The Human Security Network

The Human Security Network (HSN), an association of 12 countries, has set itself the task of promoting the concept of human security as a feature of national and international policies, and in particular within the United Nations and in cooperation with academia and civil society. The network was established in 1999 from the successful collaboration between Austria, Norway and Canada with a view to achieving an international ban on anti-personnel mines. The current members are Austria, Chile, Costa Rica, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, Norway, Panama, Slovenia, Switzerland and Thailand, with South Africa participating as an observer. The activity of the network is mainly aimed at the UN headquarters New York.

The concept of human security was presented for the first time in 1994 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). It stands for a broader concept of security that puts the individual at the center of all efforts. Human security is not just the absence of war and violence in a country, but much more a comprehensive idea of security which, broadly defined, encompasses the freedom from fear (security from violence), the freedom from want (e.g. adequate food, accommodation and health care) and the freedom to live in dignity (promotion and protection of human rights).

This concept is particularly relevant in conflict and post-conflict situations, where civilians are usually most vulnerable. International human rights and humanitarian law as well as refugee law therefore provide the foundations for human security.

In the Outcome of the 2005 World Summit, the Heads of State and Government recognized that “all individuals, in particular vulnerable people, are entitled to freedom from fear and freedom from want, with an equal opportunity to enjoy all their rights and fully develop their human potential” (paragraph 143, World Summit Outcome).

Building on this, the General Assembly of the United Nations in 2012 for the first time agreed on a common understanding on human security, which was laid down in General Assembly resolution 66/290 (adopted on 10 September 2012 by consensus).

In the past, the Human Security Network has urged states to accede to the Anti-Personnel Mine Convention and the International Criminal Court, and has focused on the control of small arms and light weapons. More recent activities of the Network have concentrated on the promotion of women, peace and security, the protection of children in armed conflict, the respect for international human rights and humanitarian law, as well as a continued dialogue among UN member states on the concept of human security and its added value in the work of the United Nations.

During the time Austria chaired the Network in 2002/2003 particular focus was put on human rights education as a basic prerequisite for human security. To this end ETC Graz elaborated a manual on human rights education entitled “Understanding Human Rights” on behalf of the then Federal Ministry for Foreign Affairs, which has been translated into 17 languages. 

The last time that Austria chaired the network was in 2013/14.