Daily BulletinDaily Bulletin

The Conversation

  • Written by Dennis Altman, Professorial Fellow in Human Security, La Trobe University
In the wake of bushfires and coronavirus, it's time we talked about human security

The term “human security” was first adopted by the United Nations Development Program in 1994. We speak far less of it now than we did then. Yet the cataclysmic events of this year should remind us national security is no longer to be thought of in terms of conventional warfare and military expenditure.

Put simply, human security encompasses all those threats to survival that are not military or state-sponsored, and therefore tend to fall beneath the radar of those who imagine security in conventionally “hard” terms.

The recent bushfires and the coronavirus pandemic reveal imminent threats from climate change and global diseases that threaten the very survival of what we take for granted. Yet governments have been far less willing to commit to responding to these issues than to increasing military budgets.

When the concept of human security emerged it was designed to address seven themes: “economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political security”. While these terms may seem too broad to be useful, all of them are directly related to the crises now facing the world.

These crises have taken me back to a large research project with several colleagues on rethinking the relevance of human security.

There is a voluminous literature on the meaning and limitations of human security. When he launched the book based on our research, the former foreign minister Gareth Evans defined it as an attempt to link conventional understandings of national security with the needs of human development:

The concept of human security was broad enough to advance both freedom from fear and freedom from want.

In the book, I wrote:

Australia is unlikely to face a military invasion, of the sort we might have experienced in World War II, but its security is threatened by a series of global upheavals around food, water, new epidemics, transnational crime and climate change.

I might now add cybersecurity to that list.

Over the past few years, the Australian government has increased military expenditures to the point where we are now among the top 15 countries ranked on defence spending.

Of course, our expenditure is trivial compared to the United States and China, but there is a powerful lobby pushing to increase it. At the same time, the government has made major cuts to overseas development assistance, is resisting the need to seriously cut emissions and appeared unprepared for the severity of the coronavirus epidemic.

Growing concern about the rise of China and the unpredictability of the United States has meant we ignore the more immediate threats to our security, even as they are looming around us. Most troubling, perhaps, is the government’s dislike of global institutions in a period when we need global cooperation more than ever.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has made several attacks on what he terms an “unaccountable internationalist bureaucracy”. In this he appears to be following the lead of US President Donald Trump. Our declining foreign assistance budget is lessening the capacity of countries in our region to respond to health and climate emergencies.

The failure of the United States to provide leadership on either climate change or the coronavirus has emphasised the importance of great powers grasping that even their survival depends upon global action. Arguably the authoritarian Chinese regime, for all its unpleasantness, understands this better than the Trump administration.

It is a common aphorism that generals always fight the last war. Debates about the rise of China and the need to increase our military capabilities overlook the fact the most immediate threats to national security are not conventional military ones.

There are hints of this in Australia’s foreign policy. A statement from Foreign Minister Marise Payne noted:

Australia’s longstanding and ongoing security cooperation with Pacific countries covers defence, law enforcement, transnational crime, climate and disaster resilience, border management and human security.

But the shadow minister, Penny Wong, has argued:

‘Security’ has a much broader connotation than the more threat-based protective and response concepts on which a lot of public policy concentrates.

But these statements stand apart from mainstream debates about “national security”, which remain dominated by concerns about military build-ups and terrorism.

After unparalleled bushfires and coronavirus, the concept of human security gives us the language to reassess the most immediate threats to our survival and the need for global cooperation to respond to them.

Authors: Dennis Altman, Professorial Fellow in Human Security, La Trobe University

Read more https://theconversation.com/in-the-wake-of-bushfires-and-coronavirus-its-time-we-talked-about-human-security-133914

Students in Melbourne will go back to remote schooling. Here's what we learnt last time and how to make it better

arrow_forward

Where are the most disadvantaged parts of Australia? New research shows it's not just income that matters

arrow_forward

There's serious talk about a job guarantee , but it's not that straightforward

arrow_forward

The Conversation
INTERWEBS DIGITAL AGENCY

Politics

Scott Morrison Covid 19 update

PRIME MINISTER: Good afternoon, everyone. Today I’m joined by Professor Paul Murphy - sorry, Professor Paul Kelly. I’ve got Brendan Murphy still on the brain. You are not far from us, Brendan. B...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Interview with Ben Fordham, 2GB

FORDHAM: Thank you very much for talking to us. I know it's a difficult day for all of those Qantas workers. Look, they want to know in the short term, are you going to extend JobKeeper?   PRI...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Prime Minister Scott Morrison interview with Neil Mitchell

NEIL MITCHELL: Prime minister, good morning.    PRIME MINISTER: Good morning, how are you?   MICHELL: I’m okay, a bit to get to I apologise, we haven't spoken for a while and I want to get t...

Scott Morrison - avatar Scott Morrison

Business News

Fifth Dimension: Identified as one of the world’s leading strategic consultancies

Sydney based consulting company, Fifth Dimension, has been recognised for its ground breaking work, receiving a place in the GreenBook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) Top 25 Strategic Consultancie...

Tess Sanders Lazarus - avatar Tess Sanders Lazarus

Understanding Your NextGen EHR System and Features

NextGen EHR (Electronic Health Records) systems can be rather confusing. However, they can offer the most powerful features and provide some of the most powerful solutions for your business’s EHR ne...

Rebecca Stuart - avatar Rebecca Stuart

SEO In A Time of COVID-19: A Life-Saver

The coronavirus pandemic has brought about a lot of uncertainty for everyone across the world. It has had one of the most devastating impacts on the day-to-day lives of many including business o...

a Guest Writer - avatar a Guest Writer



News Company Media Core

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion