JAHSS 2023 Plenary Session on a New Book on Human Security and Empowerment


On Dec. 3, 2023, the editors and contributors of Human Security and Empowerment in Asia: Beyond the Pandemic presented their work during the plenary session of the Japan Association for Human Security Studies (JAHSS) Annual Conference 2023, held at Kobe University in Hyogo, Japan. The session which introduced the new open access book, was aligned with the overall conference theme of “Reconceptualizing Human Security” and provided fresh perspectives on human security by exploring the concept of empowerment from theoretical and practical viewpoints. The panel re-emphasized the importance of examining the agency of vulnerable populations in dealing with multiple insecurities, especially considering the challenges brought about by the pandemic.

The session began with Mely Caballero-Anthony, professor of International Relations at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, who introduced the book and its key findings. Caballero-Anthony emphasized the need for solidarity due to the interconnected nature of the challenge, reinforced by our interdependence.

Professor Mely Caballero-Anthony of RSIS, Nanyang Technological University, delivered the introduction.

Professor Mely Caballero-Anthony of RSIS, Nanyang Technological University, delivered the introduction.

Four case study contributors presented chapters on poverty, food security, gender, and environmental security. First, Vu Le Thao Chi from Keio University discussed the economic insecurity experienced by an impoverished neighborhood in Ho Chi Minh City during the pandemic. Second, Jonatan A. Lassa from Charles Darwin University, Australia, provided a prerecorded presentation on food security among internally displaced persons in Indonesia during the pandemic. Third, Arisman from the Center for Southeast Asian Studies in Indonesia discussed the intersection of COVID-19 and environmental insecurity experienced by residents along the Citarum River, Indonesia. Fourth, Ma. Lourdes Veneracion from Ateneo de Manila University presented an examination of the horizontal and vertical empowerment of women in the Philippines during the pandemic.

From left to right: Vu Le Thao Chi (Keio University), Arisman (Center for Southeast Asian Studies), Ma. Lourdes Veneracion (Ateneo de Manila University), and Nishikawa Yukiko (Doshisha University)

Mine Yoichi, executive director of the JICA Ogata Sadako Research Institute for Peace and Development, concluded the presentations with a speech about the value of examining empowerment in the context of human security. He reiterated that human security discourse should go beyond identifying people’s insecurities and the need for protection, because it is equally important to recognize people’s agency as a significant force in the development of people’s empowerment, as presented in some of the chapters in the book.

Yoichi Mine, executive director of the JICA Ogata Research Institute discussed human security and the value of examining empowerment.

A lively and stimulating discussion ensued with insights and feedback on the book from Professor Nishikawa Yukiko of Doshisha University. The authors and editors of the book responded to thought-provoking questions on the long-term impact and sustainability of empowerment initiatives, addressing the protection and empowerment nexus, and alternative interpretations of empowerment. The plenary audience also raised questions regarding human security research during COVID-19 and the role of culture in developing people’s empowerment.

This plenary session is one of the activities held to disseminate the results of the JICA Ogata Research Institute project on “Human Security and the Practices of Empowerment in East Asia.” This latest book on human security is published by Routledge and is available in an open-access format.

Editors and contributors of Human Security and Empowerment in Asia: Beyond the Pandemic

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