“What is Human Security?” – Lilja Guðmundsdóttir

If you are about to study Human security, are currently a Human security student or just enthusiastic about the field, it is likely that you will be asked: “What is human security?”. Now, after one semester of studying it, I still feel a bit lost with an answer. The thing is, Human security is a broad field of study, and there are various definitions used. When a person is simply asking me politely about my studies, it is hard not to go into exciting details about the field and only give a short answer. The concept in its essence, in my opinion, are the horizontal and vertical extensions. The horizontal extension includes community, economic, environmental, food, health, personal, and political security threats, and a downwards vertical extension to include individuals.

“Oh, it is just a fancy way of saying security studies” is an answer a fellow classmate of mine once said. Another reply I heard was “It is simple, it’s about the concept of security, moving from state and military security to a focus on individuals”. And in a sense, both are right because there are many ways to explain what Human Security is all about. What I do find interesting is that even though my cohort might not answer the same question with the same answer, I believe we all want to work towards a more secure world, where people can live without fear or want. Dare I say we are all dreamers that “Imagine all the people living life in peace” (John Lennon, 1971). Some of my classmates are more interested in the natural scientific comprehension of the ecosystem´s importance for living conditions of developing countries while others are diving into deep socio-political comprehension of what war and conflicts are. Whatever it is, this is a question we will undoubtedly ask ourselves at least a few times in our lifespan. Perhaps when we watch current news, when we do something kind, when we vote or when we support a worthy cause – are we working towards a more secure world? Or maybe it is not that deep and we simply will forget everything when we graduate. Whatever might be, with practice, I am sure I will be able to answer this question as swiftly as Russia vetoes UNSC resolutions. Only time will tell.

– Lilja Guðmundsdóttir.

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