[Viewpoint]A security policy with a human face

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[Viewpoint]A security policy with a human face

Since the end of the Cold War, armed conflicts have increasingly taken place within, and not between, countries. National security remains important, but in a world in which war between countries is the rare exception, and many more people are killed by their own governments than by foreign armies, the concept of “human security” has been gaining greater recognition.
Unlike traditional concepts of security, which stress defending borders from external military threats, human security is concerned with the security of individuals.
Canada’s approach to human security focuses on keeping people and their communities safe from physical violence. We adopted this approach after an assessment of the changing nature and scale of violent threats that individuals face.
These changing trends include disturbing phenomena such as deliberate injuries, fatalities and displacement of civilians by warring parties, the inability of failed states to ensure the security of their own people, forced recruitment of child soldiers by warring factions, the proliferation of small arms as the weapons of choice, and the use of rape as a war strategy.
Canada has supported a series of international initiatives aimed at filling gaps in the international normative, legal and institutional architecture related to people’s safety during times of civil war.
The first of these initiatives was the international effort to ban land mines, which resulted in the Ottawa Convention. Another important initiative was the negotiation of the Rome Statute, which led to the creation of the International Criminal Court.
With its explicit focus on crimes against humanity, the international court is an essential part of the broader institutional architecture necessary to enhance people’s safety from grotesque abuses perpetrated by their own governments.
Canada also supported the banning of child soldiers, as well as the protection of women’s rights and their full participation in peace processes. In addition, Canada has pursued a broad Protection of Civilians agenda focused on establishing international standards and norms as well as operational capacity in the field.
Canada first put the issue of civilian protection formally on the United Nations Security Council agenda in 1999, which resulted in two critical UN Security Council resolutions about the issue.
Security Council Resolution 1265 (in 1999) and Security Council Resolution 1296 (in 2000) explicitly affirmed the Council’s role in responding to situations of armed conflict where civilians were deliberately under threat, or where assistance to them was obstructed.
While progress in the international arena has been remarkable, much work still needs to be done. The pressing challenge now is to make the transition from developing norms and building institutions to the systematic monitoring and enforcement of the new standards, and increasing international capacity to respond to concerns about protection. Ongoing conflicts such as those in Darfur, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Northern Uganda and Sri Lanka put the commitment and political will of the international community to the test.
There are three key ingredients to ensuring timely and effective international action to avert or respond to humanitarian crises. These are unambiguous Security Council leadership, continued international emphasis on ending impunity and a commitment by countries to advance a culture of prevention in practical and meaningful ways. Our success will be measured most directly in the lives saved, displacements averted and in the mitigation and ending of conflicts.
Korea and Canada are natural partners on these issues, sharing the same democratic values and devotion to multilateralism. In this light, conferences such as the one organized by Kyung Hee University on Feb. 28, titled “Human Security and New Diplomacy: The Canadian Perspective and Korean Implications,” are timely and relevant to both Canada and Korea. Canada plays a leading role in international efforts to promote human security and in seeking multilateral cooperation. Korea has been a partner in these efforts and is increasingly aware of the need to contribute more toward these global causes.
Canada and Korea share the same objective of constructing a global society in which the safety and well-being of the individual is an international priority and a motivating force for international action; a society in which international humanitarian standards and the rule of law are woven into a coherent web protecting the individual, where those who violate these standards are held fully accountable; and finally, a society in which our global, regional and bilateral institutions -- present and future -- are built and equipped to promote and enforce these standards.
Through collaborative efforts, I am hopeful we can develop concrete ideas and creative policy solutions that will help our governments and civil communities work together to address these global concerns and ensure true security for all people and respect for fundamental human rights.

*The writer is the Canadian ambassador to the Republic of Korea.

by Marius Grinius

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