Human Security Norms in East Asia: Towards Conceptual and Operational Innovation

Download the article here…

RESEARCH ARTICLE – JCTS Volume 8, Number 1, 2020

By Ako Muto


This paper elaborates the conceptual and operational features of human security in East Asia, employing theory related to norm-complexes and norm dynamics. It carries out an analysis of eleven case studies conducted by local researchers and it draws on the theory of norm dynamics to show that the reframed concept of human security is an international norm-complex. It also analyses the three conceptual and operational features of human security in East Asia: the nuances of its distribution, the wide range of perceived threats, and the role of the sovereign state as a means for securing human security. This paper recommends further exploration of empowerment from below and of dignity as an aspect of human security.

Keywords: East Asia, Human Security, International Norm-Complex, Norm Dynamics, Threat, Sovereign State, Protection


Although more than twenty years have now passed since the introduction of human security in the 1993 and 1994 UNDP Reports (HDR),[3] both the concept and operation of human security remain controversial.[4] The core message of human security is very simple: it seeks to shift the objective of security from “states” to “individuals”. In the international arena, a consensus-based resolution defining human security was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September 2012.[5] However, intellectual debates about the concept of human security have continued in multiple academic fields such as security studies and theories of international development, and its relationships with human rights has also been widely discussed.[6] Research on operationalizing human security has tended to deliberate on the particular threats that cause human insecurity while there are fewer studies that focus on its conceptual and operational localization.[7]

Based on this awareness, the Japan International Cooperation Agency Research Institute (JICA-RI) initiated a research project on how the concept of human security and its operation are localized in East Asia, with the author of this paper being involved as one of the project managers.[8] In this paper, East Asia refers to the eleven countries discussed in the project’s Working Papers (WPs): Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand, and Vietnam. This paper draws on these eleven working papers written by local researchers and practitioners.[9] Throughout the research project, these local researchers conducted qualitative literature reviews and interviews to build each of the case studies. There were three main areas of focus for the research: first, the (selective) acceptance of the concept of human security; second, local perceptions of threats and ideas about whether foreign actors should operate within a country in cases of natural disaster and violent conflict; and third, the question of national sovereignty and the acceptance of foreign actors when threats occur.

In the following two sections, this paper attempts to elucidate the concept of human security as a norm-complex and it also assesses the localization of human security through norm dynamics. As this article will show, the formation process and components of the human security concept can be traced along the pathway of norm dynamics – through initiation, diffusion, and regeneration. Based on this analytical framework of norm-complexes and norm dynamics, the following sections examine the characteristics of East Asian human security in relation to the above three areas of focus. There are various ways that human security norms are accepted and localized in East Asia; they can, for example, be implemented by the state or civil society and as foreign policy or domestic activities. This wide variation arises because threat perception in its broadest sense, can encompass, among other things, natural disasters, food crises, or violent conflicts. Diverse threats require different responses, and this generates the question as to who should be involved in ensuring the security of individual persons through interdisciplinary collaboration and international cooperation. The final section of this article summarizes the overall discussion and suggests some areas for further research, which include empowerment from below and the need to consider dignity as an aspect of human security.

Human security as an international norm-complex

Human security has become an international norm along with human rights, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),[10] and corporate social responsibility (CSR). In international relations studies, norms are defined as “shared expectations about appropriate behaviour held by a community of actors”[11] or “collective expectations for the proper behaviour of actors with a given identity”.[12] Sen criticizes the proposition that human rights make sense only when they are legally guaranteed and argues that strong moral imperatives that concern what to do and what not to do make up human rights. These imperatives may require legislation, but legal provision is not a prerequisite for human rights.[13] As in the case of human rights, a set of moral judgements often precedes the formalization of norms.

Human security is understandable as a “norm-complex” that consists of pre-existing norms encompassing related issue-areas and other new norm elements”.[14] This perception is based on Miura’s argument that

A “norm-complex” can have a distinctive property: internal contradiction among its sub-norms. This unique character of a norm-complex presents an actor with a challenge: how to “comply” with conflicting directives. If a hierarchy among sub-norms cannot be established at the outset, then proponents of a new norm-complex will release it as a “beta” version which will likely be developed jointly by its proponents and “users”.[15]

These ideas critique the widely accepted approach that “norms are decomposable and should be analysed on a one-by-one basis; norm change refers to the replacement of an existing norm by a new one; an actor is persuaded to accept a new norm; [and] norm internalization will lead to the taken-for-grantedness of a norm”.[16]

Human security has incorporated some norms which are evident in the documents produced by the United Nations. When human security was introduced as a new concept in the 1994 Human Development Report (HDR), “freedom from fear” and “freedom from want” were the major norms underpinning the concept.[17] Subsequently, after discussions undertaken by the Commission on Human Security, Human Security Now (CHS)[18] established a broader concept of human security which incorporated additional norms: the freedom to live with dignity, protection from above, and empowerment from below.

