Human security, conflict prevention and peace in Latin

Jorge da Silva
Researcher, FLACSO–Brazil
Hugo Früling
Coordinator of the Citizen Security
Area, CED–Chile
Miriam Kornblith
Researcher, Instituto de Estudios
Superiores de Administración,
Universidad Central de Venezuela
Adrián Bonilla
Academic Subdirector, FLACSO
Ernesto López
Director of the Armed Forces and
Society Research Program of the
Universidad Nacional de Quilmes,
Juan Aníbal Barría
Counselor at the Chilean Embassy
of the Holy See.
Since the beginning of the nineties, the notion of
human security has become the focus of many discussions in the United Nations system, international
organizations and governments of different regions,
as well as in the academic and intellectual fields.
Indeed, with the end of cold war, it was made aware
that non–armed security threats were multiplying at
international, regional, national and local levels.
Many efforts, both theoretical and practical, have
been deployed in order to identify the most suitable
modalities to face these threats.
Human security was born as an emerging concept at
the beginning of XXI century, with its main objective
being to place the person and his or her protection as
the structuring axis of international peace. This
concept is still under construction, as the result of
the great variety of dimensions and priorities to be
taken into account in order to achieve an integrated
approach for action, which is able to respond to the
number of insecurities faced daily by the most vulnerable sectors of the population.
C a r i b b e a n
Editors: Francisco Rojas Aravena – Moufida Goucha
Moufida Goucha
Director of the Unit for Peace and
the New Dimensions of Security,
Francisco Rojas Aravena
Director, FLACSO–Chile
Jorge Nef
Professor, University of Guelph
Patricio Silva
Professor, University of
t h e
Alejandra Liriano
Coordinator of the International
Relations Area, FLACSO
Dominican Republic
This book is a compilation of articles that arose as
the outcome of the international seminar of experts
on “Peace, Human Security and Conflicts Prevention
in Latin America and The Caribbean”, organized by
UNESCO and FLACSO–Chile. This meeting is part of a
number of regional initiatives organized by UNESCO’s
SECURIPAX network for the promotion of human security and peace.
Hal Klepak
Professor, Royal Military College
of Canada
Claudia F. Fuentes
Researcher, FLACSO–Chile
a n d
Laura Chinchilla
Former Minister of Public Security,
Costa Rica
Human Security,
Conflict Prevention
and Peace
Hugo Palma
Researcher, CEPEI–Peru
Luis Guillermo Solís
Director of the Conflict,
Cooperation and Environmental
Program, FUNPADEM–Costa Rica
A m e r i c a
Raúl Benitez Manaut
Researcher, UNAM–Mexico
L a t i n
Juan Ramón Quintana
Researcher, PIEB–Bolivia
Human Security, Conflict Prevention and Peace
Arlene B. Tickner
Director of the International
Relations Center, Universidad de
los Andes–Colombia
Ann C. Mason
Director of the Political Science
Department, Universidad de los
Bernardo Arévalo de León
Coordinator of the Security Studies
Area, FLACSO–Guatemala
Juan Gabriel Tokatlian
Director of Political Science and
International Relations at the
Department of Humanities of the
Universidad de San Andrés,
United Nations Educational,
Scientific and Cultural Organization
Edited by Moufida Goucha and Francisco Rojas Aravena
Compilation of articles of the expert meeting
‘Peace, Human Security and Conflict Prevention
in Latin America and the Caribbean’,
organized by UNESCO and FLACSO-Chile
Santiago, 26-27 November 2001
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Human Security, Conflict Prevention
and Peace for Latin America and the Caribbean
The ideas and opinions expressed in this publication by the participants in the
UNESCO-FLACSO Expert Meeting on ‘Peace, Human Security and Conflict
Prevention in Latin America and the Caribbean’ are not necessarily those of
UNESCO and FLACSO-Chile and do not commit these organizations.
The designations employed throughout the publication do not imply the
expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of UNESCO and FLACSOChile concerning the legal status of any country, territory, city or area, or of its
authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or boundaries.
None of the parts of this book, including the cover design, may be reproduced
or copied in any way and by any means, whether electronic, mechanical, chemical,
optical, or using photocopying techniques, without previous authorization
from UNESCO.
Any communication conerning this publication may be addressed to:
Ms Moufida Goucha /
Ms Claudia Maresia
Division ofForesight, Philosophy and
Human Sciences
Social and Human Sciences Sector
1, rue Miollis
75732 Paris, France
Tel.: +33 - 1 4568 4554 / 55
Fax: +33 - 1 4568 5552
E-mail: peace&[email protected]
Mr Francisco Rojas Aravena /
Ms Claudia Fuentes
Area of International Relations
and Strategic Studies
Av. Dag Hammarskjöld 3269
Tel.: +562 - 2900 200
Fax: +562 - 2900 270
E-mail: [email protected]
323.4 Goucha, Moufida; Rojas Aravena, Francisco, eds.
Human Security, Conflict Prevention and Peace for Latin
America and the Caribbean Santiago, Chile, 2003
391 p. FLACSO Book Series
ISBN: 956-205-176-5
© UNESCO 2003, Santiago, January 2003 (original in Spanish: © UNESCO-FLACSO/Chile)
Registration No. 126.179. Reproduction prohibited - Edited by UNESCO.
Cover design: Claudia Winther
Graphics: Claudia Gutiérrez Grossi, FLACSO-Chile
Translation : CETRADUC
Production: Marcela Zamorano, FLACSO-Chile
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New Perspectives on Human Security
in Latin America and the Caribbean
Moufida Goucha
Francisco Rojas Aravena
Human Security: Emerging Concept of Security
in the Twenty-First Century
Francisco Rojas Aravena
Human Security and Mutual Vulnerability
Jorge Nef
Human Security in an Age of Uncertainty:
Reflections from Europe
Patricio Silva
Peace, Human Security and Conflict Prevention
in Latin America and the Caribbean - a View
from North America
Hal Klepak
Human Security Network: from Lysøen to
Claudia F. Fuentes
Peace, Human Security and Conflict Prevention
in Latin America and the Caribbean
Hugo Palma
Central America: Integration, Security and the
Crisis in the Regional System
Luis Guillermo Solís Rivera
The Andean Region Human Security Dynamic
Arlene B. Tickner
Ann C. Mason
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Democratic Security in Guatemala: Reflections on
Building a Concept of Security in and for Democracy
Bernardo Arévalo de León
Colombia: More Human Insecurity, Less Regional
Juan Gabriel Tokatlian
Poverty, Social Conflict and Citizen Insecurity:
Some Human Security Challenges in Bolivia
Juan Ramón Quintana
Chiapas: Crisis and Disruption of Social Cohesion.
Challenges for Negotiations in the Twenty-First
Raúl Benítez Manaut
Citizen Security in Central America
Laura Chinchilla
Human Security: Perceptions and Realities
Alejandra V. Liriano
Human Security and Public Security: Global Issues
and their Influence on Local Ones
Jorge Da Silva
Violence and Insecurity in Modern Chile
Hugo Frühling
Human Security: Definition and Challenges
for Latin America and the Caribbean
Miriam Kornblith
Human Security in the Andean Region
Adrián Bonilla
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Human Security Agenda: the Case of MERCOSUR
Ernesto López
Chile and Human Security
Juan Aníbal Barría
Human Security: People as the Main Beneficiaries
of National and International Public Policies
H.E. Ms María Soledad Alvear Valenzuela
Participants at the Expert Meeting on ‘Peace,
Human Security and Conflict Prevention
in Latin America and the Caribbean’
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Since the early 1990s, the concept of human security has been the
focus of many debates in the United Nations system, in international
organizations and governments of different regions, as well as in the
academic and intellectual fields. Indeed, with the end of the Cold War,
the world became aware of the multiplication of non-violent threats
to security at the international, regional, national and local levels. A
great deal of theoretical and practical effort has been made to identify
the most suitable modalities to deal with these threats. The combined
impact of using force within states, degradation of the environment,
worsening of extreme poverty, spreading of pandemics, and
exploitation of cultural and ethnic differences, promotes various types
of conflict affecting a great number of people, generally the most
vulnerable and unprotected sectors of the population.
1. Director, Peace and Human Security Programme, UNESCO.
2. Director, Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences, FLACSO-Chile.
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At the heart of the United Nations, new guidelines for action opened
with the Human Development Report 1994 of the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP), which focused on human security.
These include the actions taken by UNESCO within the framework
of its Interdisciplinary Project for the Promotion of a Culture of Peace,
which became especially important in Latin America and the Caribbean,
in Central America in particular, with the participation of governments,
armed and security forces, non-governmental organizations and
ombudsmen, among others. In other countries, such as Brazil, emphasis
has been placed on mobilizing young people in favour of non-violence
while also seeking the contribution of research agencies, thus giving a
sound base to the actions undertaken.
In November 2000, UNESCO convened an International Meeting
of Directors of Peace Research and Training Institutions in order to
define a common agenda on the theme of human security and conflict
prevention. One of the most important recommendations of that
meeting was to invite UNESCO to promote regional approaches in
order to define the most suitable needs and modalities of action, and
to jointly promote human security and conflict prevention in each
specific regional and cultural context. The latter was to be achieved by
duly considering the guidelines of the main international initiatives on
human security, especially those of the Canadian Government and
the Human Security Network, as well as those of the United Nations
Commission on Human Security.
Within this framework, two Expert Meetings on peace, human
security and conflict prevention have now been held at the regional
level. The first was in Pretoria (South Africa) in July 2001, organized
by UNESCO and the Institute for Security Studies. Contributions to
this meeting, which include African perspectives on human security,
have now been published. The second regional meeting was held in
Santiago (Chile) in November 2001, organized by UNESCO and
FLACSO-Chile and co-sponsored by the Chilean Ministry of Foreign
Affairs and Trade. The papers submitted to the Santiago meeting are
presented here, with their national, Latin American and Caribbean
perspectives on the theme of human security.
As the reader will understand, the concept of human security is
still under construction, considering the number of priorities and
dimensions to be taken into account in order to achieve integrated
action able to respond to urgent and wide-ranging needs, particularly
on behalf of the most unprotected sectors of the population.
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Presentation. New Perspectives...
Moufida Goucha / Francisco Rojas Aravena
The specific links between the promotion of human security, the
prevention of conflict and action in favour of human rights and
democracy should also be clearly established. Courses of action in
these different fields often follow a very different political, economic
and social logic, and perhaps the time has come to create a forum for
more effective interaction among them, especially in the area of
preparing coherent policies, the implementation of which requires the
cooperation of all social actors without exception.
Another essential aspect is the need for a long-term perspective
on the processes that may lead to the emergence of new non-violent
threats to peace and security. This perspective would require a more
active and joint contribution from the social and human sciences and
the natural sciences, particularly regarding the interactions between
environmental degradation and worsening poverty and destitution.
On the basis of the results of the Santiago Expert Meeting, UNESCO
will undertake a new phase of action in 2002–2003 – the preparation
of a regional framework for the promotion of human security in order
to incorporate a number of factors, such as the ethical foundations of
human security, human rights, cultural diversity and the different
perceptions of security at the regional, national and, especially, local
levels, in order to move towards the protection of the most vulnerable
sectors of the population.
This framework will be prepared in collaboration with the research
agencies most active in the field of promotion of human security in
Latin America and the Caribbean, in the first place with FLACSOChile, as well as with experts in human rights, international relationships
and international security in this region. Another Expert Meeting is
scheduled for March 2003, whose mission will be the formulation of a
regional framework proposal to be further discussed at a regional
conference to be held in Mexico in mid 2003. This regional framework
will be accompanied by a long-term plan of action consistent with
UNESCO’s Medium-Term Strategy for 2002–2007, in which the
promotion of human security plays a major role.
Another action along these lines will be launched in 2003 for Africa,
on the basis of the results of the UNESCO/Institute for Security
Studies Expert Meeting in Pretoria. Once again the need to ensure a
greater exchange of useful experiences and information among the
different regions should be emphasized, as in many cases similar
problems are to be faced, despite historical differences and varying
levels of economic and social development. In this respect, UNESCO’s
SecuriPax network ( is called upon to
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strengthen networking between different agencies, especially research
and training institutions on peace and human security, around a
common agenda.
We sincerely thank the authors of the papers included here, as
well as all participants at the Santiago meeting – the high quality of
whose presentations has made possible this publication – for their
active participation in the debates, which allowed a number of
recommendations to be made. I would like to express special thanks
to Claudia Maresia and Claudia Fuentes of UNESCO and FLACSOChile, respectively, for their efforts in organizing the meeting and all
the follow-up work it demanded. We also hope that the ensemble of
current activities helps the promotion of human security as one of
the continent’s priorities, especially in meeting the most urgent needs
of the most vulnerable sectors of the population of Latin America and
the Caribbean.
Santiago/Paris, 30 January 2003
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At the beginning of the twenty-first century, Latin America shows
significant weaknesses in coping with the consequences of the process
of globalization. Instability in the region has increased, and that has a
significant effect on most of the population. Even though the main
classical security issues have been overcome in the region and Latin
America has not made any substantial contribution to global instability,
the region is far from having policies that promote people’s security,
human security. Moreover, the intra-national nature of conflicts
increases the vulnerabilities of millions of Latin Americans. The search
for a common security concept in the region is a basic challenge for
the Rio Group, for the Organization of American States (OAS) and its
Committee on Hemispheric Security and for all the region’s states in
the twenty-first century. Civil society organizations and academic
institutions, such as FLACSO, can play an important role in this task.
The twenty-first century is witnessing the emergence of new
transnational actors and of non-state actors with large capacities for
global action. This is an important change in international relations and
in the primacy of the interaction between the various actors. The
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twenty-first century also shows more strongly than in previous eras
the need to solve the problems of millions of human beings who are
being adversely affected by enormous, growing insecurities in political,
economic, social, health, personal and cultural fields. A significant part
of the world population experiences tremendous vulnerability in an
unfair system with increasing regional and global interdependence. The
consequences are that (in)security is global, even though its
manifestations may differ from region to region and country to
A core concern is to progress towards the construction of a new
global order capable of placing humanity at the centre of the planetary
system, and for states, which continue to be the actors with the greatest
relative power, to be able to efficiently guarantee their security and
contribute to overcoming the vulnerabilities and difficulties of hundreds
of millions of people in acceding to progress and development.
The end of the Cold War and the process of globalization have led to
increased opportunities for cooperation in the international system
and in various regions. The communications revolution, the new wave
of democracies around the world and globalization have contributed
to the universalizing values and principles stipulated in the Human
Rights Charter. Promotion of, and respect for, this Charter requires
increased association and more cooperation.2
An approach to global politics from a perspective of human interest,
as developed by Mel Gurtov, allows one to compare value matrices.
This value distinction originates from different theoretical points of
view.3 The realist theory looks at international problems and stresses
conflict, which means that cooperation between the different actors
is not properly gauged. Transnational ‘corporate-globalist’ views stress
economic aspects and the hegemony of a capitalist model of production
and division of labour. Even though these ‘rules of the game’ establish
overall preservation, they are seen to be a zero-sum game compared
with other values. In both cases, in the absence of any shared values,
both realism and the corporate-globalist approach stress
competitiveness as the basis for constant conflict and rivalry.
1. Human Development Report 1999: Globalization with a Human Face, New York,
United Nations Development Programme, 1999.
2. On globalization, see Ulrich Beck ¿Qué es la globalización? Buenos Aires, Editorial
Paidós, 1998; Clóvis Brigagão and Gilberto Rodrigues, Globalização a olho N.U. o
mundo conectado, São Paulo, Editora Moderna, 1998; Robert O. Keohane and Joseph
S. Nye Jr, ‘Power and interdependence in the information age’, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 77,
No. 5, 1998, pp. 81–94; Francisco Rojas Aravena (ed.), Globalización, América Latina y
la diplomacia de cumbres, Santiago, FLACSO-Chile, 1998.
3. Mel Gurtov, Global Politics in the Human Interest, Boulder, Colo., Lynne Rienner
Publishers, 1999.
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Introduction. Human Security: Emerging...
Francisco Rojas Aravena
When one looks at the world from a new perspective with a global
humanist projection, the values stressed are different. The need for a
more holistic approach means asking the core question: Who speaks
for the planet? Based on this question, one looks for other angles in
international relations, which means thinking about relations in the
international system as a people-related issue.4
This approach means that one can relate different problems to
new priorities. The main priority is necessarily peace. This is directly
associated with social aspects and economic justice, political justice,
human governance and common responsibility for a balanced
All the above is expressed with varying, often alternative emphasis
keyed to the values that one wants to achieve. Table 1 compares the
main values promoted by those who support the theories set forth
Table 1
Alternative values in main theories
Equal opportunities
Systems of
Global culture
National mission Interdependence
Basic needs
international regimes
‘One world’
International rights
Maintenance of
Power blocks
Maintenance of
Liberal order
Transformation of
Global order
Source: Mel Gurtov, Global Politics in the Human Interest, pp. 25–6, Boulder, Colo.,
Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1999.
