The term ¡°human security¡± was coined to shift the focus of security from the state to the individual, to emphasize freedom from fear and want. But I would like to depart from the familiar dichotomy between security as the defense of states and security as a personal right, and offer a different perspective, viewing this question through a wider lens, a lens which captures the full gamut of interpersonal, community-oriented and culturally founded relationships which take place between the levels of individual and state. This lens is the one with which I am the most familiar, and the lens which I believe gives us a way to frame and implement effective and collective action toward the advancement of human security.

It would seem obvious that we must frame the meaning of security within an expanded context, that human security must now contain the imperative of human survivability and resilience. Imbalances between nations ¡ª population growth, poverty, food, resources, ecology, migration, energy, money, peace and cultural understanding ¡ª are pivotal security issues. They have the capacity to impact individual lives exponentially in all places across the world. As transnational issues, they are multipliers of human security ¡ª either for widespread stability or instability ¡ª and these multipliers can provide a new foundation for human security as a responsibility of the global commons.

I will explain what I mean by briefly reviewing current global conditions.

Population Security

The world population is now 6.6 billion, and we are adding 220,000 new people each day. Our enlarging global population ¡ª combined with rising wages, purchasing power and consumption in the emerging economies ¡ª has escalated the demand for food, commodities, oil and other resources. If the world is going to carry 9 billion people by 2050, we must all have the right to population security, ensuring that the resources available on this planet are sustainable in relation to our population growth and consumption per person.

Food Security

As the world grows more populous, many nations are also becoming more prosperous overall. Some two dozen states from the emerging South have enjoyed economic growth and have become more dependent on one other¡¯s growth, but the poorer states of the developing South are just as dependent on demand from the North as they were 30 years ago. One billion people still live in extreme poverty, 70% of whom are in Africa. Unbearable poverty continues to afflict major regions of Asia and Latin America. Three-quarters of the world¡¯s poor live in rural areas, where food accounts for more than half of a family¡¯s spending.
Tightening food supplies and rising food demand are now resulting from:
     * poor harvests;
     * lack of fresh water and fertile soil;
     * rising prices for seeds and fertilizer;
     * the use of food crops for bio-fuels;
     * increases in the land needed for meat and dairy production (displacing grain production for people);
     * rising oil and transportation prices;
     * trade-distorting subsidies on agriculture; and
     * food export restrictions.

As demand soars, supplies are unable to keep pace. Food aid, health services and medicinal supplies also decline as the price of food goes up, pushing hundreds of millions into hunger and malnutrition, economic depression and social unrest. It should be clear by now that water and food, which are essential to life, are human rights reflecting the personal dignity, common needs and well-being of humanity.

Resource Security

Non-renewable resources are also being depleted at a rapid rate. As population, industrial output and consumption continue to rise, more and more capital and energy are needed to grow food and to locate, extract and process the remaining resources. Major new investment is being diverted both into agriculture and the extraction of non-renewable resources. While this increasing financial speculation in food and resources is decisive in meeting human needs, it is also draining the money that would otherwise be going into industrial production and basic capital growth.

This misallocation of investment ¡ª which is further distorted by uneven terms of trade ¡ª diminishes the quality of life and security for local populations across the world. Obviously, the inequitable distribution of world resources has a profound impact on human security. Each of us should have the right to an adequate supply of goods based on our interdependence with one another, the interests of our future welfare and that of our descendants.

Environmental Security

Rising temperatures and extreme climate patterns are also having an enormous impact on human security. Many people ¡ª especially the poor in some of the world¡¯s most crowded and marginally productive areas ¡ª are affected by:
     * a lack of water for drinking and irrigation;
     * a decline in agricultural production;
     * increased resource scarcity;
     * loss of supportive wildlife;
     * widespread disease from mosquitoes and other pests;
     * declining health;
     * economic losses caused by hurricanes, tornadoes and cyclones;
     * volatility in economic output and trade; and
     * increasing poverty.

