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Latest News: The United Nations Hosted a High-Level Event on Human Security (17 May 2013) Read more... 


This web site is intended to introduce and provide resources on Human Security and its relationship to Public Health, both conceptually and in intervention applications—and will be updated as new material becomes available.

The United Nations Commission on Human Security report, Human Security Now (2003), points to a paradigm shift from traditional notions of nation-based security, to a people-centered security approach with the goal of supporting three essential freedoms:

  • Freedom from fear
  • Freedom from want
  • Freedom to live in dignity

This is achieved through a people-centered, comprehensive, multisectoral approach for identifying critical and pervasive threats to individuals and communities, as well as for prevention focused action across two dimensions:

  • Protecting the population
  • Empowering the population to act

In the region of the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has embraced this people-centered human security approach and has produced various seminal documents over the last decade.  Most importantly, Directing Council Resolution CD50.R16, the first multilateral document of its kind endorsed by PAHO’s Member States in which it resolves to “…urge the Member States to continue to promote analysis of the concept of human security and its relationship with health, with a view to its incorporation into country health plans, pursuant to their national legislation, emphasizing coordination and multisectoral interagency participation to reflect the multidimensional aspects of such an approach.”  The resolution mandates the Secretariat to increase the dialogue on the concept and develop guidance for countries to implement it. 

Human Security and Public Health are deeply intertwined.  Conditions of insecurity, whether caused by sudden crises or chronic deprivations, lead to health deterioration and diminish people’s capacity to achieve and maintain their greatest level of health and wellbeing; and the direct and indirect effects of poor health, in turn, undermine the security enjoyed by individuals and communities.  Beyond its interdependence with health, human security is also a precondition for peace, state security, development and sustainability, thus it contributes significantly toward the success of efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and achieve sustainable development.

The principles and practices underlying human security and public health approaches are also deeply related.   Human security and public health both conceive of population threats broadly and seek to proactively address and prevent their root causes—often called social determinants—rather than treat their consequences.  Furthermore, the parallels between these approaches provide an aligning process to exercise the essential public health function of health promotion, and to strengthen the provision of services and the stewardship role of the public health system.  Human security aims at the satisfaction of the basic freedoms for all, and, as a consequence, it provides health an active role in development and human security.

Public health can also further advance human security by providing a natural basis for understanding the concept of human security, clearing up the concerns around its application, giving it the proper delineation from national security concerns, and illustrating its practice and added value.  Among these and other areas of synergy between public health and human security, we propose the following key areas where the functions of public health can be exercised to achieve maximum human security:

    • The practice of health promotion, which emphasizes community empowerment and capacity building at the individual, family, and community levels, as well as across sectors to strengthen assets and address the social determinants of health;
    • The focus on prevention practices which provides public health services an opportune position within the primary health care system, whose level of population access and reach is both direct and broad, and from which community members can be linked to multisectoral services:
    • And stewardship practices to protect health, such as regulation, enforcement, information gathering, and communication activities, which often involve consensus-building and multisectoral collaboration and coordination in policy development and implementation

The need to adopt and begin operationalizing health and human security approaches is driven by the complex, interrelated nature of the most pervasive insecurities currently affecting the Region of the Americas.  Threats for which health and human security’s holistic and proactive approach is necessary include, but are not limited, to:

    • Basic water and sanitation environmental threats in conjunction with toxic exposures,
    • Nutrition insecurity
    • Social gradient
    • Occupational insecurity and labor risks for children
    • The informal sector
    • Housing and unplanned urban metropolitan growth
    • Limited social protection on health
    • Pervasive violence

    There are additional  and emerging sources of insecurity in the Region that merit further attention, such as ubiquitous domestic and international migration of individuals and families  as well as  the impacts of climate change.  Important to note, disparities exist within and between populations, with vulnerable groups such as children, the elderly and indigenous communities suffering disproportionately from the abovementioned and other threats to security.

    As threats to security and health become increasingly complex, the urgency of the human security approach is increasingly clear; and, health and human security as an integrated approach represents and further advances the natural progression of the Human Security concept. 

    Resources made available throughout the following sections of the Health and Human Security page are intended to provide updates on news and events, as well as resources and tools to further introduce key concepts and build understanding of the chronologic development of the Human Security concept and its relation to health. 

    For New & Events, Information from the Regional Meeting and Documents please continue reading..... 




5 August 2013 -Tokyo Workshop on Health and Human Security, 2-3 June 2013

On June 3, 2013, the Japan Center for International Exchange (JCIE) hosted a workshop in Tokyo whose purpose was to discuss ways in which to connect the concepts of Human Security with approaches to implement it within communities.  The collaboration which took place between JCIE, the Centre for Health Sciences Training, Research and Development (CHESTRAD), and the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), contributed valuable information on case studies which showed the successful ways in which Human Security has been implemented on the ground.

