Human Security Initiatives


By: Gerald F. Witherspoon, Sr.

     Some of the initiatives developed by states include working to achieve the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, controlling arms flows, improving the protection of refugees and involuntary migrants, enhancing child protection, ensuring respect of human rights, deepening democracy, and strengthening state capacities (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development 2004). The success of these initiatives can be substantiated albeit in varied degrees and contexts. A thorough review of international progress toward the MDGs would fairly elucidate the actuality of states’ progress toward improving human security.

Then, there are weak and failing states. The OECD claims, “A third of the world’s poor live in countries where the state lacks either the will or the capacity to engage productively with their citizens to ensure security, safeguard human rights and provide the basic functions for development” (OECD 2012). Despite the traditional role of States in offering protection and meeting the needs of its citizens, non-state actors are increasingly found competing for this role. A variety of humanitarian nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), faith based organizations, and philanthropic foundations are involved in providing and overseeing healthcare, education, and food distribution (Cohen, Kupca, and Khanna 2010). As they supply the demands that governments have left void, they increase their influence and decrease the relative government’s strength to resolve future problems. In essence, the indecisiveness and inaction of political leaders regarding the security of their people create opportunities for these organizations to provide solutions that lack sustainability independent of their involvement. This leads to mutual dependency. That is, a dependency of the state and its citizens on the more effective providers of security, and, dependency of these organizations on the at-risk populations of weak and failing states. As opportunistic as they may seem these organizations pose a more reliable prospect for cooperation and security provision than the states they preside in. Operational budgets, funding received by donors, and amounts of aid dispersed have all increased pointing to an increase in success (Cohen, Kupca, and Khanna 2010).

Nevertheless, there is no silver bullet or one source solution to root out all human insecurities. There must be multilateral cooperation and effective oversight from the UN. Fortunately, as explained in the Human Security Report, “The World Bank, donor states and a number of regional security organiza­tions, as well as literally thousands of NGOs, have both complemented UN activities and played independent pre­vention and peacebuilding roles of their own”  (2005). Historically, peace was sacrificed for prosperity. However, as argued in the Human Security Report, “The most effective path to prosperity in modern economies is through increasing productivity and international trade, not seizing land and raw materials” (2005). To that accord, the UN Security Council should continue to use whatever level of coercion necessary to maintain and cultivate future international peace. In cases where sanctions have failed to produce peace agreements, then military force becomes a logical and worthy alternative.

Human security requires a multilateral approach. The primary responsibility to protect undoubtedly falls on the State where the threats to security are occurring. However, as evidenced by the real existence of weak and failing states there are occasions when these States no longer uphold their responsibility, intentionally or unintentionally. Then the question becomes who is the most qualified or effectively prepared to take on the role of ‘global interventionist.’ Put simply, if you own the biggest house, drive the nicest car, and possess the most wealth in your community, should that automatically obligate you to take on the responsibility of feeding the hungry at the two houses on the corner where the parents have failed to do so?

Measuring the effectiveness of any one actor is loftily complex and the roles of actors contrast at times. Therefore, a unilateral approach to military action is not the answer. Further, no one entity or organization, IGO, NGO, UN, etc…can claim to be the perfect interventionist from a unilateral standpoint given the present history of ineffective interventions and decisions to avoid intervening by highly effective actors. That is, there has been a variety of interventions and non-interventions by various actors with various results within various contexts with various incentives and disincentives. An attempt to force the responsibility to intervene onto one of these actors would produce a case of intervention where the actor would prove they were not the most effective in that particular event. James Pattison argues this point in the Journal of Military Ethics when stating, “Alternative, unilateral options, such as India’s intervention in East Pakistan in 1971, Tanzania’s intervention in Uganda in 1979, and NATO’s intervention in Kosovo in 1999 – all of which lacked multilateral support but helped to prevent and halt violations of basic human rights – would be foreclosed” Pattison 2008, 274-275). Again, there is no silver bullet or one source solution to root out all human insecurities.


Human Security Centre. Human Security Report 2005: War and Peace in the 21st Century. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005. (accessed December 19, 2013).

Michael Cohen, Maria Kupcu, and Parag Khanna. Feature. July 26, 2010. (accessed December 16, 2013).

OECD. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. 2012. (accessed December 19, 2013).

Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. “Publications.” OECD. December 2004. (accessed December 18, 2013).

Pattison, James. “Whose Responsibility to Protect? The Duties of Humanitarian Intervention.” Journal of Military Ethics (Routledge) 7 (2008): 262-283. (accessed December 19, 2103).


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