Permanent Mission of Australia
to the United Nations
New York

4 June 2012 - United Nations General Assembly


4 June 2012

Human Security

Statement by Mr Damian White
Counsellor (Political)
Australian Mission to the United Nations


Thank you Mr President, and to Madame Deputy Secretary-General for her remarks earlier.

Comprehensive, integrated and people-centred approaches to global policy challenges are becoming more important than ever as challenges increase in complexity and diversify in nature. Protecting and empowering populations is essential to shaping long-term, effective and sustainable responses because it builds capacity, understanding and resilience amongst individuals and communities. We need to ensure our collective actions are not fragmented, that they focus on prevention and that they benefit directly affected populations. The human security concept provides a normative framework to do just this, which is why Australia supports it.

Many of us have grappled with how to define the concept of human security. But the Ambassador of Nauru stripped away the apparent complexities when speaking on behalf of the Pacific Small Islands Developing States at the 2010 General Assembly debate on human security and clearly stated what human security means for small states, which represent many of the most vulnerable nations and peoples. Small island communities grapple with the simultaneous threats of sea level rises, extreme weather events, the decline in the viability of fisheries, changes to traditional patterns of subsistence agriculture, and consequent pressures on inter-communal relations. For small island communities, the interconnectedness of security threats needs no explanation. The need for a comprehensive approach to ensure the ongoing security of these populations is clear. Human security provides an effective framework for this response.

Many of us are already placing the human security concept at the core of our actions on multidimensional threats to security, even if we do not always label it as such. Our collective actions to combat food insecurity, for example, recognise the intersections between the root causes of conflict, the effects of drought, famine, population growth, the impacts of higher food prices and higher volatility on vulnerable populations, the ongoing distortions to world food markets, and additional factors such as climate change and scarce water resources. They recognise the universality of freedom from fear, freedom from want and freedom to live in dignity. Our actions on food security also recognise the need for multidimensional and context-specific responses. This is effectively the human security concept in practice. Commonwealth leaders, whose populations represent half the world’s hungry, recognised the nexus between factors affecting global food insecurity and the need for more robust mitigation and prevention efforts when they adopted the 2011 Perth Declaration on Food Security Principles. Viable action on food security will increasingly rely on such an approach.

An essential aspect of human security is enabling citizens to live with dignity and without fear of physical harm. In developing the concept, we must take into account local security challenges and integrate strategies to address such challenges. For this reason, Australia considers humanitarian and security programs to combat land mines and small arms and light weapons to be essential parts of development. Australia will continue to promote action for the clearance of unexploded ordnance – including as chair of the Mine Action Support Group – so that people can go about their daily lives; go to work, market and school. I would like to recall the contribution that Uganda, Jordan and Guinea-Bissau have made to the security of their people by becoming land-mine free this year. Australia also strongly advocates for the adoption in July of an ambitious Arms Trade Treaty including small arms and ammunition.

Mr President

We welcome the Secretary-General’s report and thank him and Special Adviser Ambassador Takasu for their work as part of the broader effort to apply the concept of human security to the work of the United Nations. We support the concept of human security as set out in his report. It provides the clarity many member states have been seeking. We particularly welcome the focus on the interconnectedness of peace, development and human rights.

We support efforts to bring forward a substantive resolution on human security during the current session of the General Assembly. The Secretary-General’s report provided an insightful analysis of how a human security approach could benefit the United Nations’ work. It is important member states provide the necessary support for its operationalisation.

Mr President

In conclusion – and as the Deputy Secretary-General has mentioned - it is appropriate and timely that we are considering human security just weeks before the landmark Rio +20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development. Many of the challenges relating to human security will be addressed at Rio+20, including outcomes on the sustainable management of oceans, strengthened food security and disaster risk reduction. Improved human security in areas such as these will have a major impact in supporting sustainable development – particularly for those who face unique vulnerabilities, especially women and girls. The goals of Australia’s aid policy all go to the heart of promoting human security – because human security is a fundamental development issue. Given the contemporary relevance of the human security concept, we hope today’s discussions serve to take this agenda forward.