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Each Question minimum 750 words 4- Suppose you are hired by a think tank as a foreign policy analyst. For your first assignment, your boss asks you to write a short brief discussing the rise of China in the Eurasian continent. Write this brief and make sure that the following issues are discussed in your brief: 1) how Chinese statemen envision the future of Eurasia from a geopolitical and geoeconomic standpoint; 2) How Russian-Chinese relations shape their regional approach to politics and security; 3) what issues and challenges will be China’s long-term security concerns; 4) what options Chinese statemen have in dealing with these security issues.5- In traditional International Relations debates, “idealism” or liberal ideas are usually introduced as the counterpoint to IR “realism”. These perspectives often seek to identify conditions to create more peaceful international arrangements and society. Discuss some of the ideas/concepts/paradigms (at least 2-3) that are presented by these “idealist”/”liberal” perspectives. Explain how they formulate the causes of conflicts/problems in contemporary international society and how they seek to solve them. As always, using examples to demonstrate your knowledge is highly recommended.


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POLITICS: 2007 VOL 27(3), 182–189
Research Article
Deepening the Human Security Debate:
Beyond the Politics of Conceptual
Pauline Ewan
University of Wales
‘Human security’ has been framed as a transformative project that seeks to reinvent the theory and
practice of security beyond the national security priorities of states. Central to this project is a
holistic and people-centred approach that broadens the concept of security and problematises the
view that the security concerns of individual men and women are best served by the security
policies of their states. Yet although these ideas have gained ground in policy circles, the academic
literature in this area has been dominated by debates about the merits and demerits of human
security’s expansion of the contemporary security agenda. This article explores two key objections
to the holistic character of human security and argues that critics underestimate the politics
involved in delimiting this concept. In order to deepen our understanding of the politics of human
insecurity, human security scholarship must move beyond its current preoccupation with narrow
forms of conceptual clarification.
Since the publication of the United Nations Development Programme’s Human
Development Report 1994 (UNDP, 1994), the term ‘human security’ has been associated with a potentially transformative project that deconstructs traditional national
security discourses and practices and seeks to reinvent the theory and practice of
security. Where national security thinking defines security in terms of the threat
and use of military force, proponents of human security seek to broaden the
concept of security to include the ways in which economic, health and environmental factors also contribute to forms of insecurity in the daily lives of many
people around the world (UNDP, 1994, p. 22; cf. Brown, 2003, pp. 310–314; Walt,
1991, p. 212). Second, where national security thinking focuses on existential
threats to the values and territorial integrity of states, the human security agenda
recognises that states often threaten, rather than protect, their own populations
(Commission on Human Security, 2003, p. 2; Mack, 2004, p. 366; UNDP, 1994,
p. 22). Yet, although this holistic and people-centred approach remains one of the
guiding ideas of the human security agenda, it is not uncontentious among scholars
and practitioners in the field.
While many observers view the holistic and interdisciplinary character of human
security as one of its key strengths, critics argue that the analytical and policy utility
© 2007 The Author. Journal compilation © 2007 Political Studies Association
of the concept is undermined by its ‘lack of definitional boundaries’ (Paris, 2004,
p. 371; Suhrke, 1999). In this view, the core task facing the human security agenda
is how to delineate a narrower, more manageable approach that can help to reduce
its ‘laundry list’ dimensions (MacFarlane and Khong, 2006, pp. 243–253; Paris,
2001, p. 91; Thomas and Tow, 2002, p. 178). A second strand of criticism builds on
post-positivist work in the ‘critical approaches to security’ literature and emphasises
the ‘political dangers’ involved in broadening the concept of security (Buzan et al.,
1998, p. 1; on the critical approaches to security literature, see CASE Collective,
2006; Huysmans, 2006, pp. 26–29). The concern here is that viewing issues through
the lens of security invokes the spectre of ‘extraordinary measures’, militarisation
and a politics of us/them, friend/enemy dichotomies (Buzan et al., 1998, pp. 21–29;
Huysmans, 1998; Wæver, 1995). From this perspective, broad conceptions of
human security are a misguided exercise that may have unintended and counterproductive effects (Buzan, 2004, p. 370; Krause, 2004, pp. 367–368).
