African Union strives at developing an African Human Security Index

The concept of human security has increasingly become a part of the discourse in the lexicon of academics encompassing development studies, international relations, strategic studies, and human right as well as that of policymakers. As noted in General Assembly resolution 66/290, “human security is an approach to assist the Member States in identifying and addressing widespread and cross-cutting challenges to the survival, livelihood and dignity of their people.” It calls for “people-centred, comprehensive, context-specific and prevention-oriented responses that strengthen the protection and empowerment of all people.”

The UNDP Human Development Report of 1994 introduces the concept of human security, which focuses on the people and qualifies human security as “safety from chronic threats such as hunger, disease, and repression as well as protection from sudden and harmful disruptions in the patterns of daily life – whether in homes, jobs or communities”. Human security has seven dimensions – Economic Security, Food Security, Health Security, Environmental Security, Personal Security, Community Security and Political Security. As such, the concept of human security holds particular relevance for the developing nations.

As the largest collective voice of the developing nations, Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) has reaffirmed the commitment to discuss and define human security in the UN General Assembly, in conformity with the principles enshrined in the Charter and taking into consideration the common understanding of the notion of the human security in General Assembly resolution 66/290.

The African Union (AU), the majority of the Member States of which are also NAM Member States, is committed to promote human security in Africa. Recently, the AU proposed to formulate an African Human Security Index (AHSI) in an attempt to provide a holistic assessment of human security through the seven dimensions of economic security, food security, health security environmental security, personal security, community security, and political security. It also directly responds to both Agenda 2063 and the 2030 Agenda on the centrality of human security as an enabler and precondition for sustainable and inclusive development.

Agenda 2063 – that encapsulates not only Africa’s aspirations for the future but also identifies key flagship programmes which can boost Africa’s economic growth – commits not to bequeath the burden of conflicts to the next generation of Africans by ending all wars in Africa by 2020 and establish an African Human Security Index (AHSI) to monitor progress in this regards. Agenda 2063 further identifies that armed conflict, terrorism, extremism, intolerance and gender-based violence, are major threats to human security, peace and development.

Against this backdrop, the Bureau of the Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) and the Gender, Poverty and Social Policy Division (GPSPD) of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) in partnership with the Human Security Unit of the UN Trust Fund for Human Security (UNTFHS), United Nations Office to the African Union (UNOAU) and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) organised an experts’ consultative meeting. The consultative meeting provided an overview of the principles of the human security approach and elaborate on the use of human security as a tool for developing effective policies and programmes for achieving Agenda 2063 and the SDGs.

In his opening statement, Quartey Thomas Kwesi, the Deputy Chairperson of the AUC , applauded the combined and coordinated efforts by the AU and UN meant for the benefit and growth of the continent and noted that the meeting demonstrated AU’s determination to closely work together to design and develop the first-ever African Human Security Index” Quartey Thomas Kwesi noted that “The Concept of Human security was introduced two and half decades in the UN General Assembly. We recognize and appreciate efforts of countries like Japan, have taken with the support of the United Nations towards operationalizing the concept.” He further added: “Indeed, threats that confront people’s lives on daily basis are the critical starting point of the human security approach; it is therefore critical that our discussions today foster and assert the UNDP 1994 Human Development ‘people centred’ approach”.

Yukio Takasu, the UN Special Adviser on Human Security, applauded the continued engagement between the UN and AU to strengthen the statistical systems for effective collection, collation and analysis of data. Yukio Takasu underlined that “AU has defined the human security as “The security of the individual in terms of satisfaction of his/her basic needs. It also includes the creation of social, economic, political, environmental and cultural conditions necessary for the survival and dignity of the individual, the protection of and respect for human rights, good governance and the guarantee for each individual of opportunities and choices for his/ her full development”.

By Dr. Pawan Mathur

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