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Human security in Africa

United Nations Office of the Special Adviser on Africa (OSAA)

December 2005

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A true understanding of the broad concept of security firmly recognizes that human security - protecting and empowering people, at the individual and community levels – is essential to national and international security. Many factors from inter-ethnic conflicts, regional instability, terrorist attacks, poverty and disease shape the meaning and content of security. Drawing especially upon the perspectives set forth by the Commission on Human Security, which completed its report in 2003, this paper explores issues and recommends actions in several key areas, with a focus on conditions and priorities in Africa.

Countries of Africa have experienced great upheavals in recent decades, including violent conflict within the borders of many of them. These situations have helped to expose weaknesses in the State-centric concept of security, to highlight the importance of the interconnections among development, security and human rights, and to underscore the need to understand and deal more fully with the variety of issues relevant to the root causes of conflict, conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

A range of subjects is important to the better understanding of human security. Included among these subjects are political and social exclusion and inclusion, involuntary and voluntary movements of people, protection and empowerment of women, recovery from conflict and the role of reconciliation, and aspects of governance and participation, food security, health security, and education, skills and values. The numerous recommendations in this paper aim to foster concrete and sustainable benefits, to encourage protection and empowerment, to advance integrated approaches, and to promote innovation and partnership.

Analytical advances possible through the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) targets and indicators, as well as the Human Development Report (UNDP), and the recently published Human Security Report (University of British Columbia), can help greatly in quantifying key variables for human security and measuring the results of actions. These deserve heightened attention, especially in relation to early warning systems, conflict prevention and post-conflict peacebuilding.

The targets of the paper and its recommendations are policymakers and practitioners in Africa and their partners in the international donor community, including those in the UN system. It is vital to mobilize these stakeholders to undertake effective efforts that make a real difference in human security.

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