Human Security/Environmental Security

Contemporary Politics

Author/s (editor/s):

Lorraine Elliott

Publication year:


Publication type:

Journal article

Find this publication at:
Taylor & Francis

Published in Contemporary Politics, 21(1) 2015: 11-24.

This article offers a genealogy of human security and environmental security set against the background of the 1994 United Nations Human Development Report and its demands for a profound transition in thinking. It shows how these two concepts have intersected and overlapped on the one hand, and diverged on the other. The debates within the UN system about what human security does or should mean have taken some account of the impact of environmental degradation on people and their communities though this has often lacked any analytical depth. The concept of environmental security, on the other hand, has become increasingly divorced from its potentially heterodox and critical roots in human security. Rather it has been captured by an orthodoxy that focuses primarily on non-traditional threats to traditional referents (i.e. the state) and that increasingly perceives ‘environmental security’ as a synonym for the threat multiplier dimensions of climate change. Rather than empowering a people-centred approach that places emancipation at the centre of human/environmental security, the author argues (following Mason and Zeitoun) that this has foreclosed rather than protected human freedom and dignity.

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