January 23, 2023
The 12th Annual Conference of the Japan Association for Human Security Studies (JAHSS) took place on Nov. 5-6, 2022. During one of the plenary sessions, “Human Security Today,” researchers from the JICA Ogata Sadako Research Institute for Peace and Development (JICA Ogata Research Institute) gave presentations on several themes discussed in the inaugural issue of the institute’s flagship report series which is also titled “Human Security Today.”
In the modern world, existing threats such as armed conflicts, natural disasters, forced migration and the negative effects of globalization are worsening. Meanwhile, new threats such as the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change and the negative aspects of digitalization are emerging. This session proposed that human security perspectives are effective in accurately understanding such global challenges and addressing them appropriately. The theory and practice of human security were then revisited from contemporary perspectives and future prospects were considered.
An overview of each presentation by the institute’s researchers is provided below.
■Human Security and Development Cooperation Today: Makino Koji, director general
Human security is a concept that focuses on a variety of threats and the vulnerability of people, organizations and societies. By protecting and empowering people, it aims to create a resilient society where everyone has the freedom from fear and want, and is able to fully maintain his/her dignity. Furthermore, human security can be seen as the basis of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Indeed, the concept of the SDGs which looks at each individual and aims to “leave no one behind,” has its roots in human security. To achieve human security against today’s emerging threats, three types of transformation—creating shared value (CSV), digitalization and global governance—are important.
■History of Human Security Research: Muto Ako, executive senior research fellow; Sugitani Kota, research assistant; Takeuchi Kaito, research officer; Oyama Nobuaki, research officer
This presentation started by looking back at how the concept of human security has developed over the years, mainly at United Nations (UN) platforms. Human security practices addressing existing and emerging modern threats were then examined by looking at the JICA Ogata Research Institute’s research project “Human Security in Practice: East Asian Experiences” and a case study from JICA’s project that tackled human trafficking. A wide variety of practices that are essential in promoting human security to protect lives, livelihoods and dignity were shared in detail. Finally, future prospects in terms of the potential of human security research were considered.
■Understanding and Practicing Human Security in Africa: Hanatani Atsushi, senior research fellow
Human security has been seen as a key policy concept in Japan’s development cooperation with Africa. In the meantime, how has Africa perceived and practiced human security? Moreover, how are such perceptions and practices changing amidst the COVID-19 pandemic? To answer these questions, this presentation looked at key discourses on human security in Africa and key policy documents and activities of the African Union. Furthermore, results of a case study on South Africa, a country that has been positively regarding human security in Africa, were shared.
■COVID-19 and Healthcare: Makimoto Saeda, principal research fellow; Saito Kiyoko, senior research fellow; Komasawa Makiko, research fellow; Isono Mitsuo, senior advisor, JICA
Humans have historically been threatened by disease outbreaks on many occasions. Building on the experience, global health security frameworks were established and the systems in each state have been reinforced. Meanwhile, efforts to achieve universal health coverage—allowing people to receive necessary health services when they need them—have been made as well. The challenges that were confronted and how they were addressed while these systems functioned amidst the COVID-19 pandemic were reviewed from human security perspectives. The results were shared in this presentation.
Discussion on Human Security
After the presentations by the researchers, Sato Jin, visiting fellow (also a professor at the University of Tokyo), who served as a panelist, pointed out that while the idea of human security probably originated from situations where states are unable or unwilling to protect its people, in Africa, states are often the source of threats. He asked how development assistance can protect people placed in such circumstances.
The outline of Hanatani’s response is as follows:
This issue has been discussed in Africa to date. Some think that the people need to be protected by international organizations because states do not protect them. Others think that even if protection by the global community is offered, this would only be temporary and improvements in state governance are essential to address the issue at a more fundamental level. As a development assistance organization, JICA needs to take on the latter and continue to be involved. Meanwhile, following the Global Compact on Refugees, in recent years as a development assistance organization, JICA is also providing assistance to those in protracted refugee situations who are outside the scope of state protection. JICA is now able to provide direct assistance in some situations.
Sato asked whether human security should be a global concept. He argued that since states and/or regions have contexts and cultures that are unique to themselves, human security should be in line with them. Muto responded, first by stating that there is a consensus to a certain degree around the common understanding on the global concept of human security through a UN General Assembly resolution adopted in 2012. She next shared that the JICA Ogata Research Institute has been studying how human security is being understood and practiced at the national level in East and Southeast Asia. As a result of such studies, practices centered around human security and protection in line with such contexts are becoming clearer. Muto then said that from here, practices for empowerment need to be further elucidated.
There was a question from the floor about whether the panelists have a critical view toward the COVAX Facility (COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access Facility). The outline of Makimoto’s response was as follows: COVAX was unable to distribute vaccines as planned due to politics and policies in high-income countries. However, COVAX is a completely new innovative mechanism based on multisectoral efforts and one does not have to be critical about this mechanism itself. Based on the review , COVAX will be reorganized into a procurement mechanism with a scope that is not limited to COVID-19 vaccines.
In addition to these questions, there were comments on the importance of cooperation between different areas, and how to secure the safety of non-citizens, that is, those who are not recognized as citizens that governments must protect, such as people who are not officially registered as refugees. Active discussion followed.
JICA Ogata Research Institute Report “Human Security Today” (No.1, 2022): Revisiting Human Security