This article explores the competing strands in the current literature on human
security. The first section outlines the holistic conception of human security posited
by the UNDP. The sections that follow consider the two key objections mentioned
above. It is argued that calls to delimit human security on analytical and policy
grounds often rest on positivist assumptions that obscure the ethico-political implications of conceptual choices about security. Decisions about what counts as ‘security’ raise profoundly political concerns that cannot be resolved through greater
methodological rigour or conceptual clarification. Second, although the critical
approaches to security literature pays more explicit attention to the politics of
security, by focusing on the negative effects of broadening the contemporary security
agenda, this approach forecloses the alternative political possibilities signalled by
human security. The article concludes by considering ways in which scholarship in
this area can deepen our understanding of the politics of human security and
thus move beyond its current preoccupation with narrow forms of conceptual
The UNDP’s holistic conception of human security
As suggested above, proponents of human security seek to broaden our understanding of security beyond the narrow military-related agenda emphasised by
traditional approaches to security. In this view, security should no longer be defined
solely in terms of ‘freedom from fear’ concerns, such as war-related violence, but
should also recognise ‘freedom from want’ issues, such as poverty, underdevelopment and disease (UNDP, 1994, p. 24). Although a comprehensive approach to
peace and security, involving both ‘freedom from fear’ and ‘freedom from want’,
was present at the inception of the UN system, the contemporary emergence of
human security is generally attributed to the immediate post-Cold War period and
the expectation that resources freed up by the hoped-for ‘peace dividend’ might be
channelled towards longer-term development strategies, rather than the high levels
of military spending associated with the Cold War (Haq, 1995; UNDP, 1994, p. 24;
more recently, see Report of the Secretary-General, 2005).
The UNDP’s approach is by no means the only holistic approach available in the
literature (see also Commission on Human Security, 2003; Thomas, 2000), but it
© 2007 The Author. Journal compilation © 2007 Political Studies Association
POLITICS: 2007 VOL 27(3)
remains the benchmark conception in academic debates about human security.
Crucially, in defining human security as ‘safety from such chronic threats as hunger,
disease and repression’ and ‘protection from sudden and hurtful disruptions in the
patterns of daily life’, the UNDP broadened the concept of security to include seven
key dimensions: economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and
political security (UNDP, 1994, pp. 23–25). In addition, there are four further
defining characteristics that underpin this broadened conception of security:
human security is a ‘universal concern … relevant to people everywhere’; its
‘components … are interdependent’; it is ‘easier to ensure through early prevention rather
than later intervention’; and finally, in recognition of the extent to which the
security concerns of individual men and women are not always best served by the
security priorities of their governments, human security is defined as ‘people-centred’
(UNDP, 1994, pp. 22–23, emphases in original).
For those who wish to challenge dominant understandings of security, the strengths
of this are clear. Not only does a holistic approach draw different specialisms
together in the quest to understand better the interconnections between diverse
aspects of human insecurity, it may also bolster co-operation between international
agencies in the fields of security, development and human rights (Uvin, 2004,
p. 353). In particular, by suggesting that security be broadened to include ‘freedom
from want’ concerns, the UNDP recognises the role of economic violence in world
politics and thus overturns traditional notions of high vs. low politics, a distinction
that privileges the direct violence of war over broader forms of violence. Yet
although a holistic conception of human security has been identified in the shifts in
development policy that took place in the course of the 1990s (Duffield, 2001), and
has been taken up by the Japanese government in particular (MOFA, 2006, ch. 3),
it has drawn a number of important objections from scholars and practitioners.
Delimiting human security
For numerous analysts, a holistic approach to human security risks an endless and
unnecessary broadening of security that weakens the analytical coherence of the
concept and its relevance to policymakers. In these respects, there are strong
parallels between the human security literature and the ‘narrowing vs. broadening’
debate that animated security studies in the years following the end of the Cold War
(Krause and Williams, 1996; Walt, 1991). Significantly, although the ‘delimiting’
position in the human security literature departs from traditional realists’ narrow
military-focused conception of security, ‘delimiters’ share realists’ concern to
uphold the conventional social science methodologies that have traditionally governed the production of knowledge about security (see Walt, 1991, pp. 221–222).
‘Delimiters’ have two main concerns about holistic conceptions of human security.
