The Olav Palme Leeds Memorial Lecture Security for People -the real alternative to crisis and war
By Professor Sir Richard Jolly March 26th, 2012 Lord Mayor, Let me start with congratulations to Leeds, to Michael McGovern and to all who helped create and sustain this wonderful annual lecture. For a great city to have such a lecture is in the pioneering tradition of cities and towns declaring that they are nuclear weapon free-zones or free trade areas. I am glad to learn that Leeds has long been in this tradition too –and that you even have a band, WFANFC - Working for a Nuclear Free City!. We need more of this - thinking globally and acting locally, in a way which goes beyond the circle of the converted to make clear to many others, supporters and opponents alike, that these are big issues and there are alternatives. All this was deep in the thinking and lifetime leadership of Olav Palme, student activist, Stockholm politician, Swedish Prime Minister and always a global leader ready to take world initiatives when the need and opportunity presented itself. I only met Olav on one individual occasion when he was considering me for his Independent Commission on Disarmament and Security Issues – and he turned me down! I feel therefore a special challenge tonight! But I have been privileged to know Lisbet Palme for many years – and to enjoy her friendship and support for children and UNICEF. I am truly honoured to have been asked to present this lecture. Common Security, the Report of Olav Palme’s Commission was an early and pioneering example of broadening the concept of security beyond traditional views. The Report began with the horrors of nuclear war – and what in 1981-2 was a deteriorating international situation, with escalating tensions between the US and the USSR.. The Commission was composed of members from East and West, North and South. Their different backgrounds and perspectives gave special meaning to their call for common security, far beyond the then mainstream doctrine of mutual deterrence, with all the dangers that posed. Their aim was to produce a downward spiral in armaments and arms spending –and underlying their many recommendations was their emphasis on how arms expenditures diverted resources from tackling the real problems of developing countries - poverty and deprivation and economic inequality. The Palme Commission did not foresee the remarkable ending of the cold war between East and West in the late 1980s. This led to impressive reductions of world armaments expenditures by almost a third between 1987 and 1996, not only in NATO, Russia and the former USSR countries in transition but in a large majority of other countries as well. Olav and his fellow commissioners would certainly have welcomed this –just as certainly as they would later have despaired at the way, in 1998,, after nearly a decade of decline, military spending started to regain its upward momentum. Today we have reached the point where world military spending has reached 1.6 trillion dollars. And the increases are not only by the US and USSR but also by China, India and Brazil. We need to remember the words of General Eisenhower when, after 8 years as President of the United States, he warned in his closing address of the power and
influence of “the military-industrial complex”. “War in our time”, he said, “has become an anachronism. Whatever the case in the past, war in the future can serve no useful purpose”. And he added, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in a final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, from those who are cold and are not clothed”. At a time of cuts and austerity, we ought to remember these words as inspiration. But let me go back to the concept of common security. Over the 1990s, attention shifted from the concept of common security to the concept of human security. Human security is more fundamental - much broader and more explicitly focused on people and the security of their situation. UNDP’s Human Development Report of 1994 put it like this: “For too long, the concept of security has been shaped by the potential for conflict between states. For too long, security has equated with threats to a country’s borders. For too long, nations have sought arms to protect their security.” The report went on, “For most people today, a feeling of insecurity rises more from worries about daily life than from the dread of a cataclysmic world event. Job security, income security, health security, environmental security, security from crime –these are the emerging concerns of human security all over the world”. The 1999 Human Development Report on Globalization added financial security and food security. Stronger regional and global governance is needed, if the insecurities in any of these areas are not to spread and multiply from country to country. Diseases do not need passports to travel – as we have seen with HIV/AIDS and with Avian bird flu– or, I should add, with financial panics, financial instabilities and flows of money at the touch of a computer button. In other words, freedom from war, though fundamental, does not go far enough. Human security means not only peace, but freedom from a whole range of other risks to full life. Since the concept was launched by the UN in the 1990s, the ideas of human security have been taken up, developed further and grown and spread. In 2003, a commission headed by Mrs Sadako Ogata, the former head of the UNHCR and Professor Amartya Sen, the Nobel Prize Winning economist, produced, Human Security Now, a report elaborating the concept and how it could be applied, nationally and internationally. Then Kofi Annan as UN Secretary-General established a high level panel on Threats, Challenges and Change. The panel identified clusters of major threats: Economic and Social threats, including poverty, infectious disease and environmental degradation; Conflicts including wars, genocide, weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, and finally transnational organized crime. The panel made three important points about confronting these threats from social misery, conflicts and crime: FIRST, prevention is always better and cheaper than cure than picking up the pieces after some crisis or disaster. SECOND all of the threats need collective action not only unilateral action or even action by some “coalition of the willing” which usually lacks legal authority and international legitimacy; and THIRD, the United Nations has a key role in supporting all of these actions but to do so effectively, the UN needs strengthening for the 21st century and we need stronger commitments to global governance.
