Measuring Human Security: A New View of Cambodian Vulnerability

Master Thesis

Owen, Taylor (2003) Measuring Human Security: A New View of Cambodian Vulnerability. MA thesis, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

Human security is a new and contested concept. Although gaining legitimacy in many academic and policy communities, it has no single accepted definition, no universal foreign policy mandate and no consensus commanding analytic framework for its measurement. This is in part do to a perceived conceptual ambiguity coupled with an inherent paradox in its measurement - the broader the spectrum of human security measured, the more difficult data collection and aggregation become. This paradox has forced the six existing measuring ethodologies to be either broad and conceptually accurate, but of questionable feasibility and reliability, or narrow and feasible, but not representative of the full range of insecurities. In response to this difficulty, a measuring methodology is proposed centered around a new perception of space. Selecting indicators based on their regional relevance and aggregating them using their common denominator, location, allows the methodology to be conceptually broad, analytically accurate and practically feasible. Using a Geographic Information System, this methodology documents threats, allows for analysis of spatial correlations, and provides an invaluable tool for policy makers in regions of high vulnerability. This methodology was tested through a case study in Cambodia. 13 human security threats were established and spatially referenced local data were collected detailing them. An overlay analysis of high threat regions in each of the 13 threats revealed ‘hotspots’ of insecurity and a correlation analysis revealed a significant relationship between high landmine contamination and high poverty,dengue fever, HIV/AIDS, domestic violence and gun injuries. In addition, poverty was spatially correlated with dengue fever, domestic violence and landmines. While these correlations do not imply necessary causality, they do show a degree of significance that warrants further inquiry.


Taylor Owen

Taylor Owen

PhD student in Geography at University of Oxford