4. In his Millennium Report, the UN Secretary-General seeks to recover the role of
representative of the people for the UN and speaks of ‘we the people of the United
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Conditions currently exist to form an international coalition of states
and civil society organizations to support and promote projects aimed
at establishing greater security for people and their performance as
the core of international security. The United Nations is encouraging
this point of view, basically by improving new international law that
seeks to guarantee peace and governance and foster positive incentives.
In this regard, we would like to stress the point of view set forth at the
Lysøen meeting of the Human Security Network: ‘An innovative
international approach will be needed to address the source of
insecurity, remedy the symptoms and prevent the recurrence of
threats which affect the daily lives of millions of people.’5
The goal set by the UN in terms of security is a world free from
fear. Achieving this entails recognizing a new set of international
circumstances typified by less weight given to inter-state conflicts and
more weight to intra-state conflicts. The Millennium Report of the
General Assembly, drawn up by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, We
the Peoples,6 stresses that more than 5 million people died in this type
of internal war in the 1990s. There were also mass migrations, refugees,
destruction of infrastructure and alterations to the environment. All
this violates the basic human rights of millions of people and makes it
hard to create conditions for peace – as a primary right – as the
foundation for building a better world.
UN analyses indicate that conflicts are more frequent in regions
with poor countries, so the challenge of protecting more vulnerable
populations is even greater. The above poses a global, and also regional,
dilemma regarding the most suitable mechanisms for achieving stability
and peace and fostering cooperation. Even though one cannot
completely disallow intervention, it has shown that, in most cases, it is
not the best option for settling conflicts. The same is true of the system
of sanctions. In this framework, operations for maintaining and imposing
peace must be reviewed. In the type of conflict that emerges as the
most relevant at the start of the twenty-first century, control of small
arms becomes just as important as control of nuclear weapons. All
this marks a change in the perspective of the main international actors
regarding situations of tension and conflict and, on a more general
level, security concepts.
5. Chairman’s Summary, ‘A Perspective on Human Security’, Lysøen, Norway, 20 May
6. Millennium Report by the Secretary-General of the United Nations, We the Peoples:
The Role of the United Nations in the 21st Century (
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Introduction. Human Security: Emerging...
Francisco Rojas Aravena
The international system has changed dramatically in less than a
decade. Not only did the disappearance of the Soviet Union definitively
mark this change, but there were also substantial changes that
accumulated over time and are expressed with particular strength in
the post-Cold War context. The number of state actors participating
in the institutionalized international system has multiplied by at least a
factor of four since the United Nations was set up in 1945. Other
actors with increasingly more influence on international relations, not
just international agencies capable of changing their surroundings, but
a series of transnational forces expressed with particular strength in
transnational companies and non-government organizations (NGOs),
began to emerge. Communications improvements, technological
revolution and globalization speeded up these changes. This is mainly
expressed in the state – the main actor – having less power.
States ceased to enjoy monopolistic control or have the capacity
to establish and promote actions in six basic areas:
1. Communications. The Internet is the best example of world linkage
without state control. Radio and television are also good examples.
2. Technological development. This depends more on companies than
on the state and affects investment capabilities, from genetic techniques
and cloning to technological developments designed for war.
3. Finances. Financial transactions flow around the world and generate
regional and global crises with little capacity for intervention by the
4. Investments. Even though states generate reinsurance for
investments, their ability to control decisions about where to invest
and where to obtain the investments is minimal.
5. International migrations and the ability to control movement of
people has also diminished in all states.
6. Trade has opened up more and more, and states have evident
problems in setting up controls and restrictions.
The above means that perceptions of threat have been generated
that are different to traditional ones, and mechanisms of action to
cope with them seem, and in many cases actually are, antiquated. The
world has more information. Links are better. Political and social events
in a country or region do not leave indifferent those who perceive
them on the other side of the world.7 Economic decisions made in
7. This trend has increased with the impact of global terrorism and the fight to eliminate it.
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one part of the world have direct consequences on economic growth
and sustainability in other areas. All the above bears out the existence
of substantial changes in the basic concept of sovereignty and
demonstrates the reduced capabilities of nations to cope with their
main problems.8 Hence, coordinating policies, establishing regulations
and generating international regimes, based on shared values, are
essential points in designing a new international system for the twentyfirst century. Only the ability to act jointly will allow states to recover
their abilities to generate, together with other actors, a legitimate order
capable of meeting the demands made, including the issue of security
worldwide: building a world free from threats and fear.
The basic concept that allows security to be understood in the
post-Cold War period is that of cooperation. This concept emerges
in all reports systematizing progress and interpreting the changes in
the world. It also plays an important role in different views, both for
preventing and for promoting peace and international security. The
series of views indicate that new problems that must be incorporated
into the concept go beyond military aspects; hence, elements of
cooperation are an essential point. Interest and need to reconceptualize
this field are not only multilateral, but also present in various countries
around the world. This debate has been very important in the United
States.9 Development of concepts of human security must be placed
within this framework.
During the Cold War period, Latin America was perceived, or
perceived itself, to be within a conceptual framework defined by the
bipolar conflict. The main threat was the extra-continental enemy.
This reasserted prior tendencies from the pre-Second World War
period. At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the countries of
the region are immersed in a process of debating and reformulating
concepts of security. A conceptual transition is taking place from a
Cold War perspective that visualized an enemy expressed in strongly
military actions carried out by a state, to a post-Cold War perspective
in which threats are diffuse, the weight of military factors has diminished
and many of the threats appear not to be linked to state actors, and
even not to be linked to any particular territory.
8. Roberto Bergalli and Eligio Resta (comp.), Soberanía: un principio que se derrumba,
Buenos Aires, Editorial Paidós, 1996.
9. Ann M. Florini and P. J. Simmons, The New Security Thinking: A Review of the North
American Literature, New York, Rockefeller Foundation, 1998; Ashton B. Carter,
William J. Perry and John D. Steinbruner, A New Concept of Cooperative Security,
Washington, D.C., Brookings Institution, 1992; Joseph J. Romm, Defining National
Security. The Nonmilitary Aspects, New York, Council on Foreign Relations Press,
1993; Patrice M. Franco, Toward a New Security Architecture in the Americas ,
Washington, D.C., Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2000.
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Introduction. Human Security: Emerging...
Francisco Rojas Aravena
We can say in general, however, that the end of the Cold War has
led to a reappraisal of the main theoretical matrices used to evaluate
international problems.10 This will allow progress to be made towards
a new paradigm which, while recognizing conflict and confrontation,
places greater emphasis on cooperation and association. This change
requires tremendous political will on the part of core actors and specific
forms of coordination.
Development of theories about international regimes11 and about
forming global public goods12 has acquired greater significance and
importance, as have contributions to theories of negotiation 13 and
practical instruments to relieve tension.14 Theoretical exploration of
this field will generate suitable knowledge to improve multilateral
relations and the results arising from them, especially those results
capable of changing relations in the international system,15 beginning
with cooperative multilateralism.
10. Michael P. Snnar and D. Neil Snarr (eds.), Global Issues, Boulder, Colo., Lynne
Rienner Publishers, 1998; Barry Buzan, Ole Waever and Iaap de Wilde, Security. A
New Framework for Analysis, Boulder, Colo., Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1998; Robert
O. Keohane and Joseph S. Nye Jr, ‘Power and interdependence in the information age’,
Foreign Affairs, Vol. 77, No. 5, 1998. pp. 81–94; Mel Gurtov, Global Politics in the
Human Interest, op. cit.
11. Stephen D. Krasner, International Regimes, Cornell University Press, 1983, 6th ed.,
1991; Roberto Keohane, Instituciones internacionales y poder estatal, Buenos Aires,
Editorial GEL, 1993.
12. Inge Kaul, Isabelle Grunberg and Marc A. Stern, Global Public Goods, New York,
UNDP/Oxford University Press, 1999.
13. J. William Breslin and Jeffrey Z. Rubin, Negotiation Theory and Practice. Program
on Negotiation Books. Cambridge, Mass., Harvard Law School, 1995.
Roger Fisher, Andrea Kupfer Schneider, Elizabeth Borgmardt and Brian Ganson, Beyond
Machiavelli. Tools for Coping with Conflict, Harvard University Press, 1994.
Roger Fisher, Elizabeth Kopelman and Andrea Kupfer Schneider, Más allá de Maquiavelo.
Herramientas para afrontar conflictos, Buenos Aires, Editorial Granica, 1996 (original
version in English, 1994).
14. Michael Krepon, Michael Newbill, Khurshid Khoja and Jenny S. Drezin, Global
Confidence Building, New Tools for Troubled Regions, New York, St Martin’s Press,
15. Stanley Hoffmann, World Disorders. Troubled Peace in the Post-Cold War Era,
Boston, Mass., Rowman and Littlepield Publishers, 1998.
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Human security: An emerging concept
New vulnerabilities demand holistic perspectives or, in other words,
the aggregation of variables in a totalizing point of view. The concept of
international security at the beginning of the century can be articulated
based on relating concepts of international security, state security and
human security. The way in which that relationship is established will
simultaneously meet global needs and the needs of states, people and
peoples. To the extent that vulnerabilities and threats to international
security increase, pressure will be put on states to take action in a
context such as the one that we have defined, in which the state has
less resources of real power. Hence, it is essential to foster more
multilateralism and cooperative multilateralism, or correspondent
multilateralism. In turn, inter-state crises and conflicts affect human
security and international stability. So it is essential to achieve stability
in inter-state relations by demilitarizing links. Furthermore, human
security demands are made on both the state and the international
system. The influence of civil society organizations in promoting this
level of security is essential.
Each dimension has its own logic. In international security, the logic
is global aspects, globalization and the weight of state actors,
international organizations and non-state actors. Macro definitions are
made at this level, and global and/or regional regimes are promoted.
Stability is a public good to be promoted.
State security is classical security and involves aspects linked
primarily to sovereignty and border issues. The weight of military force
and the balance of forces, as well as concepts associated with dissuasion
and defence, take place at this level.
Human security addresses more local dimensions, although they
involve large masses of humanity. It also addresses global issues that
affect humanity, such as environmental matters and pandemics. Neither
aspect is traditionally addressed at the other two levels at which security
may be analysed.
Building a holistic view requires emphasizing that each level must
produce specific answers in at least three areas: use of force, conflict
prevention and international cooperation. Increases in security at one
level do not replace nor eliminate demands at other levels. On the
contrary, insecurity at one of the three levels affects the other levels.
From this point of view, human security is an emerging issue, which
can give greater cohesion to interaction between international security
and state security in this current period of globalization.
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This outlook that has to be built upon with greater coordinating
pressure does not mean expanding the concept of security. Expansion
would entail militarizing different areas or ‘securitizing’ everything that
is important. New perspectives imply better coordination between
levels. Four substantial elements need to be emphasized in this postCold War stage of globalization: (a) international security extends
beyond its military components; (b) international security is
transnational, global and interdependent; (c) international security is
produced by a plurality of actors; the state having ceased to be the
exclusive actor; (d) international security in the twenty-first century
has enlarged its agenda and demands greater cooperation and
Emphasis on which factor has primacy in the human security, state
security and international security trilogy may vary depending on the
scenario. In most, the weight of coordination will fall on state security,
because the state continues to be the main international actor. For
some geographical regions, mainly Africa, international security – and
its main actors – in other words, the response capability of the
international system in the face of crises of governance of weak or
disappearing states, could be a larger centre of influence.
The Millennium Report says that the world is progressing towards
a new understanding of the concept of security. In fact the document
states: ‘At one time it was synonymous with defending the territory
against outside attacks, but security requirements today mean that it
also covers protecting communities and individuals from different acts
of internal violence.’ It adds: ‘The need to apply security criteria that
are more focused on human beings is even greater due to the constant
danger for humanity of weapons of mass destruction and, very
especially, nuclear weapons: the very name reveals their scope and
objectives, if they ever came to be used.’16 The above means that we
have to rethink and reformulate the concept of security. A more
comprehensive concept that is capable of addressing the different
aspects that affect and influence the life and death of human beings
needs to be built up.
In 1994, the multilateral system began to develop a concept of
human security which has been attracting more and more attention in
multilateral agencies. It is somehow being transformed into a point of
reference for the main global security trends of the twenty-first century.
16. ’Freedom from Fear’, in We the Peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st
Century, Chap. IV, pp. 194-5, New York, United Nations, 2000.
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In fact, the 1994 Human Development Report by the United
Nations Development Programme (UNDP) targeted its analysis on
new dimensions of human security and defined them based on two
main components – freedom from fear and freedom from want. The
UNDP indicates that these two components form part of the origin
and foundation of the United Nations. In this regard, it emphasizes
that ‘the world will never have security from war, if men and women
do not have security in their homes and in their jobs’. The concept
entails a list of threats that are grouped under seven categories that
affect various spheres of action: economic security, food security,
health security, environmental security, personal security, community
security, political security.17
The capacity to generate preventive measures18 is, therefore, the
central point of international action and of the governing agencies of
the universal and regional system.19 In this respect, the UN faces the
challenge and pressing need to establish efficient strategies in preventing
long- and short-term conflicts. Moreover, the UN is interested in
increasingly targeting preventive action in the sphere of international
security as a crucial element in progressing towards a world free from
fear. ‘In the last ten years, the United Nations has proved sadly and
repeatedly that the best intentions in the world are not enough to
replace the basic ability to make a convincing show of force, especially
when a complex peace-keeping mission is involved.’20
The use of force by legitimate delegation of authority by the United
Nations is considered, therefore, to be a substantial instrument. As
the same report then states, however, ‘force alone cannot create peace;
it can only create space to build it’. This assertion is the basic link that
allows one to consider over and over again the relationship between
peace, use of force and political conditions. Political will, restrictions
on the use of force in settling disputes and development of efficient
measures of dissuasion will create more space for politics and for
building peace.
17. Human Development Report 1994, especially Chap. II, ‘New dimensions of human
security’, New York, United Nations Development Programme, 1994.
18. Clingendael, ‘Conflict Prevention and Early Warning in the Political Practice of
International Organizations’, Working Paper, The Hague, Netherlands Institute of
International Relations, 1996.
19. Muthiah Alagappa and Takashi Inoguchi, International Security Management and the
United Nations, Tokyo, United Nations University Press, 1999.
20. Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations (Brahimi Committee),
United Nations General Assembly/Security Council, A/55/305-S/2000/809, New York,
21 August 2000.
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Human security is a wide-ranging concept which demonstrates the
weaknesses and vulnerabilities of human beings, as well as their
potentials. Opportunities for growth and development are increasingly
linked, or become sources of insecurity. Global interconnection
acquires greater significance and importance on a daily basis. Reducing
risks implies greater coordination of national and global policies. The
experiences of recent years show that it is essential to agree on the
design and then on establishing and executing the international regimes
that guarantee a consensual international order. It is the international
regimes that can ensure protection for people. Vulnerabilities can be
overcome based on the action of international regimes. Coordinating
policies inside international regimes will make it possible to increase
opportunities for more equal development. Progress can only be made
in this respect by means of greater association and more cooperation.
Cooperative global multilateralism and national democracies are the
best guarantees of development and protection for people.
Human security may be analysed and understood from different
variables. In the central document of an international seminar on
‘Human Security and Mutual Vulnerability’, Jorge Nef21 proposes at
least five dimensions – ecology, economy, society, politics and culture
(Table 2). Each of these variables can be visualized at different levels.
In this respect, I wish to emphasize how they are linked primarily to
two crucial elements – globalization and the use of force. This will
allow us to target and structure policy recommendations based on a
concept, such as human security, that is still being developed and
21. Jorge Nef, Human Security and Mutual Vulnerability, 2nd ed., Ottawa, IDRC Books,
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Table 2
The five variables of human security and mutual
Environmental capital Economic capital Social capital Political capital
Globalization A world of associated Dark side of
effect “greenhouse
globalization and
more inequality
Global regimes
Use of force Bio-terrorism
Financial crisis
ungovernabi- Children at war religious wars.
Money laundering lity.
Small arms
clashing with
national and
security ones.
Globalization has universalized such values as human rights,
democracy and the market.22 This universalization has a strongly
Western flavour. Basic technological and economic processes
associated with globalization have generated greater global
interdependence with positive and negative aspects, such as more trade,
more dissemination of scientific knowledge and more global information.
There is also greater danger to the environment; terrorism has acquired
a global dimension; organized crime is worldwide and financial crises
know no borders. Generating stability and global governance without
proper institutions is difficult. Significant deficiencies can be observed
in this area. In turn, there is increasing differentiation and multiplication
of international actors in the context of globalization and this has a
bearing on the degree of importance and power resources with which
each one deals with the processes and seeks to influence future courses
of action. A vision of the future is essential. In this framework and
within the current period of the international system, various global
concepts in specific areas such as security have not been honed.
22. David Held, La democracia y el orden global. Del estado moderno al gobierno
cosmopolita, Buenos Aires, Editorial Paidós, 1997.