CHS elaborated the wider concept of human security as an international norm-complex, with the overall framework including three freedoms along with two key approaches: protection and empowerment. It contributed to the articulation of an international norm based on comprehensive human security, and it also presented a framework on which it was easy to form a rough consensus.[19] Intense arguments for humanitarian interventions derived from the norm of “freedom from fear” subsequently became separated from the complex norm of human security, and resulted in another norm, the responsibility to protect (R2P).[20] The World Summit Outcome defined a possible way for international society to intervene in a sovereign state through military and/or non-military measures in order to directly protect citizens from the horror of “genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity”.[21]

The hybrid nature of human security as an international norm-complex is observable in the consensus-based resolution on the definition of human security adopted by the 2012 UNGA resolution.[22] It stipulates that human security is “an approach to assist Member States in identifying and addressing widespread and cross-cutting challenges to the survival, livelihood and dignity of their people”. According to the resolution, a common understanding of the notion of human security includes:

(a) The right of people to live in freedom and dignity, free from poverty and despair. 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; 
(b) Human security calls for people-centred, comprehensive, context-specific and prevention-oriented responses that strengthen the protection and empowerment of all people and all communities;    
(c) Human security recognizes the interlinkages between peace, development and human rights, and equally considers civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights;    
(d) The notion of human security is distinct from the responsibility to protect and its implementation;               
(e) Human security does not entail the threat or the use of force or coercive measures. Human Security does not replace State security;    
(f) Human security is based on national ownership. Since the political, economic, social and cultural conditions for human security vary significantly across and within countries, and at different points in time, human security strengthens national solutions which are compatible to local realities;  
(g) Governments retain the primary role and responsibility for ensuring the survival, livelihood and dignity of their citizens. The role of the international community is to complement and provide the necessary support to Governments, upon their request, so as to strengthen their capacity to respond to current and emerging threats. Human security requires greater collaboration and partnership among Governments, international and regional organizations and civil society;  
(h) Human security must be implemented with full respect for the purposes and principles enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations, including the full respect for sovereignty of States, territorial integrity and non-interference in matters that are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of States. Human security does not entail additional legal obligations on the part of States.[23]

This definition encompasses the original combination of norms and adds two new elements. Firstly, “dignity” was added to the concept of “freedoms from fear and want”. Realizing a world free from “fear and want” is the ideal of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and these two freedoms can be represented by civil liberties and socio-economic rights. Dignity also corresponds to the moral attitude necessary to realize these freedoms, one which involves respect for humanity and recognizes that every human being has intrinsic worth.[24] Secondly, while human security does not deny the importance of protection, the definition incorporates a focus on “empowering” people from below as a complement to protecting them from above. Empowerment is a process that enables people to become the masters of their own lives and may require the redistribution of power and resources between the powerful and the powerless. In the context of social development, Friedman developed a theory of empowerment that focuses on community development and livelihood support.[25] In human security, it is important to focus on empowerment at the community level, and at the level of the individual, as well as at national or subnational levels.

This added value provided by the concepts of dignity and empowerment deserves attention in East Asia. In a region where social hierarchy is relatively strongly rooted, the concept of dignity based on the premise that individuals are embedded in society can be accepted more easily than the concept of empowerment, which might evoke “internal contradiction among its [human security] sub-norms”,[26] which include, for example, protection from above.

Norm dynamics in East Asia

The international norms of human security have gradually assimilated several sub-norms during the past several decades of discussions. Modern international norms involving many and diverse stakeholders tend to be complex, because of the ways in which a norm is established. There is a desirable, standard process for setting new norms, and it assumes that for an idea to be established as a norm, it must be internalized in the minds of the members of a society, irrespective of whether it is legally enforced or not. For this purpose, it is desirable for as many parties as possible, at the centre and at the periphery, to actively participate in the process of norm-making, instead of passively waiting for the advent of a new norm. In this process, both universal and local values tend to slot into a new norm, thereby making it hybrid, composite, or complex.

International norms are said to have life cycles. At the beginning, “norm entrepreneurs” propose a new norm, which is accepted by several states (the norm emergence stage). Then, after a certain “tipping point”, the norm diffuses quickly and prevails throughout international society (the norm cascade stage). Finally, the norm is internalized in every country and becomes “taken for granted” (the internalization stage).[27] If a norm is established by idealistic “norm entrepreneurs”, a different group of pragmatic actors called “message entrepreneurs” start negotiating a consensus to give a concrete shape to the norm,[28] and this was the role taken by the drafters of the 2012 UNGA resolution.[29] However, as Acharya has clarified, in the case of the security regime in Southeast Asia, foreign norms may be opposed, modified, or displaced by existing local norms in local spaces. Norms are not simply accepted or rejected but are also localized.[30] Conversely, new norms that are (re)created by local actors on the periphery may eventually reach core nations and/or challenge global powers.[31]

The process involved in the initiation, diffusion, and regeneration of a norm is called “norm dynamics”. As has been noted, the concept of human security was first advocated by a group of norm entrepreneurs at the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). After that, several countries, including Canada, reinterpreted the human security concept and this gave rise to “Responsibility to Protect” (R2P) as an offshoot norm.[32] Meanwhile, countries including Japan, Thailand, and the Philippines understood the nature of threats in broader and more comprehensive ways and tried to redefine human security to avoid confrontation between state sovereignty and humanitarian imperatives by emphasizing prevention and sensitivity to local contexts. It should be noted that the comprehensive human security initiative of the latter group, maintaining the universality of UN-based messages, has passed through the process of localization in Asia.

