The Human Security Network
The concept of human security was presented for the first time in 1994 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It stands not just for the absence of war and violence in a country but for a much more comprehensive idea of security with the basic human needs at its centre: these include security from violence, but also adequate food, accommodation and health care. The idea is that human security should contribute to peace and wellbeing in the world.
This concept is particularly relevant in conflict and war situations, but also after the end of conflicts, in all of which cases civilians are usually the weakest and most vulnerable. The international human rights system, humanitarian international law and refugee law therefore provide important foundations for human security.
The Human Security Network (HSN), an association of foreign ministers from 13 countries, has set itself the task of promoting the concept of human security as a feature of all national and international policies. The standpoints espoused by the HSN should be fostered above all within the United Nations. There is also close cooperation with academics and civil society. The network arose in 1999 from the successful collaboration between Austria, Norway and Canada with a view to achieving an international ban on anti-personnel mines. The current members are Austria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland and Thailand, with South Africa participating as an observer. Greece took over chairmanship of the Network in May 2007.
Apart from urging states to accede to the Anti-Personnel Mine Convention and the International Criminal Court, focuses of the HSN include the control of small arms and light weapons, the promotion of women, peace and security, the protection of children in armed conflicts, questions of humanitarian international law, and dialogue between civilisations.
Austria chaired the Network in 2002/2003. During this time it focused in particular on human rights education as a basic prerequisite for human security. To this end ETC Graz elaborated a manual on human rights education entitled “Understanding Human Rights” on behalf of the then Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which has now been translated into 11 languages and used in various projects, some of which are supported by the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs and Austrian Development Agency (ADA). A further focus of the Austrian chairmanship was the protection of children in armed conflicts. In this context, a strategy paper to strengthen the rights of children in armed conflicts was elaborated together with a syllabus for teaching children’s law to be used in the preparation of the military for EU and UN missions abroad.
Today the commitment by the Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs to promote human security focuses above all on the further development and improved implementation of the international human rights system and humanitarian international law; children in armed conflicts; and combating anti-personnel mines and an international agreement on cluster munitions.
The Network calls for an improvement in cooperation by the international community in the UN Human Rights Council. Together with Japan and the Friends of Human Security, the Network is also involved in the follow-up and implementation of the concept of human security, which was included for the first time in the General Assembly World Summit Outcome document in September 2005.
The most recent ministerial meeting of the Network in May 2007 in Ljubljana continued its consideration of the subjects of children in armed conflicts, violence against children and the Austrian initiative of an international agreement on cluster munitions. The main focus of the Greek chairmanship is the effect of climate change on human security.