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Human security visualizes a new global order, one world, founded
on global humanism. The core issue is to solve the population’s basic
needs in the context of globalization and interdependence. This
presupposes, on the one hand, a tendency to unify behaviour,
consumption and values centred on universal values, and, on the other,
the requirement to recognize and respect diversity and particular
identities and cultures.
We have seen, however, that in addition to the above, globalization
also increases differences and does not in itself solve any needs.
Globalization also has an adverse effect on cultural practices and national
and local identities. All this is taking place in a context of economic and
social polarization in various areas of the world. The result is local
ungovernability, which transfers instability to the global system and
regional subsystems. Classic security asserts that there is no absolute
security and that a greater security of one actor can mean a greater
degree of insecurity of another actor. In the case of human security,
we can assert that the vulnerabilities of one are manifested as the
vulnerabilities of all, a mutual vulnerability. In the Latin American region,
this requires that we pay greater attention to, and seek more alternatives
for, the Colombian conflict.
Security: Latin American perspectives
The various regions and countries of Latin America and the
Caribbean show a high degree of heterogeneity. None the less, we are
considered to be a region. There are substantial differences between
us and, in some cases, these are on the increase. There is, however, a
broad base for common action based on a common language and
culture and expressed in common interests in all areas. One of the
substantial deficiencies of our region is not being able to act as one
voice. We find it difficult to coordinate positions and foster projects
in the world and even in the regional system in concert. There is no
possibility of influencing the design of global rules if one does not act in
concert.23 Hence the importance of relaunching the Rio Group.
Latin America can make a qualitative leap in the field of international
security. Ten trends imply this, although they do not guarantee it:
1. An important cycle of border conflicts, especially between major
countries, has ended.
23. Joseph S. Tulchin and Ralph H. Espach (eds.), Latin America in the New International
System, Boulder, Colo., Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2001.
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2. Subregional cooperation and integration have increased thus regional
opportunities can be discerned.
3. Despite globalization, we are a marginal, or rather a peripheral region,
where strategic issues are concerned. This opens up positive
opportunities for new areas of cooperation.
4. We are a denuclearized region free from weapons of mass
5. We learned from the 1990s that international cooperation in security
issues required a new design and architecture. The Cold War
institutions have became obsolete.
6. Efforts have been made to create new security regimes and to design
new public goods in that area, although no results have been achieved.
7. There is renewed dialogue in Summit Diplomacy; although the
operational level is low, it does have a strongly guiding nature.
8. Primary progress in goodwill and cooperation in security issues takes
place at subregional level.
9. Track Two diplomacy has played an important role. This type of
diplomacy must be fostered and expanded.
10. The more international security there is, the more democratic
governance and human security will be targeted.
In spite of the potential of these trends, there are important
deficiencies that must be overcome. An important goal is to build and
develop a common concept of international security in the Americas.
As a region, we need a holistic concept that is able to embrace aspects
of traditional security together with new threats and incorporate levels
and dimensions relative to human beings. Highlighting peace as an
essential value is a constant task. Condemning terrorism and
indiscriminate violence against civilians is a requirement and aspiration
associated with the search for peace.
A common concept will give us:
• More cooperation, participation and inter-state coordination, while
at the same time reducing militarization and conflicting liaisons.
• More multilateralism. More capacity of association and greater
correspondence of actors in dealing with the international agenda.
Cooperative multilateralism expresses this dimension.
• More coordinated action by civil society organizations and greater
weight of society in issues that directly affect it.
The above shows that the region has the opportunity to build a
Multilateral International Security Regime in the Americas. This will be
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Francisco Rojas Aravena
able to cope with traditional inter-state dimensions, the emergence of
new threats, and contribute to opening up opportunities for settling
intra-national conflicts.
Designing and defining goals is very important in a multilateral
international security regime. The key, crucial element, however, is
political will. New conflicts, the presence of new actors, evidence of
new risks, require a new security. This must be capable of providing
early warning mechanisms, space for strategic political dialogue, together
with informal dialogue in Track Two diplomacy. Reviewing coercive
diplomacy will provide more opportunities for democratic regions to
coordinate policies.
In short, the international regime will be organized around common
concepts that allow threats to be targeted and concerted courses of
action to be designed; in other words, control threats in terms of
defence, open up a forum for diplomatic dialogue and reduce risks to
people. This will increase levels of human security and, thereby, classical
security and global security.
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Purpose and description
This work focuses on the interface between three areas of concern
that have generally been addressed separately: globalization,2 the
transformation of the contemporary state and the development crisis.3
Its aim is to provide a set of proposals to help explain and understand
the origins and development of the existing socio-economic and political
order, from a perspective that combines structural and historical,
micro- and macro-analytical views. Although the ultimate aim of this
exercise is to provide an approach to the study of empirical
phenomena, its orientation is mainly theoretical, emphasizing the link
between ‘internal’ and ‘external’ factors affecting the processes
mentioned above.
1. Professor of Politics, International Development and Rural Extension Studies,
University of Guelph, Canada.
2. See Robert Cox, ‘Global restructuring: Making sense of the changing international
political economy’, in Richard Stubbs and Geoffrey Underhill (eds.), Political Economy
and the Changing Global Order, pp. 17–44, Toronto, McClelland & Stewart, 1994.
3. See J. Nef, ‘Development crisis and state crisis: Lessons from the Latin American
experience’, in O. P. Dwivedi and P. Pitil (eds.), Development Administration in PapuaNew Guinea, pp. 10–33, Boroko, ADCOL-PNG, 1991.
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The two central concepts in our approach are human security and
mutual vulnerability. 4 The former refers to the creation and
maintenance of circumstances conducive to the reduction of risk and
uncertainty, in order to achieve what Lasswell referred to as ‘dignity
of people’ or ‘human dignity’.5 The latter concept, mutual vulnerability,6
refers to the interconnectedness of dysfunctions, on a global scale
today, conducive to imbalances and entropy among factors interacting
at both the micro and macro levels of the world order. In our view,
discussion on globalization, the nature of the state, or development,
without reference to the concepts of human security and mutual
vulnerability, would be insufficient to explain the transformations of
the world system. Similarly, an analysis of global transformations without
reference to the shift from a system of Mutually Assured Destruction
(MAD) to one of Mutually Assured Vulnerability (MAV) cannot
thoroughly capture the essence of the post-Cold War period, during
which terms such as ‘national interest’ and even international relations,
North-South relations and ‘Third World’ lost their heuristic value.
For several decades, a variety of words relating to ‘security’ have
emerged, such as national security,7 public safety, citizen security,8
cooperative security9 and so forth. Admittedly, according to a number
of analysts, the concept of security entails the notion of force and of
‘legitimate’ violence and ‘sovereignty’10 on the part of the state.
Nevertheless, there is an equally long-standing tradition that consists
in using the term security to describe a reduction in adverse risks and
contingencies that affect what is known as civil society and individuals.
4. J. Nef, Human Security and Mutual Vulnerability. The Global Political Economy of
Development and Underdevelopment, 2nd ed., pp. 13–14, Ottawa, IDRC Books, 1999.
5. Harold Lasswell, Politics. Who Gets What, When and How?, pp. 3–25, New York,
Peter Smith, 1950.
6. Ivan Head, On a Hinge of History: The Mutual Vulnerability of South and North,
passim, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1991.
7. Arturo Siat and Gregorio Iriarte, ‘De la seguridad nacional al trilateralismo’,
Cuadernos de cristianismo y sociedad, May 1978, pp. 17–30.
8. See Patricio Tudela, ‘Integración regional y seguridad: desde las estrategias de defensa
al crimen organizado y la seguridad ciudadana’, contribution to Panel II, ‘Hipótesis de
conflicto – seguridad y defensa’ at the seminar ‘Nuevos escenarios de los procesos de
integración: Desafíos y realidades’, organized by the Asociación Chilena de Ciencia
Política and Fundación Konrad Adenauer, Santiago, 21 June 2001.
9. See Francisco Rojas Aravena, ‘Seguridad humana: Una perspectiva académica desde
América Latina’, in Chile 1999–2000. Nuevo gobierno: Desafíos de la reconciliación,
pp. 71–3, Santiago, FLACSO-Chile, 2000.
10. Jorge Nef and Francisco Rojas, ‘Dependencia compleja y transnacionalización del
estado en América Latina’, Relaciones Internacionales, Nos. 8 and 9, December 1984,
pp. 101–22.
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Human Security and Mutual Vulnerability
Jorge Nef
In fact, this widespread meaning of security underlies the abovementioned macro-political conceptions. Such is the case with the
actuarial notion of ‘security’ and the expressions ‘social security’, ‘food
security’,11 ‘company security’12 and other terms associated with the
ideas of (second- and third-generation) ‘human rights’, human
development and security communities. These terms certainly have
much in common; their semantics and meaning often reflect different
ways of expressing similar terms or emphasize one aspect or another
of reality. Nevertheless, we should not be misled into assuming that all
these notions are necessarily held together by a conceptual matrix or
one based on common values. On the contrary, beyond the different
public policy labels are contrasting conceptions of human rights, global
relations and relations between state and civil society, and of the very
nature of the state in relation to the regional and global system. This is
particularly true in the case of a holistic understanding of ‘national
security’. The latter embraces a narrow view of the resources required
to achieve a form of security (military and defence) rather than a
comprehensive and systemic understanding of purposes (teleologies),
context and consequences.13
Structure of the paper
The broad and comprehensive notions of security outlined above
are covered by the term ‘human security’. We shall briefly examine its
origins and development, its various theoretical foundations, its analytical
dimensions and its implications in terms of public policy options.
According to some writers, the origins of this concept can be traced
back to our work with the International Development Research Centre
(IDRC) Presidential Commission in Canada in 1988 and the publication
ofOn a Hinge of History14 by Ivan Head (1992) and Human Security
and Mutual Vulnerability15 by the present author (1995) which, during
11. J. Nef and J. Vanderkop, Food Systems and Food Security in Latin America and the
Caribbean: Politics, Ideology and Technology, pp. 1–5, Guelph, Centre for Food Security
Research, 1989.
12. Concept used by Henri Fayol in Industrial and General Administration (1916), to
refer to one of the six functions of a company: that of safeguarding heritage, commodities,
health and company integrity.
13. Jean-Louis Weil, Joseph Comblin and Judge Senese, ‘The repressive state: The
Brazilian National Security Doctrine and Latin America’, in LARU Studies, pp. 36–73,
Toronto, Latin American Research Unit (LARU), 1979.
14. Ivan Head, op. cit., pp. 1, 95–7, 185–6.
15. J. Nef, Human Security and Mutual Vulnerability. An Exploration into the Global
Political Economy of Development and Underdevelopment, Ottawa, IDRC Books, 1995.
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the 1990s, influenced Canadian foreign policy-making by the then
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lloyd Axworthy.16 However, it is very likely
that its theoretical foundations date back to former works, including
Harold Lasswell’s concepts relating to human dignity, Kenneth
Boulding’s works and what is referred to as the international political
economy,17 in particular the contributions of Johan Galtung18 and
Robert Cox.19 In any case, the conceptual framework of human security
has recently emerged in the foreign policy matrices of a group of twelve
countries, including Chile.20 Interestingly, however, this concept is
poorly understood beyond its semantic appeal.
The interpretative essay that follows is structured around a series
of interrelated issues – the environment, the economy, society, politics
and culture – from a global perspective. First, an equally descriptive
and theoretical general view is presented of the post-Cold War world
order from the perspective of the political economy of development
and underdevelopment. Structural and historical approaches to
explaining the nature of this world order21 are emphasized, as well as
the limitations of these approaches in developing both heuristic and
public policy-oriented hypotheses. The notions of mutual vulnerability
and security (and insecurity) are then examined as analytical,
explanatory, normative alternatives of the new world order. This
includes an analysis of the historical roots and the structuralenvironmental, economic, social, political and cultural circumstances
of the world order and of global development and underdevelopment.
Finally, a conceptual synthesis attempts to address the issue of systemic
change in the light of the historic and structural factors mentioned
above which put the heuristic value of the human security paradigm
to the test. In particular, epistemological, ideological and conceptual
(and public policy model) continuities and discontinuities are examined,
together with other ‘security’ paradigms such as national security, public
safety, cooperative security and citizen security, among others.
16. An outline of the concept of human security as a basis for foreign policy can be found in Government
of Canada, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), ‘Statement, Notes for an
Address by the Honourable Lloyd Axworthy, Minister of Foreign Affairs to the G-8 Foreign Ministers’
Meeting’, 9 June 1999 (
17. Martin Staniland.What is Political Economy? A Study of Social Theory and Underdevelopment, pp.
1–9, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1985.
18. Johan Galtung,The True Worlds. A Transnational Perspective, pp. 1–39, 107–78, 255–303, 305–
40, New York, Free Press, 1980.
19. Robert Cox,Production, Power, and World Order. Social Forces in the Making of History, pp. 1–
35, 407–15, New York, Columbia University Press, 1987.
20. The Human Security Network comprised twelve countries in 1999 – Austria, Canada, Chile,
Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovenia, Switzerland and Thailand – coordinated
by ministerial meetings. See Rojas, ‘Seguridad humana ...’, in Chile 1999–2000, op. cit., pp. 66–7.
21. A general overview of the various theoretical stances is given in Jan Black,Development in Theory
and Practice. Paradigms and Paradoxes, pp. 1–39, Boulder, Co., Westview Press, 1999.
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Human Security and Mutual Vulnerability
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New world order and semantics of security and
Since the end of the Second World War, the notions of security
and development have been the teleological axis of the world order
and of superpower foreign policies. That security has generally tended
to refer to the military aspect of relations between countries or among
social groups within a country. On the one hand, the word security
has been widely used – as mentioned above – since the beginning, in
the sense of the reduction of risks, uncertainty and negative
contingencies. On the other, most of the political science literature of
the last forty years has conferred a restrictive connotation 22 on the
term. The latter is related to the control of violence through coercion
(or violence from ‘above’), as in what is called national security.
Furthermore, the word development has become synonymous with
the notions of progress and quality of life of the population. Its origins
can be traced back to the Augustinian idea of providential action, and
the terms progress, evolution and modernity23 are associated with its
Development as counter-insurgency
The current use of the term development began with the Marshall
Plan and President Harry Truman’s Point Four Program.24 It has been
understood as a process of induced economic growth, with substantial
external financial and technological assistance, the result of which is
gradual and continuous social change, which results in the strengthening
of a stable Western-style democracy. It is essential to highlight this
political aspect of development, which, from the beginning of the Cold
War (and the concern for military security), was seen as a ‘soft’
alternative to insurgency.25 Its ‘tough’ counterpart was military force.
The Alliance for Progress very clearly crystallized these ideas. Thus,
development appears both as a condition and as a correlate of security
– national, hemispheric or global – from the Western perspective.
22. See Rojas’ observation in Chile 1999–2000, op. cit., pp. 59–66.
23. Helio Jaguaribe, Economic and Political Development: A Theoretical Approach and
a Brazilian Case Study, pp. 4–12, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, 1968.
24. Michael Mason, Development and Disorder. A History of the Third World Since
1945, pp. 16–23, Toronto, Between the Lines, 1997.
25. J. Nef and O. P. Dwivedi, ‘Development theory and administration: A fence around
an empty lot?’, Indian Journal of Public Administration, Vol. XXVII, No. 1, 1981, pp. 42–
66, 68.
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It is apparent from the foregoing that both terms (security and
development) have been inextricably linked to an ethnocentric –
especially American – world view, with several redefinitions, derived
and fed back after four decades of academic research. This ‘orthodox’
paradigm was based on three basic assumptions, which together
represented the cornerstone of development discourse. The first
assumption was that dissemination and modernization resulted from
international cooperation and technical assistance. The other was a
Keynesian view of the state – the administrative state and development
administration – in which the state was the driving force behind induced
development, through planning. These key ideas of the First United
Nations Development Decade were expressed in the various
programmes of the multilateral international system (United Nations
Development Programme, UNDP; Economic Commission for Latin
America and the Caribbean, ECLAC) and of bilateral assistance, such
as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
Successive reviews of the experience gathered over the various
‘development decades’, such as the Pearson, Brandt, Brundtland and
Nyerere reports,26 involved an adjustment of the assumptions and
directions of induced development, in terms of shared objectives,
environmental sustainability and interdependence. Nevertheless, the
two core assumptions mentioned above remained.
Another basic assumption that remained was the notion of an
international system with two cultural and structural axes revolving
around the division between East and West, and that between North
and South. In other words, there were at least two possible
development models: capitalism and socialism, along with various
options and permutations and the existence of a ‘Third World’ (or
‘South’) comprising poor or underdeveloped, mainly non-aligned
countries, in the face of the growing Cold War conflict. On the occasion
of the inauguration of the Alliance for Progress, President Kennedy
clearly stated that development and revolution were conflicting options,
when he said that those who make peaceful revolution impossible will
make violent revolution inevitable.
