Human Security in Islam

  1. HUMAN SECURITY =================

The idea of protecting survival of states was challenged, when the UN published itsHuman Development Report 1994. In the report human security as a concept emerged and began to attract academia and government officials attention. Since then, its slogan “freedom from fear and freedom from wants” became famous world wide. Human security refers to a kind of security that does not focus on either the traditional “national security” nor even on the expanded “comprehensive security,” both of which are concerned first with the entity of the state. It focuses instead on the importance of protecting the well-being of the human race - not just the security of one’s own people, but of all-cutting across distinctions and boundaries of nationality and ethnicity, class and culture, gender, and religion. UN human security included seven categories of security and wellbeing that are necessary to ensure those two freedoms: food, health, economic, environmental, personal, community and political security.

Following that in 1999, (at the state level) a group of foreign ministers met in Norway and formed Human Security Network (HSN). The aims of HSN is “… to energize political process aimed at preventing or solving conflicts and promoting peace and development” ( 5/07/2007). The shifting paradigm from protecting of the state to the protecting of the people continue to invite a hot debate among the academia. By focusing on people, human security does not mean that we totally exclude state, since many of the human security issues require state’s action and commitment. What is needed is the serious commitment of state to protect the people, the backbone of a state. Other than the fourteen members of HSN, Japan is another major player that has adopted the human security approach in its foreign policy formulations. Unlike Canada, which has focused on human rights as important elements of human security, Japan’s approach of human security has been more on development which has been exemplified in its Official Development Assistance (ODA) as well as displaced people and refugees. In 1999, Japan’s initiatives has also helped to launch the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, where the funding goes to human development area such as education, health, and small scale infrastructure development ( (visited 5/7/2007).

In the following year, at the UN Millennium Summit, Commission of Human Security was established. The aim is to address critical and pervasive threats to human security, among others.  Interestingly, although visioning a world where human are more secured, Japan is not member of HSN. In 2003, Commission of Human Security submitted its report, “Human Security Now,” which has emphasized “ … protecting people from critical and pervasive threats and situations, building on their strengths and aspirations. It also means creating systems that give people the building blocks of survival, dignity and livelihood. Human security connects different types of freedoms - freedom from want, freedom from fear and freedom to take action on one's own behalf. To do this, it offers two general strategies: protection and empowerment” ( 5 July 2007). Human Security Now thus is concerned about future generations.

In Southeast Asia, Thailand remains the only member of HSN. Following Asian Economic Crisis, between 1997-1998, that hit hard the region, Thailand established what is known as Ministry of Social Development and Human Security which is in charged the country’s social affairs, including eradicating poverty. In 1998, at the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference (PMC) in Manila, ASEAN created an ASEAN-PMC Caucus on Human Security. Later another ASEAN-PMC Caucus was established on Social Safety Nets. ASEAN further took a proactive approach when it announced ASEAN Vision 2020, focusing on human security within a context of societal security (http://www.aseansec.rg/184.htm) (visited 20/6/2006). ASEAN continue to assimilate the approach of human security when it includes it in Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Bangkok 2003.  Therefore we can sum up that even though human security focus on the survival of human, there is no common approach. In general, it can be conclude that SE Asian (in particular ASEAN) states have been especially concerned abut their sovereignty.

In SE Asia, the human security discourse appears to be a critique towards comprehensive security (Acharya 2002; Anthony 2002). States in Southeast Asia adopted the concept to defend their national boundaries from both military and non military threats. Malaysia, an Islamic country, for instance, declared illicit drug, what is today’s nontraditional security issue, as a threat to its national security in 1983, during the Cold War. Closer assessment revealed that while many nontraditional issues, including HIV-AIDS, considered as threats, but there appears to be no common understanding of what human security is all about.

Similarly, the problems of diluting the concept of human security by making all issues somehow relate to it, presents another challenge. Like others, the author tends to agree that there should be a boundary to differentiate what constitute threats. As discussed, human security is about protection of the people. The author has mentioned elsewhere that threat to security of the people at least can be grouped into three categories. First, societal security, which includes security for the most vulnerable groups such as the impoverished, the disabled, ethnic minority groups, and women and children. The second category refers to the threats to human security due to the unevenness of globalization. The third refers to threats to the survival of individuals which include the preservation of the quality of life (Zarina 2006). In addition to those categories, in Asia, we should add another important term. This is what this author refers to as “human safety.”

An important question that needs to be examined is the vulnerability of the people due to the many natural disaster such as volcanic eruptions, floods, tsunamis, hurricanes and may more. It is proposed that threats to these people can not be grouped under human security rather they are the victims of human safety.[i] Thus based on this definition, we can sum up that human safety refer to the safety of the people due to the unintended threats while human security refers to the intended (controllable) threats one of which is the armed conflicts, illegal activities of organized crime, landmines, and others.  Following the above definition, threats to human security is therefore preventable. (The above discussion can be summarize as follows)

Characteristics of Comprehensive Security and Human Security

Source: Zarina Othman, “Human Security Concepts, Approaches and Debates in SE Asia” (AFES Press2007).