Prof. Siba Grovogui, The Missing Human: Intervention, Human Security, and Empire (Sound clip))

The Missing Human: Intervention, Human Security, and Empire

It is often said that human security is an emerging or emergent paradigm for understanding global vulnerabilities that challenges the traditional notion of national security. The context from which this understanding emerges is a certain liberal humanitarianism according to which the proper referent for security is the individual rather than the state – or even collectives, only they can be loosely construed as ‘people’. The collapse of the cold war and the so-called failure of states in the Balkans and Africa seem to have provided the opening for the emergence of the related line of thought or reasoning in such diverse fields as development studies, international relations, strategic studies, and human rights studies. The underlying liberal humanitarianism has recently taken a decidedly ‘philanthropic’ tone, particularly in development and human rights studies, according to which human security is understood as both ‘freedom from want’ and ‘freedom from fear’. Human security thus emerges as desire to institutionalize global solidarity and a plea to states to act with caution during war or to prevent harm to individual when lives are already endangered. The plea to states harkens to humanitarian law while the admonition to prevent harm leads to humanitarian intervention. In this manner, the notion of human security is a subspecies of modern humanitarian thought and like the latter the former likely reinforces imperial imaginaries and the structures of order and morality. This is why the concept of human security has not gained traction at the level of policy in regions where it was intended to apply. There, as in Africa, the tendency continues to be to confront the structures that produce precariousness and thus undermine life.