26. For an analysis of the last three United Nations Development Decades (1961–91),
see the Commission on International Development (Lester Pearson, Chairman),Partners
in Development; Report, New York, Praeger, 1969; Willy Brandt, North-South: A
Program for Survival, Report by the Independent Commission on International
Development, under the presidency of Willy Brandt, Cambridge, Mass., MIT Press,
1980; World Commission on Environment and Development (Brundtland Commission),
Our Common Future, pp. 118–46, New York, Oxford University Press, 1987; The
South Commission (Julius Nyerere, Chairman), The Challenge to the South: The Report
of the South Commission, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1990.
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Consequently, development is seen as a means of avoiding
revolutionary change and as a foreign policy option for states seeking
to strengthen their defensive stance on the diplomatic and military
fronts. It has become an integral part of a ‘realistic’27 foreign policy
towards peripheral countries, against a background of economic,
ideological and military bipolarity. This form of realism represented a
paradigm with hegemonic pretensions in the Western academic and
politico-military community. Thus the quest for national interest,
defined as the safeguarding of territorial and extraterritorial interests
of the elite in power (or ‘public interest’) can be achieved through
diplomatic and military action, prompting alliances and counter-alliances
aimed at maintaining peace or balance among states.
The theory of the balance of power has empirical references in the
pragmatic system of dynasty alliances between the European
monarchies following the Treaty of Westphalia (1648) in the
seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. In a bipolar situation such as
during the Cold War, with its nuclear deterrent, alliances were
essentially inflexible and highly ideological; hence the search for control
over peripheral regions was considered paramount for maintaining
the world order. From this perspective, interactions between agents
are overshadowed by strategic-military and geopolitical considerations,
in which conflict tends to prevail over cooperative relations.
Furthermore, cooperation among allies and foreign aid (what is called
international cooperation) is a foreign policy instrument against a
background of bipolar global conflict. Nevertheless, in a system of
nuclear deterrence and an inflexible ideological framework, the balance
of power rather resembles a balance of terror, in which overreaction
and escalating conflict can result in a nuclear holocaust.28
Bipolarity and national security
An unexpected effect of rigid bipolarity was the shaping of an
intricate international system in which the global divide among the
superpowers produced not only incipient forms of polycentrism but
also signs of transfigured multipolarity.29 In fact, foreign and defence
27. Hans Morgenthau, Politics Among Nations. The Struggle for Power and Peace, 6th
ed., pp. 185–240, New York, Knopf, 1985.
28. John Herz, International Politics in the Atomic Age, passim, New York, Columbia
University Press, 1962; Stanley Hoffman, Gulliver’s Troubles; Or the Setting of American
Foreign Policy, pp. 3–21, New York, Council of Foreign Relations, McGraw-Hill, 1968.
29. Hoffman, ‘The acceptability of military force’, in Force in Modern Societies: Its Place
in International Politics, London, Adelphi Papers, No. 102.
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policies that had been upheld in a realistic framework were changing. A
shift occurred, from a nuclear shield stance, subject to massive retaliation,
towards the prescription of a flexible response, promoting the use of
non-nuclear instruments of coercion, such as specialized institutions
and civic action.30
This conceptual premise of a ‘flexible response’ is particularly important
for Latin America. When the original mission of the Inter-American Treaty
of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR) to provide an inter-American military
alliance to counteract an external enemy (the USSR) was losing credibility,
other ‘prophylactic’ tasks emerged, such as maintaining internal order
and the interests of hegemonic power. Counter-insurgency doctrines
and in particular what is called the ‘national security doctrine’ are the
expressions justifying these tasks.31 Although originally articulated within
the French army during the wars of Indochina and especially Algeria, the
doctrine was significantly enhanced by Sir Robert Thompson’s
experiences during the insurgency in Burma and Malaysia and the
American participation in Viet Nam (Bernard Fall). Its broader conceptual
framework could be found in the geopolitical doctrines of Kjellen and
Haushofer after the post-First World War period. These notions very
directly influenced the ideas of vital space and of the state as a Nazi
Germany institution, as well as education in the Southern Cone military
academies. Even though the term ‘national security doctrine’ was initially
associated in Latin America with the Center for Higher Military Studies
in Brazil in the 1960s,32 it mainly influenced the rest of the world through
counter-insurgency courses at the School of the Americas, in the region
of the Panama Canal and in Special Forces training centres in the United
States.33 The idea of national security became the prevailing cultural
‘software’ in armies and the strategic planning of the Americas, particularly
during the period of military dictatorship, between the mid-1960s (Brazil
1964) and the end of the 1980s (Chile 1989). This ideology radically
changed the army’s primary mission, from territorial defence against a
foreign enemy – as set out by ‘classic’ realism – to the united struggle
against an internal enemy: civil society.
30. William Barber and Neale Ronning, Internal Security and Military Power: Counterinsurgency
and Civic Action in Latin America, Columbus, Ohio State University Press, 1966.
31. Siat and Iriarte, loc. cit.
32. The doctrina do segurança in Brazil initially had a wide connotation, related to a NeoBismarckian vision of development and the ‘Manifest Destiny’ of the country in terms of
power. In contrast, its American counterpart (that had a direct influence on the military in the
Southern Cone, Central America and the rest of Latin America) was more limited to minimum
civic action, in the sense of ‘community development’ aimed at preventing insurgency. The
Peruvian experiment with Velasco Alvarado showed developmentalist and populist tendencies,
but this developmentalist militaristic stance was very uncommon, only observed briefly in
Ecuador under Rodríguez Lara and in Panama under Omar Torrijos.
33. See, for example, US Army Special Warfare School, Counterinsurgency Planning Guide,
Special Text No. 31–176, North Carolina, May 1964.
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Human Security and Mutual Vulnerability
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In concrete terms, the National Security Doctrine (more precisely
military security) is a deontologico-prescriptive and ideological subset
founded on a variant of realism – both hegemonic and peripheral –
whose prime policy line relates to ‘order’ and military matters. Thus
the sovereignty of military organizations and their institutional interests
– namely ‘national’ interests – is placed above other concerns, and
defence requirements become a priority over other national objectives
(such as education or development). Moreover, this doctrine rests on
the assumption that the military-industrial complex of the ‘North’ and
its Southern allies share the same interests. More importantly, though,
it revolves around an implied ‘friend-enemy’ Manichaean notion,
according to which the main threat, as mentioned above, is posed by
an ‘enemy within’. The significant difference between centre and
periphery in terms of application of the doctrine is that, in the former
case, it suggests deep-seated territorial sovereignty (with an essentially
foreign enemy), while in the latter case, sovereignty is secondary to
common interests between local armed forces and the leading power.
Despite the end of the East-West conflict, the doctrine has been
upheld in the curricula of ‘security’ organizations. Danger and the
‘enemy’, both internal and foreign, are no longer directly communism
or insurgency, but drug trafficking, terrorism and narco-terrorism. The
same prescription remains as before: a state of national security to
protect society, even from itself.
In parallel with national security, additional sets of principles
surfaced, including public safety doctrines and programmes. Although
these principles mainly focus on internal security ‘policing’ operations,
many – fostered by the International Police Academy, the Agency for
International Development (AID) and the CIA – warn of an insurgent
danger, of a ‘terrorist’ and criminal nature, of internecine strife. Public
safety served as a link between national security with its focus on
‘communist’ guerillas, supported by Cuba and the USSR, and the anti‘narcoterrorism’ campaigns of the 1990s. In contrast to the National
Security Doctrine (NSD), public safety programmes are based on the
criminalization of danger and the modernization and fitting-out of police
In the years that followed the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the
ending of Central American insurgency, national security and what
Juan Bosch referred to as ‘Pentagonism’34 lost considerable ground as
an official doctrine, both in the United States and in Latin America,
34. Juan Bosch, El Pentagonismo, substituto del imperialismo, passim, Madrid, Guadiaga,
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particularly against the background of a transition to ‘low intensity’35
democracy. Notions such as free trade, which underpin neoliberalism,
and the triumph of the Trilateralist faction in Washington, gave rise to
other theoretical conceptions whose bases had already been outlined
since the mid-1970s.
These theories, which attempted to explain and provide policy
guidelines, were doubtless influenced by the failure of bipolarity as a
conflict-management mechanism and by the growing ineffectiveness
of national security to maintain the status quo, from Viet Nam to Latin
America. More importantly, the new ideas reflected a considerable
expansion in technology, trade and global management systems. In
fact, the emerging polycentrism predicted by Stanley Hoffman 36 in the
1960s did not systematically find expression in the resurgence of
multiple national centres (in Europe, Asia and the Middle East), but as
a complex conglomerate with several operational centres of power,37
in the context of a global economy. Transnational capitalism gradually
replaced Keynesian national capitalism and socialism, not only in the
West and its periphery, but also in what was once the world of ‘real
Complex interdependency and theory of regimes
This new context presented a challenge for the dominant realistic
paradigm. The dynamics of the global order could not be explained
only on the basis of territorial ‘national interest’ and the conditionalities
derived from the balance of power. It is in this context that the complex
interdependency paradigm of Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye3 8
emerged, as a heuristic device to explain the complex relations between
fundamentally economic regimes which arose from the mid-1970s
The change in analytical perspective was not necessarily an
epistemological ‘revolution’ in Thomas Kuhn’s sense,39 but had to do
35. Barry Gil, Joel Rocamora and Richard Wilson, Low Intensity Democracy: Political
Power in the New World Order, pp. 3–34, London, Pluto Press, 1993.
36. Hoffman, ‘Restraints and choices in American foreign policy’, Daedalus, Autumn
1962, pp. 692–4. These ideas are developed in greater detail in his work Gulliver’s
Troubles ..., loc. cit.
37. David Blake and Robert Walters, The Politics of Global Economic Relations, pp. 1–
10, New York, Prentice Hall, 1976; Joan Spero, The Politics of International Economic
Relations, New York, St Martin’s Press, 1977.
38. Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye, Power and Interdependence: World Politics in
Transition, Boston, Little, Brown & Co., 1975.
39. Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2nd ed., pp. 15–17, Chicago,
Chicago University Press, 1970.
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Human Security and Mutual Vulnerability
Jorge Nef
with parallelisms and solutions for continuity between realism à la
Morgenthau and complex interdependency – or the theory of regimes.
In the overwhelming majority of political science departments and
international study programmes, realism continued to be the
predominant discourse, with an incipient bias towards the ‘new’
neoliberal-style international political economy. This does not mean
to say that Cold War realism ended, in spite of the end of the EastWest conflict. In fact, as a conceptual matrix it remains the favourite
stance in national security programmes in universities and particularly
in centres linked to the defence sector. In retrospect, the theory of
regimes was not only a response to the heuristic exhaustion of
conservative realism, but also a very direct and explicit response of
the North to the pro-dependency conceptions generated by the Third
World, especially Latin America.40 The complex interdependency
model is interesting in that, in contrast to realism, it provides a solution
for continuity between ‘internal’ and ‘foreign’ policy. The orthodox
view of American political science rested on a national political order
in which a ‘normal’ teleological state was consensus, whereas, on an
international level, what was perceived as normal was a Hobbes-style
state of nature, without rules or regimes other than the quest for
‘national interest’.
Critical theory: dependency, world system and mutual
Nevertheless, such continuity between international system and
internal order was observed in a political economy in line with traditional
criticism (Marxist, socialist and anarchist), which gave rise to the
dependency theories. Thus, conflict between states was an extension
of conflict between social groups within the state. The best known
among these notions is the thesis of imperialism, both in Hobson’s
and Lenin’s versions. For its own part, the ‘dependency theory’,41 whose
origins are attributed inter alia to the structuralism of ECLAC and
subsequent developments by Cardoso, Faletto and Frank, never was
one unifying theory. Neither was it clearly or fundamentally a paradigm
in international relations. Instead, dependency represented a set of
sociological and economic formulations that attempted to explain Latin
40. Keohane and Nye, op. cit, pp. viii–10, 1–37.
41. Ver Jan Black, Development in Theory and Practice. Paradigms and Paradoxes, 2nd
ed., pp. 28–9, Boulder, Colo., Westview Press, 1999.
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American underdevelopment from a centre-periphery perspective.
This vision undoubtedly had significant repercussions on the
understanding of the relationship between underdevelopment,
marginality, instability and penetration.
From this standpoint, pro-dependency ideas substantially
undermined the ethnocentric conceptions prevailing over
development (‘modernization’), hemispheric relations and foreign
policies. On raising the issue of academic orthodoxy from the
perspective of the South, the supporters of dependency acquired a
‘subversive’ overtone. Raising the issue of the ‘radical’ idea of
dependency (and of ‘conservative’ realism) was an important objective
of the theory of regimes, as clearly indicated by its own authors. Few
theoretical assumptions, excluding the thesis of imperialism, have been
rejected as often as has dependency. Nevertheless, few
conceptualizations have shaken the intellectual foundations of the
Western establishment as the idea of dependency has done. To a large
extent, dependency theories had a major influence on Galtung and
Wallerstein’s world systems, on what was referred to as ‘global theory’
by Cox, Rosenau and Gil and on our own concepts of ‘complex
dependency’ (Nef and Rojas, 1983)42 and human insecurity and mutual
vulnerability (1995, 1999).
Human security43
The human security paradigm is founded on the notion of mutual
vulnerability. In other words, the strength and soundness of an
interconnected global system – including its most-developed and
seemingly best-protected components – are paradoxically conditioned
by its weakest links. Therefore, despite the existence of extreme
vulnerability and insecurity in certain sectors of the system, we are all
vulnerable to a certain extent. Subsequently, the central theme of
human security is the reduction of collective (and shared) risk through
analysis, decisions, prevention and action aimed at reducing the causes
and circumstances of insecurity.
42. Nef and Rojas, loc. cit.
43. This section summarizes and expands on our work Human Security and Mutual
Vulnerability, op. cit., 1995 (1st ed.), 1999 (2nd ed.).
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Human Security and Mutual Vulnerability
Jorge Nef
The definition of security adopted in this work is based on the
probability of risk and vulnerability reduction, that is to say, the
reduction and control of insecurity. This definition stresses the
prevention of causes of insecurity, beyond the technical means of
containing its symptoms. The form of insecurity that is particularly
relevant here affects the large majority of the population, particularly
in those sectors which are more vulnerable and exposed to risk factors.
It may be suggested that security (or risk reduction) at more macro
levels of the global system, caeteris paribus, depends on the successful
establishment of security at these same levels. Similarly, subsystemic
security is reciprocally affected by the security of the entire system.
Successful sustained (and sustainable) homeostasis – the system’s
maintenance – relies on a significant and constant reduction of risk
and insecurity at all levels.
With the end of the illusory protection of the nuclear shield and of
the ‘national security state’, it has become apparent that real personal
security does not primarily depend on the possession of conventional
or other offensive-defensive weapons (military strength). Rather, security
relies on diagnosis and prescription – preventive or ‘curative’ – capable
of minimizing risks systemically. These modes of analysis and policies
essentially refer to the causes of insecurity and the interactions between
micro and macro levels of multiple interacting and dynamic factors in
the environmental, economic, social, political and cultural spheres.
Situations including the AIDS epidemic and other health threats,44
environmental degradation, the evolution of global economico-financial
crises, drug trafficking, the expansion and spreading of local conflict,
famine, the displacement of peoples and terrorism, are real and
imminent dangers for which traditional paradigms have no effect. All
these threats have been looming since the pre-Cold War. The novelty
is that the bipolar conflict between East and West, that had provided
a type of containment valve for these problems, disintegrated as an
ideological-cultural matrix in 1989. This major U-turn also prompted
the collapse of the North-South axis.
The emerging configuration was a new type of functional bipolarity.
Today, the conflict is occurring between a seemingly secure world,
which provides access to the benefits of modernity and globalization,
regardless of latitude, and the ‘other’, peripheral world. The latter
consists of the bulk of populations in Africa, Asia, the Middle East and
44. See J. Nef, ‘Health Security and Insecurity in Latin America and the Caribbean’,
speech delivered at the Macalester International Round Table 2001, 11–14 October
2001. Also in press: The Body: Meditations on Global Health, St Paul, Minn., Macalester
College, 2002.
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Latin America, and an increasing majority of people in the former
socialist world and even in the United States and Western Europe
that have been excluded from the benefits of modernity and must live
with its dysfunctional effects. The emerging situation reveals a number
of common characteristics:
(a) First, the problem of growing insecurity is transnational, as borders
and sovereignties have lost much of their impact. Against this
background, bilateralism and hegemonic power tend to be ineffective,
and existing multilateral mechanisms, though essential, are inadequate.
Nevertheless, these problems must be addressed through concerted
action, prevention and the configuration of increasingly wider security
(b) Second, insecurity stems from complex threats to general security.
These include systemically intertwined environmental, economic, social,
political and cultural variables that cannot be handled using conventional
economic instruments (technical assistance or foreign investment for
example) and military instruments (counter-insurgency, low-intensity
(c) Third, the new threats to security are of a fractal nature, thus
(local) dysfunctions at the micro level have repercussions at the macro
level and vice versa. For this reason, human security is a state policy
based on multilateral international cooperation and multisectoral
analysis, planning and action, whose orientations are both preventive
and proactive.
