Oscar A. Gómez, Ako Muto and Sachiko G. Kamidohzono
Another challenge in the exploration and expansion of the human development framework is how to understand and practice prevention as part of the process of development. When seeing the world
through the occurrence of threats, as is the case in human security thinking, it is very common to hear that crises are opportunities. Yet going back to business as usual once the peak of the emergency is
over is an equally common response. In the crisis management cycle, prevention is the phase that receives the least attention, but is the one everybody agrees should be the most important. Solving
such contradictions is beyond what precautionary human security language can achieve—that is, using the fear of the threat to generate social change—since the driving forces of policy-making in times of
peace are different from those in times of emergency.
There are many hurdles for mainstreaming a culture of prevention in practice. Aiming to address the root causes of threats, in which poverty tends to be given a central position, can paradoxically be
part of the problem. Reducing the explanation of people’s vulnerability to poverty closes the door to tailoring actions to the particular threats they face. While it may be true in general that better income,
health and education levels can make populations more resilient to an earthquake, for example, these cannot replace mitigating the threat physically through better building codes and preparing for more
effective responses when the shakes come again. A trickle-down effect from human development to human security should be contested, just as human development ideas contested the original trickledown economics.
The opposite is also possible: There are threats from considering that providing relief is more convenient or less cumbersome than tackling the root causes of the problem. Neighboring countries may prepare to accept refugees for example, but tend to be less willing to be involved in the political work that is inevitably needed to end displacement. Humanitarian assistance in protracted and intractable crises is merely a ‘Band-Aid’ solution. As we pointed out above, the full cycle of crisis
management needs to be covered, and both human security and human development frameworks can complement each other in balancing attention to root causes and tailoring actions to specific threats.
Nonetheless, illustrating the positive impacts of prevention is rather difficult: people are more conscious about their needs in any given moment than about downside risks that have not hit them yet. It is thus difficult to justify expenditures on the intangible benefits of prevention in the face of many other pressing needs. Internalizing prevention may in fact require some form of paternalism, in
as much as preventive measures do not represent the will of the majority.
The human development framework, deeply committed to democracy, has still to shed light on how to deal with such situations, as democratic institutions may not be enough to push forward unpopular prevention. Presenting prevention as a win-win strategy for development, or bringing along co-benefits as in climate change action, has had limited impact. The temptation to use fear as a means to muster approval is a double sided sword that may be instrumentalized to enforce draconian measures, creating new insecurities.
Still, the role of fear as a trigger of prudence shows that working on the perception of threats along the developmental process, as collaborations between human development and human security
frameworks have shown in the past (Gómez et al. 2016), can be an entry point to better confronting this challenge.
Development as a post-World War II project designed to increase the rate of growth in order to close the divide between developing and developed countries was supposed to finish one day. The meaning
of development has changed drastically since then, partly thanks to human development ideas, but whether development itself will come to an end or not is a pending question. The recent international
agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has given the development project a fresh meaning for the next 15 years, but there is no final answer yet. Particularly of concern for the evolution
of human development ideas is the fact that people-centeredness and the human face have been fully internalized into the global rhetoric, pressuring human development supporters to explore new frontiers in order to offer further grounds to perpetuate development, or do something else.
First of all, the human development community has to decide if they want the project to live forever, and, if so, on what terms. Much of this discussion is internal to the community, and so beyond the scope of this think piece, but some of the frontiers to be explored in the future are actually frontiers with human security ideas, and so the experience of human security thinking may offer some light on
this process. Particularly interesting is to see how human security thinking has survived despite being heavily criticized from all flanks: presented as hot air by the orthodoxy and as hidden orthodoxy by
critical thinkers. Nonetheless, the nature of the threats we confront has kept relentlessly evolving, making the inadequacy of yesterday’s priorities and means of security all too evident. Human security
language has catalyzed attention to, for instance, climate change adaptation in relation to the dynamics of conflict, livelihoods, migration and cultural change; it has also supported the framing of the global response and partnerships needed to confront Ebola and disease pandemics in general.
Security is central to the functioning of all societies, and even if the academic term sounds unconvincing, the human face of insecurities and the inhumanity of traditional security make human security relevant.
In the case of development, the human development framework could put forward ideas of progress, well-being, flourishing, sustainability or even quality of growth as candidates to be used as proxies for
a development that never ends, at least not in the foreseeable future.
If development is to remain a central concept in global governance, what frontiers of its meaning and coverage would be worth exploring? A central topic in human security discussions has been the
changing nature of sovereignty and whether some threats justify international intervention. The rise of the South implies stronger sovereignty, and thus more cases in which people left behind cannot be identified or access external support, as we pointed out above. What would be the strategy for such challenges? Perhaps advocacy in partnership with human rights, policy innovation as in food security,
or international intervention as suggested in the 2014 Human Development Report will be relevant future strategies. Giving more prominence to networks of care or supply chains functioning across
states is also an option.
Development could also be unpegged from its origin in international assistance—as is already true in practice (Pritchett 2015). There are many flows that nowadays are much more important for
countries in the South than aid: remittances, foreign direct investment, migration, South to South exchanges, and so on. The human development framework discussions have paid attention to these for some time, and thus, can use this experience to redefine development, if framing them as such is of any use. Besides, the new development is not only about southern countries’ ownership of their
development trajectories, but also about the role of human development ideas in northern countries’ internal affairs. Human security has been repeatedly criticized for being exclusively a foreign policy tool; supporters have responded to this idea by highlighting how major threats know no boundaries.
The human development framework could be applied more often in richer settings to identify what the project of development means in those contexts, and what the challenges for implementation might be.
Even if leaving aid behind is not totally possible, there is a role for the human development framework to rethink assistance under the new global circumstances. Divisions in terms of peacebuilding, humanitarian assistance and development aid have been shown to be artificial for those on the receiving side of the equation, pressuring for more interoperability and even integration.
Human development thinking could contribute to finding the way forward on the reform of international organizations, with such reforms often characterized as difficult as a result of turfminded bureaucracies. Moreover, the SDGs include peace and justice as an objective for 2030, while, in parallel, some forms of military aid are due to start being counted as development aid. In the 1993
Human Development Report, UNDP pressed the case for human security because “twice as much ODA per capita goes to high military spenders as to more moderate spenders.” The time may be ripe to
check the numbers again and reflect on what assistance would mean in a world that needs it less for growth, as many countries graduate from aid, and more for attending to crises.
Finally, a word of caution. Expanding frontiers nowadays is less about exploring virgin lands and more about stepping into others’ territories. The modest success of the human security idea has not been about pushing radical new thinking; it is all too common to hear that practitioners already do human security; they just do not call it that. Instead, the survival of the concept has been made possible
thanks to what others can do by framing their work as human security. There is no single umbrella of human security thinking therefore, but a polyphony that springs up in unexpected places—in criminology and in nursing, in environmental science, and in international law. The way ahead for human development and human security frameworks thus depends more on partnering with all the rest of the like-minded epistemic communities that inhabit those frontiers, giving them a voice and recognizing what they bring to the table, and less on coming up with new names for what they are already doing. We all share this journey.