Brief Introduction to Human Security

Human Security?

Human Security is a form of security that emphasizes on the security of individuals or human beings, instead of the state. Human Security was first introduced in Human Development Report (1994) by UNDP which highlights two major component of Human Security which are “Freedom from Fear” and “Freedom from Want” (UNDP, 1994).

Essentially, there are 5 principles of Human Security:

  1. People Centered: Attention is placed to threats that can harm people’s live or dignity

  2. Comprehensive: Human Security recognizes the complex and interconnected nature of the challenges faced by the people. Thus, it is necessary to bring all relevant actors in solving a Human Security issue.

  3. Context-Specific: Every nation have their own cultural approach to Human Security

  4. Prevention-Oriented: Human Security goes beyond solving already existing problem, it also promotes mitigation plan and early warning mechanisms

  5. Empowerment: Human Security recognizes the need of empowering communities to articulate and respond to their needs and those of others (United Nations, 2016).

Dimensions of Human Security

In UNDP’s 1994 HDR Report, Human Security had always contained two main pillars; freedom from want and freedom from fear. This pillar is further emphasized in seven points which contains:

  1. Economic Security

  2. Food Security

  3. Health Security

  4. Environmental Security

  5. Personal Security

  6. Community Security

  7. Political Security


Measured by the sanitation quality of their living and accessibility for health service. Around ten millions of deaths are caused by bacterial diseases from lack of sanitation and water pollution. Combined with a segmented healthcare services based on economic class, another issue comes with death by birth, high infant mortality rate and the spread of HIV/ AIDS.


Defined by the ability of people to have stable income and a presence of safety net within the government. Only 1/4th of the world population is considered economically secure. Threat to economic security lies on unstable jobs, high unemployment rate, and the absence of safety net which creates bigger economic disparity.


Food security is seen by the ability of people to gain and access food, despite economic and physical conditions. Thus the biggest threat to food security is never the amount, it’s the unequal distribution of food and the lack of purchasing power for people to buy food.


Threats are faced with ecosystem degradation both globally and locally. This includes water scarcity, salinization, and deforestation which led to natural disasters. The lack of disaster mitigation could worsen environmental security.


Freedom to belong in a certain identity and to practice traditions is decreasing, but so is the threat coming from the tradition itself such as inhumane practice of rituals. Ensuring no discrimination face community groups and giving them the rights to live is the way to go.


Personal security meant free of harm that may threat the life of one’s individual, such as rape, traffic accidents, harassments, violence, and many other personal crimes. Currently women and children are the most susceptible of personal security threats.


To live in a state that honors the people’s human rights must be the basis of every nation. Ensuring political participation, freedom of speech and representation in the government may reduce the currently ongoing institutional discrimination and control over information.

Why Human Security is Relevant Today

Under an increasingly unstable multipolar international system, national security often becomes necessary for countries to ensure their continuity, especially in the midst of what is often referred to as the Great Power Competition. However, in practice, national security policies have often neglected human security issues. In fact, some of them are contradictory to human security, where failures in human security occur under the 'national security' reasons. Other than that, in an increasingly interconnected world, threats are becoming more transnational in nature as they often defy national borders. Consequently, some of the human security issues should be concerned by two or more countries, which can lead to a shared national interests in resolving said issues.

Human Security in Relation to National Security

However, it would be incorrect if we align national security policies as a threat to human security. In fact, human security can complement national security. This is especially true if we look further at the purpose of the existence of the state itself. In the case of democratic republics, they exist to protect the individuals within them who are bound with the social contract, those that have exchanged some degrees of freedom in order to be protected from the ‘leviathan’ monsters (i.e. other countries in the Hobbesian sense). Hence, in this kind of perspective, we should look at countries as a group of humans who reside in the same societal, political, and economical structure. Therefore, protecting human security also means preserving national security and state sovereignty.


Oberleitner, G. (2005). Human Security: A Challenge to International Law? Global Governance, 11(2), 185-203. Retrieved April 30, 2021, from

United Nations. (2016). Human Security Handbook [Ebook] (pp. 6-8). New York: United Nations. Retrieved from

UNDP. (1994). Human Development Report 1994: New Dimensions of Human Security. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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