The notion of personal security is not failing, but is being channelled
into an exclusive perspective based on the use of force or economic
or technological ‘modernization’: ‘social engineering’ or purely military,
economic or technocratic deontology. From this perspective, the causes
(and ‘questions’) tend to be intertwined with the prescriptions (or
‘technical answers’) and institutional interests generated by such
answers. Moreover, as demonstrated from the 1960s onwards by the
Latin American experience, prescription has largely been related to
the genesis and recurrence of the ‘problem’.
In short, the use of counter-insurgency or economic methods
becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy which further deepens the roots of
the social conflict and socio-economic crisis it sets out to resolve.
National (or state) security becomes a leading cause of insecurity at
the national (or state) level and a vehicle for violence. A military stance
without a broadly based substantive content is generally useless except
for increasing dysfunctions. The same occurs with the usual
underdeveloping impact of many development policies.
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Human Security and Mutual Vulnerability
Jorge Nef
This does not suggest the denial of an appropriate (or even ethical)
role for defence and the use of force, particularly if this is legitimate,
approved and accountable in society. Similarly, effective development
strategies can considerably reduce human insecurity. Force is certainly
an essential ultima ratio politico-tactical instrument, but should be
subject to very careful strategic and comprehensive analysis and
planning. Economic growth is meaningful only if it reduces – not
increases – inequalities and personal insecurity, is environmentally
sustainable, and is geared primarily to meeting population needs. In
practice, national security in Latin America was a doctrine that justified
the hegemonic interests (political and economic) of the centre and
local sectors that established this type of security. A similar occurrence
was noted with the public safety and policing programmes that were
complementary to or which instrumentalized ‘national’ security. But
an analysis of economic policies, whether Keynesian or neoliberal,
suggests that far from increasing job security, improving living standards,
reducing poverty and creating conditions for sustainable development,
the net result has been a significant increase in insecurity.
Therefore, there is a pressing need for an integrated frame of
reference whereby public policies can be analysed and formulated from
a perspective different to that of core countries. This quest for a
‘different’ perspective on ethical grounds45 is not only confined to
peripheral nations. An analysis of the framework of Canadian or
Norwegian foreign policy reveals the search for an integrated
perspective in line with their international position, and one that
provides continuity with their policies on environment, human rights
and support for multilateral initiatives. Neither realism nor its national
security (and public safety) peripheral variant, nor complex
interdependency, favour such a strategic vision. Nor do they reflect
the various technological, economic or ideological interactions and
circumstances of a world of diffuse unipolarity such as that which
emerged after the end of the Cold War.
Human security stems from the idea that social systems, unlike
their natural, electronic and mechanical analogues, are not inherently
self-correcting. In fact, correcting ability (homeostasis) or its opposite
(entropy) are closely related to learning ability or inability.46 As a result,
both security and development have become inseparable from the
45. Mel Gurtov, Global Politics in the Human Interest, pp. 25–6, Boulder, Colo., Lynne
Rienner Publishers, 1999, quoted in Rojas, op. cit., p. 60.
46. See Humberto Maturana and F. Varela, Autopoiesis and Cognition: The Realization
of the Cognitive, passim, Boston, Mass., T. Reidel, 1980.
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notions of strategic planning and systemic analysis. Therefore,
insecurity, like security, is a result of the interplay between (a) a changing
context, (b) a culture that gives meaning and purpose to the system,
(c) a set of structures, instruments and mechanisms (resources, people,
lines of communication), (d) processes whereby structures work
towards attaining aims, and (e) the effects of action undertaken on the
context, culture and structures.
Although insecurity comprises several factors, it is possible to
distinguish analytically between five substantive, subsystemic,
interrelated dimensions. The first is the environmental dimension,
which encompasses the natural and biophysical environment in which
socio-economic, political and cultural activity takes place. The second
dimension is economic: this concerns the creation and distribution of
wealth, using resources extracted from the environment, and its
transformation into production and distribution processes. The third
dimension is social: the interaction structures and processes between
people and relationship networks – hierarchical or functional – that
favour cohesion and coexistence. The fourth dimension is political:
the relations, structures and processes related to conflict management
among social groups, through the creation and distribution of power
in the socio-economic order. Last but not least is the cultural dimension,
relating to the symbolic, value-based, instrumental construction and
representation of the socio-economic and political order and its natural
Substantively, the idea of human security implies a number of
interwoven dimensions, centred on ‘human dignity’47 as referred to
above. This notion is, broadly speaking, synonymous with human rights,
in particular second- and third-generation human rights. The
subsystems mentioned are interlinked by ‘bridges’: environment and
economy are linked by natural resources; economy and society, by
social forces; society and polity, by brokers and alliances; and politics
and culture, by ideology.
The above linkages between context, culture, structure and
processes, in the environmental, economic, social, political and cultural
order, may be represented schematically according to the following
47. Harold Lasswell, loc. cit.
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Well-being, affection,
respect, rectitude)
Social Capital
Environmental Capital
Economic Capital
Natural setting
(biophysical surroundings
of social action)
Styles of development
(economic models)
Social expectations,
Internal and external
customs and traditions conflicts: capabilities/
expectations, elites/
masses, sovereignty/
Ecoculture: place of
environment in
Economic doctrines:
ways of understanding
the economy
Social doctrines: values, Ideologies: function of Philosophy: axiologies, teleologies,
norms and attitudes:
the State and its relation deontologies: moral and ethical
identity and modal
to the citizen
Resource endowment
and spatial distribution
relation between
environment and
Economic units:
Status and roles: social
structures, groups,
classes, fractions
Brokers and institutions: Formal and informal educational
interest groups, parties, structures: schools, universities,
cliques, governments,
learning institutions
Depletion or
regeneration of air,
water, land, flora and
Production and
distribution of goods
and services
cooperation, conflict,
Conflict resolution:
consensus, repression,
rebellion, stalemate
Learning: building of consciousness
cognitions, basic values, procedures
and teleologies
Sustainability - entropy Prosperity - poverty
Equity - inequity
Peace - violence
Enlightenment - ignorance
48. This matrix is adapted from J. Nef, Human Security..., 2nd ed., p. 18, 1999.
Political Capital
Cultural Capital
Images of the physical and social
world and collective experiences
Jorge Nef
Human Security and Mutual Vulnerability
Seguridad Humana inglés.P65
Analytical matrix of human security48
A global perspective
A central concept in the study of human security is the macroanalytical notion of a ‘world system’.49 This construct encompasses
historical, structural, and functional features that make it possible to
analyse and reassess material global conjunctures, irrespective of the
type of configuration or polarity found in the system. A world system
can be multipolar, bipolar or unipolar, with various transformations
and specific attributes and several patterns of continuity and change.
This system is also likely to be studied in relation to various interrelated
levels: global, regional, national, subnational, local and personal. A widely
used term today is ‘glocal’,50 describing the close relationship between
the micro and macro levels of the system – local becomes global and
vice versa. Security and insecurity are interconnected at every level of
the system. Micro security is affected by macro insecurity and collective
security tends to be affected by insecurity at the micro levels.
The current world system consists of an integrated pattern of global
production, distribution and power whose foundations were laid in
the seventeenth century, but whose expansion and consolidation have
gathered momentum since the mid-nineteenth century and particularly
since the end of the Second World War. It involves unequal and
asymmetrical exchange processes and structures between a developed
‘core’ and impoverished semiperipheries and peripheries, in which
systemic and subsystemic development and underdevelopment are
functionally and historically, but not deterministically, interrelated. The
thesis of mutual vulnerability posits that, in an interconnected system,
neither developmental irreversibility nor a lack of ‘guaranteed’
protection is found only on the periphery, but that the centre has
become increasingly vulnerable as insecurity grows on the periphery.
Centres and peripheries
For a long time, the notions of centre, periphery and unequal
exchanges applied only to geographical units – countries, regions and
what are called ‘worlds’ of development (First, Second and Third
Worlds). International stratification referred to geographical units that
49. See the works of Johan Galtung, The True Worlds: A Transnational Perspective,
New York, Free Press, 1980; Emmanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World System II,
New York, Academic Books, 1980.
50. See Arturo Escobar, ‘Discourse and power in development: Michel Foucault and
the relevance of his work to the Third World’, Alternatives, Vol. X, Winter 1984–85,
pp. 370–400.
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Jorge Nef
were assumed to be essentially homogeneous for the purpose of the
analysis. This methodology was also applied to the study of national
development and international relations, both realistic and prodependency. The basic unit of analysis was the nation, or country;
other entities were assumed to be national subcategories. At a high
level of abstraction it is argued, for example, that the collective security
of a population is synonymous with national security, as defined by
the ruling elite or defence institutions. Nevertheless, the problem lies
in the fact that these abstractions cannot adequately reflect the physical
agents – individuals, groups, classes, etc. – associated with a specific
time and place. Development and underdevelopment are conditions
experienced by people, not abstract aggregates that define the totality
of a territory. Thus the concept of centres and peripheries, although
valid as a whole, requires to be redefined and improved.
In our view, the centre consists of elite sectors which, regardless
of the region of the globe, are transnationally integrated, reap the
benefits of development and modernity, and experience – or may be
under a general illusion of – security. The periphery comprises those
excluded from the benefits of the present order, regardless of their
country, and who experience extreme vulnerability and generally find
themselves in an unequal exchange, against their will. This integrated
vision of processes and structures, far beyond the labelling of categories
a priori, avoids a simplistic and mechanistic application of stratification
and dependency and of the neofunctional fallacy of ‘globalization’ and
complex interdependency.
The terms developed and underdeveloped, rich and poor countries,
obscure the fact that in any actual society there is a substantial degree
of transnational integration among elites and effective marginalization
and exploitation of most of the population.51 This makes it possible to
analyse the logic underlying relations between centres, semiperipheries
and peripheries as part of a single structure and existing processes
and in the longue durée.52
51. Osvaldo Sunkel, ‘Transnational capitalism and national disintegration in Latin
America’, Social and Economic Studies, Vol. 22, No. 1, March 1973, pp. 140–50.
52. For a definition of the historic longue durée, see Fernand Braudel, ‘History and the
social sciences: The longue durée’ in Braudel (ed.), On History, pp. 25–54, Chicago,
Chicago University Press, 1980.
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A world system presupposes the existence of regimes or
mechanisms of governance and conflict management with structures
of decision-making, rules and influence. Unlike the concept of
international organizations, which presupposes the existence of highly
differentiated, formally sanctioned norms and mechanisms of
governance, regimes constitute the actually existing arrangements for
handling a particular cluster of issues. Regimes are subsystems of the
larger global system. Some are highly institutionalized, such as the
economic-financial field (World Trade Organization, World Bank,
International Monetary Fund), have clear boundaries, and enjoy a
notable degree of concentricity. Others are loose and without a
recognizable authority structure. In general, regimes also vary in terms
of how effectively they manage the issues in their areas of concern.
For the purpose of our model of analysis, it is necessary to examine
relations between the regimes of the five subsystems discussed above
(the environment, the economy, society, politics and culture) at a global,
regional, national, subnational, local and personal level.
Power and governance
One important empirical aspect of the analysis of actual regimes is
ascertaining who governs, as real power structures are often neither
formalized nor transparent. Power, understood as the ability of one
actor or cluster of actors to induce compliant behaviour in others –
who would have not behaved in this manner without such induction 53
– is therefore the very essence of the global system and its constituent
regimes. So is powerlessness. Security and insecurity are often
associated with power and politics, but such power is dynamic,
relational, multidimensional and takes many forms. It entails a fluid and
changing relationship between ends (‘what for’) and means (‘with what’)
and is much more than the sum of the resource capabilities, or even
the possible share of resource commitments pledged by an actor or
an alliance to achieve a purpose. In the last analysis, effective power
can be assessed only as a three-variable equation, expressed in terms
of outcomes vis-à-vis objectives pursued and resources used. In this
respect, authority in the Weberian sense of legitimated power requiring
53. Robert Dahl, Modern Political Analysis, pp. 1–35, Englewood Cliffs, Prentice Hall,
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minimal amounts of coercion (or conversely, rewards) is an efficient and
effective element in regime governance. Governance essentially involves
both the government’s and the governed’s having the ability to manage
Power and metapower
A second important aspect in the analysis of regimes is drawing the
distinction between power and ‘relational control’, or metapower. 54 The
latter is the ability of an actor or actors to affect the outcome of decisions,
non-decisions, actions, and inactions in a given regime by altering the rules
of the game. Metapower can be associated with three fundamental
concepts in political analysis. One is the above-mentioned Weberian idea
of legitimation on grounds of tradition, charisma, or legal-rational calculation;
the second is Gramsci’s notion of hegemony;55 and the third is Michel
Crozier’s observation regarding the relationship between power and
uncertainty.56 Very few actors at any given time possess sufficient legitimacy,
can articulate hegemonic discourses, or have established control over the
sources of uncertainty. More often than not, those who can affect the
outcome of an interaction, within the global system, in a specific functional
system or at any level, are elite sectors within the centre of domestic and
global order. It is precisely this ability to exert power over power that
defines the principal role of ‘centre’ elites in the global system.
Human security and democracy
As indicated above, security and insecurity can be seen in relation to
five areas of concern: the environment, the economy, society, politics and
culture. Although all the micro and macro dimensions of security are
equally central to the realization of human dignity, the political dimension
holds the key to the safeguarding of environmental, economic, social and
cultural rights. Politics, in terms of the allocation of valuables and necessities
through authoritative choices, constitutes the organizing principle of a
community’s life. Without it, the realization of other forms of ‘security’
would be impossible.
54. See Thomas Baumgartner, Walter Buckley, Tom Burns and Robert Schuster,
‘Metapower and the structuring of social hierarchies’, in T. Burns and W. Buckley
(eds.), Power and Control: Social Structures and their Transformation, pp. 224–5,
Beverly Hills, Sage, 1976.
55. A thorough discussion of Antonio Gramsci’s ideas can be found in Robert Cox,
‘Gramsci, hegemony and international relations. An essay on method’, Millennium:
Journal of International Studies, Vol. 12, No. 2, 1984, pp. 162–75.
56. Michel Crozier, The Bureaucratic Phenomenon, passim, Chicago, University of
Chicago Press, 1964.
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Thus, substantive, even procedural consensus and democracy lie
at the core of political security. This involves the ongoing conflict
management (and resolution) of three fundamental and interrelated
contradictions: those between economic capabilities and social
expectations, those between the sector that obtains most of the surplus
(elites) and the rest of the population (‘masses’), and those between
the capacity for self-government (autonomy) and subordination or
dependency on other unities.57 Nevertheless, the ability of a polity to
overcome crises and provide security for its members depends less
on its resource base and autonomy than on its collectively learned
capacity for conflict management. In other words, political security is
a function of governance. Conversely, increased levels of political
insecurity, beyond situations of extreme scarcity and loss of autonomy,
will tend to depend on ineffectual and illegitimate conflict management.
Threats to human security
The main security threats emerge as a direct consequence of the
internal dysfunctions of environmental, economic, social, political and
cultural regimes that affect both the domestic and global spheres. These
spheres are closely related, in such a way that dysfunctions in one
system tend to express themselves in other, related, subsystems.
Suffice it to say that mutual vulnerability is constituted by multiple
dysfunctions linked in vicious circles of multiple causality.
In a complex, fragile and highly asymmetrical conglomerate such as
the contemporary international system, crises are highly unpredictable,
fractal and have wide repercussions. From 1989 onwards, the rapid
disintegration of forms of association that had developed during the
Cold War such as the Eastern European bloc (Warsaw Pact and
COMECON), the Non-Aligned movement, and the very idea of the
‘Third World’, left a global vacuum. It also limited the scope for
mediation by ‘intermediate’ powers.
This trend manifests itself in two directions. One is the emergence
of powerful economic blocs, namely, the European Community, the
Asian Bloc, NAFTA and MERCOSUR. The other is the apparent decline
of the United States as an industrial power vis-à-vis Europe and Japan.
However, this ‘polycentrism’ is deceptive, as US military and economic
might is formidable. Susan Strange used the term ‘structural power’ to
57. J. Nef, ‘Stalemate and repression in the Southern Cone. An interpretative synopsis’,
New Scholar, No. 8, Autumn 1983, pp. 372–3.
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refer to this metapower over a new constellation of global interests
which includes elites from the North and South.58
This new element of insecurity results from the combination of
numerous factors, and finds expression in interrelated dysfunctions
in the environmental, economic, social, political and cultural fields. We
shall briefly analyse these issues using the conceptual matrix of human
security and mutual vulnerability outlined in the first part of this paper.
(a) Environmental crisis59
The existence of a global environmental crisis has been commonplace
for many years. It is also indisputable that this problem, present on a
planetary scale, has fundamentally human – not ‘natural’ – origins, although
its consequence is a sharp deterioration of the biophysical environment.
