Today, peace researchers, civil-society groups, political parties, and supranational organizations are questioning previous notions of security and development. They have developed new approaches to civil conflict and crisis prevention and have fostered debate on what constitutes security.
Military alliances such as NATO and national military forces have long been the focus of their criticism. Moreover, they are calling into question the traditional state-centered view of security and promote the holistic approach long advocated by feminist peace research. This approach looks at the multiple causes of conflicts and places special emphasis on the divergent interests and needs of women and men.
The UN took up these ideas in its discourse on “human security.“ What this means is that it is no longer the security of a state that is at issue but the security of every single individual. According to this approach, first published by the UN Development Program (UNDP) in its 1994 Human Development Report, people should be able to live in “freedom from fear” and in “freedom from want.“ It also includes poverty, economic injustice, and disease as threats to security. Unlike the traditional concept of security, which focuses on the state’s use of force to counter potential threats, the concept of “human security” highlights strategies for dealing with civil conflict, in which international organizations, civil society, the private sector, and individuals, can act alongside government agencies. The goal is not only to protect the parties concerned, but also to empower and strengthen them.
Security is a concept that has evolved since the late Middle Ages as an important part of the relationship between state and individual. The concept of security and the policies derived from it have changed in the context of globalization and the growing significance of international and multinational organizations.
» Read Various Security Concepts
The concept of “human security” comes close to the security concept developed by feminist peace studies. For instance, it promotes an understanding of power that stresses the idea of “having power to do something,“ rather than “having power over somebody.“ Yet this approach takes little account of the feminist demand that security for women and girls must not end at the front door to their homes. The connection between sexual violence in war and domestic violence is scarcely discussed. Furthermore, it lacks a consistent linkage to human rights and women’s rights.
The human rights approach pursued by some development NGOs and UN organizations calls for national and international action to be oriented on human rights. The three duties of a state with respect to human rights are: To protect its citizens from having their rights infringed upon by third parties (to protect), to respect individual rights as the right of citizens to defend themselves (to respect), and to provide a minimum of the basic necessities of life so that citizens can positively exercise their rights (to fulfill). If a state cannot or will not do this, the international community is called upon to step in – within the scope of the “responsibility to protect” or through humanitarian actions. Where human rights violations occur, diplomatic pressure must be applied as quickly as possible. If this is not done, and if the oppression of women is used mainly to justify military intervention, the acting state exposes itself to the suspicion that it is instrumentalizing human rights.
The concept of “human security” is based on an expanded, though not comprehensive, security concept. However, it has to be distinguished between it and the “new” or “expanded” concept of security, developed by Western security strategists and military experts. To be sure, it defines international terrorism, along with “failed states” and organized crime, as a potential new threat, but poverty, disease and environmental disasters are given short shrift. Unlike the concept of “human security,” the “extended” security concept is centered on the state, which considers the military to be the main agent for action. This novel definition of the concept of security was meant to give NATO new legitimacy when, with the end of the Cold War, it had become irrelevant. This novel understanding of security is being used by NATO and is also reflected in the EU’s security strategy, as well as in the defense policy of the Federal Republic of Germany and in the 2006 white paper published by the German ministry of defense. It is also associated with an expanded range of responsibilities for the military, which has blurred the boundaries between the civil and military sectors. So, on the one hand, the Bundeswehr in Afghanistan helps build schools, while it also engages in military anti-terrorist operations.
The UN, international law, and the implementation of human rights are not unaffected by these developments. It was notably the UN, which, during the decade of its major international conferences, created awareness of the importance of women’s rights and human rights. Yet, in its definition of tasks, its operating principles, and its composition, the UN still remains an organization created in response to the situation after WW II. A reform is urgently needed – one that will enable it to meet the global challenges of the 21st century, especially with respect to gender policy.
» Read Beijing Platform for Action
Local civilian organizations from North and South have provided an important impetus for a gender-equal, economically sustainable, and peaceful world. UN Resolution 1325 has played a central role in peace policy; it was adopted in the year 2000, in the aftermath of the Beijing Conference, thanks to decades of lobbying by women’s policy activists. In the summer of 2008, UN Resolution 1820 was added, with the goal of penalizing all forms of sexual violence as crimes against humanity or war crimes.
» Read UN Resolution 1325
The implementation of Resolution 1325 and of the Beijing Platform for Action in UN member states and the entire UN system is long in coming. The resolution can only be implemented if states and state alliances realign their military and civilian activities accordingly. Unfortunately, in Germany as well as in EU, there is a lack of political will, know-how, and the necessary resources.