The harmful impact of these climate extremes on human livelihoods and living conditions, combined with heightened competition for scarce resources, has triggered disputes over territory, food and water supplies, social and cultural traditions, and tribal and religious differences. Fundamental and unresolved issues of territoriality, identity and movement1of peoples lead to sectarian and ethnic violence, armed conflict, mass migration and the spread of infectious disease. The health, well-being and rights of those who are forced to leave their homes and communities through external disruptions must be given particular attention. We usually think of migrants and refugees fleeing political conflict, but increasingly they are also victims of the menacing effects of global warming. We are currently witnessing many instances of this kind of temperature-driven civil strife and social displacement in parts of Central Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America.

Environmental stability, including the protection of displaced persons, is an essential human right that flows from our commitment to human dignity, our connectedness with all living beings and our responsibility to the Earth.

Energy Security

In addition to food, resource and environmental instability, there is growing anxiety about whether the world has enough oil to meet its future energy requirements. An energy disruption in one area of the world has an immediate impact on prices and energy security in other areas.

The national security dangers arising from dependence on foreign oil, combined with aggressive competition for strategic reserves of fossil fuels, will likely lead to further degradation of natural resources, continued global warming and major economic instability, particularly in the world¡¯s most impoverished regions. And this is likely to further inflame extremism and terrorism in some places, particularly where rising energy costs severely impact human livelihoods ¡ª which is why legal empowerment of the poor through improved access to justice, the rule of law, and property, labor and business rights is now so critical.

Access to reliable and affordable supplies of clean energy is an essential human right based on the responsibility of the world community to empower the poor to meet their material needs, to fuel economic productivity and to ensure the quality of life for people everywhere.

Monetary Security

The rising demand for food, energy and other resources, which is now causing significant declines in supply, has also become a source of macroeconomic instability. Although emerging and developing states have been decoupling from the United States financially for several years, they are still closely linked monetarily. If oil producers and states that peg or manage their currencies against the U.S. currency decide that the long-term value of the dollar is unsustainable, they may shift their funds into other currencies. The U.S. would be forced to 1) reduce its massive current account deficit (its trade flows and other international payments) through a significant drop in the value of the dollar; and 2) increase its savings, either through a huge decline in consumer and corporate spending or by slashing its federal budget deficit drastically.

These two fiscal adjustments ¡ª especially if combined with the continuing inflation of food, commodity and energy prices ¡ª would send shockwaves across the world. It would produce volatility in exchange rates, currency instability, disruption of global capital flows, a disorderly unwinding of global debt payments, and increased protectionism. National budgets, trade balances, economic growth, jobs, income and political stability would all be affected.
That is why monetary security is vital now for everyone, especially the poor. Our purchasing power, which directly affects the ability to feed our families, pay our bills, save and invest, is an essential social entitlement. The right to stable currency rates ¡ª as an expression of our collective cultural values, personal livelihood and self-worth ¡ª is particularly important as we enter this uncertain period of adjustment.

Cultural Security

Money, energy, resources and materials are necessary but not all-encompassing attributes of the human experience. Cultural security, a critical but often forgotten multiplier of human security, sets the stage through which all other forms of security ought to be defined and understood. One cannot feel secure without mutual understanding and cultural integrity, a reality which has become increasingly apparent among both the developing and developed worlds.

Perceptions of too-rapid cultural change or ¡°cultural invasion¡± spurred by globalization and migration have strained interpersonal and international relationships. Lasting security for the individual and the nation necessitates a practical approach which understands culture as a pivotal component of human experience and political dialogue.

Preventive Security

There is an additional multiplier of human security which is closely related to the others. In states vulnerable to genocide, ethnic cleansing, and other crimes against humanity, as all may indeed be, there is an obvious need to protect individuals from atrocities before they are committed. The concept of states having a ¡°responsibility to protect¡± (R2P) citizens of all nations, debated in recent years by the United Nations in response to escalating violence, remains more heightened and ideologically colored than such issues commonly are.