Such harmful effects on the biosphere include a long list of dysfunctions
that feed on one another, forming a vicious cycle with development policies
and models at the centre.
For example, deforestation resulting from the overexploitation of forests
reduces topsoil, damages genetic diversity and fosters soil erosion and
desertification. The thinning of the ozone layer in the upper atmosphere,
mainly due to the use of industrial fluorocarbons, has harmful effects on
the marine food chain and presents serious radiation hazards for the animal
kingdom. Air pollution resulting from carbon and sulphur emissions, both
of which are products of industrialization and the growth of the car
industry, cause considerable health problems. These emissions produce
acid rain, which poses a threat to lake flora and fauna and contributes to
defoliation. Acid rain is a substantial source of massive contamination of
water supplies. Combined with the discharge of faecal and industrial matter
into rivers and lakes, acidity places at risk water reserves that are already
severely affected by droughts and other forms of extreme scarcity. In the
context of the loss of forests and plant species, both drought and extreme
climatic conditions are interconnected with socio-political disasters (wars
and forced migration) that aggravate soil deterioration, erosion and
desertification. The resulting loss of arable land contributes to food
insecurity, though the latter is often triggered and influenced by economic
and political attitudes. In turn, pollution and damage caused to seas and
oceans, induced by the continuous use of the hydrosphere as a global
sewer, industrialization, conflicts, overexploitation and maritime accidents
have led the entire bioceanic system to a critical stage.
58. Susan Strange, ‘The future of the American Empire’, Journal of International Affairs,
Vol. 42, No. 1, 1988, pp. 1–17.
59. See Rodney White, North, South and the Environmental Crisis, pp. 22–38, 98–100,
146, Toronto, Toronto University Press, 1993.
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One of the outcomes is a catastrophic state of the environment in
terms of both plant and animal biospheric health. Environmental
deterioration is interrelated with other biosystem factors such as
microorganisms, generating diseases and epidemics that place the life
and well-being of people at risk. The cycle of dysfunctions does not end
here. Serious threats to genetic diversity exist which are induced by
manipulation and appropriation of natural genes, producing increasing
vulnerability chains. There are also the dangers of the ‘Green Revolution’60
in agribusiness, resulting from the extensive use of varieties of hybrids,
fertilizers, pesticides and large quantities of energy and hydraulic
resources, not to mention the potentially greater hazards of the
biotechnological revolution. Finally, there is the exponential accumulation
of harmful waste incurred by ‘modern’ life through refuse disposal, landfill
sites, and pollutant discharge into watercourses and the atmosphere.
(b) Economic crisis
Virtually as an extension of the environmental problem – and experienced
in many ways – the economic crisis reflects the increasing inability of
production, business and finance systems to eradicate the most serious
blights of poverty, unemployment and inequity. An essential benchmark is
that poverty has not only tended to persist but, as opposed to views based
on the idea of ‘the trickle-down effect’, has tended to expand.61 Another
related benchmark concerns the growth crisis.62 Over the last decade there
has been a worldwide reduction in the growth rates used to ‘measure’
global wealth. Nevertheless, even in exceptional cases of relative growth, a
generalized trend towards regressive income distribution 63 has been
observed. Alongside this there has been a widespread foreign debt crisis,64
together with a sharp decline (or worsening) of the terms of trade. Then
there is the impact of the ‘dark side of competitiveness’: the generalized loss
of employment encountered in periods of both recession and growth, in
which competitiveness justifies large-scale redundancies.
60. Frederick Buttel, Martin Kenney and Jack Kloppenburg, ‘From green revolution to
biorevolution: Some observations on the changing technological bases of economic
transformations in the Third World’, Economic Development and Cultural Change,
Vol. 34, No. 1, October 1985, pp. 37–8.
61. Ver Wayne Ellwood, The No-Nonsense Guide to Globalization, p. 101, Toronto,
Between the Lines, 2001. The coefficient between rich and poor increased, respectively,
by a difference in income of 30 to 1 in 1960, to 74 to 1 in 1997.
62. The growth rate per capita at world level collapsed from an annual average of 3.2%
in 1960–70, to 1.6% in 1970–80, to 1.1% in 1980–90, to a negative rate in 1990–92.
Figures since 1998 are even worse.
63. Ellwood, loc. cit.
64. The Global Cash Crunch. An Examination of Debt and Development, pp. 3–31,
Ottawa, IDRC Books, 1991. (Searching Series No. 5.)
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(c) Social crisis
The social crisis is interlinked with the economic and environmental
crisis, poverty, social disintegration and marginalization. The decrease
in capacities and surplus in the midst of regressive distribution has
tended to create a gap between population and resources. Thus it
appears as though a large proportion of the population has become
relatively – and in some cases excessively – superfluous, if the
requirements for its reproduction and subsistence are taken into
consideration. A result of ‘relative overpopulation’ is migration from
country to city, from ‘periphery’ to ‘centre’, or simply to subsistence
areas neglected as a result of war, famine or lack of opportunities. One
aspect of these displacements has been the rising tide of refugees,65
fleeing from political, environmental and economic danger zones, which
gives rise to situations of growing instability and major vulnerability, on
a local, regional and global scale.
Compounding this state of affairs are two closely interlinked issues:
hyper-urbanization, and the decline and demise of communities. The
former relates to accelerated growth in the megalopolis and large urban
centres, generally unable to sustain and accommodate an increasing
population flow. Alongside this process is a significant deterioration of
the environment, personal security and quality of life. In relation to
the above, the decline and possible ‘death’ of communities and basic
relations causes the collapse of capital and social chains of support and
maintenance. The circumstances surrounding social instability and
disintegration, conducive to social fragmentation, loss of purpose and
criminal and interpersonal violence persist, thus increasing pressure
further to abandon certain locations and increase population flows to
inhospitable cities.
(d) Political crisis
As mentioned above, politics plays a structuring role in the different
orders – environmental, socio-economic and cultural – and at various
levels (micro and macro) in terms of its mechanisms and methods for
management and conflict management. Underlying the various crises
affecting the subsystems mentioned here is an endless number of
unmanageable conflicts. The contemporary political crisis entails the
65. See UNHCR (United Nations High Commissoner for Refugees), The State of the
World’s Refugees. Fifty Years of Humanitarian Action, pp. 275–87, New York, Oxford
University Press, 2000.
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juxtaposition of two general trends. One is the transformation of the
global power system at the end of the Cold War. The other is a
profound alteration of the state itself as a mechanism for conflict
management and authoritative, autonomous decision-making. Five
major dysfunctional trends emerge from this juxtaposition.
The first is the apparently uncontrollable spread, in Africa, Asia,
the Middle East and Latin America, of subnational, ‘low-intensity’ conflict
and civil turmoil.66 This results from the downfall of political regimes,
despite a supposed ‘triumph of democracy’.67 The second is the
pervasiveness of extreme forms of violence such as terrorism, and its
counterpart, counter-terrorism. The third is the decline of the rule of
law, expressed in soaring rates of crime and the criminalization of social
conflict. The fourth trend is the generalized breakdown of civil society
and political order (republican or not), brought about by the
overwhelming presence of neoliberal policies68 and ‘receiver states’,69
whose aim is to manage their own bankruptcy. Against this background,
exacerbated by a resurgence of intense conflict, authoritarianism has
resurfaced in various forms, including incipient neofascism and other
forms of repression.
(e) Cultural crisis
Last but not least is a generalized cultural crisis. Culture, understood
here as the ‘software’ of a civilization, consists of a set of deontologies
with underlying ‘visions’ of desirable states (utopia) and undesirable
states (dystopia) and a system of values (axiology). This last is generally
internalized and transmitted through the social practices already
mentioned. In a world that is interconnected by highly concentrated,
homogeneous and unidirectional communication networks, a ‘cultural’
discourse has emerged whose hallmark has been – more than a clash
of civilizations – a crisis of civilization 70 and ‘modernity’ on a planetary
66. See UNHCR, op. cit., pp. 185–273.
67. Francis Fukuyama, ‘The end of history?’, The National Interest, No. 16, Summer 1989,
pp. 3–18; ‘Liberal democracy as a global phenomenon’, PS: Political Science and Politics,
December 1991, p. 660.
68. See our work with Wilder Robles, ‘Globalization, neoliberalism and the state of
underdevelopment in the new periphery’, Journal of Developing Societies, Vol. 16, No. 1,
pp. 27–69.
69. For a description of ‘receiver state’ in Latin America, see J. Nef, ‘Normalization,
popular struggles and the receiver state’, in Jan Black (ed.), Latin America. Its Problems
and its Promise, 2nd ed., Chap. 12, pp. 197–216, Boulder, Colo., Westview Press, 1991.
70. Samuel Huntington, ‘The clash of civilizations?’, Foreign Affairs, Vol. 72, No. 3, pp. 22–
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Underlying this crisis of civilization is a set of interconnected
dysfunctional trends that feed back positively but have little selfgenerating capacity. First, there is a highly constructed and generalized
hegemony of neoclassical economics and its economic, social and
political corollaries. Second, the ideological monism resulting from this
hegemony entails not only a rejection of new ideas but also a
mechanistic predisposition to reject any form of critical reasoning. This
gives rise to a crisis of ideas and learning, which chiefly causes the
breakdown of educational institutions responsible for generating,
modifying and reproducing the ‘cultural software’. Instead of selfregenerating reflection, there emerges a form of acritical incrementalism
and ‘impractical pragmatism’, where ‘practical’ concerns are elevated
into a dogma. This stance is consistent with the abandonment of the
idea of politics as a creative activity and the prevalence of deontological
techniques and procedures without an ethical content. In this context,
means become ends and eventually determine the content of the
action. The outcome is that the ability for learning and self-correction
is lost, giving rise instead to the factors that induce crisis.
The analysis undertaken in this interpretative essay has attempted
to clarify the concepts of human security and mutual vulnerability and
their application within a new paradigm in order to explain and provide
an understanding of globalization and its effects. The latter fall into
three intrinsically related areas of concern: (a) international relations;
(b) the nature of the state and its public policy options; (c) development
processes. By and large, realistic conventional analytical models (with
their national security corollary) and complex interdependency models
(upheld by a neoliberal paradigm) are insufficient to provide an
understanding of the specific predicament facing countries of the ‘South’.
Similarly, the foreign policy ‘deontological’ alternatives outlined on the
basis of these models present substantial functional, and even ethical
71. Rosalind Irwin, ‘Linking ethics and security’, in R. Irwin (ed.), Ethics and Security in
Canadian Foreign Policy, pp. 3–13, Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press,
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Human security and other ‘securities’
Human security attempts to encompass, in a comprehensive analysis
and intervention model, ‘humanitarian’ factors (human rights, health,
environment, democracy and food security) and more traditional ‘state’
concerns (such as defence) but in the context of a systemic matrix. Far
from excluding the idea of defence, human security presents a complex
and strategic vision that transcends the notion of a closed system of
‘national security’ incorporating causes of insecurity, beyond the linear
treatment of symptoms. Defence requirements are not confined to
national security. A specific aspect illustrating this very clearly is an issue
that is extremely omnipresent today: terrorism. In fact, our work on
the problem of insecurity has historical precedents. This dates back to
our studies on the ‘social pathology’ of repression (1974),72 terrorism
and counter-terrorism (1978–89),73 ethics and technology (1988–89)74
72. See J. Nef, ‘The politics of repression: The social pathology of the Chilean military’,
Latin American Perspectives, Vol. 1, No. 2, Summer 1974, pp. 58–77.
73. See J. Nef, ‘Panorama general de la violencia y las ideologías en América Latina’, in
Augusto Varas (ed.), Jaque a la democracia: Orden internacional y violencia política, pp.
53–68, Buenos Aires, Grupo Editor Latinoamericano, 1990; ‘El fenómeno terrorista:
Una perspectiva global y algunas consideraciones empíricas y teóricas’ (with E. A.
Cebotarev) in Augusto Varas, ibid., pp. 69–89; ‘The spiral of violence: Insurgency and
counter-insurgency in Peru’ (with J. Vanderkop), North/South. Canadian Journal of
Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Vol. 13, No. 26, Autumn 1989, pp. 53–77,
‘Terrorismo y política: Algunas consideraciones básicas’, in Augusto Varas (comp.),
Paz, desarme y desarrollo en América Latina, pp. 131–149, Buenos Aires, Grupo Editor
Latinoamericano, 1987; ‘Peru oprør og statslig modoffensiv’ (with J. Vanderkop), in
Christian Thune (ed.), Konflicternes Verden 1987, pp. 80–94, Copenhagen, Century
Schoolbooks, 1988; ‘Violence and ideology in Latin American politics: An overview’, in
Marcel Daneau (ed.), Violence et conflits en Amérique latine, pp. 5–34, Quebec, Centre
Québécois de Relations Internationales, 1985; ‘Peru’s “Shining Path”’ (with J. Atlin),
International Perspectives, July/August 1985, pp. 25–8; ‘Terrorismo: Política del miedo’,
Relaciones Internacionales, No. 7, October 1984, pp. 77–86; ‘The terrorist weapon:
An appraisal’ (with David Moore), Laurentian University Review, Vol. 14, No. 1, October
1981, pp. 27–39; ‘Some thoughts on contemporary terrorism: Domestic and
international perspectives’, in J. Carson (ed.), Terrorism in Theory and Practice, pp. 4–
21, Toronto, Atlantic Council of Canada, 1978. See also the following articles: ‘Symbolic
politics’, New Internationalist, No. 160, 1986, pp. 8–9;’Importing state terrorism’, The
Nation, Vol. 231, No. 2, 1980, pp. 54–6; ‘Reign of terror’, Weekend Magazine (leading
article), 5 May 1979, pp. 4–12.
74. Critical Choices! with J. Vanderkop and H. Wiseman, co-publishers, Toronto, Wall
& Thompson, 1990; Ethics and Technology, with J. Vanderkop and H. Wiseman, copublishers, Toronto, Wall & Thompson, 1989; ‘Science, technology and
underdevelopment: A conceptual approach’, with O. P. Dwivedi and J. Vanderkop,
Canadian Journal of Development Studies, Vol. XI, No. 2, December 1990, pp. 223–40.
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and food insecurity (1989), which prompted our subsequent paper on
mutual vulnerability (1995, 1999), and a set of articles on human security
and globalization (1998–2001)75 and on insecurity and health (2001).76
With regard to epistemological, ideological and in particular
conceptual links between national security, public safety, citizen security,
cooperative security and human security, significant common factors
have been observed. For instance, a type of continuum exists between
public safety and the more ‘liberal’ citizen security model which itself
reveals a degree of isomorphism and consistency with several aspects
of human security (e.g. personal security). As mentioned, there is a
strong connection between the Public Safety Programmes of the 1960s
and 1970s and national security. Meanwhile, cooperative security offers
the opportunity of multilateralizing defence doctrines, including national
security, as a crucial factor in a human security scheme.
There are also significant gaps. Human security, in contrast to national
security, focuses on the study of the causes of violence and stresses
the need to control the latter by attacking its roots and the factors of
its recurrence, not only its expression. This does not exclude the use
of force, but requires that such force, as a last resort, be systemically
limited by rational and ethical parameters. Indeed, there are common
factors between human security and citizen security.77 However, in
our view, a set of deontologies related to the latter – such as the
notion of ‘zero tolerance’ – only evokes a formula or ideology of ‘law
and order’, linked to the American extreme right, within and outside
police organizations. Here, ‘counter-crime’ and vigilantism – such as
‘counter-terrorism’ – present just as many security problems for
people as do criminality or terrorism for their targets, if not more.
They constitute a real threat to freedom, human rights and actual
personal security. Something similar can occur with cooperative
security, particularly when it is confined to strictly military matters
and justifies the maintenance of repressive systems, lent legitimacy
75. See ‘The ethics of mutual vulnerability: A developmental perspective for foreign
policy’, in Rosalind Irwin (ed.), Ethics and Security in Canadian Foreign Policy, pp. 17–
37, Vancouver, University of British Columbia Press; ’Human security: Perspectives for
human resources and policy management’, in Our Fragile World. Challenges and
Opportunities for Sustainable Development, text incorporated into the Encyclopedia
of Life Support Systems, Paris, EOLSS-UNESCO, in press; ‘Los procesos de integración
y la globalización’, Diplomacia, No. 82, January–March 2000, pp. 11–17; ‘Globalization,
neoliberalism and the state of underdevelopment in the new periphery’ (with Wilder
Robles), Journal of Developing Societies, Vol. XVI, No. 1, Leiden, Brill, 2000, pp. 27–48;
’A new paradigm for interamerican relations’, in Francisco Rojas Aravena and Paz
Buttedahl (eds.), Open Regionalism: Strengthening the Net. Perspective from APEC
Countries, Santiago/Vancouver, FLACSO/VIA.
76. Nef, ‘Health Security …’, loc. cit.
77. Tudela, loc. cit.
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today by international cooperation. There is no doubt that cooperative
security is paramount for maintaining regional peace and limiting
violence. To that extent, they are human security instruments, but
this requires that they be channelled into dynamic peace, disarmament
and development processes.
