Since its introduction in the Human Development Report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in 1994, the common understanding on the concept of human security has gradually been developed through the final report of the Commission on Human Security in 2003 and the UN General Assembly Resolutions in 2005 and in 2012. Given these UN–based global consensus, it is still critically important to promote the further operationalization of the concept of human security.
This JICA Ogata Research Institute project succeeds the research project “Human Security Practices in East Asia” that defines the concept of human security as ‘freedom from fear, freedom from want, and freedom to live in dignity, with the combination of top-down protection and bottom-up empowerment.’ In line with this understanding on the concept of human security, the previous research project has revealed realities and many challenges in terms of ‘protection by the state.’ Thus, the current research project will focus on the unique empowerment narratives of specific vulnerable populations within the Southeast Asian region and Japan.
In light of the current COVID-19 pandemic and its continuously worsening downside risks to all the identified fields for human security, this research project intends to make the timely contribution in understanding the protection-empowerment nexus in human security for different vulnerable groups and populations. Adapting to the current context, the project will be conducted at two consecutive levels of analysis. The First Level will illustrate the COVID-19 situation of selected countries in Southeast Asia, identifying the specific downside risks and their impacts to certain vulnerable groups during this crisis, along with the observable protection and empowerment strategies put into place. The second level emphasizes on the tangible conception of “empowerment” vis-a-vis human security not only the best practices of human security, but also an exploration of factors that promote or impede the empowerment of vulnerable population during the current pandemic.
Eight academics and researchers from Asia are invited to explore the diverse human security issues of aging, economy, environment, food, forced migration, gender, health, and conflict through specific case studies of vulnerable groups and populations in Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Timor Leste, Myanmar and the Philippines. This project will comprehensively cover East Asian countries, pay attention to the substantial impact of COVID-19 to the vulnerable population in view of SDGs, and present timely practical lessons for policy recommendations.
The outcome of this research project will include JICA Ogata Research Institute working papers, working reports, and a final edited volume in collaboration with the scholars from Southeast Asia and Japan.
Finally, in the interest of understanding how the access to emergency and related information during crisis is an equally important human security concern, the project conducts a short-term survey on people’s access and use of information during the COVID-19 pandemic in 4 prefectures in Japan. This serves a supplementary study to expound on how people’s capability to access and share information that are accurate, relevant and timely resonates empowerment.
Keywords: Human security, Empowerment, East Asia, COVID-19 pandemic