A radical change in international norms is often triggered by a dispute or a grave event.[33] The Prime Minister of Japan, Keizo Obuchi, who was then Japan’s Foreign Minister, officially advocated human security for the first time in Singapore in 1998 after the Asian financial crisis.[34] CHS was co-chaired by the former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Sadako Ogata and the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen, a combination of East Asian and South Asian globally recognized figures.[35]

Proposed norms are intended to diffuse or fade out while being transformed vertically from the UN’s headquarters to a small village, and they are expected to spread horizontally across diverse world regions and nations. Pitsuwan and Caballero-Anthony describe the effects of the financial crises – as well as the multiple humanitarian crises that arose from them which made evident the significance of human security – as a “compelling normative framework”. [36] Still, they argue “that as far as institutionalizing human security in its security practices [has progressed, …] ASEAN [the Association of Southeast Asian Nations] still has a long way to go,” particularly because of gaps in economic security, as well as in protection from disasters and the protection of minorities and migrants, among other vulnerable groups.

The following three sections elaborate the norm dynamics of human security in East Asia as a norm-complex. Though the region is considered to enjoy relative peace and prosperity,[37] the local East Asian researchers and practitioners interviewed for this project reveal here that various threats to human security continue to spread. In this region, human security is combined with local norms and the acceptance of international norms is complicated, sometimes contradictory, and unevenly diffused. The main focus of the next three sections is on localized perceptions of human security, diversified threats and preferred responses, and the compatibility of state security and human security.

Understanding human security from the perspective of norm localization

Focusing on the question of what norms of human security the eleven states accept, reject, or remodel, local East Asian researchers and practitioners first analysed how human security as a term and a concept was understood in their respective local contexts. Their analysis was based on a literature review and interviews with government officials, academics, civil society members, community-based organizations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), farmers, students, and so on. It emerged that, although the term “human security” itself is not always utilized, most interviewees regard the principles of the concept as important in relation to the diverse threats confronting this region.

The concept of human security has been incorporated into foreign policy in Japan and South Korea,[38] but has not yet been diffused domestically, and it has been adapted to reflect each country’s diplomatic policies without any processes of localization. Japan has actively facilitated the promotion of human security and supported the United Nations by joining the Friends of Human Security and contributing to the UN Trust Fund for Human Security.[39] It also integrated the concept into its revised Development Cooperation Charter in 2015.[40] South Korea has also embraced the concept of human security in its overseas development aid policies, and “the term ‘human security’ has been explicitly used by President Geun-hye Park and Minister Yoon of the MOFA [Ministry of Foreign Affairs] in their speeches”.[41]

In China, Myanmar, and Singapore,[42] the state is responsible for human security. The complex international norm of human security has been developed under the umbrella of state security. The state itself has promoted national, welfare, or development policies in line with the human security concept without specifically using the term itself. Through these approaches, the state has enabled its people to escape from fear and want. Thailand is the only country among the eleven considered here that has established a ministry with a name that incorporates the term “human security” – the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security.[43]

The situation in Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam is complex.[44] In these countries, the human security concept has not been introduced as positively or thoroughly as in the above-mentioned countries, although aspects of it have been adapted to suit intrinsic norms. Instead of shifting local norms to conform to the “foreign”[45] concept of human security, human security has become an approach used to respond to various threats. The considerable threats that these countries face include natural disasters, health issues, lack of basic foods, poverty, economic and political instability, and excessive development.

This diverse range of threats largely overlaps with so-called non-traditional security (NTS) issues. While military threats from foreign states are considered “traditional”, many threats that simultaneously affect multiple countries are of a non-military nature and fall into the category of “non-traditional” threats. There is growing interest in NTS among policymakers and researchers in China and South Korea, as well as in Southeast Asian countries, and this seems to have contributed to the acceptance of the concept of human security in the region.[46]

Substantial differences remain between approaches which focus on NTS and the human security approach: while actors who address these kinds of diverse threats still concentrate on national governments in the former framework, greater emphasis is placed on peer collaboration between states and other actors in the latter. For example, an Indonesian military officer argues that the term “security” should not be used until the hunger level or the impact of infectious disease has exceeded a certain threshold and becomes a real threat to the survival of all citizens.[47] The role of national armies in coping with human security challenges should be limited according to this approach because, if every threat were to be considered a security challenge, the military would be overwhelmed by the resulting deluge of duties.