To explore PAHO's presentation click here. and to learn more about this event and other speakers' presentations check out Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affair's webpage related to the event.


2 August 2013 - Human Security Briefing at the United Nations, 23 July 2013

The Human Security Unit (HSU) along with the Human Security Network (HSN) co-organized a meeting at the UN in New York City on July 23, 2013 during which PAHO provided participants with a presentation on  updates and developments regarding the human security approach and how it is being applied in relation to health challenges within the Region  Among conclusions drawn from the meeting was recognition of the critical need to maintain high-level discussions to spread knowledge of the development and application of the Human Security approach.

To view PAHO's presentation on Human Security, click here, and for more information about this event visit the UN Human Security Unit's website.

17 May 2013 - United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security Seeks Proposals for Human Security Projects

The United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security (UNTFHS) is seeking applicants who are interested in receiving funding for human security projects. Concept notes for human security projects seeking funding must be received by 2 September 2013 to be considered in the next scheduled review.  See the UNTFHS call for proposals and proposal guidelines, as well as PAHO's technical reference document (ENG, ESP) for support.

17 May 2013 - The United Nations Hosted a High-Level Event on Human Security 

The UN High-Level Meeting on Human Security brought out members of the Advisory Board on Human Security and representatives from academia, non-governmental organizations, and civil society organizations.  Secretary-General Ban-Ki Moon started off the meeting by discussing the importance of using the human security approach in development efforts.  In one of his most inspirational comments, he states: “You cannot end poverty without empowering women and girls. You cannot establish lasting peace without respect for human rights. You cannot increase prosperity or address climate change without transforming the world’s energy systems. We have to advance on all fronts.” 

Read the statement on human security given by PAHO at the High Level Event here.

Check out this brief video unveiled at the High Level Meeting that explains the concept of human security.

For more information about this meeting, the speakers, and their presentations, go to the UN page for this event

8 May 2013 - Huffington Post Article Discusses the Importance of Human Security in Addressing Complex Threats

Last week, the Huffington Post published an article written by Sadako Ogata focused on the importance of the use of human security in addressing complex threats.  This post explains the reason the United Nations Commission on Human Security was created, differentiates human security from state security, and links human security to the post-2015 development agenda.  Halfway through the article, Sadako Ogata also mentions that human security and the lessons learned from applying this approach will be the topic of a meeting with the United Nations on May 8th.  To read the article in its entirety, follow this link.

24 April 2013 - Countries of the Caribbean Promote Human Security as part of the Post-2015 Development Agenda

The countries of the Caribbean promoted human security, human development, citizen security, and human rights in their region as part of the post-2015 development agenda during a recent event held in March 2013 entitled Caribbean Forum: Shaping a Sustainable Development Agenda to Address the Caribbean Reality in the 21st Century.  The forum report compiled by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean discusses this topic in more detail.  You can read more about the Caribbean, human security, and the post-2015 development agenda here.

10 April 2013 - Call Issued to Link Human Security to the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda

The inter-linkages between human security and sustainable development were recently highlighted at the international NGO conference on Advancing the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, held 20-22 March, 2013 in Bonn, Germany.  This meeting brought together civil society activists and key stakeholders to seek perspective on post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda priorities.  Participants reached two proposals on the linkage between sustainable development and peace and human security:

  1. Peace and human security should be a priority of, and mainstreamed with the Post-2015 framework
  2. Peace and human security issues are cross-cutting and should be integrated into other Post-2015 development priorities

These proposals may help pave the way toward wider recognition of the human security approach and the far-reaching, added value to be gained from its adoption as the international community acts to confront present and future challenges to sustainable development.  Read conference members' Statement on Peace and Human Security to learn more about human security-related discussions and consensus reached during this event.

1 April 2013 - United Nations Convenes High-Level Event on Human Security

The United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security (UNTFHS) is hosting a High-Level Event on Human Security on May 8, 2013.  The Heads of UN Agencies, Funds and Programmers along with key civil society organizations will gather to work on building the future of human security in the United Nations.  To see the concept note related to this event, click here.

News & Events in 2012

Read PAHO's  new commentary on Fostering Health and Human Security in the Americas, published online in the Fall 2012 issue of Global Health Governance  

PAHO's work in Health and Human Security was featured in the Fall 2012 Newsletter of the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security (UNTFHS)! The issue spotlights Health and Human Security.

Read the Fall 2012 Newsletter on Health and Human Security here!

More information on the UNTFHS and efforts in Human Security can be found on their new webpage!

On September 10, the United Nations General Assembly passed Resolution A/66/L.55 on Human Security. The resoultion, the first on Human Security passed in General Assembly, notes the importance of the concept and its usefullness in assisting 'member states to identify and address widespread, cross cutting challenges to survival, liveliehood and dignity'.  For more details, find the entire Resolution below...

United Nations Resolution on Human Security, September 10


Last Updated on Thursday, 19 June 2014 13:22

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