The concept of human security is based on the fundamental principles of ‘freedom from fear’ and ‘freedom from want’ through the 1994 Human Development Report of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It argues for a shift from a state-centric view of security to one that focuses on the security of every individual. Human Security is about protection and empowerment of the individual. It tackles general threats to human existence and finds ways to overcome these threats, recognizing that the state itself can at times be a threat to its own people.
This report aims to understand how the internationally minted notions of human security and insecurity are perceived and interpreted by Cambodian people, and what suggestions people may offer for mitigating threats to human security. We conducted interviews and focus groups with people in diverse sectors including government, academics, civil society, rural and urban communities, media, students, and Buddhist monks. Our research suggests that when we replace the discourse of security in Cambodia with the concept of human security, it opens new conversations toward understanding and responsiveness to human rights and human development. We argue that the connected, multi-dimensional insecurities in Cambodia can be revealed through taking a broad approach to human security that recognizes ‘freedom from fear’, ‘freedom from want’, and ‘freedom to live in dignity’ as inter-related in ways that may be contradictory. Currently much of the debate about the referent of security is too focused on either protection or empowerment; the voices of our research participants lead us to suggest that security comes from communication and dialogue between government and communities, and the importance of ‘cooperative leadership’.