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Unlike the traditional concept of security which focuses on protecting a country’s territory, the concept of “human security” places the emphasis on protecting individual people and their community.
With the end of the Cold War, it became clear in all parts of the world that civil wars, expulsion, despotism, poverty and hunger were much more of a direct threat to the individual security of people than wars between countries. However, the traditional understanding of security has failed to reflect satisfactorily the greatest dangers to individual people. The term “human security” was coined in the 1990s to assess these threats and focus on the effective protection of individuals and their communities.
Human security is often characterized as “freedom from fear”. It covers first and foremost the protection of the individual from armed conflicts, despotism, expulsion and political and criminal violence.
In addition to this interpretation, various bodies are proposing a more comprehensive concept of human security. This would include, besides “freedom from fear”, "freedom from want” which focuses on protecting the individual from poverty, hunger, disease and environmental disasters. In practice, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) takes both approaches into account.
The narrower interpretation of the concept of human security as “freedom from fear” forms the basis of Switzerland’s commitment to the promotion of peace and human rights and humanitarian policy. Switzerland makes the following contributions:
- It mediates between the parties to a conflict and promotes civilian conflict resolution.
- It supports the strengthening of the rule of law and democracy.
- It is committed to the international combat against the illicit trade in and abuse of small arms and light weapons.
- It backs a worldwide ban on anti-personnel mines and supports humanitarian mine-clearing efforts and the removal of explosive remnants of war in affected countries.
- It is in favour of an effective international system of human rights protection.
- It advocates the continued development and implementation of international humanitarian law.
- It is committed to protecting vulnerable people in armed conflicts.
- It calls for a more humane system of migration control and an effective struggle against human trafficking.
The more comprehensive interpretation of human security which also includes "freedom from want” has likewise been adopted in Swiss foreign policy. For example, the FDFA has been committed to combating poverty, promoting good health and promoting good governance. For Switzerland, protecting individuals and their communities is also at the heart of this powerful commitment to development cooperation.