International Symposium on Human Security

August 2, 2000
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

On July 28, 2000, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs hosted the International Symposium on Human Security at the Takanawa Prince Hotel, Tokyo. Participants included experts and representatives of international organizations, government agencies, and nongovernmental organizations. The level of interest in human security is apparent from the fact that the meeting attracted an audience of approximately 1,000 people.

   In his opening speech to the symposium, Mr. Kiyohiro Araki, Senior State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Japan, referred to the significance of the meeting in the flow of events from the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit to the United Nations Millennium Summit. He expressed the hope that an intellectual discussion on the issues would further promote "human security" in the twenty-first century.

   Keynote speeches were presented by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Professor Amartya Sen, Trinity College, Cambridge. Mr. Kaoru Ishikawa, Deputy Director-General, Economic Affairs Bureau, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Japan, provided an outline report on the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit.

   Participating panelists then studied future approaches to human security through discussions of the human security aspects of development activities and approaches to dealing with the problems caused by conflicts.

1. Keynote Speeches and Report on the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit

Keynote Speech by Mrs. Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Mrs. Ogata said that human security, as viewed from the perspective of the refugee problem, was not a symbolic concept but rather a practical necessity that should be used as a tool for bringing about specific actions. She stressed the importance of specific projects and timely financial measures. She also identified the way conflicts are ended, the restoration of shattered communities, and support for human coexistence as the three crucial priorities for the realization of human security. Specific actions highlighted by Mrs. Ogata included filling the gaps between humanitarian assistance and long-term development and reconstruction assistance and the implementation of projects designed to increase the potential for coexistence. Mrs. Ogata welcomed the establishment of the Human Security Trust Fund by the Japanese government and called upon other governments and organizations to contribute funds for specific projects.

Keynote Speech by Professor Sen

Professor Sen acknowledged the keen vision of former Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi of Japan, who advocated the need for efforts in the area of human security. Professor Sen said that human security was a long-standing issue and that enhanced efforts were needed in this area now. In addition to his advocacy of "growth with fairness," Professor Sen stressed the need to ensure security during economic downturns. He said that political participation of the underprivileged was a priority in this context, in addition to the achievement of economic and social security. After stating that human security needed to be based on a global framework, Professor Sen said that it would be necessary to go beyond the Bretton Woods system. He called for a review of the roles of old institutions and for the establishment of a new approach to the reinforcement of human security.

Report on the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit

Mr. Kaoru Ishikawa of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan explained that participants at the G8 Kyushu-Okinawa Summit had discussed ways to achieve "greater prosperity," "deeper peace of mind," and "greater world stability" in the economic, social, and political spheres in the twenty-first century. He said that the summit had been characterized by transparency and a commitment to action. Mr. Ishikawa noted that the summit participants had discussed concrete action programs that encompassed relations with developing countries in such areas as information technology, health care (especially infectious diseases), education, crime, drugs, and the arms trade. He described how Japan sought to be a catalyst in this process by announcing specific international contributions in each area.

2. First Session: Human Security in Conflict-Related Issues (Humanitarian and Reconstruction Aid)

Participants noted that the end of the Cold War had been followed by an increase in the incidence of civil wars and regional conflicts and that the concept of "human security," defined as the protection of human beings from threats, needed to be added to the traditional notion of security as something related primarily to nation states. In relation to humanitarian assistance, reference was made to the frequency with which former militias carried out massacres in refugee camps. The international community was urged to respond fairly and promptly on the basis of a more frank awareness of the personal security implications of these law and order situations.

   Participants said that basic security mechanisms, such as the separation of military personnel from civilians, should be implemented. It was also argued that human security must be sustainable and that efforts to prevent recurrences of conflicts would only be effective after the achievement of sustainable security, which would require not only humanitarian assistance but also the closing of gaps by advancing international efforts from humanitarian assistance to support for development and reconstruction.

