Are people connected and empowered through the diversity of traditional and modern means of information exchange? Do they have access to each other in person (freedom of association), by telephone, and the Internet? Do they have access to uncensored, unbiased and effective people-centric (rather than self-centric) information through printed, broadcast, and Internet sources?
In some countries, the philosophy is for “freedom of speech” including freedom of association and religion. In other countries, it is for “freedom of expression” (both to espouse and receive views) including freedom to chose media sources (including Internet service provider, etc.). HumanSecurityIndex.org considers that both of these concepts are vital to people.
People currently communicate in-person, or via (fixed and mobile) telephone, (postal or electronic) mail, and the Internet. The latter was formerly dominated by one-way communication from server to client, but now is two-way through blogs, wikis, discussion forums, virtual community and file sharing media on the Web. Access to such media, and the freedom of such media from propaganda, censorship, intentional or unintentional bias (which limits rather than stimulates perspective) are vital to a social fabric.
The HSI component on Information Empowerment combines data on fixed and mobile telephone lines and Internet users (as a percentage of inhabitants – to indicate users of such media) with an indicator of press freedom. The main sources are:
- Information and Communication indicators from the International Telecommunication Union’s ICT Eye supplemented by other sources to cover gaps in the ITU data – as described in the United Nations release publication on the HSI.
- The Press Freedom Index of Reporters Sans Frontieres.
An indicator which characterizes the amount of access by individuals and communities to information, which is empowering of the people rather than of an elite, is an important component of social fabric and human security. This might include an enumeration of the number of people accessing various types of communications/media (not just phones and the Internet as in the case of the Connection Index).
In addition, there is the concern that consolidations (and budgetary reductions) of several traditional news media outlets into giant holding companies, arguably more driven by profit motive than by journalistic excellence, is reducing journalistic effectiveness, and thus human security. So, an indicator of Press Effectiveness (including freedom of journalists from official harassment but also freedom and effectiveness of journalists at delivering investigative journalism to empower readers) would be valuable to have.
Do people feel safe that human security is a focus of government leaders, and that businesses are customer- focused? Although businesses may be entitled to a fair profit, are corporate leaders getting platinum packages while the average person gets mud? Are bribes and lobbying co-opting decision- makers away from public service and toward individual interests of a few?
People feel more secure when government’s focus is on “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Traditionally, one might attribute subterfuge or co-option by special interests against such focus to corruption.
Anything which un- levels the playing field in favour of insiders or an “oligarchy” which costs the people as a whole, contributes to reduced human security. (If you can think of an exception, please comment on it below.) Though corruption is often thought of as associated with abuse (e.g. bribery and influence peddling) by individuals who may use situations or positions for inappropriate monetary gain, this research considers that a wider process may be involved. For example, “the established way of doing things”, which may be institution- centred rather than service- oriented for the people, and may no longer be appropriate with new approaches available, may be just as negative an impact on human security.
- For example, imagine having your phone or credit card bill managed as taxing authorities in the USA “administer” income taxes under its responsibility. Imagine being forced to carry two credit cards (or separate fixed and mobile phone accounts), each with its own labyrinthic, somewhat incompatible, “accounting” system – analogous to having separate Federal and State authorities to deal with. Imagine being required to record each phone call (including starting and ending times, number called, rate and cost) and credit card transaction – to be reported by you periodically to the phone and card companies. If you make a mistake that implies lower obligations you can be fined or jailed (or have your home raided and your computer and belongings seized). This could even happen if you paid “big bucks” to a private accountant, tax lawyer, or the like - you’re still responsible for their mistakes. If your bookkeeping options you choose result in higher payments, the tax folks may keep the money. Imagine being forced into such systems. Have you ever heard people call this inhumane, cruel, or dysfunctional / corrupt?
- Now imagine a taxing authority that administers taxes like your phone provider or credit card issuer. You receive an accounting, with an opportunity to review and point out possible mistakes. Then you settle the bill (perhaps with a automated bill payment from or refund into your bank account). The latter can be done, and indeed is being done in well- run administrations. In this document (warning: this links to a .pdf – see page 3) Denmark led the process over a decade ago, and has been followed by Finland (warning: link is to a .pdf), Slovenia and several other [thus advanced in this regard] countries, with governments providing taxpayers with tax forms pre-filled – which the taxpayer checks for possible errors (as in a phone bill) for easier and fairer treatment of taxpayers, as well as better compliance.
So maintaining a system that does not smoothly deliver good governance while also providing as reasonable a service as possible for the people may be viewed as corrupt, and degrading to human security. Also, an extension to characterize the effectiveness of traditional and new media in exposing corruption and other bad governance would be a great enhancement to a social fabric index.
