Get access

The second generation of human security: lessons from the UN and EU experience



    1. Research Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Global Governance, London School of Economics and Political Science, and Research Coordinator for the Human Security Programme.
    Search for more papers by this author

    1. Doctoral candidate and Trudeau Scholar at the University of Oxford, a lecturer at the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Toronto
    Search for more papers by this author
    • *

      This article is the result of a research seminar series on ‘Human security: concepts and applications’. The authors would like to thank the ESRC for its support. They are also grateful to Mary Kaldor and an anonymous reviewer for their comments on an earlier draft.


The concept of human security, while much contested in both academic and policy debates, and highly fragmented across different meanings and forms of implementation, offers a potential locus around which global security discourse might converge, particularly in light of current shifts in US security thinking. However, key pioneers of human security, such as the United Nations and Canada, appear to be losing their enthusiasm for the concept, just at the moment when others such as the European Union, are advancing a human security agenda. This article examines the divergence of human security narratives between the UN and the EU. It argues that the UN's use of the concept ran aground owing to a triple problematic of lack of clarity, confusion between previously distinct policy streams on human rights and human development and conceptual overstretch. After assessing the EU experience with the concept to date, the article argues that future use of human security will require greater focus on how it deepens ideas of individual security, rather than treating it as an agenda for broadening security. As well as a need to project clarity on the conceptual definition of human security, there is also a need to associate human security with greater clarity of intent. If successful, this would contribute to establishing second generation human security as a new policy paradigm.