In summary, most countries throughout East Asia have accepted and adapted the principles behind the human security concept, even if they do not use the term directly. Foreign norms have entered this region and have been combined with local norms. Elements of the human security concept, particularly freedom from fear and want, are now familiar and important sub-norms in many states. Prior acceptance of the idea of non-traditional security has made it easier to diffuse this new norm of human security in East Asian countries, and the complex norms of human security have been modified and localized.[48]

Diversified threats and preferred responses

The previous section analysed variations in the localized acceptance of human security norms. The wide range of these variations can be attributed to the breadth of ways in which threats are understood. This section identifies the range of threats that are perceived to be significant in East Asia and it assesses how international cooperation can respond to those threats. The case studies identified the following threats: climate change; typhoons/cyclones; floods; volcano eruptions; earthquakes; tsunamis; infectious diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), avian influenza, and HIV/AIDS; food crises; lack of basic health and education; environmental pollution; urbanization; extreme poverty; unemployment; migration; human trafficking; violent conflicts; interstate military conflicts; religious intolerance; organized crime; oppression from the government, and so forth. The ranking of these threats in terms of priority varies from country to country.

The order and classification of the sources of threats to human security derive from their links to and effects on the physical system (the earth), the living system (animals and plants), and the social system (human beings). Tanaka has called for a clearer understanding of the mechanisms by which these threats bring about human insecurities and that approach will require close collaboration between different academic disciplines including the natural sciences and engineering, the biological and ecological sciences, and the social sciences and the humanities.[49] Meanwhile, HDR 1994 listed seven main categories of human security, linked to economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community, and political security.[50] These areas correspond not only to divisions of the UN’s specialized agencies but also to government ministries, and so the classification can generally be accepted at national level as familiar and practical.

International cooperation is becoming a norm in responses to these threats. The case studies’ interviews examined whether foreign support should be accepted in situations where a country suffers an uncontrollable crisis due to a natural disaster or violent conflict; they also assessed whether a country should support neighbouring countries in similar situations. The common pattern of responses to these hypothetical situations suggested that foreign support is undesirable during political unrest but welcome when a natural disaster occurs. It is also preferred if, in either case, the support is provided via multilateral rather than unilateral frameworks because UN- or ASEAN-led assistance is neutral and incorporates a wide network of partners and a broad range of experience.[51]

Natural disasters are a characteristic threat – especially in Asia – and in many cases they require international cooperation. From 1987 to 2016, natural disasters occurring in Asia accounted for nearly 40 per cent of the world’s total, resulting in over 60 per cent of worldwide deaths and more than 80 per cent of the people affected.[52] In 2004, the Indian Ocean earthquake caused a tsunami that hit India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and other countries, and more than 220,000 people died.[53] In the same year, the death toll in the world from violent conflict was 31,000.[54] With the exception of 1994, annual death tolls in the world due to conflict did not exceed 100,000 before 2012.[55] The magnitude of the damage caused by natural disasters may make it easier for people in affected countries to accept foreign norms and international cooperation.

In 2015, the United Nations adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, and, over the next 15 years, the signatory states will mobilize efforts to achieve these universally applied goals while ensuring that no one is left behind. This resonates with the

people-centered response of the human security norm. People can just as easily be left behind by a natural disaster or violent conflict. It is easier to accept international cooperation in case of natural disasters than violent conflict. Humanitarian assistance in conflict-affected areas is, in some cases, considered to be part of an intervention. An interviewee in Vietnam argued that assistance in situations of violent conflict “should only be called for (…) from those who are either allies, or have had traditional and long-term relationships with Vietnam”.[56]

In summary, while the considerable threats in East Asia are diverse, their sources can be classified in terms of physical systems, living systems, and social systems. Both interdisciplinary collaboration and international cooperation are required for effective responses, and international cooperation has been accepted more easily in cases of natural disasters than violent conflict. The international cooperation norm has been accepted, rejected, and remodelled, just as the norm-complex of human security was.

State security and human security

The previous two sections demonstrated the diverse threats that affect East Asia. Due to the region’s broad interpretation of what constitutes a threat, the concept of human security has been accepted as a norm-complex. As international cooperation is required to respond to these threats, this section discusses which actors are necessary to secure human security in East Asia when threats occur. All the case studies unequivocally identified the main actor for securing human security as the affected sovereign state and its government. In regard to the role of states in realizing human security, a loose consensus, as well as subtle disagreements, existed between interviewees from East Asian countries.

The case study from China suggests that state security has a causal link with human security. The idea that people should not be easily sacrificed for national objectives is absolutely correct, because human beings are not the means to an end but are rather ends in themselves. Nevertheless, national security and personal security can be compatible. The perception that states are a “necessary evil” is not a Chinese but a Western idea. East Asians naturally expect a great deal from their governments, anticipating that governments will protect them just as parents protect their children.[57] This view of states as benevolent and “paternalistic”, and the acceptance of a relationship in which a stable state guarantees people’s security, is also expressed in the case study that focuses on Vietnam.[58]

Elsewhere in East Asia, there is another understanding that human security is part of state security, which is to say that state security subordinates human security, not vice versa. This type of view was expressed by government officers from Indonesia; however, some interviewees from the government’s side added that the role of the military in human security should be strictly limited. Indonesian interviewees opined that military operations should be firmly placed under civilian control, even though the military responded effectively to the earthquake and tsunami in 2004.[59] This is because they believe, firstly, that the military is not trained to respond to non-military threats and, secondly, that it is often better to entrust the duty of maintaining public order to police forces in disaster situations.