   Other views expressed in this context included a call for efforts to be accompanied, from the humanitarian assistance stage onward, by democracy education and programs to teach people about the need to understand others and coexist peacefully with them.

3. Second Session: Development (Health Care, Environment, IT)

Health care, the environment, and information technology were discussed from the perspectives that poverty means a lack of human opportunities and human security is vital to development.

Health Care

Participants in the session noted the importance, in terms of human security, of efforts to provide primary health care for all people and overcome the growing threat of infectious diseases by using all available technical means. The importance of social justice in the area of health care was also emphasized from the viewpoint that poverty and conflict heighten the risk of disease, and it was pointed out that human security is an effective concept for achieving social justice. Participants further stated that both independent regional involvement and global initiatives were needed and that private-sector cooperation was essential in such areas as research relating to HIV/AIDS.

Information Technology

Since advances in information technology are intended to increase the capacity of people and society, information technology should be used to eliminate poverty. Participants referred to the important role played by developed nations and international organizations in improving IT infrastructure in developing countries. Reference was also made to the importance of support for educational development and technology transfer.

The Environment

If present trends continue, there is a danger that the depletion of energy resources, global warming, and the waste problem will reach crisis levels in the twenty-first century. Session participants noted that technology was expected to bring dramatic improvements in the efficiency of energy utilization and that it should be possible to combine conservation of the global environment with the growth of developing countries by actively advancing technology based on a clear vision of industry and society in the twenty-first century and a total rethinking of lifestyles.

4. Third Session: Human Security in the Future

The consideration of human security with the emphasis on individual human beings, as well as macro-level perspectives, has provided valuable insights in relation to policy-making, both in Japan and in the international community, including the importance of coexistence based on trust and understanding between different cultures and nations in the world of the future. Participants affirmed the need for well-defined concepts and the establishment of clear policy priorities. They discussed the "three As" of human security (areas, actions, and actors):

Areas: Specific areas identified as being closely linked to human survival included poverty, the environment, health care, and humanitarian assistance. With regard to the priority order of concrete policies, particular emphasis was placed on the importance of involvement at the local level.

Actions: Participants highlighted the importance of funding, the need for global action, and the need for political will.

Actors: Participants placed importance on effective networking among various actors, including governments, international organizations, NGOs, and businesses. The need for international intellectual cooperation was also highlighted in this context. In relation to the importance of NGOs, it was revealed that UNHCR was planning a human security fund project to enhance the emergency response capabilities of NGOs in the Asia-Pacific region. Session participants were told that UNHCR, as an international organization, wanted to take full advantage of this opportunity.

5. Closing Session

In his summation of the symposium, Professor Sen noted that participants had been able to consider human security from a variety of interrelated perspectives. He highlighted the following points:

(1) Human security is an important concept that encompasses all issues.

(2) The symposium clearly showed that the lack of security in various forms is becoming increasingly serious and has become a central issue for the world today. The first task is to focus the attention of the world on this challenge and to use the United Nations Millennium Summit as a forum for responding to the need for human security. The report of the United Nations Secretary General to the Millennium Summit will have close relevance to the human security issues discussed at the symposium. We should begin by supporting this report, he said.

(3) Professor Sen acknowledged that the approach taken by former Prime Minister Obuchi, who classified issues into matters of "survival, daily life, and dignity," was very effective in discussing how to ensure human security by alleviating and eliminating the lack of security in most extreme forms. Discussion at this symposium suggests that the human security perspective offers an effective approach to conflict and development.

(4) Human security is an action-oriented approach that focuses on the individual. It is also an approach that seeks to protect people from danger during the inevitable downturns inherent in market economies. It complements and reinforces the two perspectives of human development and human rights, which the United Nations is already using as its approaches to global issues.

(5) Many interesting views were put forward at the symposium concerning issues that need to be considered in relation to the achievement of human security. What is needed now is the will to explore these issues further and promote human security.

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