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SARPN Seminar: Human security, poverty and conflict in SADC

31 August 2005

La Bourdonnais Hotel, Port Louis, Mauritius

[Concept note]  [Agenda and seminar papers]  [Related documents]  [Related websites]  [Seminar report]
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Concept note

In 1994 the United Nations Development programme in its Human Development Report introduced its new concept of human security. The new concept was based on equating security with people rather than territories and also with development rather than arms. Since then development actors have been advocating for a greater focus on human security which is concerned with the security of individuals alongside traditional security which focus on defending borders from external military threats and which places emphasis on the military and the arming of the military. The basis of these advocacy efforts is that human security considerations are also significant to the peace and security of nations and should thus be considered alongside traditional security considerations.

Countries of the SADC region face major human security challenges that have the potential to reverse the region’s gains in the area of governance, stability and poverty reduction. From The threats include inequality, gender imbalance, poverty, HIV/AIDS and forced migration. These human security threats exist alongside traditional threats to security like intra- and inter-state conflict.'

Policy discussions pertaining to peace and security however, remain largely at the state level, seldom recognising the contribution of human security considerations to stability in the region. In addition, these discussions are focussed on situations of violent conflict. It appears that there is presently insufficient focus on conflicts that are of a non-violent nature, and in particular, non-violent conflicts that are caused by or that give rise to worsened human insecurity among affected communities. Hence for instance, whilst the denial of secure food and shelter to certain groups as a result of their perceived political affiliation by the authorities in their country may not be a result of, nor the cause of violent conflict in the particular country, it may certainly lead to mass migration, resulting in increased poverty, increased vulnerability of girls and women, higher levels of illness from malaria, cholera and HIV/AIDS, loss in income, and greater lack of access to basis services (i.e. human insecurity), all of which ultimately have a destabilising effect on the region or country.

Indeed, it can be argued that there are more countries whose peace and stability may be under threat as a result of under-development and/or deteriorating livelihoods of their vulnerable communities than countries whose security and stability is under threat from traditional state security factors of a violent nature. Poverty deserves particular mention in this regard. Yet, the deployment of resources in response to these two categories of threats tends to be skewed in favour of conventional state security threats. A scan of the recent outcomes of the African Union Summit in Sirte and the G8 meeting in Gleneagles reveals greater focus by both respective meetings on building the capacity of African states to address conventional threats to state security and violent conflicts than that to address non-violent threats to human security. Clearly, a balance needs to be established between meeting the pressing economic and social needs of the populations while taking care of the security needs of the state. The failure to do so may have serious implications for the achievement of peace and security in our region.

This marginal nature of human considerations in prevailing peace and security debates exists in spite of existing opportunities for more significant engagement with this area. At the regional level, the SADC Treaty emphases socio-economic development and commitments for the promotion of democracy. The achievement of these commitments and indicators would have the effect of considerably addressing the human security concerns of the region. Similarly, the addressing Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) also provide a framework for addressing the human security challenges in the region. How can existing frameworks be exploited to raise the profile of the human dimension to the peace and security of our respective states? In this regard, The Southern African Regional Poverty Network (SARPN), proposes a one day seminar titled Human Security, Poverty and Conflict. The objective of the seminar will be to:

  • examine the current status and responses to prevailing human security threats, including poverty, in the SADC region
  • profile current trends with respect to the causal-effect relationship between human security (including poverty), non-violent conflicts and stability
  • identify prospects for enhancing the profile of the human security debate in relation to the conventional security debate.
The seminar will aim to bring together policy actors working security, poverty and development issues from a range of sectors including NGOs, researchers and policy makers.

Outcomes are expected to include:

  • a position paper of policy actors from the SADC region;
  • possible strategies for raising the profile of the human security debate and possibly
  • a list of initiatives proposed for implantation by civil society actors.



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