There are countries with impressive traditions of civil society activism such as the Philippines and Thailand which have strongly influenced the trajectory of the acceptance of human security.[60] In the case studies of Malaysia and Singapore,[61] dynamic and strained relationships between the government and civil society were vividly depicted. Malaysia is relying on being able to consolidate human security through the empowerment of local governments, more active dialogues between the government and civil society, and regional cooperation through the networks of ASEAN and NGOs against the backdrop of the government’s repression of free speech, and its religious intolerance. In the responses recorded in the Cambodian case study, the biggest threats to human security were expressed as fear of government authorities and/or powerful people, but people nevertheless expected the state to play the role of protecting them and even empowering them.[62]

When severe threats to human security are actualized, the relationship between state sovereignty and human security may become extremely tense. The Myanmar case study notes that when Cyclone Nargis hit the country in 2008, the military government refused to accept foreign aid, even while lowland residents were caught in the flooding. The number of dead and missing persons is estimated at nearly 140,000. Though Western countries such as France threatened to make an R2P-type humanitarian intervention, the government of Myanmar rejected these moves and instead decided to accept coordinated assistance from organizations such as ASEAN and the UN.[63] This approach, based on multilateral collaboration, has become a model for humanitarian operations in East Asia.

The case study of Japan demonstrates that the concept of human security can be “politicized” in the contexts of domestic debates on security and securitization.[64] In contrast, the study of Thailand indicates concerns that human security is now too “depoliticized” – the concept has been reduced to the practice of social welfare and is now rarely discussed in Thai diplomatic contexts.[65] Nevertheless, the Buddhist concept of mercy seems to lie behind the activities of the Ministry of Social Development and Human Security which seeks to improve the well-being of the socially vulnerable. This suggests an attempt to integrate human security with the concept of a sufficiency economy advocated by King Rama IX in the 19th century. These dynamics of politicization, depoliticization, and local reinterpretation are interesting in terms of the “norm localization” discussed in the previous section.

In short, in East Asia, it is primarily the sovereign state that fulfils human security. However, the confidence people have in the states they inhabit varies. The government is basically expected to implement favourable policies and carry out good deeds for its people, but governments have also at times functioned as a threat. Despite this, the recognition of the state’s role in protecting its people is unshakeable in East Asia.


This paper has demonstrated flexibility in the concept and operation of human security as a localized norm-complex in East Asia. Eleven countries have accepted the UN-based international norms of human security in their respective ways, either through government or civil society, as foreign policy, or in the form of domestic activities. We can conclude, firstly, that the elements comprising the international norm-complex of human security are accepted in East Asia in a localized way. Even though the use of the term human security is not pervasive, a localized norm of human security which involves a measure of non-traditional security appears in many states.

Secondly, the contradictions between various different sub-norms of human security might be overcome through the cooperative mechanisms involved in responding to the huge natural disasters that are common threats in East Asia. Some states, however, reject international cooperation because they are concerned about its negative impact on sovereignty. Interdisciplinary collaboration to tackle the broad range of threats to human security derived from the physical system (the earth), from the living system (animals and plants), and from the social system (human beings)[66] requires close international cooperation. Thirdly, in East Asia, human security is considered to supplement state security, especially in cases of natural disaster, and both are compatible. It is primarily the sovereign state that fulfils human security and the recognition of the role of the state in protecting people is unshakeable.

Following on from these three main findings, further exploration is needed in the areas of dignity and empowerment. In terms of empowerment, the interviewees expect the state not only to protect its people but also to empower them. When human security supplements state security and both are compatible, the question of how people can empower themselves from below in East Asia will require further research. The theoretical framework of norm-complexes and norm dynamics will be of help since it may help to resolve the internal contradictions of another component of the human security norm: “protection from above”.

With regards to dignity, the third component of human security, “freedom to live with dignity” also needs further study. The case study of Japan included an expert’s opinion that this element could generate added value from the human security approach because “dignity is an idea of waiting and caring”.[67] The survey in the Philippines also found that the concept of dignity had the potential to raise human security to a higher dimension and emphasized the importance of local contexts.[68] Moreover, people in Cambodia said that having dignity is associated with “having a moral character; with notions of respect, pride, and having value and independence; and of helping others and having an honest character”.[69] A rural resident remarked candidly that “Dignity is most important because it is about no discrimination, having rights to do what we want, not being looked down upon by wealthy people”.[70] A specifically East Asian understanding of dignity may be recognized in these arguments. The component of dignity in the norm-complex of human security must be open to flexible adaptation, and this is something that will require further deep analysis.



Acharya, Amitav, Whose Ideas Matter? Agency and Power in Asian Regionalism, Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, 2009.

Acharya, Amitav, “Norm Subsidiarity and Regional Orders: Sovereignty, Regionalism, and Rule-Making in the Third World”, International Studies Quarterly Vol. 55, 2011, p.95-123.

Adu, Aletha, “Killer Waves: Boxing Day Tsunami 2004 – What Happened, Which Countries were Hit by the Indian Ocean Earthquake and How Many Died?”, The Sun, 17 July 2018, (Accessed 22 August 2018).

Alexandra, Lina A., “Perception on Human Security: Indonesian View”, JICA-RI Working Paper, Tokyo, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), No 99, 2015, (Accessed 22 August 2018).

