Human Security and the UN

Human Security and the UN

A Critical History
S. Neil MacFarlane and Yuen Foong Khong
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 02/13/2006
Format: Paperback 1 index
ISBN: 978-0-253-21839-1
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How did the individual human being become the focus of the contemporary discourse on security? What was the role of the United Nations in "securing" the individual? What are the payoffs and costs of this extension of the concept? Neil MacFarlane and Yuen Foong Khong tackle these questions by analyzing historical and contemporary debates about what is to be secured. From Westphalia through the 19th century, the state’s claim to be the object of security was sustainable because it offered its subjects some measure of protection. The state’s ability to provide security for its citizens came under heavy strain in the 20th century as a result of technological, strategic, and ideological innovations. By the end of World War II, efforts to reclaim the security rights of individuals gathered pace, as seen in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and a host of United Nations covenants and conventions. MacFarlane and Khong highlight the UN’s work in promoting human security ideas since the 1940s, giving special emphasis to its role in extending the notion of security to include development, economic, environmental, and other issues in the 1990s.

Author Bio

S. Neil MacFarlane is Lester B. Pearson Professor of International Relations and Head of the Department of Politics and International Relations at Oxford University and Professional Fellow at St. Anne’s College.

Yuen Foong Khong is John G. Winant University Lecturer in American Foreign Policy and Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford University.


“"MacFarlane and Khong . . . offer us a thought-provoking and realistic critique of what they term the overreach of human security as a concept as well as its practical limitations. This is an important and stimulating book." —J. Ann Tickner, School of International Relations, University of Southern California, and President, International Studies Association, 2006-2007 "[A] major contribution to our understanding of the ideational role of international organizations. The research is extensive, the writing is lucid, and their assessment is clear-eyed and relevant." —Stephen M. Walt, Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Affairs, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University”

“This is one of at least 14 projected volumes commissioned by the UN Intellectual History Project, dedicated to documenting the history of ideas central to the development of that organization. Here the focus is on human security, dealing with individuals rather than the traditional concentration on states. Most regard the idea of human security as a recent innovation, but the authors do an exemplary job of tracing its origins in early political and social thought. Importantly, they also present cogent analysis on conventional state security, from which one can see how human security issues evolved. With this background, the authors trace how the idea of human security became embedded in the UN through such issues as human rights, the laws of war, and refugees, among others. The latter part of the book is dedicated to a discussion of two dimensions of human security and the UN: human development and protection. Appropriately, one chapter provides a critique of UN actions in the human security area. This is a fine book, even essential for scholars of the UN or security studies in general. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students through practitioners. —— P. F. Diehl, University of Illinois at UrbanaOctober 2006”
 — Champaign, Choice

“There are many hard questions related to human security, and MacFarlane and Khong cannot answer them all. But they have done much in this must-read tour de force to elevate human security to the most rigorous analysis for the purpose of revamping international public policy. As such, policy makers, analysts, and academics alike will find this book of exceptional value. ”
 — Human Rights & Human Welfare

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Table of Contents

Foreword by Louis Emmerij, Richard Jolly, and Thomas G. Weiss

Part I. The Archaeology of Human Security
1. The Prehistory of Human Security
2. The UN and Human Security during the Cold War
3. The Evolving Critique of National Security

Part II. The Emergence of Human Security
4. The UN and Human Security: The Development Dimension
5. The UN and Human Security: The Protection Dimension
6. Human Security and the Protection of Vulnerable Groups
7. Human Security and the UN: A Critique


About the Authors
About the United Nations Intellectual History Project