The COVID-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of human life, from emergency supplies to personal liberties to national and international solidarity. The measures taken to contain this pandemic will also exert a lasting impact on every facet of human existence, from healthcare systems to the economy to politics.
In the context of global crisis, concerns over human security must fundamentally inform efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic and must also govern the post-pandemic world. The present study recognizes this obligation and aims to demonstrate that the concept of human security must be clearly understood to attain a wider re-construal of sustainability beyond its current narrow focus on environmental problems.
For this purpose, the paper provides a historical review of the overlaps and complementarities between the two concepts—human security and sustainability—as described through the series of Human Development Reports. It reveals that while the concept of sustainability has become the overarching framework for drawing up development goals, as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) shows; it “failed to include any serious concern for shocks, downside risks and crisis management.” The paper argues that human security approach offers “a better frame to cover the whole crisis management cycle of response, recovery, prevention and preparedness” and concludes that “any effort to redefine sustainability will not work unless a human security approach is used to supplement attention to protection from and resilience against shocks and downside risks, and to dignity throughout the full crisis management cycle.” After the general discussion, the paper reviews specific shocks or downside risks, namely infectious diseases, disasters, climate change, conflict, displacement, and technological change, to illustrate how the human security ideas can be useful to better address such threats. In conclusion, the paper stresses the need to engage the scientific community and other actors responsible for promoting human security in the Global South to further enhance the operation and implementation of human security.
This background paper was written by researchers affiliated with the JICA Ogata Sadako Research Institute for Peace and Development for the 2020 Human Development Report (HDR 2020) published in December 2020. It is authored by Visiting Fellow Oscar A. Gómez, with contributions from Hanatani Atsushi, Makimoto Saeda, and Muto Ako of JICA Ogata Research Institute, Murotani Ryutaro and Kubokura Ken of JICA, and Jacob Assa of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report Office.