Though the most well-known indicator of corruption may be Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, this effort uses the World Bank index on Control of Corruption, including traditionally considered “illegal” corruption, plus the embryonic concept of “legal” corruption (original paper) ; (updated paper) (warning: links are to .pdfs).
Some people might expect a broader indicator of governance here. We looked at efforts such as the World Bank’s Governance Indicators, of government effectiveness, political stability & violence, regulatory quality, rule of law, and control of corruption. But when we attempted to adapt these to human security characterizations and strategizing, we ran into some difficulties. Firstly, we wonder if the concepts may be more western or urban than global in approach. For example, is a win-lose court system, in which people are trained to manipulate descriptions in order to win a case - good rule of law and governance - or is it the sometimes characterized “tyranny of lawyers?” Or is a system of mediation, in which the desired outcome is not win-lose but win-win (and a solution to the problem that everyone can except - rather than have arbitrarily imposed on them), preferable?
We found the indicator becoming perceptive and useful for developing human security strategy immediately when data for “legal corruption” were combined with those for more widely discussed “illegal corruption.” Indeed, we considered these to be two links in a chain, where the weaker link most strongly influenced the outcome. Adding the other World Governance Indicators did not seem to change the character or strength / weakness of the chain - but only seemed to obfuscate the power of blending legal and illegal corruption. So our governance indicator is currently the minimum of legal or illegal corruption percentile figure for a country.
As the HSI, and all its components, are designed to be working prototypes, we welcome ideas for additional data and hopefully introductions to curators of additional indicators in this arena. We also hope to find better ways to combine data.
Please consider this a request for creating components of a richer governance component to the HSI.
Do people feel safe in their homes, communities, nation, and the world? Is crime a threat? Are power groups (from foreign or domestic individual, institutional/corporate, or governmental forces) disrupting human security? Is one’s country (or a neighbour) involved in domestic or foreign conflict, conscripting community residents and spending scarce resources in disruptions – at the cost of human security at home and abroad?
The Global Peace Index is an excellent start at characterizing a person’s peace and harmony in one’s local and global community based on freedom from external warlike behaviour of one’s country, and from domestic strife and related concerns. A “trigger-happy” society (overseas or at home) is not a secure one, and (as others have said) might become a magnet or catalyst for additional trigger-happy behaviour of various sorts. Indeed, members of the “gun lobby” in the USA have argued against bans or restrictions on gun ownership, saying that country is so unsafe that people must be able to defend their own homes with their own guns. Here’s an example. Is this not a graphic indicator of poor social fabric? (HumanSecurityIndex.org is not making a political editorial, merely a social observation.)
HumanSecurityIndex.org also includes incarceration rates as an excellent indicator of societal strains from criminal inclinations in a society, and/or inclinations of that society to incarcerate people rather than to fundamentally solve the possible causes of behaviour that result in arrest and detention. These include the World Prison Population List and the World Pre-Trial / Remand Imprisonment List As Roy Walmsley (curator of such lists) notes, high incarceration rates can have many causes. However, in the view of several socioeconomic experts with whom HumanSecurityIndex.org has discussed this issue, abnormally high incarceration rates indicate poor human development/security in a society, and appear to be an excellent proxy for societal fabric in great need of repair. Walmsley has given thoughtful reviews of issues and concerns about high and generally increasing incarceration rates. Indeed, the apparent geographic, temporal, and demographic relationships between increasing income inequality (e.g. GINI coefficient values) and increasing incarceration rates over the past two decades could make a valuable study.
Janet Billson has an interesting discussion of well-being from a women’s standpoint. She has suggested that domestic violence would be an invaluable, though very challenging, phenomenon to characterize through some form of indicator. HumanSecurityIndex.org would be tempted to place such an indicator in this grouping on peacefulness, though some might argue that domestic violence is a gender – or even primarily a women’s issue. However, if such an indicator were to actually appear, its specific characteristics would be the best guide to its possible grouping with other constituent indicators of a Social Fabric Index or a Human Security Index.
Are people at ease, or not, because of their gender, age, place of origin, religion, other beliefs, educational status, economic status, so-called disability, or other characteristic that they are not abnormally pushing on others? (This is not an opportunity for people to attempt co-option of, or hegemony over, others’ equally valued situations or beliefs.)
There is currently some challenge in representing this component of human security.
However, at least for gender, there is a good start. The global Human Development Reports place considerable focus on gender, as do some other organizations. However, HumanSecurityIndex.org currently believes that the World Economic Forum’s Gender Gap Index may be the best candidate to use, at least for now. It is multi- faceted, and makes a good start at global “completeness” by covering many economies (134 in the latest release). It also appears to be amenable to conservative, as well as more radical, interpretation- discussion- strategizing- policies- and implementations.