A year later, Kofi Annan himself issued his own proposals for taking these ideas forward. He called his document, In Larger Freedom –towards development, security and human rights for all which provides important guidelines for action. Following these international initiatives, the next step in advancing the human security concept has been working out what it means at country level. Almost 20 National Human Security Reports have been prepared, investigating what a human security approach involves in such diverse situations as Kenya and Mozambique, East Timor and the Solomon Islands, Palestine and the Arab Region, Thailand and in a country still torn by conflict - Afghanistan. Let me tell you something about one of these reports – the one on human security in Latvia, with its population of just over 2 million It is something of a model –perhaps even a model for what could be done in Leeds. A small Latvian group comprising university members undertook a survey of its population, based on a representative sample of 1000 men and women, asking each person to list what they felt to be their main personal insecurities. At the top, came falling sick without adequate medical or hospital care and health insurance, second came fears around income: insufficient pension in old age, inability to pay rent or to support oneself. Losing their job and losing income or having an accident were also high on the list. Another set included such threats as “being emotionally abused” by civil servants, or police officers or in the family or physically abused at home. Other threats included contracting HIV-Aids, not having enough to eat, or becoming victim of a terrorist attack. A second set of concerns, explored in a second round of interviews, was focused on general threats - and here the spread of narcotic drugs, of organised crime, of HIV-Aids, and rapid inflation were the strongest concerns. This was only the first stage. The Latvian study then looked at what needed to be done to diminish the insecurities, taking into account the concept of “securitability” – factors that can help individuals to enhance their sense of security and opportunities for overcoming or minimizing feelings of insecurity and anxiety. In the case of Latvia, securitability was seen to come from individual, positive close relationships, and social contact networks, but the report identified a role of government for ensuring economic, health, community and personal security. The purpose of all this, and of the other reports on human security, was far more than academic. It was to set guidelines for action –by government, communities, nongovernment groups and individuals. The Latvian report provided a positive agenda for action, taking human security from concept to practice. Currently, the Latvian government is designing a national development strategy 2014-2020, using human security, and factors that enable securitability, in its discussions with policy makers and civil society. Such country analyses have stirred growing interest and political support for the concept of human security. What makes this surprising is that it was not expected –indeed the concept of human security was earlier rubbished by some very distinguished political analysts and professors of international relations. (Some of you who are not professors may say - “so what’s new!” As Josh Billings once said, , The writings of professors have cast much darkness on the subject – and it is certain if they continue, we shall soon know nothing at all!)
The criticism of human security made by some political scientists and international relations experts –Neil MacFarlane and Yuen Foong Khong of Oxford, for example-is that the very concept is too broad. It’s good, they say, to focus on people – but not to include such a broad range of causes of insecurity. So they argue that human security must be limited to some deliberate attempt of some aggressor “to do you down”. Going beyond this is simply to rename as human security all sort of problems which already have perfectly good names. And if human security is to cover so many risks and uncertainties, where does one stop? In my view, there are clear answers to such concerns. Human security needs to be considered in a specific context, where the insecurities which people experience or feel can be identified and then ranked, in terms of those which people find most serious. This then can lead to an agenda for action. The list may be long but this then is reality – after which priorities must be set. To an economist, deciding on priorities for human security is like deciding on the priorities for a budget. One cannot rule out anything on principle. One must set priorities in relation to the issues which are deemed most important. The doubts by academics have not held back most governments. The government of Japan created an international fund for supporting human security action and the government of Canada has set up an institution on human security –although with a somewhat narrower remit. Perhaps more significant, the UN General Assembly has had two debates on human security in recent years – in 2009 and 2011. Nearly a hundred governments have spoken and welcomed the concept and ideas, some describing ways in which the ideas have entered their policy making. All but a few have indicated support. Those who expressed strong doubts – Cuba, Venezuela and Libya – mostly fear that the concept could be confused with R2P-the Responsibility to Protect –and lead on to intervention in the name of the Right to intervene. Let me end, by underlining what I would suggest are the practical implications of human security for a city like Leeds – in the context of the United Kingdom today. I do this with some hesitation. I have not come here this evening to suggest definite answers for what is not my own city and is, indeed, a city and a situation about which I know far too littlethough I would love to know more. So my conclusions are offered in the spirit of suggestions for discussion and debate. I can only I hope they are worth some consideration by those who share human concerns and concerns for peace and security for the community and people who live in and around Leeds. My first conclusion is that human security reinforces the wisdom of Leeds in setting up an annual peace lecture. Peace and human security are universal needs –and a yearly occasion for considering what this means is certainly a step in the right direction. Second, at a time of austerity, reductions in military expenditure need to be kept high on the agenda. The present government has already made some cuts in the military which should be welcomed. But a focus on human security raises questions about whether there should be further shifts from the military to support to human security. Even after the cuts, Britain will be spending a higher share of its GNP on the military than most other developed countries, let alone most others in Europe and Japan. And surely, the cuts of austerity should have extended to cutting the more than £80 billion pounds committed to the renewal of Trident.
But third, are there more direct applications of human security in the context of this great city? Is Human Security a concept worth reviewing in Leeds today? Is this a topic which should be explicitly considered in some debate of the Council? Is there a role for some form of survey or equivalent investigation designed to understand better the insecurities which people of Leeds experience and feel in their lives today? Do social and other community workers consider these issues adequately? Do the planners and finance officers of the city take issues of human security adequately into account in the decision they make? How adequately are insecurities monitored or reported on by council officials? How are situations of human insecurity experienced among the different ethnic communities of Leeds. And what about the schools and education system? Do children in schools of Leeds learn about peace and human security? How many children in Leeds realize that Costa Rica abolished its army in 1949 –and has had no army for the more than 60 years since that date? Or that nearly 20 other countries have no army? Have any students graduating from the University of Leeds spent a post-graduate year in the University of Peace in San Jose, Costa Rica. Might one of your industrialists provide a scholarship to make this possible? These are some of the questions which human security raises for a great city like Leeds. Perhaps Leeds could be a pioneer in applying the concept of human security today. Only you can say –but I thank you for the opportunity to discuss human security and to raise these questions. I look forward to hearing your reactions.