The question today is whether intervention in the affairs of a state is a moral duty of the international community or a violation of state sovereignty, yet there is no forward reason why sovereignty could not be shared to reflect the realities of an interdependent world. Preventive security demands that we prepare for potential local and regional conflicts to protect people at risk of grave harm, and this becomes decisive as we face the grim prospect of mass hunger, large-scale environmental disruption and clashes over increasingly scarce resources like oil and water in some areas. The right to preventive security arises from our collective responsibility to guarantee political stability, protect the defenseless and ensure human betterment, based on the unique value of every person.

State and Market Security

The final two human security multipliers are so familiar they scarcely need to be emphasized. I am referring to states, which have the responsibility of providing political security to the people within their borders, and, of course, to free markets ¡ª including labor, production and finance ¡ª which provide a vital basis for economic security. States and markets are the cornerstones of modern civilization, and I could not possibly enumerate all of their many virtues in providing essential goods and services to consumers and protecting the welfare of citizens. But I also think we overestimate their importance to human security. Because they exist virtually everywhere, there is a tendency to assume that only governments and markets can solve the world¡¯s problems, or that governments and markets are the sole agents of human security. Indeed, most of us are conditioned to see the world this way, which is a very limiting point of view.

As we ponder the global challenges we are facing, it becomes increasingly clear that there are few foreign policy or commercial solutions that will ensure the common security of humanity. Strategic planning and cooperation for the future of the planet are desperately lacking.

The real issue today is not whether markets are self-correcting or whether they need regulating by states. The real issue is that nation-states and markets are not sufficient to handle the many problems that transcend national borders ¡ª problems like world hunger, resource depletion, economic deprivation, wealth disparity, global warming, environmental pollution, infectious diseases, cross-cultural conflicts and terrorism.

Global Commons

There must be a third sector of popular will ©¤ a powerful countervailing force dedicated to ensuring human security and cooperation across borders. Responsibility and authority must shift from governments downwards to individuals, communities and civil society, and upwards to international organizations, regional systems and networks. As a global citizenry, we must now confront the many problems that impact our lives across territorial boundaries, involving matters of shared international concern that governments and markets are not equipped to address.

The real issues are:
1) that states have not relinquished their sovereignty to cooperate with one another more effectively, and market-driven solutions have proven incapable of addressing the systemic problems that transcend national borders;
2) that a new balance between the common interests of states, markets and people is essential to economic and social development, environmental harmony and peace;
3) that all matters bearing on the global commons must soon be linked together in one multilateral agenda and discussed by a diverse group of representatives from every sector ¡ª government, business and civil society;
4) that these representatives should launch an immediate global action program ensuring the end of poverty, adequate food supplies, fair distribution of resources and commodities, a clean environment, protection of migrants and refugees, reliable and affordable energy, stable purchasing power and a climate of peace; and
5) that this common action plan must also be seen as a tentative step toward geo-political realignment and global economic adjustment, leading to a greater degree of international unity and the creation of inclusive global governance.


The principle of ¡°dignity and justice for all of us¡± can only flow from human civilization as a single functioning whole, and, therefore, the question of cross-border intervention versus state sovereignty is ultimately a false dichotomy. To allow everyone in the world the opportunity to live free from fear and want and to develop our full potentials in a healthy and supporting environment means that individual rights, states rights and international rights must be seen as an indivisible and dynamic unity, not as a source of polarization and conflict.

As human beings we naturally inhabit the future and the present ¡ª not just the present. If some individuals lose food, water and shelter, they can be provided with the means to obtain food, water and shelter over and over again. But if they have also lost their hope and their values, providing for their material needs will never provide them with a future again. Hope can only be rekindled with the re-implementation of those values that have been lost.

When we say that we are looking at human security, what we mean is that we want to alleviate the present situation by creating a system so that, as the future keeps arriving, it arrives in the form of better and better present situations. The consequences of what we do now must bring about a better present moment in which to live. The results of our actions now should lead to improved quality of life and the ability to instill hope.

This article is based on HRH Prince Hassan¡¯s address at the Thematic Debate on Human Security, the United Nations General Assembly, New York, May 22, 2008