The Utility of Human Security: Sovereignty and Humanitarian Intervention

Journal article

Thomas, Nicholas & William T. Tow (2002) The Utility of Human Security: Sovereignty and Humanitarian Intervention, Security Dialogue 33 (2).

‘Human security’ is a promising but still underdeveloped paradigmatic approach to understanding contemporary security politics. We argue that tension between those embracing the politics of development and those supporting the human security paradigm has intensified because the transnational dimensions embodied within the latter approach have been underassessed. The idea of ‘threat’ also needs to be identified with more precision for the human security concept to accrue analytical credibility. We focus on how transnational behaviour addresses the central human security problems of vulnerability and immediacy. Human security’s utility for confronting crisis is also evaluated via the application of two case studies of humanitarian intervention: the 1994 multinational operation in Haiti and the 1999 intervention in East Timor. We conclude that, while general security politics includes both domestic and international issues, human security allows us to transcend sovereign prerogatives and to address emerging transregional threats more effectively.

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