25th Anniversary of the Human Security concept

Keynote Speech: Reflections on the past 25 years since the Human Development Report of 1994 and discuss the contribution the Human Security approach has made to the achievement of the SDGs

February 28, 2019


As prepared for delivery.

I am delighted to be here with you to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Human Security concept.

I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to the Governments of Japan, Norway, South Africa and Thailand and to the UN’s Human Security Unit for inviting me to deliver this keynote speech today.

The Concept of Human Security

The concept of human security was brought to life in UNDP’s landmark 1994 Human Development Report, entitled, “New Dimensions of Human Security”.

The report introduced a new concept of human security, which equates security with people rather than territories, with development rather than arms.

It recognized that measuring income is simply not enough to gauge the wellbeing of people.

The 1994 report stressed that human security is people-centered and, “is concerned with how people live and breathe in a society, how freely they exercise their many choices, how much access they have to market and social opportunities – and whether they live in conflict or in peace”.  

The concept revolves around the importance of affording people “freedom from fear” and “freedom from want”.

The concept of human security has of course evolved since the landmark 1994 report. General Assembly resolution 66/290 of 2012 was an important milestone as it described human security as, “the right of people to live in freedom and dignity, free from poverty and despair”.

In 25 years, the concept has gone from the theoretical to the practical. It is an idea that has now been rightly recognized by many governments as well as the broader development community.

Just last year, the UN Secretary-General said that, “Human security, national security and global security are indivisible. When people fear for their lives, their communities, societies and countries are at increased risk. When people enjoy safety, so do their countries and the world.”

There has also been an enormous increase in interest among policy-makers and scientists in both subjective wellbeing. Behavioral economics has recognized the fundamental role that fear can play in peoples’ lives, shaping their wellbeing and behaviour. This is especially pertinent given the number of conflicts and violence that we are seeing across the world.

Human security links to the human development approach which is about expanding the richness of human life, rather than simply the richness of the economy in which human beings live are clear: one cannot exist without the other.

Human security as a key approach further 2030 Agenda

As with the human development approach, the concept of human security it is closely related to the 2030 Agenda. Human security’s people-centered approach is an essential tool to realize the core ambition of the 2030 Agenda – that is to leave no one behind.

The concept of human security ensured a better Agenda 2030 than would otherwise have been possible to negotiate.

Both the SDGs and human security recognize that development challenges are complex and interlinked and that, an integrated, multi-dimensional approach to development is needed.

The humanitarian-development-peace nexus also sits at the core of the notion of human security. Essentially, it is a recognition of the fact that sustainable development and sustaining peace are two sides of the same coin.

UNDP works on the range of SDGs that are human security-related. Echoing human security principles, the 2030 Agenda emphasizes a very basic human needs such as a world free of poverty, hunger, disease as well as access to safe drinking water and food.

SDG 16 is one of the key SDGs to promote human security. It sets us the goal to promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels.

UNDP, as the UN’s development arm is undertaking much of this work. Its interventions on the ground are designed to support the rule of law, build sustainable state institutors and foster security and resilience. By doing so, we are contributing to individual’s ability to thrive and prosper, to live in peace and free from fear.

Achieving human security – as with the SDGs - requires close cooperation amongst various stakeholders including states, international organizations, business, civil society and academia.

This is, I know, a belief that JICAshares with us. Madam Sadako Ogata, a former head of JICA, stressed that human security meant both protecting and empowering people and I am proud that we continue to cooperate with JICA to achieve this around the world.

Japan’s significant contributions to the Global Fund are critical to ending AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria as epidemics - this tangible contribution represents a snapshot of how they are using multilateralism to bring positive change at the micro-, human-level.

Moreover, TICAD continues to demonstrate the importance of a multilateral approach that advances human rights - one of the core tenets of the human security approach. Following on from TICAD 6 – which was of great significance as it was the first time that TICAD was be held on the African soil – the upcoming TICAD 7 will serve as a further critical juncture.

UNDP’s practical promotion of human security

Promoting human security is integral to UNDP’s approach to supporting countries achieve their development aspirations.

UNDP’s Strategic Plan recognizes that inclusive and accountable governance systems and processes are vital building blocks to drive structural transformations and the fact that building resilience to the impact of disasters and emergencies is crucial to supporting sustainable development and human security.

The UN Human Security Trust Fund finances programmes that translate the human security approach into practical actions - providing concrete and sustainable benefits to vulnerable people and communities threatened in their survival, livelihood and dignity.

UNDP has been one of the largest implementers of the Trust Fund – receiving over $150 million and participating in over 100 programmes.

As we celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Fund this year, I would like to sincerely thank the Government of Japan, which led the establishment of the Fund. Japan has contributed continuously to this fund since then which has allowed UNDP to bring concrete results to people on the ground.

For example:

·         In Costa Rica and Panama - a joint programme between UNDP, IOM, UNFPA and UNICEF is supporting local and national authorities to develop an effective cross-border strategy - as indigenous groups from western Panama cross into Costa Rica in search of seasonal employment. The programme has strengthened the economic, food and health security of these vulnerable groups in Panama.

·         In Ethiopia’s Gambella Regional State, UNDP, in cooperation with other UN agencies, and with great support from Japan, has worked to enhance the resilience of internally displaced persons as well as refugee-hosting communities.

·         In Afghanistan, UNDP is promoting alternative livelihoods to opium cultivation for 230,000 people by strengthening community-based local production and marketing of high-value crops, such as apples, pomegranates, pistachios and grapes.


From Costa Rica to Ethiopia to Afghanistan - across 170 countries - UNDP is proud to work with governments and the UN system to make human security a reality, widening opportunities for people in order to allow them to fulfill their full potential.

I will close with a special thanks to the tremendous cooperation we have had – and will continue to have – with Japan on this vital work.

We are very proud to be able to continue to help advance both human security and the 2030 Agenda to deliver a fairer and a more secure future for all.