In today’s world, communities and individuals are exposed to old and new threats such as civil wars, terrorism, natural disasters, infectious diseases, economic downturns, climate change and famines. Human security is an idea and an approach developed to address the pressing needs and moral imperatives arising from those insecurities faced by all humankind. The idea urges to secure fundamental freedoms for everyone, i.e., freedom from fear, freedom from want, and freedom to live in dignity, by combining top-down protection and bottom-up empowerment. While the importance of such an idea has been increasingly discussed since its emergence in the mid-1990s, the ways to operationalize it in practice remain a contested matter. In particular, the practice of Japan’s ODA has received less attention despite Japan being the only government fully committed to the promotion of human security, with ODA as its major tool since 2003. Aiming to inform practice in coming decades, this paper explores the ways how to operationalize the idea, by following the recent history of Japan’s ODA activities related to human security. After briefly recounting the connection between Japan’s ODA and the idea of human security at the policy level, we trace the evolution of its practice, mainly focusing on bilateral contributions by JICA, in the four emblematic areas linked to human security: natural disasters, climate change, infectious diseases and violent conflict. Our examination reveals that Japan’s ODA practice has, in general, been evolving in a way that resonates with the idea of human security. In order to consolidate this trend and to further operationalize human security, however, there still remains much to be done. We have identified three significant directions that can be taken to further operationalize human security: emphasizing prevention, realizing seamless assistance, and caring for the most vulnerable.
Keywords: human security practice, natural disasters, climate change, infectious diseases, violent conflict