Atienza, Maria Ela L., “Human Security in Practice: The Philippine Experience(s) from the Perspective of Different Stakeholders”, JICA-RI Working Paper, No 98, 2015, (Accessed 22 August 2018).

Asian Disaster Reduction Center, Natural Disaster Data Book 2016: An Analytical Overview, Kobe, Japan, 2016,
pdf/DataBook2016_e.pdf (Accessed 24 August 2018).

Caballero-Anthony, Mely and Cook, Alistair D.B. (eds.), Non-Traditional Security in Asia: Issues, Challenges and Framework for Action. Singapore, Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2013.

Caballero-Anthony, Mely, Acharya, Amitav and Emmers, Ralf (eds.), Non-Traditional Security in Asia: Dilemmas in Securitization. Aldershot, Ashgate, 2006.

Cabinet Decision, “Cabinet Decision on the Development Cooperation Charter”, Cabinet Decision, 10 February 2015,
7701.pdf (Accessed 22 August 2018).

Chng, Belinda and Jamil, Sofiah, “Human Security in Singapore: Where Entitlement Feeds Insecurity”, JICA-RI Working Paper, No 101, 2015, (Accessed 22 August 2018).

Commission on Human Security, Human Security Now, New York, Commission on Human Security, 2003.

Department of Peace and Conflict Research, “Uppsala Conflict Data Program”, (Accessed 22 August 2018).

Dung, Pham Lan and Lan, Nguyen Ngoc, “The Concept of Human Security in Vietnam”,  JICA-RI Working Paper,  No 100, 2015,
workingpaper/jrft3q0000000yd0-att/JICA-RI_WP_No_100.pdf (Accessed 22 August 2018).

Finnemore, Martha, National Interests in International Society, Ithaca, New York, Cornell University Press, 1996.

Finnemore, Martha and Sikkink, Kathryn, “International Norm Dynamics and Political Change”, International Organization, Vol. 52, No 4, 1998, p.887-917.

Friedmann, John, Empowerment: The Politics of Alternative Development, Cambridge, MA, Blackwell, 1992.

Fukuda-Parr, Sakiko and Hulme, David, “International Norm Dynamics and the ‘End of Poverty’: Understanding the Millennium Development Goals”, Global Governance, Vol. 17, No 1, 2011, p.17-36.

Guan, Benny The Cheng (ed.), Human Security: Securing East Asia’s Future, Dordrecht, Springer, 2012.

Guan, Benny Teh Cheng and Tien, Ngu Ik, “Perceptions and Practice Human Security in Malaysia”, JICA-RI Working Paper, No 134, 2015, (Accessed 22 August 2018).

Hernandez, Carolina G. and Kraft, Herman Joseph S. (eds.), Mainstreaming Human Security in ASEAN Integration (3 vols.), Quezon City, Institute for Strategic and Development Studies, 2012.

Japan (MOFA), “Human Security”, (Accessed 24 August 2018).

JICA, “Human Security in Practice: East Asian Experiences”, (Accessed 26 August 2018).

Jumnianpol, Surangrut and Nuangjamnong, Nithi, “Human Security in Practice in Thailand”, JICA-RI Working Paper, Tokyo, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), No 102, 2015,
JICA-RI_WP_No.102.pdf (Accessed 22 August 2018).

Katzenstein, Peter J., “Introduction: Alternative Perspectives on National Security”, Katzenstein, Peter J. (ed.), The Culture of National Security: Norms and Identity in World Politics, New York, Columbia University Press, 1996.

Kim, Eun Mee, Bae, Seon Young and Shin, Ji Hyun, et al., “Human Security in Practice: The Case of South Korea”, JICA-RI Working Paper, Tokyo, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), No 93, 2015,
jrft3q0000000y2r-att/JICA-RI_WP_No_93.pdf (Accessed 22 August 2018).

Kurusu, Kaoru, “Development of Human Security ‘Norm’ and Global Governance: How is a Norm-Complex Constructed in World Politics?”, Kokusai Seiji (International Relations) 2005.

Kurusu, Kaoru, “Japan as an Active Agent for Global Norms: The Political Dynamism Behind the Acceptance and Promotion of ‘Human Security’”, Asia-Pacific Review, Vol. 18, No 2, 2011, p.115-37.

Kurusu, Kaoru, “Does the Concept of Human Security Generate Additional Value? An Analysis of Japanese Stakeholder Perceptions”, No 122, JICA-RI Working Paper, Tokyo, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), 2015, (Accessed 22 August 2018).

Li, Mingjiang (ed.), China and Non-Traditional Security in Asia, London, Routledge, 2010.

Miura, Satoshi, “Distributed Innovation of a Norm-Complex: Corporate Social Responsibility as an Open Source”, Kokusai Seiji (International Relations) No 143, 2005, p.92-105.

Nishikawa, Yukiko, Human Security in Southeast Asia, London, Routledge, 2010.

Pitsuwan, Surin and Mely Caballero-Anthony, “Human Security in Southeast Asia: 20 Years in Review”, Asian Journal of Peacebuilding, Vol. 2, No 2, 2014, p.199-215.