First, a holistic approach undermines effective causal analysis because a concept
that combines elements as diverse as violent conflict, poverty and social well-being
lacks the degree of analytical separation necessary for the analysis of dependent and
independent variables (MacFarlane and Khong, 2006, pp. 240–242; Mack, 2004,
p. 367; Paris, 2001, p. 93). Second, while proponents argue that a broad conception
of human security can help to win greater attention and resources for neglected
issues, critics argue that this approach risks overcrowding an already overburdened
© 2007 The Author. Journal compilation © 2007 Political Studies Association
POLITICS: 2007 VOL 27(3)
security policy agenda and thus undermines policymakers’ ability to delineate clear
priorities (MacFarlane and Khong, 2006, pp. 237–240).
In response to these concerns, a number of scholars and practitioners have sought
to delimit the human security concept by focusing solely on ‘freedom from fear’
concerns, rather than the UNDP’s broader concern with both ‘freedom from fear’
and ‘freedom from want’. Notable examples of this approach include the Canadian
government’s human security foreign policy (DFAIT, 2004), the Human Security
Network, whose members include Austria, Ireland and Norway (HSN, 1999)1 and
the Human Security Report 2005, where human security is defined in terms of the
protection of individuals and communities from the effects of organised violence
(Mack and Nielson, 2005).
The value of this approach is that it foregrounds a range of aspects that have become
fundamental to the changing character of warfare in the twentieth and early
twenty-first centuries. Increases in civilian casualties, the relationship between
violent conflict and the spread of HIV/AIDS and the use of sexual violence as a
weapon of war, for example, are key concerns in the Human Security Report (Mack
and Nielson, 2005, pp. 14–59, 100–116). Crucially, broader aspects of security are
included to the extent that they are effects of organised violence, but are not viewed
as security issues in and of themselves. Second, in methodological terms, this
approach has enhanced the availability of quantitative data on the incidence and
effects of conflict-related violence. While there are already a number of world
indexes for the measurement of poverty and development – the UNDP’s Human
Development Index for example – it is in relation to the direct violence of war that
there is a relative lack of comprehensive, quantitative data sets (Mack and Nielson,
2005, p. viii; cf. UNDP, 2006, pp. 283–286). At the policy level, co-operation
between middle power states, international agencies and non-governmental
organisations on ‘freedom from fear’ issues has contributed to the creation of the
International Criminal Court, the anti-landmines convention and important initiatives in areas such as the protection of children affected by conflict (DFAIT, 2004,
pp. 8–10, 14–15, 17–18; see also HSN, 1999).
The difficulty, however, is that efforts to narrow the human security agenda often
underestimate the ethico-political questions involved in attempts to determine
what should or should not count as ‘security’. For critics of ‘delimiting’, framing
the difficulties that beset the human security agenda as though these are simply
questions of analytical and practical utility ‘depoliticises’ the underlying issues of
structural violence and distributive injustice that kill more people than the direct
violence of war (Bellamy and McDonald, 2002, pp. 374–375; Grayson, 2004,
p. 357). Fashioning a conception of human security that excludes disparities in
access to fundamental resources, such as adequate supplies of food and clean water,
and access to medical care, merely bolsters the status quo. Thus what is required is
not a rejection of the most intractable parts of the human security agenda, but
rather a radical rethinking of the assumptions about politics, economics and security that underpin existing inequalities.
The politics of security
While the more positivist-inclined attempts to delimit human security discussed
above tend to privilege analytical and policy concerns, post-positivist scholars,
© 2007 The Author. Journal compilation © 2007 Political Studies Association
POLITICS: 2007 VOL 27(3)
writing in the critical approaches to security literature, are much more reflective
about the ethico-political implications of viewing non-traditional, non-military
related issues through the lens of security. In contrast to the argument that a
broader security agenda provides a means to gain greater political saliency for
neglected issues, these scholars argue that, once an issue is understood in security
terms, the logic of securitisation places it outside the realm of ‘normal politics’
(Buzan et al., 1998, p. 29).
For Barry Buzan et al., the elevation of threats to ‘security’ status, a process they
refer to as ‘securitisation’, is predicated on the representation of issues as existential
threats to a referent object (states, collectivities) (Buzan et al., 1998, p. 21). Crucially, in the context of securitisation, democratic processes of consultation and
accommodation and the legitimate expression of dissent give way to a climate of
urgency that facilitates recourse to ‘extraordinary measures’, such as increases in
executive power, secrecy and, ultimately, the threat and use of military force
(Buzan et al., 1998, pp. 21–29; Huysmans, 1998; Wæver, 1995). Following this
reasoning, ‘human security’ issues, such as poverty, migration and HIV/AIDS, are
best kept off the security agenda and addressed in terms of the everyday political
processes that Buzan et al. call ‘normal politics’ (Buzan, 2004, p. 370).
