Human Security Analysis: Mapping Cambodian Vulnerability

Led by Kristian Berg Harpviken
Jan 2004 - Dec 2006

One of the primary challenges of peacebuilding is organizing and analysing the vast amounts of interdisciplinary information required to make informed policy decisions.  In order for the international community to act effectively, threats from a wide range of sources must be taken into account.  With this in mind, we have developed a new method of collecting, organizing and analysing vulnerability.  Relying heavily on a Geographic Information System, our method allows for the mapping and spatial study of large amounts of human security data – facilitating targeted development planning and a better understating of why people are at risk.

This is a proposal for the final stage of a policy-oriented study with academic outputs to explore the relationship among a number of human security threats in Cambodia.  These threats include landmines, various types of violence, poverty, natural disasters and communicable disease.  At our disposal for analysis is the largest existing Geographic Information System database on Cambodia.  Our project seeks to explain the relations between four violence types, viz. domestic violence, serious crime, conflicts over land and landmine and unexploded ordnance (UXO) strikes, with a variety of broader socio-economic conditions.  We have completed the first two stages of the project and are seeking funding for the final analysis and stakeholder involvement component. Principal among our remaining objectives is returning the database and our analysis to the International Organizations, NGOs and Government Ministries in Cambodia.  Although much of the academic work has been done using the database, its primary utility is informing development and humanitarian assistance. It is primarily for this we request funding from the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Since the 1998 election violence, the national security situation in Cambodia has improved markedly.  Aside from misplaced anxiety about the Thai border, little threat is perceived from neighbouring countries, and for the first time in decades there is little chance of civil war or revolution.  This being said, Cambodians remain insecure.  There are still extremely high rates of communicable diseases, high violence rates, a countryside heavily affected by landmines, unexploded ordnance (UXO) from US carpet bombing and other combat, dire poverty, as well as the skewed demographic transition caused by the genocide. If the traditional notion of security is used, Cambodians must be deemed secure.  If the concept of human security is used, their situation is far more perilous.  With the goal of helping Cambodian actors effectively target the most vulnerable we have collected a large amount of data down to the local (1,600 communes) level.  At our disposal is the largest existing geo-referenced database of Cambodian security and vulnerability data. With this we hope to study not only the presence of individual human security threats, such as poverty, violence, or landmines; but also the interaction between them.  This will aid our understanding of insecurity and can be used to enhance the monitoring capacity for post-conflict development assistance.

Measuring and Mapping Human Security
The proposed project involves both analytical and applied outputs.  First we will complete the analytic side of our project, producing a policy oriented report and two academic articles.  Second we will return the database to Cambodian actors and train them in the use of our human security database.  Some details on the analytic method follow.

Over the past two years, we have developed and tested a new methodology for measuring and mapping human security.  It is based on the structure of a Geographic Information system and facilitates the collection, mapping and spatial analysis of all relevant human security threats facing a country or region.

The methodology has three parts: Threat assessment, Data Collection & Mapping, and Spatial Analysis. The first two of these parts have been completed, and the third will be completed within the study proposed here.

In the threat assessment phase, local experts, NGO workers and international academics were surveyed to determine what are thee most serious harms afflicting Cambodians.  These harms, while broad in scope and origin are grouped following the UNDP Human Security categories: Environment, Economic, Health, Food, Personal and Political.

Threat data was then collected and entered into a Geographic Information System.  This allowed all data to be mapped and spatially analysed.  As an example, the map above shows one of the 13 threats collected for Cambodia – domestic violence.

The spatial analysis will take two forms.  The first is a hotspot analysis.  This process overlays all high threat maps to find areas afflicted by multiple high threats.  Knowing and visualizing these regions has clear policy utility as they represent a multidisciplinary assessment of the wide range of threats people face.

Subsequently we will seek statistical patterns in the locations of various threats.  In particular, we propose to build a model that examines four types of violence; domestic violence, serious crime, conflicts over land and landmine victims. By studying the spatial relations and severity of domestic violence, serious crime, conflicts over land and landmine and UXO strikes we will be able to provide valuable information to policy makers and development workers in Cambodia as well as feed into numerous academic debates.