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GA Thematic Debate: Responding to the opportunities and challenges of the 21st Century: Human Security and the post-2015 development agenda (18 June)

arton4469A thematic debate on Human Security was held on 18 June that provided Member States with an opportunity to respond to the recommendations contained in the latest report of the Secretary-General on the subject(A/68/685) and to have an exchange of views on how human security could be included in the next development framework. Participants pointed to the added value of human security as a tool to address complex and interrelated human-centred threats.

The half-day debate included an opening session, an interactive panel discussion and a closing session.

In his concept note for the event, President of the General Assembly John Ashe noted that the concept of “human security” had been first launched 20 years ago in the 1994 UNDP Human Development Report, and was characterized as “safety from chronic threats such as hunger, disease, and repression, as well as protection from sudden and harmful disruptions in the patterns of daily life – whether in homes, in jobs or in communities.”

A series of five questions framed the debate:

• What could be the added value of the human scecurity approach and its principles (people-centred, comprehensive, context-specific, prevention-oriented through the protection and empowerment framework) to the post-2015 development agenda?

• How can the human security approach assist governments and other actors in addressing current and emerging challenges that are multiple, complex and interrelated?

• How can the human security approach be integrated as an overarching framework into national development plans?

• Recognizing the threats to individuals and communities vary considerably across and within countries, how can the human security approach ensure that development policies are inclusive and therefore result in greater human progress, peace and dignity for all?

• What partnerships does human security propel in the achievement of the post-2015 development agenda?

In his remarks, Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson acknowledged that the principles enshrined in human security – including the right of people to live in freedom and dignity – can help in efforts to achieve peace and security: “These principles can have a positive impact on dealing with challenges as diverse as climate change, rural poverty, rapid urbanization and post-conflict reconstruction.” Noting that progress had been made in the past two decades, he emphasized the need to look ahead and consider how the underlying principles of human security can also be applied to post-2015 development agenda, where they would be elevated and lived up to. “We see around us in the world a brutalization, a blatant disrespect for human rights and humanitarian law, and a scale of violence which is almost incomprehensible. Innocent men, women and children are killed, maimed or abused, often in the name of ethnic or religious exceptionalism. […] We now, more than ever, need a mobilization for humanity and humanism. We need to place people and their security in the centre.”

In her remarks, Sonia Picado, Chair of the Advisory Board on Human Security, noted that the Board, comprised of 13 members, is charged with two tasks: to advise the Secretary-General on the United Nations Trust Fund on Human Security (UNTFHS), and to deepen the understanding and acceptance of the human security approach worldwide. Ms. Picado provided a number of examples of projects, including one in El Salvador that sought to strengthen human security by fostering peaceful coexistence and improving citizen security in three municipalities through a comprehensive multi-stakeholder approach that considered the root causes of violence; addressed unemployment and early school dropouts; bolstered economic activities; and strengthened access to adequate housing, health and education. The project sought to engage at the community level to harness trust and promote partnerships toward individual and community security. To date, 216 projects have been funded in 88 countries worldwide, she noted. Through a context-specific approach, the application of human security is helping to provide a disaggregated view of the socio-economic circumstances across communities. These projects contribute to providing access to public services and economic opportunities to help promote inclusive development and limit exclusion based on ethnicity, religion, gender, age or class. “To respond to today’s multi-faceted challenges, the United Nations must be built on a framework of partnership and prevention. We must ensure that today’s challenges do not become tomorrow’s crises,” she concluded.

Oulie Keita, Regional Representative of the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP), provided an overview of the multiple and complex challenges in Mali, including corruption, high unemployment, a deteriorating educational system, food insecurity, conflicts between communities, a dysfunctional judicial system, etc. The Malian Human Security Network was established by civil society to work towards the goal of sustainable peace and development in Mali, which brings a regional perspective to conflict resolution and peacebuilding in the Sahel region. The full participation and empowerment of women, she stressed, who represent 56% of the Malian population, is essential for building the foundations of peace and development as they are at the fore of the intra-inter communal dialogues, bring together belligerents to talk to each other and find common ground. “This investment in human security has higher returns for humanity than any other alternative investment,” Ms. Keita concluded.

A number of Member States shared their experiences and lessons learned in implementing a human security approach at the international, regional and national levels. Many pointed to the added value of human security as a tool to address complex and interrelated human-centred threats, including conflict, illicit transfer of small arms and light weapons, crime, accidents, gender violence and inequalities, environmental challenges and migration. Examples were also provided on communities’ reconciliation initiatives, which aim to bring together resources to promote socio-economic development and human rights. Participants also drew attention to the need to ensure that human security is “human-centred,” as it is a “sibling” of human development and human rights.

Closing on behalf of the President of the General Assembly, Charles Thembani Ntwaagae, Vice-President,concluded: “It is my hope that the experiences and ideas we exchanged today will inspire further initiatives in your respective regions and countries as well as here at the United Nations. For we should be ever mindful that the commitments, policies and programmes we discuss within these walls have the potential to improve the well-being and security of millions of people across the world.”

More information

Further information, including the programme, agenda, statements, and a summary of the event from the PGA is available on the PGA’s web page for the event here, and on the UN Papersmart portal here.

Access the webcast here.

Read the WANEP article here.

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