Helen Clark: Speech to Symposium on Human Security at TICAD V

Jun 2, 2013

Helen Clark, UNDP Administrator
Speech to Symposium on Human Security at TICAD V
Yokohama, Japan,
Sunday 2 June, 2.00-3.30pm

I am very pleased to speak at this event on the impact of human security initiatives.

Almost twenty years ago, the concept of human security was introduced to global development discourse by UNDP through the 1994 global Human Development Report. The report defined human security as having two key elements: “freedom from want” and “freedom from fear”. It noted that “Most people instinctively understand what security means. It means safety from the constant threats of hunger, disease, crime and repression. It also means protection from sudden and hurtful disruptions in …. our daily lives – whether in our homes, in our jobs, in our communities or in our environment”.

Last year, the UN General Assembly noted that the human security approach assists Member States to identify and address widespread and cross-cutting challenges to the survival, livelihood and dignity of their people.   

The concept of human security is relevant across UNDP’s work – from that on poverty reduction and food security, to rule of law, citizen security, human rights, conflict prevention, gender, youth, and climate change and the environment.  It shares the same core principles as the concept of human development – the paradigm in which UNDP has worked since 1990.

UNDP is the largest implementer of projects funded by the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security. The majority of these are located in Africa. I take this opportunity to recognize the very significant contributions of Japan to the Trust Fund.

We have learned a number of important lessons from implementing the human security approach in the field. Let me highlight a few of those lessons here today.

First, UNDP finds that the human security approach leads to deeper analysis of the root causes and consequences of the insecurities which undermine people’s lives.  That in turn leads to initiatives which relate to all three pillars of the UN Charter – development, human rights, and peace and security – making it possible for actors across these three areas to complement each other’s work.  

For example, in Liberia, a human security project aimed at rebuilding and empowering communities began by addressing some of the root causes of the conflict, including the lack of jobs and the consequences of long-term poverty. Greater human security through these interventions helped broaden community engagement in reconciliation and recovery.

Second, a recent assessment of the impact of initiatives supported by the UN Trust Fund for Human Security found that the human security approach, with its focus on collaboration and partnership, resulted in improved collaboration across UN agencies, reduced transaction costs for national counterparts, more unified interaction with governments, and better results at the community level.  

For example, in northern Ghana, the UN Joint Programme on Human Security brought together a number of UN agencies to develop local capacity for community-based conflict prevention. Six UN partners, FAO, UNDP, UNICEF, UNIDO, WFP and the UN University, working in partnership with local stakeholders, brought their expertise together in governance, peace-building, sustainable livelihoods, small enterprise development, and food security and nutrition to improve human security. 

Third, evidence suggests that the human security approach empowers communities, strengthens local capacities, and improves the resilience to current and future threats.

For example, in northern Uganda, there is strong evidence that livelihoods recovery initiatives which combine support to small enterprise development and community-based micro-financing have not only resulted in improved income security, but have also generated local pride, and ownership, and a determination to expand the results to the community at large. 

Fourth, the focus onreduction of inequalities in the economic, political, and social spheres, including gender inequality, has been fundamental to achieving human security. Projects have focused on strengthening women’s access to justice, and engagement in conflict prevention, resolution and peacebuilding; ensuring inclusive economic recovery, and promoting gender-sensitive policies.

The endorsement in 2012 of a common understanding on human security by the UN General Assembly opens up more opportunities to mainstream the approach in the UN’s development work.  On-going consultations to frame a post-2015 Development Agenda provide another critical entry point to expand the applications of the human security approach.

UNDP looks forward to continued collaboration with our national and international partners to ensure that every person on earth lives a life ‘free from fear’ and ‘free from want’.  These concepts lie at the heart of the vision for both the human security and sustainable human development approaches. 


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