All these considerations are important. A successful Human Security Index should facilitate a diversity of discussion, intercomparison of alternative strategies, and implementation plans which help everyone -especially those currently on the shorter sides of the “Security Divide” between the “Privileged”, the “Semi-privileged and sort-of OK”, and the “Marginalized and not OK” corners of society.
HumanSecurityIndex.org’s long term hope is for a more inclusive indicator - crafted to represent the comfort (or lack of same) of an individual in a community, based on gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, or other factor that could be (but hopefully is not) marginalizing – such as physical or other “disability.”
Perhaps we can now try to craft some new indicators addressing this issue?
Many people consider that the first major modern published conceptual discussion on human security was contained in the 1994 Human Development Report (warning: link is to a .pdf), and extended by Commission on Human Security (2003) and others.
Human security has been characterized as people- centric “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” (UNDP 1994), and postulated to include economic, food, health, environmental, political, community/social, and individual personal security from hostile actions by foreign or domestic antagonists, or by circumstances which can be managed by good governance (such as good preparation for, and response to, environmental or cultural threats- hazards- disasters). Simply stated, human security encompasses both “freedom from fear” and “freedom from want” (UNDP 1994) – which is considered borrowed from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms Speech.
Human Security and national security are sometimes considered as complements when they are in harmonic balance. Actually, this Website considers national security to be a subset of Human Security, a detail which sometimes gets more attention than the larger requirement (and thus becomes the tail that [not wags, but actually] “eats” the dog). Whether national security should be reduced in focus (and funds redeployed for broader human security enhancements), or human security efforts be stepped up to balance an un-reduced national security focus is a political matter, one that is likely to change with time, place, and personalities. This Website does not editorialize in this regard, other than to hope that better balance, and progress in broader human security requirements, be made.
Human security is considered to be multidimensional. It addresses people’s dignity and sense of self- worth as well as material and physical concerns of peace, harmony, safety, and [for want of a better word] basic comfort in their homes, communities, countries, and Planet Earth. It concerns people- centric protection from self- centred attempts at hegemony by individual, institutional/corporatist, pseudo- religious, or governmental self- interests.
Some specialists consider that poverty and inequality are root impediments to human security.
The 1994 HDR contained a draft “social world charter” (that the authors of the HDR hoped would be adopted by world leaders) in which it advocated for the United Nations to “become the principal custodian of our global human security” (UNDP 1994, p. 6).
- However, one could argue that human security watchdog functions should not be delegated to a “single point of possible failure” but should be watched over by a diversity of stakeholders.
- Thus, one might recommend instead that governments, civil society, individual advocates, and the United Nations might each watch, and hold accountable, everyone’s actions or inactions toward enhanced human security – and the results of such action/inaction.
But is Human Security a new concept?
No. As noted by Surin Pitsuwan, current Secretary-General of ASEAN and a member of the Commission on Human Security, the concept of human security is quite old, having been discussed by numerous of the great philosophers. In a keynote address (warning: link is direct to a .pdf) at a 2008 conference on Mainstreaming Human Security at Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok, Khun Dr. Surin noted that “human security is the primary purpose of organizing a State in the beginning” and that theorists such as Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau and Hume wrote about various aspects of human security.
But, perhaps in some societies, the ascendancy of focus on national security has been for so long, and has been so intense, that the broader context of human security has atrophied. Or, as noted by Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh, Director, CERI Program for Peace and Human Security, Paris, perhaps “distorted as a notion for others and by others.”
Perhaps, a challenge is:
- When people wax forcefully about national security – are they making themselves accountable for what they may be doing for, or against, broader requirements for human security (when they try to co-opt attention away from such broader necessity by their narrower interest)?
- The process of seeking, selecting, culling, vetting, and crafting component indicators, and
- Working with others, including those already embarked on characterizations of peace, incarceration, gender / diversity, corruption and governance, environment, and empowerment - we should all begin to move toward a better understanding
- Of what’s now possible to characterize;
- Of the character of societies - partly fostered through the HSI, its constituent data and indicators, and through the knowledge created by various groups working on their own aspects of characterizing human security; and
- About our target of human security and its improvement.
- - - - - - -
N.B. If you’re looking for our “definition” of human security, can we wait on this a bit? Consistent with the concept sketched (but hardly set in concrete) above, we believe that it’s worth getting on with the challenge of crafting a HSI. In the spirit [if not the exact words] of Lord Kelvin “If you can’t begin to measure it - how can you expect to improve it?” We believe that: