Reanimation package of reforms > News > Columns > A new approach to security. How to become stronger in today’s world

A new approach to security. How to become stronger in today’s world

In modern democracies, the concept of “human security” is gaining momentum . In essence, this is a kind of transition from a very narrow to a broad understanding of security. The absence of war or other threats to the lives and health of citizens, low crime rates do not mean a safe environment in today’s world.

First, it is formed at different levels: from personal security, security of life in a particular community – to the national and international level. Second, security is broken down into different components, and only their combination determines how safe the citizen’s environment is.

Thus, since 1994, the UN practice has proposed to devide the concept of security into  following components: political, economic, personal, food, health, community safety and the environment.

At the heart of the new concept of security is not the state, but the individual. And if in the past it was believed that security at the state level could guarantee the security of the individual, today this pyramid is overturned.

More and more factors show that if we start with human security and build public policy and the work of non-governmental actors around it, the life of society becomes more predictable and integrated. Moreover, society’s ability to resist both internal and external threats will gradually increase.

Security in the frontline region: how do citizens perceive it? 

In 2020, with the support of the Heinrich Böll Foundation, a study on perceptions of safety in residents of four southern and eastern regions of Ukraine was conducted. The key task of the research was to find out: what exactly do the citizens in the frontline areas think about security? What does it mean for them and the key – what does it consist of?   

One would think that this part of the population will be more prone to a “narrow” view of security than anyone else. Nearby – the war, the local population directly or indirectly suffers from the effects of the conflict. However, the study showed completely different results. Yes, citizens imagine security in a broad sense, that is, as human security.

Security, in their opinion, involves a set of conditions, circumstances and opportunities under which various spheres of public life function properly and create comfort and a sense of security for citizens.

Thus, for the inhabitants of these regions, security consists primarily of the following components:

physical, financial security, security in the field of health care, proper work of law enforcement agencies, freedom of political or civil opinion, security of movement in their locality and a number of others.

That is, even in the immediate vicinity of the territory of a long conflict, citizens understand security as a big puzzle that covers various areas of their lives. And they do not focus exclusively on the concepts of ending the war or establishing law and order.

On the one hand, it shapes social demand and expectations from the state. On the other hand, it actually exacerbates the feeling of inconsistency between reality and the desired level of security. Researcher Oksana Mikheyeva explained this very simply: when a person lives in a “eating mode”, that is, has no money for virtually nothing but basic needs, he lives in constant fear that something extraordinary will happen, which will require funds. And so, at the level of such logical connections between different manifestations of security, it becomes clear why a comprehensive view of a safe environment is a new social standard of comfortable living.

Ukrainian realities: will human security become mainstream? 

In Ukrainian society, the situation with the further development of the principle of human security is specific. This is broadly influenced by a number of factors, but it is in the Ukrainian realities that two key ones can be distinguished.

First, a protracted conflict . It obviously affects most security dimensions. And – both on a personal, and on national level.

Secondly, the ongoing reforms . If, say, a system of law enforcement, courts, economic relations, or health care works predictably and effectively, that’s one story. However, if any of these systems is unreformed or the reform is incomplete, then the feeling of protection of citizens in the relevant field will not be at the proper level. 

At first glance, it may seem that this will negatively affect the prospects of human security in Ukrainian realities. However, on the other hand, it is also a chance. A chance to advocate for such an approach to a particular reform, so that it takes into account the comfort and sense of security of citizens.

It is important to promote such an approach not only to the state and its institutions, but also to those that directly affect the lives of citizens in other areas. These are international donors and other organizations implementing development programs within Ukraine; Ukrainian non-governmental organizations, which are also active participants in the reform process in Ukraine; local governments – especially now, in the context of decentralization and new opportunities for the organization of many life processes directly on the ground.

Yes, this is a difficult path. However, to be a part of the modern democratic world means not only in words, but in practice to implement the principle of human-centeredness of both public policy and non-governmental activity.

Maria Zolkina, political analyst of the Ilko Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation, for NV.Poglyady