Ren Xiao, “Human Security in Practice: The Chinese Experience”, JICA-RI Working Paper, Tokyo, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), No 92, 2015, (Accessed 22 August 2018).

Rosen, Michael, Dignity: Its History and Meaning, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2012.

Sandholtz, Wayne and Stiles, Kendall, International Norms and Cycles of Change, New York, Oxford University Press, 2009.

Sen, Amartya, “Development, Rights, and Human Security”, Human Security Now, Commission on Human Security (ed.), New York, Commission on Human Security, 2003.

Sovachana, Pou and Beban, Alice, “Human Security in Cambodia: Far from Over”, JICA-RI Working Paper, Tokyo, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), No 95, 2015, (Accessed 22 August 2018).

Tadjbakhsh, Shahrbanou, “Human Security Twenty Years On”, June 2014, https://www.files. (Accessed 21 August 2018).

Tadjbakhsh, Shahrbanou and Chenoy, Anuradha M., Human Security: Concepts and Implications, Abingdon, Routledge, 2007.

Tanaka, Akihiko, “Toward a Theory of Human Security”, JICA-RI Working Paper, Tokyo, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), No 91, 2015, (Accessed 22 August 2018).

Thuzar, Moe, “Human Security and Development in Myanmar: Issues and Implications”, JICA-RI Working Paper, Tokyo, Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), No 96, 2015,
JICA-RI_WP_No_96.pdf (Accessed 19 May 2019).

Tow, William T., Thakur, Ramesh and In-Taek, Hyun (eds.), Asia’s Emerging Regional Order: Reconciling Traditional and Human Security, Tokyo, United Nations University Press, 2000.

Towns, Ann E., “Norms and Social Hierarchies: Understanding International Policy Diffusion ‘From Below”, International Organization, Vol. 66, No 2, 2012, p.179-209.

Umegaki, Michio, Thiesmeyer, Lynn and Watabe, Atsushi (eds.), Human Insecurity in East Asia, Tokyo, United Nations University Press, 2009.

United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 1993, New York, Oxford University Press, 1993.

United Nations General Assembly, 2005 World Summit Outcome, 15 September 2005, A/60/L.1, New York, United Nations, 2005.

United Nations General Assembly, Follow-up to Paragraph 143 on Human Security of the 2005 World Summit Outcome, 6 September 2012, A/66L.55/Rev.1, New York, United Nations, 2012.

United Nations, “Sustainable Development Goals”,
development/development-agenda/ (Accessed 22 August 2018).

United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 1994, New York, Oxford University Press, 1994.

World Bank, The East Asian Miracle: Economic Growth and Public Policy, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1993.

Wu, Guoguang (ed.), China’s Challenges to Human Security: Foreign Relations and Global Implications, Abingdon, New York, Routledge, 2013.

[1] I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the authors of the eleven Working Papers and to others who strongly supported me in preparing this paper: Professor Yoichi Mine, Dr. Oscar A. Gómez, and Dr. Rui Saraiva.

[2] The analysis and suggestions offered in this paper do not necessarily reflect the views of the Japan International Cooperation Agency.

[3] United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 1993, 1-13 and Human Development Report 1994, 22-37.

[4] Tadjbakhsh, “Human Security Twenty Years On”, June 2014,
540cb240aa84ac7133bce008adcde01f.pdf (Accessed 21 August 2018).

[5] United Nations General Assembly, Follow-up to Paragraph 143 on Human Security of the 2005 World Summit Outcome, 6 September 2012, A/66L.55/Rev.1.

[6] Tadjbakhsh and Chenoy, Human Security; Tow et al. (eds.), Asia’s Emerging Regional Order, 13-19.

[7] Concerning the region on which this paper focuses, see, for example, Guan, Human Security, Hernandez and Kraft, Mainstreaming Human Security; Nishikawa, Human Security Southeast Asia; Umegaki, Human Insecurity; and Wu, China’s Challenge.

[8] JICA, “Human Security in Practice”, (Accessed 26 August 2018).

[9] Authors and abbreviated titles of the WPs are as follows: Alexandra, “Perception on Human Security”; Atienza, “Human Security in Practice”; Chng and Jamil, “Human Security in Singapore”; Dung and Lan, “Human Security in Vietnam”; Guan and Tien, “Human Security in Malaysia”; Jumnianpol and Nuangjamnong, “Human Security in Thailand”; Kim et al., “Human Security in South Korea”; Kurusu, “Analysis of Japanese Perceptions”; Ren, “Human Security: Chinese Experience”; Sovachana and Beban, “Human Security in Cambodia”; Thuzar, “Human Security in Myanmar”.

[10] United Nations, “Sustainable Development Goals”, (Accessed 22 August 2018).

[11] Martha Finnemore, National Interests, 22-24.

[12] Katzenstein, “Introduction: Alternative Perspectives”, 1-32.

[13] Sen, “Development, Rights, Human Security”.

[14] Kurusu, “Development of Human Security”, 11.

[15] Miura, “Distributed Innovation Norm-Complex”, 12.

[16] Ibid.

[17] United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 1994, 3.

