states that violate the individual rights of citizens within their borders, pose a threat to other states and citizens outside their borders. At the micro level it appears that focusing on the protection of my family is more realistic than attempting to protect the entire world. However, at the macro level, I realize that my individual security and the protection of family is not remotely possible if I face an intra-national or international enemy (the force that opposes me is just too big). How do I enhance the safety of my family, then? I may do so by identifying any and all threats to our protection and endeavoring to forge alliances with as many as possible that share a similar vision for security. Human security offers a platform for the international community to deny or confirm a shared vision and discourages national pride from getting in the way. Tearing down the walls of national pride will take time and creative imaginations. Moreover, those who preach the doctrine of human security will have to work fervently to avoid hypocrisy, inconsistency, double-mindedness, partiality, and national bigotry if they expect others to follow them into the global future of freedom from want and freedom from fear!


Dorn, Walter. Publications. 2013. http://www.walterdorn.org/pub/23 (accessed November 18, 2013).

Kaldor, Mary. Forum. July 2, 2012. http://bostonreview.net/kaldor-security-individuals (accessed November 18, 2013).

Kettemann, Matthias C. “The Conceptual Debate on Human Security and its Relevance for the Development of International Law.”Human Security Perspectives 1, no. 3 (2006). (accessed November 18, 2013).


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