The evolution of humanity has been marked by the continuous struggle for better life. The definitions for this idea might have been various at different times and in different places, but in the grander scheme of things the goal was the same. The concept of human security, therefore, is the natural step forward in the eternal strife for comfortable life. It is a new concept that has gained much attention in the recent years. The representatives of academic and professional circles engage in discussions and negotiations about the specific meaning of this fresh concept.
As many appealing ideas before it, human security is rather vague and ill-defined. On one hand, it is very personal and differs from one individual to another. That is why the unified definition of human security will inevitably be accepted by some while rejected by others. On the other hand, the nuances of the concept are difficult to fine-tune since it overlaps with so many other areas, such as national security, politics, economics, human development, etc. The way that King and Murray decided to deal with the problem of defining human security is a viable attempt to bring together the discussions present within the international community nowadays. The idea they put forth tries to abandon unnecessary layers and concentrate on the aspects of people’s lives that are absolutely crucial for security. Their proposition of “generalized poverty” concept has several advantages but still evokes a number of challenging questions in the mind of readers.
The concept of generalized poverty has several appealing aspects, such as balanced scope, orientation towards future, and clarity. This idea has a rather balanced number of aspects that it consists of. Moreover, the authors acknowledge that some definitions of human security are too broad and as a result tend to not define the concept at all. That is why the attempt has been made to keep the number of components within reasonable limits. This is the task that can be considered successfully achieved. The authors claim that the definition of human security should include “only those domains of well-being that have been important enough for human beings to fight over or put their life or property at great risk” (King & Murray 2001-02). This is a fair proposition and a reasonable aim to concentrate specifically on the areas that are essential for humankind.
Generalized poverty is also oriented towards future as it considers the state of a person in perspective, assessing the potential risks of falling into the state of generalized poverty. The clarity of the concept has a lot of appeal, especially in the field where ambiguity is a common problem. The threshold basis makes it easier to navigate the concept. King and Murray propose a model for assessing human security that is based on logic and common sense. Individual human security can be evaluated with the help of the proposed domains for human well-being. Next, the human security of a population can be mathematically computed.
While it is difficult to deny the convenience of the “generalized poverty” approach, it still has couple of grey areas. Even accepting the proposed areas of well-being one can still wonder as for the definition of the threshold itself. The article gives an impression that this bar has to be set on the intuitive level, which is unsettling. In any case it would be difficult for international community to agree on these critical points that make the difference between the state of generalized poverty and security. Moreover, there is some concern as to the differences among the country. The article claims that it is important to look at human security across borders. Together with that generalized poverty encourages governments and global community to focus their attention on people in the most vulnerable conditions. This is a great notion but it may not be readily welcomed by the developed nations. Therefore, the percentage of the population that is in the state of generalized poverty is much lower in those countries; and the human security policy based on this concept may seem irrelevant. However, on the global scale it is exactly what should be adopted.
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In general, the idea of human security as opposed to the national security has been present in the literature and in the discussions for some time already. In the world with blurred boundaries this transition in focus seems nothing but natural. The focus on individual security, however, may be dangerous as well. It perpetuates the human-centeredness evident in modern thinking patterns. Basically, the national security is put aside for the human security may backlash in the too much attention to the individual human beings at the expense of national interests.
The given article is an important piece of writing because it tries to bring the security debate from the theoretical to practical dimension. It suggests the manageable formula for calculating human security. This step is a crucial one because for many years the advancements in security have been slowed down by the inability to reach the consensus about definitions. As David Roberts point out in his article, the question on security is not an academic one and should be brought to practical considerations (Roberts 2005). In fact, he also suggests that human beings should be individually responsible for their security as opposed to hiding behind the faceless organizations and nation states. This notion can be effectively used in combination with generalized poverty. Since the definition of it is so easy to comprehend human security ides can be communicated to the general public and populations can be educated to take active part in advancing their own security.
Taking into account the above discussion, one can conclude that the idea of human security has still many undefined aspects, but there are some achievements in this area. King and Murray make an attempt to synthesize existing views on the subject and combine them into a manageable tool for measuring human security. Lastly, generalized poverty concept has a lot of potential and has to be further explored by the researches from various backgrounds.
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