HUMAN SECURITY–Robust pillar of national security

Covid -19 brought significant shift in parochial understanding of traditional security concept centered around border security to focus more on human uplift

Air Commodore      -      (retd) KHALID IQBAL Did you ever see an impoverished beggar standing in front of a gigantic haveli in hope of a piece of bread… his fear stopping him cross the gate, and his hunger stopping him to retreat? If you see one, try and look deeper into his soul through his colourless eyes. You would easily sense his two celestial desires; ‘freedom from want’ and ‘freedom from fear’.

These two fears are the pinnacle concerns of the human security concept presented by Dr Mahbub-ul-Haq in the United Nations Development Programme-1994. He said: “Human Security is not a concern with weapons. It is a concern with human dignity. In the last analysis, it is a child who did not die, a disease that did not spread, an ethnic tension that did not explode, a dissident who was not silenced, a human spirit that was not crushed”.

The UNDP Human Development Report 1994 presents the argument that ensuring ‘Freedom from want’ and ‘Freedom from fear for all persons is the best path to tackle global insecurity. Here fear means wars, conflicts, fights, terror, etc, and want means economic and financial prosperity. The concept identified seven areas of security concern namely Economic Security, Food Security, Health Security, Environmental Security, Personal Security, Community Security, and Political Security. It can be seen, the concept is multi-dimensional and people-centric.

The concept can be further understood through an excerpt from Dr Mehboob-Ul-Haq’s speech in 1996 in which he said “Security will be interpreted as security of people not just territory; security of individuals, not just nations; security through sustainable development, not through arms;….Human security will be regarded as universal, global, and indivisible.” The concept of human security is quite in line with the essence of the Islamic welfare state concept which emphasizes the protection and socio-economic well-being of its subjects. The concept has also been a theme of ancient social philosophers.

The great Arab historian and sociologist Ibn-e-Khaldoun in his famous work ‘Al-Mouqaddimah’ has also distinguished between expenditures on purposes that ‘benefit human needs and interests’ and ‘expenditures that do not result in such benefit’. In the 20th century, the west clearly understands the term ‘development’ as the economic well-being of the state and the citizens. welfare states like Scandinavian countries spend large sums on welfare schemes in education, health, and social sector. However, in the developing world, little progress made in the public interest is expressed as a big leap while the core of development remains absent. Thus, there seem two separate worlds; a world of opportunities in which the full logic of human security operates; and a world of struggle, where the landowner is born as a landowner and the landless dies as a landless.

The Covid-19 epidemic and the Russian-Ukraine war have hit back-to-back to multiply human suffering. According to the Human Development Report 21/22, over 90 percent of countries in either 2020 or 2021, registered a decline in their Human Development Index score.

The human miseries arising from the ashes of Covid -19, with 6.8 million deaths, and a projected cumulative loss of about $13.8 trillion through 2024, has brought a significant shift in the parochial understanding of the traditional security concept centered around border security to focus more on human development. Covid-19 has established a direct link between the security of the individual and the security of the state. Pakistan today seems sandwiched between traditional as well as human security crises.

The traditional security threat lies in the relentless history of wars, conflicts, stand-offs, terrorism, and insurgencies, and it also resides in the $ 72.6 billion defence budget of India. On the human security side, Pakistan stands at 161 position out of 192 countries on the Human Development Index. with approximately 45 million people living below the poverty line, Pakistan today is a land of millions of ‘Have Nots’ striving to clinch with the rope of life with a small piece of bread. Sadly, the human security concept, most of which is also enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan, and has been included as a separate chapter in the national security paper, and which should have been the nucleus of any policymaking, has neither been well-conceived nor adopted. we reached this low ebb because of our poor statesmanship, failed governance, flawed planning, rampant corruption, absent accountability, and lawlessness. Defence of the nation against infectious disease is an altogether different problem than defence against a cruise missile. Human security, though emerged as a challenge to the idea of traditional security, but these are neither mutually exclusive concept nor are they substitute for each other. It would be naïve to pitch both concepts against each other. Both are imperative for national and international peace and stability. As a matter of fact, human and traditional security should co-exist and complement each other as vitals of national security.

The problem only occurs when the emphasis on one starts to affect the accomplishment of the other. Former UN secretary-general Kofi Annan made a very thoughtful remark when he said “we will not enjoy security without development, we will not enjoy development without security, and we will not enjoy either without respect for human rights.” A mix of our own folly, as well as geopolitical circumstances, has forced Pakistan to negotiate several challenges to its security and simultaneously endeavour to survive the economic meltdown.

In the prevailing environment, Pakistan’s core strategic interests and its long-term salvation lies in looking inwards and putting its own house in order. Its prime focus must go to recover its economy and improve the vital indicators of human security and bring relief to the masses. A country can never be at peace if the life and livelihood of its people are not secured. (Air Commodore (retd) Khalid Iqbal is Director National Security at the Centre for Aerospace and Security Studies (CASS), Lahore Pakistan. He may be reached at info@casslhr.cass)

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