Human security, terrorism and the ‘new’ Cold War78
What we have said so far must be analysed in the light of the
dramatic events of 11 September 2001. The attacks on the World
Trade Center and the Pentagon, on the one hand, clearly stressed
that everyone – even the most powerful of actors, is vulnerable. On
the other hand, the terrorist action, so carefully planned and executed,
clearly shows that local and regional conflicts in peripheral areas have
direct effects on the global power centres and, therefore, on the entire
world system. The consequences and reactions to these events in the
Western world are even more profound. In the economic field, North
America and the world economy were severely affected by an
environment of extreme uncertainty.
In a political climate governed by a reactive mentality and
overdetermined by the spiralling logic of violence and fear, voices have
again arisen stating that the only possible security is that of a ‘tough’
doctrinaire view. This involves the usual prescriptive counter-terrorism
and national security paraphernalia. From a critical point of view, the
response to the extreme outrage shows the difficulties inherent in
the application of a relatively conventional military methodology to
the symptomatic treatment of a deep-rooted structural issue.
Furthermore, the instrumentalities of intelligence, prevention,
dissuasion and punishment proposed are basically the same ones that
failed to prevent the tragedy. The only difference is that now it is
suggested that the ‘solution’ to the problem is more of the same but
applied with greater force.
The orthodox repressive prescription tends to undermine the very
basis of an open society (which is a clear target of any terrorist action
from the ‘outside’), thus facilitating the erosion of legitimate links and
breaking up the political order. Even worse, in this punitive euphoria,
78. This brief section, included at the request of FLACSO-Chile after delivery of the
document, is based on a number of our works on the terrorism issue, at the centre of
the human security paradigm. These include ‘El fenómeno terrorista: Una perspectiva
global y algunas consideraciones empíricas y teóricas’ (with E. A. Cebotarev), loc. cit.;
‘Terrorismo y política: Algunas consideraciones básicas’, loc. cit.; ‘Symbolic politics’,
loc. cit.; ‘Terrorismo: Política del miedo’, loc. cit.; ‘The terrorist weapon: An appraisal’
(with David Moore), loc. cit.; ‘Reign of terror’, loc. cit.; ‘Some thoughts on contemporary
terrorism: Domestic and international perspectives’, loc. cit.
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the structural and historical causes and circumstances of the different
forms of contemporary terrorism are ignored and a ‘technical’ approach
is instead preferred, applicable to any form of terrorism. Many of the
policies that fomented terrorism – whether ‘insurgent’ or ‘state’ forms
– are usually forgotten or passed over, thus creating conditions for
the reproduction of new and perhaps more virulent forms of violence.
It is necessary – today more than ever before – to reflect from a
systematic and integrating point of view that allows analysis of the
conditions, structural factors, and precipitating elements leading to
the crystallization of terrorist actions. But it is also urgent to act in a
rational and effective way, by tackling and preventing the causes of the
scourge, not only its manifestations. This comprehensive perspective
is facilitated by the concepts of human security and mutual vulnerability.
Transnational terrorism is a problem for all of us, requiring international,
multilateral and concerted action in many areas and at many levels,
thus developing a community of security founded on common
interests and a shared system of values. Only in this way can terrorist
actions – whoever the perpetrators – be perceived as an unacceptable
dystopia. An effective antiterrorist policy, beyond hypocritical and
double-standard Manichaeism, must be founded on the understanding
that these acts are crimes and that ‘terrorism’ is not an opportunistic
definition in order to discredit the adversary of the moment.
Some foreign policy implications79
Devising and implementing an effective and rational foreign policy
requires analytical and operational systems that favour and strengthen
the decision-making ability of those who must understand and anticipate
global, regional and bilateral processes. Such research and action models
must be able to highlight substantive and ethical considerations in
determining objectives (teleologies and desired/undesired states in the
long, medium and short term), thus distinguishing them from merely
reactive, mechanistic and allegedly ‘technical’ conduct. Indeed, political
instruments (including ‘fashionable’ doctrines) take second place to
these teleologies. Not only is there a close link between ends and
means, but public policy ends are intrinsically related, and they should
be seen from this integrated perspective. There is no clear distinction
between foreign and domestic policy. Political models must therefore
79. Nef, in Irwin, op. cit., pp. 34–5.
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adopt an inclusive approach, linking public policies at the micro and
macro levels. In such models, ethical considerations do not serve an
aesthetic purpose and are not a ‘good’ public advertisement for justifying
decisions or swimming against the tide. On the contrary, an ethical
code based on values, circumstances and consequences is the
cornerstone of an effective foreign policy that is accountable to the
public; a policy that associates security of the country with global and
regional security in a world of mutual vulnerability. An ethical frame of
reference must be able to do away with the pseudo-pragmatism of a
linear market model or the hypocritical double standards of the old –
and new – Cold War. Indeed, a global theory focusing on human
security can provide an explicit and transparent conceptual device for
the anticipation of dilemmas facing decision-makers and for citizens
affected by those decisions. Such a conception of the world can also
provide a multidisciplinary and strategic approach for evaluating
decisions and action in a changing security context, so long as it is
based on democratic principles.
80. See Rosalind Irwin, ‘Linking ethics and security’, op. cit., pp. 3–7.
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As a result of the dramatic events of 11 September 2001 in the
United States, the concept of security in the West has been practically
reduced, at least for now, to a decisive fight against international
terrorism. Thus, since then, the classic concept of security, which
stresses supreme interests of states and favours the use of instruments
of war, has gained unexpected force. One of the many questions that
has arisen in relation to the international scenario after the attacks on
New York and Washington has to do with the impact they will have
on the concept of medium- and long-term human security. Did 11
September deal a mortal blow to the growing support that this new
concept of security had received from international agencies,
development aid institutions and the academic community since the
mid-1980s? Or, in contrast, will the experience of 11 September finally
1. Professor of Modern Latin American History, Institute of Latin American Studies,
University of Leiden, the Netherlands.
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lead to strengthening efforts aimed at further spreading human security
in the world in order to attempt to prevent similar occurrences in the
next few years?
This paper evaluates both progress made and difficulties experienced
in accepting the concept of human security in Europe beginning in the
1990s. To that end, I deal specifically with the case of the Netherlands,
where development aid agencies would seem to have adopted an
intermediate position with regard to supporting this new concept of
human security. This rather ambiguous position would seem to reflect
the many bureaucratic-institutional and ideological contradictions and
conflicts of interest caused by the adoption of policies in line with this
Human security: The conceptual problem
Before starting to evaluate how the principle of human security has
been incorporated into the framework of Netherlands foreign policy
in general and international cooperation in particular, one must deal,
albeit briefly, with the problem of conceptual clarity affecting the
concept. Defining this concept is not just an academic exercise. In my
opinion, the lack of clarity regarding this concept’s contents and limits
is in itself an important, if not essential, factor when it comes to trying
to explain the remarkable scepticism, and at times open rejection, that
this concept still causes among officials responsible for policies of
cooperation in European countries. The lack of clarity regarding this
concept also generates insecurity and anxiety among the various
departments and officials who cannot predict clearly whether any
possible adoption of this concept will eventually benefit or harm their
institutional interests. For example, if one confronts bureaucracy dealing
with issues and affairs of a strictly strategic-military nature with
bureaucracy that only addresses issues of development, one can see
that both hope that reinforcing the concept of human security will
lead to penetrating the opposing sphere of action. In other words,
those responsible for military issues hope to be able to ‘insert’ their
security issues in development aid, while the latter bureaucratic entity
aspires to ‘sensitizing’ classical security sectors with regard to issues
related to social development and the fight against poverty. In the event
of an adverse scenario, however, both entities are afraid of being
gradually ‘penetrated’ or ‘colonized’ by the other’s strategic agenda.
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Human Security in an Age of Uncertainty ...
Patricio Silva
One of the most recurrent criticisms of the concept of human
security is that it is connected to a practically limitless list of issues
that, according to some authors, would make it practically inoperable
(see King and Murray, 2000). Owens and Arneil (1999, p. 1), for
example, have catalogued this concept as ‘amorphous’ and lacking
clarity. And, indeed, one cannot deny that the human security agenda
is very wide-ranging. The UNDP 1994 annual report, New Dimensions
of Human Security, refers to the concept of human security in the
fields of job insurance, income, health, environment, security against
crime and common violence. The report concludes by calling on people
to search for a new development paradigm ‘which places human beings
in the centre of development, considers economic growth as a means,
not an end, protects opportunities for life of future generations as
well as current ones and respects natural systems on which all human
beings depend’ (UNDP, 1994).
The UNDP 2000 report on human development, Human Rights
and Human Development, places the concept of human security in
the more wide-ranging context of human development and at personal
security and community security levels. It also specifies seven freedoms
inherent to the fields of human development and human rights. These
are freedom to discriminate in favour of equality; freedom from want
to be able to enjoy a decent standard of living; freedom to develop the
potential of every human being; freedom from fear, without threats to
personal security; freedom from injustice; freedom of participation,
speech and association; freedom to have a decent job without
exploitation (UNDP, 2000, p. 31).
For his part, MacLean (2000, p. 2) lists a series of fields related to
human security, including access to basic elements to ensure life,
protection of the individual against crime and terrorism, social diseases,
political corruption, massive migration, political, economic and
democratic development, environmental sustainability and efforts to
reduce pollution (see also OAS, 2000).
Thus, I agree absolutely with Rojas (2000, p. 5) when he points out
that the wide-ranging nature of issues included in the human security
agenda makes it very hard to generate policies that are capable of causing
a substantial impact that would lead eventually to a noticeable change
in international circles. Rojas proposes placing the use of force as the
coordinating element of the concept of human security, so as to imbue
it with a greater degree of consistency and coherence. Coupled with
this, he underlines the need to focus simultaneously on the concept
of human security from a regional, national and global perspective.
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An issue that is related to the apprehensions of international
cooperation and defence community bureaucracies is the question of
how traditional concepts of security relate to the concept of human
security. Are they two issues progressing parallel to each other, or is
there an attempt being made to converge both concepts of security in
the world? Rojas (2000, p. 5) appears to favour the second of these
when he states that the concept of security would seem to be in a
transitional stage. As he so rightly says, the Cold War period was
dominated by concepts of security focused on the perspective of the
state, or by concepts of security that branched out towards
international security linked to state security and militarization of these
relationships. In Rojas’ opinion, the process of convergence is not a
natural process, but rather the result of an intellectual and institutional
action in that direction. In other words, this possible conceptual
‘syncretism’ (and practical ‘syncretism’ in terms of state policies) is
seen as positive and necessary. As he puts it (2000, p. 3): ‘The human
security dimension as a key coordinating concept in a world in transition
has appeared with great force in the Cold War period. Both
perspectives have often appeared to be contradictory, although the
final, ultimate aim of both should be human beings. The intellectual,
and at the same time institutional and operational, challenge is to
discover how to link and establish a conceptual concatenation from
human security to international security, passing through state security.’
MacLean (1998, p. 270) stresses that both state security and human
security are complementary objectives that need each other mutually.
Thus, even though state security does not automatically imply providing
security for individuals, state security is necessarily achieved by treating
the population fairly and humanly, supplying their basic needs and
guaranteeing people’s physical and moral integrity. Inversely, however,
‘a Nation State must first of all secure itself and its territory before
being able to address itself to tasks aimed at improving the well-being
of individuals and society, improving the quality of life and safeguarding
the social interests of the population’. MacLean, however, warns that,
even though state security is a necessary condition for human security,
it cannot be inferred that once states have achieved their security,
people will also find security and feel secure. The above would indicate
that both types of security (state and human) represent essential
objectives in attempts to achieve lasting peace in regions that have
been historically swept by all types of war and violations of human
rights (see Goucha, 2001; Villanueva, 2000, 2001). In this regard, I
consider Thakur’s (1999, p. 58) position, stressing that the concept of
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Human Security in an Age of Uncertainty ...
Patricio Silva
human security does not replace classical conceptualizations of security,
but rather provides what he calls ‘pluralist co-existence’ in which the
concept of human security is added to already existing concepts of
security, to be very apropos.
Human security and Netherlands foreign policy
In recent years, gradual acceptance and adoption of the concept of
human security by international policies and policies of cooperation of
European Community states has been quite unequal. On the one hand,
Scandinavian countries – particularly Norway – have gone pretty far
in applying this principle as the cardinal factor in their international
policy, while countries such as the United Kingdom have continued at
length to favour classical military-strategic considerations and
approaches, within the framework of the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO). These dissimilar positions regarding everything
from state-territorial security to human security obviously respond
to different historical traditions as well as to the existence of a different
understanding of the political and military role that the countries assign
themselves in Europe and the rest of the world.
As stated in my introduction, the Netherlands have adopted a rather
more intermediate position where, even though more and more
attention and space has been given to the concept of human security,
the Netherlands’ traditional ‘Atlantic’ orientation – it defines itself as
an ‘intermediate power’ – has so far prevented this new concept from
becoming the cardinal factor in its foreign policy and/or its policies of
international cooperation. Thus, NATO security strategies continue
to dominate the Netherlands’ security policies. From the country’s
point of view, the NATO alliance, coupled with the process of European
integration, are essential instruments for safeguarding peace and
security in Europe. The Netherlands actively supports strengthening
the role of the European Union in formulating foreign and defence
policies, while at the same time it participates resolutely in forging a
European identity in the fields of security and defence within the NATO
framework. The Netherlands spends 1.6% of its gross domestic product
on defence, with growing emphasis on undertaking peace-keeping
operations in various areas of conflict around the world.
Other important aspects that are often overlooked in evaluating
attitudes of European authorities vis-à-vis the concept of human
security are, on the one hand, the political and ideological nature of
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the government of the moment (i.e. the political orientation of
government coalitions) and, on the other, each nation’s particular type
of specific institutional structures. Even though many aspects of foreign
policies and development aid policies are long-term national concepts
and projects, in my opinion the above two aspects can, in some cases,
have significant specific weight. Such, at least, is the case of the
Netherlands, where international cooperation (organized under the
General Directorate for International Cooperation, DGIS) forms part
of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which has two ministers. The Foreign
Affairs Minister is primarily responsible for traditional foreign relations
and issues involving European and transatlantic security. He is assisted
for defence and security issues by the Clingendael Institute in The
Hague, a think-tank made up of a team of experts in these fields and
which represents NATO thinking.
The DGIS is located in the Foreign Ministry building. It is headed by
a minister without portfolio, who every year gives development aid to
Third World countries worth almost US$3.5 billion (equivalent to
0.8% of gross national product). In absolute terms, only Japan, the
United States, Germany and France spend more resources than the
Netherlands on development aid.
Traditionally, the Foreign Affairs Minister wields much more political
weight – both in the cabinet and in the European and international
scene – than the Minister for International Cooperation. This difference
is reflected, among other things, in the preponderance of the defence
and security agenda over the development aid agenda in Netherlands
foreign policy.
At the time of writing the government is built around an
idiosyncratic alliance of social democrats and liberals, the so-called
purple coalition (because of the colour of the alliance between ‘reds’
and ‘blues’). Foreign policy is in the hands of liberal Jozias van Aartsen,
while development aid is the responsibility of social democrat minister
Evelien Herfkens. This former officer of the World Bank has largely
abandoned the traditional line followed for years by the cooperation
of the Netherlands in the fight against poverty, centred on targeted
support for initiatives from more marginal sectors of developing
countries (ethnic minorities, women, children, immigrants, peasants,
etc.). Minister Herfkens has recently brought policy into line with the
postulates of the so-called ‘Washington Consensus’, encouraging the
adoption of free trade and neoliberal policies by countries benefiting
from Netherlands aid. Thus, financial and economic reforms are now
favoured, while development aid has been conditioned on good
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Patricio Silva
management (good governance) of treasury funds and the
efficaciousness of those countries’ fiscal policies. Encouragement has
also been given to multilateral aid through institutions such as the World
Bank and International Monetary Fund, in order to finance economic
reforms and support the balance of payments of developing nations.
In 1999, the Netherlands Government decided to put an end to
bilateral lines of cooperation with close to 100 countries to concentrate
on giving bilateral aid to a list of seventeen countries (plus four countries
on a provisional basis), which, according to the minister, are
characterized by having good governance.
Even though the Netherlands is a member of the Human Security
Network and has participated in all the international meetings held so
far as part of this initiative, we can confirm that the concept of human
security has not been fully integrated into the vocabulary and
documents produced in recent years by the Ministry
of Foreign Affairs
and the Ministry for International Cooperation.