Significantly, however, these valuable insights into the potentially negative effects
of securitisation rest on only one possible conception of the politics of security. Not
only do Buzan et al. attribute an ‘essential meaning’ or ‘logic’ to security (Buzan
et al., 1998, pp. 4, 19, 21–29; Wæver, 1995; for a critique, see Wyn Jones, 1999,
pp. 108–112), but their approach has spawned a ‘new orthodoxy’ among
critical approaches to security where, in the work of numerous scholars, security
discourses and practices are viewed in terms of a Schmittian conception of the political that understands security relations in terms of ‘emergency measures’ and us/
them, friend/enemy dichotomies (Aradau, 2004, pp. 398–399; Huysmans, 1998;
for a discussion, see Williams, 2003).
For Schmitt, defining the criterion for the political in terms of the friend/enemy
distinction offered a means to resist the ‘neutralisation’ and ‘depoliticisation’ of the
antagonisms of political life that arise from liberalism’s emphasis on ‘consensus’, the
‘rules of the game’ and ‘free discussion’ (Mouffe, 2005, pp. 109–112, 122–123;
Schmitt, 1996 [1932], pp. 26–37).2 In a similar manner, Buzan et al.’s ‘vision of
security’ as ‘a logic of existential threat and extreme necessity … mirrors the intense
condition of existential division, friendship and enmity’ that Schmitt saw as fundamental to the practice of politics (Williams, 2003, p. 516). From this perspective,
rather than the human security agenda’s initial ‘solidarist’ concern for poor people in
the global North and South, the securitisation of poverty, displacement and disease
fosters a logic of enmity that constitutes Southern populations as threats to rich
Northern countries (Cooper, 2005, p. 474; Duffield, 2001; Krause, 2004, p. 368).
Yet while these emphases clearly reflect some aspects of contemporary security
practices – the language of friends vs. enemies that informs the National Security
Strategy of the United States and the US-led ‘war on terror’, for example (White
House, 2002) – critics argue that conceptualising security solely in these terms risks
reproducing the dominant understandings of security that proponents of human
security seek to oppose (Booth, 2005, p. 271; Hoogensen and Rottem, 2004, pp.
© 2007 The Author. Journal compilation © 2007 Political Studies Association
POLITICS: 2007 VOL 27(3)
160–161; Wyn Jones, 1999, pp. 108–110). In particular, by attributing a specifically
Schmittian conception of the political to the theory and practice of security, the
critical approaches to security literature neglects the ways in which alternative
security practices, such as ethical dialogue, empathy and self-restraint, can help to
reduce self/other tensions between states and other actors (Williams, 2003, p. 522;
Wyn Jones, 1999, p. 110). Moreover, by privileging elite constructions of security
(Buzan et al., 1998, p. 29; Wæver, 1995, pp. 56–57), this approach neglects the
potential for the ‘bottom-up’ and ‘people-centred’ perspectives emphasised by
human security to ‘re-imagine security’ in counter-hegemonic ways (Hamber et al.,
2006; Hoogensen and Stuvøy, 2006; more broadly, see Booth, 2005, p. 266). In the
context of post-conflict peace-building, for example, ethnographic studies have
indicated the ways in which ‘listening’ to the security concerns of women and other
politically marginalised groups reveals ‘the inadequacies of institutionalised security
approaches to meet [people’s] holistic security needs’ and thus strengthens political
demands for social transformation (Hamber et al., 2006, p. 495; see also Krause and
Jütersonke, 2005, p. 460).
This article has analysed the ways in which recent critical responses to the human
security agenda underestimate the politics involved in conceptual clarification.
Although calls to delimit human security provide important insights into the problems of expanding the contemporary security agenda, there is a danger that the
academic literature in this area will remain stuck in circuitous debates that lag
behind initiatives at the policy level. Indeed, while scholars try to resolve the
question of where the conceptual parameters of human security should be fixed,
Western policy practices increasingly reflect the ‘merging of security and development’ that human security represents (Cooper, 2005; Duffield, 2001).
One way forward is for scholarship in this area to shift its attention …
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