The Human Security Tale of Two Europes

Journal article

Burgess, J. Peter & Shahrbanou Tadjbakhsh (2010) The Human Security Tale of Two Europes, Global Society 24 (4): 135–151.

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If the concept of human security is to be meaningful, it must be applicable to any region, developing or developed. Such was the point of departure for authors of two reports on Western and Eastern Europe that were commissioned by UNESCO as part of a series of regional reports aimed at detailing the human security situations in different regions. The present article, compiled by the co-authors of both reports, summarises the reports and critically revisits this premise. By exploring the notion that human security varies according to national, regional and local settings, thus gaining meaning from the context in which the framework is applied, it poses a number of critical questions about the universality of the concept of human security. It argues for a supple concept of human security capable of identifying vulnerabilities in a variety of settings and adapting legitimate responses to them. By exploring the applicability of human security in Eastern and Western Europe it sets out to test the limits of the concept and to contribute to ongoing debate about “broad” and “narrow” conceptions of human security and addresses the criticism of the concept as ideologically skewed. The paper first addresses the subjective question of what human security means in the Western and Eastern European contexts before outlining in broad terms the objective question of what is concretely taking place in Europe. It concludes by suggesting that human security actually lends itself equally to the developed world where mid- or large-scale physical violence is less common as a source of insecurity, concluding that many of the threats faced are of similar nature, if of varying degrees of severity.

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