[18] Commission on Human Security, Human Security Now, 1-13.

[19] Kurusu, Development of Human Security, 84.

[20] United Nations General Assembly, 2005 World Summit Outcome, 15 September 2005, A/60/L.1.

[21] Ibid., paras. 138-9.

[22] United Nations General Assembly, Follow-up to Paragraph 143 on Human Security of the 2005 World Summit Outcome, 6 September 2012, A/66L.55/Rev.1.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Michael Rosen, Dignity: History and Meaning.

[25] John Friedmann, Empowerment: Alternative Development.

[26] Miura, “Distributed Innovation Norm-Complex”, 12.

[27] Finnemore and Sikkink, “International Norm Dynamics and Political Change”.

[28] Fukuda-Parr and Hulme, “International Norm Dynamics”.

[29] United Nations General Assembly, Follow-up to Paragraph 143 on Human Security of the 2005 World Summit Outcome, 6 September 2012, A/66L.55/Rev.1.

[30] Amitav Acharya, Whose Ideas Matter?

[31] Acharya, “Norm Subsidiarity” and Towns, “Norms and Social Hierarchies”.

[32] United Nations General Assembly, 2005 World Summit Outcome, 15 September 2005, A/60/L.1, paras. 138-9.

[33] Wayne Sandholtz et al., International Norms.

[34] Kurusu, “Japan as an Active Agent”.

[35] Commission on Human Security, Human Security Now.

[36] Pitsuwan and Caballero-Anthony, “Human Security in Southeast Asia”.

[37] World Bank, The East Asian Miracle: Economic Growth and Public Policy.

[38] Kurusu, “Analysis of Japanese Perceptions” and Kim et al., “Human Security in South Korea”.

[39] Japan (MOFA), “Human Security”, (Accessed 24 August 2018).

[40] Cabinet Decision, “Cabinet Decision on the Development Cooperation Charter”, Cabinet Decision, 10 February 2015, (Accessed 22 August 2018).

[41] Kim et al., “Human Security in South Korea”, 1.

[42] See Chng and Jamil, “Human Security in Singapore”; Dung and Lan, “Human Security in Vietnam”; Ren, “Human Security: Chinese Experience”; and Thuzar, “Human Security in Myanmar”.

[43] Jumnianpol and Nuangjamnong, “Human Security in Thailand”, 11.

[44] Sovachana and Beban, “Human Security in Cambodia”; Atienza, “Human Security in Practice”; Alexandra, “Perception on Human Security”; Guan and Tien, “Human Security in Malaysia”; and Dung and Lan, “Human Security in Vietnam”.

[45] Alexandra, “Perception on Human Security”, 30.

[46] Ren, “Human Security: Chinese Experience”; Alexandra, “Perception on Human Security”; Guan and Tien, “Human Security in Malaysia”; Atienza, “Human Security in Practice”; Kim et al., “Human Security in South Korea”; Dung and Lan, “Human Security in Vietnam”; Caballero-Anthony et al., Non-Traditional Security in Asia; Caballero-Anthony et al., Dilemmas in Securitization, and Li, China and Non-Traditional Security.

[47] Alexandra, “Perception on Human Security”, 20.

[48] Amitav Acharya, Whose Ideas Matter?

[49] Tanaka, “Toward a Theory of Human Security”.

[50] United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 1994, 22-37.

[51] Atienza, “Human Security in Practice”, 37-39.

[52] Asian Disaster Reduction Center, Natural Disaster Data Book,
publications/databook/ORG/databook_2016/pdf/DataBook2016_e.pdf (Accessed 24 August 2018).

[53] Adu Aletha, “Killer Waves”, (Accessed 22 August 2018).

[54] Department of Peace and Conflict Research, “Uppsala Conflict Data Program”, (Accessed 22 August 2018)

[55] Ibid.

[56] Dung and Lan, “Human Security in Vietnam”, 25.

[57] Ren, “Human Security: Chinese Experience”, 13-14.

[58] Dung and Lan, “Human Security in Vietnam”.

[59] Alexandra, “Perception on Human Security”, 28-30.

[60] Atienza, “Human Security in Practice” and Jumnianpol and Nuangjamnong, “Human Security in Thailand”.

[61] Guan and Tien, “Human Security in Malaysia” and Chng and Jamil, “Human Security in Singapore”.

[62] Sovachana and Beban, “Human Security in Cambodia”.

[63] Thuzar, “Human Security in Myanmar”.

[64] Kurusu, “Analysis of Japanese Perceptions”.

[65] Jumnianpol and Nuangjamnong, “Human Security in Thailand”.

[66] Tanaka, “Toward a Theory of Human Security”.

[67] See Kurusu, “Analysis of Japanese Perceptions” and Ren, “Human Security: Chinese Experience”, 40.

[68] Atienza, “Human Security in Practice”.

[69] Sovachana and Beban, “Human Security in Cambodia”, 17.

[70] Ibid., 16.

Previous post Mass Displacement and Human Security in Lebanon: A Risks Analysis of the Syrian Civil War’s Effects on Lebanese Society
Next post The Determinants of Negotiation Commencement in Civil Conflicts

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.