What is Security?
Insecurity is a preoccupation throughout the world today—the events of September 11, 2001 and conflicts in North Africa, Congo, Palestine and Afghanistan are symbols of insecurity that have shaken and destroyed lives. Governments and people struggle to respond to conflicts and emergencies, to recover some measure of security. But what is security and how can it be achieved?—by military force, by acquiring wealth, by building fences (real and legal) to keep terrorists out?
There is a Biblical vision of security that concerns every area of life. Jesus came "that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). This promise recalls the ancient Biblical vision of shalom: a condition of flourishing; of wholeness, justice and peace; of right relations between God and people, and among people. The Psalmist explains that the promise of shalom and abundant life begins with God's act of creation:
The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made.
The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts all who are bowed down.
The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time.
You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing.
The Lord is righteous in all his ways and loving toward all he has made
Psalm 145: 13(b)-17
Human Security is a framework for thinking about security that puts people at the centre of security policy and planning. It emphasizes the social, political, and economic conditions necessary to foster stable environments in which people can thrive.
Insecurity is not necessarily experienced as violence or the threat of violence. In fact, people around the world experience insecurity primarily as limited or lack of access to life's basic necessities (e.g. food, water, shelter), lack of education, insufficient or unstable income, social and political exclusion and denial of rights.
This means that improving security requires more than improved policing or increased military strength. Certainly, policing and military protection are sometimes necessary to ensure security, but a human security framework places them within the broader context of conditions that promote human health and well-being, and make for just peace.
Human Security and "Our Mission"
As co-heirs and co-labourers with Christ, as his hands and feet on earth, we are called to seek out his promise of abundant life for the world. The hope of abundant life is reflected in a common vision for human security: freedom from want, freedom from fear—these are the basic conditions that make human flourishing possible. This human security vision is pursued by development, humanitarian and advocacy organizations all over the world—groups as diverse as the United Nations, the Chrisitian Reformed World Relief Committee, the Canadian Foodgrains Bank, and KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives all pursue a human security agenda in one way or another. So too, our mission to pursue God's justice and peace in every area of life can include actions in support of human security and abundant life.
The Centre for Public Dialogue's peacebuilding work is based in a human security perspective. We continue to advocate for greater attention to and support for Afghan-led community-level reconciliation and local governance initiatives, and for strengthened international diplomatic efforts to end the war. Causes of the current war are complex; balancing military efforts with economic development and political inclusion will promote human security and sustainable peace.
The 5 D's
Project Ploughshares, one of our ecumenical partners, describes a comprehensive approach to human security using 5 'D's:
- Democracy and good governance: Governments are God's servants for doing justice and ensuring the good of all people under their care. When they fail at this task, people are vulnerable and insecure. Institutions that support political participation, are accountable, uphold the rule of law and respect human rights are integral to human security. Good governance and stable states are necessary for international peace and security.
- Development: Lack of development is a key source of insecurity. People living in conditions of political and economic underdevelopment experience social, political, and economic instability as insecurity in their homes and communities. States with low human development are much more prone to violent conflict than states with high human development.
- Disarmament: When weapons of all sizes - from small arms such as handguns and AK-47s, to tanks, bombs, and nuclear warheads - are readily available or stockpiled, political conflicts can transform into armed conflicts more quickly and easily. Disarmament is necessary for building sustainable peace in post-conflict situations, and for preventing escalation of political conflicts.
- Diplomacy: Diplomacy promotes the peaceful resolution of conflicts, whether between persons, communities, or states; it is also the most cost-effective way to prevent and end conflicts. Diplomacy can advance good governance, development, and disarmament objectives.
- Defence: Sometimes it is necessary and justified to use military force, but only as a last resort, and only to restore a just and peaceful public order. Ever-greater military capacity will not in itself ensure security; military force must operate within a context that also builds the social, political, and economic conditions that make for sustainable peace with justice.