The paradox in the case of the Netherlands is that, despite avoiding as
much as possible the use of the concept of human security in its official
documents, in practice it has always been – and continues to be, despite
the changes introduced by Minister Herfkens – one of the main
countries in the international community that has constantly and
substantially supported most of the fields covered by the concept of
human security. Thus, we can see that the Netherlands has always
played a leading role in defending human rights and the validity of
international humanitarian law. To this must be added the country’s
efforts to mitigate extreme poverty in developing countries and to
improve the personal security of women, children and the elderly as
well as of other sectors in precarious conditions. In the context of the
concrete agenda devised by the Human Security Network (see
FLACSO, 2001), the Netherlands has been actively cooperating for
years, both internationally and in aid-receiving countries, in such
matters as eliminating anti-personnel mines in post-conflict zones,
control of light weapons, giving aid both through international agencies
(UNICEF, UNHCHR, etc.) and through local non-governmental
organizations (NGOs) and directly in order to improve the living and
2. This list includes Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana,
India, Indonesia, Macedonia, Mali, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Palestine territories, South
Africa, Sri Lanka, Uganda, United Republic of Tanzania, Viet Nam, Yemen and Zambia.
3. Which also includes Austria, Canada, Chile, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, Norway,
Slovenia, South Africa, Switzerland and Thailand.
4. This was confirmed by an officer from the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
who regretted this fact because, in his opinion, the country’s lengthy humanitarian
tradition made it a natural candidate to play a leading role in Europe in the defence of
human security as a principle and cornerstone of foreign policy.
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security conditions of children in areas of armed conflict. Furthermore,
the Netherlands has always acknowledged the existence of the socalled ‘non-state actors’ (NGOs, humanitarian agencies, the private
sector, etc.) and has considered them to be privileged partners in
channelling its development aid.
In the light of all this, the question remains as to why the
Netherlands refuses to adopt human security terminology in its official
discourse, while in practice it has developed a foreign policy and policy
of international cooperation that is very close to the objectives pursued
by the human security agenda. For now, we can but speculate on the
reasons for this paradox. First of all, it could be related to the nature
of the political coalition that governs the Netherlands. The concept of
human security could be seen by liberal sectors as very ‘progressive’
or even leftist and, therefore, avoiding this concept could answer to
the need to maintain stability in the cabinet in general and in social
democrat/liberal relations in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in particular.
Secondly, Minister Herfkens’ refusal to give greater prominence to
the concept of human security could be related to her determined
efforts to make a substantial distinction between her line of action and
the line pursued by her predecessor, charismatic social democrat Jan
Pronk, who was always more in tune with agendas defended by United
Nations Specialized Agencies and by representatives of developing
nations in general. This factor leads us to a third possible explanation
for this paradox. Herfkens’ efforts to implement principles of the
‘Washington Consensus’ in her policy of international cooperation
has very often put her in positions that are diametrically opposed to
those of such agencies as the UNDP, whose ‘paternity’, or at least
decisive role, in proliferating the concept of human security in the
debate on security and development is widely acknowledged.
Final comments
The dramatic events of 11 September 2001 caused a strong reaction
of solidarity and unity of the Netherlands people with the North
American people. Wim Kok, the Prime Minister, resolutely joined the
Western crusade against international terrorism. After a few weeks,
however, when strong initial emotions had been tempered somewhat
5. For a general list of fields in which the Netherlands gives active aid in a world context,
see the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (
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Patricio Silva
and it was evident that the feared wave of attacks in the United States
and Europe had not occurred, the government started to adopt a
position with regard to the war in Afghanistan that stressed humanitarian
aid. This position was sealed by Kok’s visit to Pakistan, where he
promised all kinds of aid to Afghan refugees in that country.
The events of 11 September have caused a marked change in the
way in which Western countries have started to approach financial
and all kinds of emergencies that have arisen or been visibly aggravated
since that date. The state has begun to assume a more active role in all
fields, starting with the United States and other Western countries.
Even though it is still too early to predict whether this reactivation of
the role of the state (which is certainly a direct contradiction of the
postulates of the ‘Washington Consensus’) will be only fleeting or
whether it will acquire greater permanence, one can presume, none
the less, that strong internal pressure will also be generated in
developing countries to abandon structural readjustment programmes
in order to strengthen the economic, political and, especially, social
role of the state in those nations. If this does occur, then donating
countries will feasibly de-emphasize the need for economic and financial
reforms in aid-receiving nations and increasingly stress the need for
political stability, reinforcing the primary aim of supplying the
population’s basic needs. All this would constitute an effort to prevent
the gestation of religious and all other kinds of extremism generated in
the bosom of extensive marginal sectors, which could once again lead
the world to the verge of collapse. Post-Taliban Afghanistan may
become a test case where possibly, after the massive use of military
force to destroy the former regime, we hope that in practice Western
countries will implement the human security agenda in order to take
care of the urgent needs of the population of this tormented Central
Asian country.
FLACSO. 2001. Red de seguridad humana. Document prepared by
FLACSO-Chile for the Expert Meeting on Peace, Human Security
and Conflict Prevention in Latin America and the Caribbean, 26–
27 November 2001.
GOUCHA , MOUFIDA. 2001. Address on the occasion of the Expert Meeting on Peace, Human Security and Conflict Prevention in Africa,
Pretoria, South Africa, July 2001.
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KING, GARY; MURRAY, CHRISTOPHER J. L. 2000. Rethinking Human Security
MACLEAN, GEORGE. 1998. The changing perception of human security:
Coordinating national and multinational responses. United Nations
Association in Canada website (
MACLEAN, GEORGE. 2000. Instituting and projecting human security: A
Canadian perspective. Australian Journal of International Affairs, Vol.
54, No. 3, pp. 269–76.
OAS. 2000. Human Security in the Americas. Document presented
by the Canadian Delegation, Washington, D.C., Organization of
American States.
OWENS, HEATHER; ARNEIL, BARBARA. 1999. The human security paradigm
shift: A new lens on Canadian foreign policy? Canadian Foreign Policy,
No. 7, pp. 1–12.
ROJAS ARAVENA, FRANCISCO. 2000. Seguridad humana: Una perspectiva
académica desde América Latina. In: Chile 1999–2000. Nuevo gobierno: Desafíos de la reconciliación. Santiago, FLACSO-Chile.
THAKUR, RAMESH. 1999. The UN and human security. Canadian Foreign
Policy, No. 7, pp. 51–9.
UNDP. 1994. Human Development Report 1994: New Dimensions
of Human Security. New York, United Nations Development
UNDP. 2000. Human Development Report 2000. Human Rights and
Human Development. New York, United Nations Development
VILLANUEVA, MIRIAM. 2000. La seguridad humana: ¿una ampliación del
concepto de seguridad global? Revista Mexicana de Política Exterior, No. 59, pp. 129–30.
VILLANUEVA, MIRIAM. 2001. La seguridad humana: Algunas repercusiones
recientes en la agenda internacional. Argentina Global 5 (April–June)
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It is probably not too much to say that since the events of 11
September the place of the debate on human security as a concept in
the search for peace and conflict prevention in Latin America and the
Caribbean has undergone a sea change. However, it is almost certainly
too early to know in what direction that change is going even though
we can make some educated guesses. Before the tragedy in New York
the challenges posed by the breadth and potential scope of the concept
were such as to attract the attention of governments and academics.
But it must be said that much of the attention generated, at least among
government actors, showed up as concern on the part of decisionmakers about the implications of accepting the concept as a basis for
1. Professor of Strategic Studies, Royal Military College of Canada.
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Such action was seen as likely to be too wide-ranging, unclear and
amorphous to be easily addressed by real states facing real issues of
security, internal and external, traditional and non-traditional. And many
worried that the costs involved in taking seriously the challenges of
such a configuration of an approach to security would be astronomical
and carry enormous burdens for all countries, but especially for those
developed states which would be asked to shoulder most of the weight.
This conference was planned, and its sister events took place, without
the shadow of the impact of the terrorist attacks on central New
York which have dominated our lives over almost the last three
months. It is no longer possible to consider these issues, however,
without these events in mind, as they have come to dominate our
thinking in so many ways about the whole range of subjects concerning
this conference: peace, human security, and conflict prevention.
This paper attempts to show how the two countries of North
America have seen the concept of human security in terms of its impact2
on peace and conflict prevention in Latin America and the Caribbean.
This is followed by an assessment of how this vision has been affected
since 11 September, even though one must acknowledge that such
changes are still ongoing and limited thought has been given to the
subject to date, as so much attention has been deployed elsewhere
and on other themes. Finally, ways ahead are suggested concerning
the concept of human security, again from the perspective of the two
North American countries.
The concept of human security in North America
First of all it is important to emphasize that the two countries of
North America, the United States and Canada, while sharing much in
their visions of international and hemispheric security, also differ a
great deal. While this is not as dominant a feature of their foreign and
defence policy as it was when Canada was still a self-governing member
of the British Empire, or as it was during the Cold War and before
Canada in 1990 finally joined the Organization of American States, it is
still the case. And if in the present context, the convergence of security
visions is especially obvious in the Americas and in Latin America and
the Caribbean in particular, it is not true that the two countries see
even security in this region in exactly the same way.
2. For the purposes of this paper, North America is considered as including only
Canada and the United States, not Mexico. This is because this conference enjoys the
presence of Mexican speakers who can address that country’s thinking on human security
better than I.
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Human Security and Conflict Prevention ...
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Human security has been a case in point. Reasonably activist
Canadian governments, or at least foreign ministers, have developed
the United-Nations-conceived concept and fleshed it out, with the
open hostility of the United States in the early stages. Essentially this
was the result of the thinking of Lloyd Axworthy, Foreign Minister
from 1996 to 2000, a minister described by one specialist as ‘ambitious
that Canada should pay a more prominent role …’. This observer
goes on to say of Axworthy: ‘His style is spontaneous, the focus of his
interests shifts frequently, and he expects rapid and cooperative
responses from the bureaucracy.’ Despite his strong personality,
Axworthy was unable to make overly rapid progress with the concept.
It has been slower to catch on in the more southerly of the two
countries while it quickly became almost an article of faith for the
more northerly one.
While there has been less emphasis on human security in Ottawa
under the new minister, John Manley, since his appointment in the
autumn of 2000, it is doubtless still an important element in Canadian
foreign and defence policy. Indeed, it is probably not too early to say
that the new minister’s focus has changed since September’s terrorist
attacks. Before then, in his first months of office, Mr Manley seemed
to carry on with his previous cabinet priorities of trade and industrial
development with little passion for issues of security and wider political
Since September 2001, however, the centrality of security matters
for Canada and its main neighbour has ensured that such personal
preferences would have to yield to the dramatic events into which
Canadian foreign policy has been pulled. The minister’s time has been
massively deployed on the security dossiers before him. And this has
occurred not only in the area of counter-terrorism but in other
spheres of great importance to Canada, such as illegal immigration, the
proposed US anti-ballistic missile defense system, the links between
terrorism and narcotics in Latin America and elsewhere, and much
else. It is perhaps unnecessary to say that such subtleties are hardly
present in the US at this time. Indeed, there is no real debate at all on
the subject. It will probably take considerable time before such a debate
occurs again.
I do not propose to spend much time on this post-September
context here as that will be done in a number of papers. None the
3. Cranford Pratt, ‘DFAIT’s takeover bid of CIDA: The institutional future of the Canadian
International Development Agency’, Canadian Foreign Policy, Vol. 2, 1998, pp. 1–13, 6.
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less, it is worthwhile trying to give the North American context for
the development of human security as a concept, and to say something
about its birth within the Canadian foreign-policy world, and then turn
to its reception in the foreign policy of the United States.
Canada’s security and the idea of human security
In many ways the development of new ideas in the field of human
security is very much in keeping with the traditions of Canadian foreign
policy, stretching back perhaps over half a century. In the face of
vociferous and negative pro-imperial sentiment, Prime Minister Lester
B. Pearson moved far in the development of ideas about modern peacekeeping which were not necessarily well received by Canadians at the
time of the Suez Crisis of 1956 and subsequent events.
Pearson argued with his critics, especially in the armed forces, that
the only danger to Canada’s direct survival during the Cold War was
the threat of a central exchange of nuclear weapons between the two
superpowers, inconveniently but immediately placed to the north and
south of Canada. Whether the country were targeted or not, it would
be destroyed in such an exchange. Thus it behoved Ottawa to do all in
its power to ensure that small or ‘brush-fire’ wars remained such and
did not attract excessive attention from the superpowers in a fashion
that might raise the spectre of war between them.
While remaining a loyal member of the Atlantic Alliance, peacekeeping as a direct and significant element of national defence steadily
gained ground, and popularity, as something distinctly Canadian in the
national contribution to collective security and international peace.
And with time many of Canada’s allies began to acknowledge that the
country’s efforts in the field of peace-keeping could yield real and
positive results, even for the objectives of NATO as a whole, and not
merely those of Canada.
Many other original elements of Canadian thinking on international
security came to the fore from the 1950s to the 1980s in the fields of
arms control and disarmament. Once again, the basic tenet of the
Canadian approach was anchored in direct security thinking and related
to the exposed position in which Canada
would almost certainly find
itself were nuclear war to occur. In Mutual and Balanced Force
Reduction talks in Europe, in Confidence and Security Building
4. The details of, and thinking behind, this approach is discussed in Albert Legault and
Michel Fortmann, Une diplomatie de l’espoir: le Canada et le désarmement 1945–1988,
Québec, Presses de l’Université Laval, 1989.
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Measures, in nuclear force reduction talks, and in a host of other
forums, Canadian policy was often felt to be original, if often seen by
other allies as excessively idealistic.
In the late 1980s Canadian foreign-policy proponents, as well as
many of its academics working in the security field, were present in
the development of the sort of thinking on security and defence
matters which was to result in the idea of cooperative security. By
September 1990, Canada’s Minister of External Affairs Joe Clark could
formulate cooperative security in the following way:
• it is inclusive in approach by seeking to engage adversaries and nonlike-minded actors as well as putative friends;
• it emphasizes the need to move beyond the deterrence mindset,
focusing on security as a broad concept incorporating a range of
both military and non-military elements;
• it envisages a more gradual approach to developing multilateral
institutions; and
• it is a flexible concept as it recognizes the value of existing balance of
power arrangements in contributing to regional security and for retaining
them – indeed, for working with and through them – allowing
multilateralism to develop from more ad hoc, informal, and flexible
processes, as well as building on established bilateral ties, until the
conditions for institutionalized multilateralism become more favourable. 5
Here one was saying much of what would be said as well about
common or shared security. All began with the idea of considering
that the other state (or even group) had a right to its own security,
just as one had oneself, and that acting to strengthen one’s security by
means that reduced the security of others could easily end up pushing
rivals to actions that would then reduce one’s own security. The
security of one state was thus tied up in the security of others, be
they neighbours, rivals or merely concerned members of the
international community.
The way was paved for making more concrete this thinking in ways
related to the progress seen in much of the world with confidencebuilding measures. In addition, it became possible to speak of taking in
the impact on rivals of one’s strategic moves before undertaking them,
with the understanding that threats to one’s own security could in
the new order of things just as clearly come about because of the
weakness of others as because of their strength. Such thinking was
neither traditional nor easily accepted by the conservative thinking on
5. David Dewitt and David Leyton-Brown, ‘Canada’s international security policy’, in D.
Dewitt and D. Leyton-Brown (eds.), Canada’s International Security Policy, pp. 1–27,
14, Scarborough, Canada, Prentice Hall, 1995.
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defence and security that is so often the norm. None the less, it gained
ground with speed in the years after the end of the Cold War when
the era of failed states, ethnic rivalries, violent separatisms and so much
more came to trouble the international system.
Human security in Canada
It was in this context that Mr Axworthy did much of the thinking
that resulted not only in the concept of human security but also
translated that concept into government policy. Mr Bush’s new world
order seemed merely a new disorder and the minister called for new
thinking to address new issues.
A number of studies were commissioned within and without the
Department of Foreign Affairs with a view to clarifying the thinking.
But what was evolving was a concept of security which, without
abandoning the importance of the state at the centre of the international
system, moved to bring the individual human being into a more central
place in thinking on security. While acknowledging the role and indeed
the value of the state and its security, human security thinking began
to coalesce around ideas of:
• the end of the Cold War allows for the needs of the individual in
the area of security to come more to the fore;
• the state’s interests can still be protected while paying more attention
to individual needs;
• the main problems of the post-Cold War era are social and
economic, and not exclusively those related to traditional defence;
• these problems, where the individual are concerned, tend to need
rethinking rather than solutions found in more traditional, statecentred, contexts.
This series of reflections led to an increasingly impressive amount
of theoretical and more practical work on what might be the major
thrusts of security in relation to these new trends and thinking about
them. With growing emphasis on non-military issues, and non-state
ones to boot, it proved possible to speak more of issues such as:
• citizen security in the face of the explosion of crime in the cities,
and to some extent, even in the countryside;
• problems of security for the rich alongside the collapse of security
for the poor;
• questions of health which cross borders and kill or which simply
stand out as threatening the sense of security of everyday people;
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Human Security and Conflict Prevention ...
Hal Klepak
• questions of human rights and abuses of them;
• access to basic needs of education, social services, housing, and
medical services, without which there is little sense in speaking of
anyone feeling secure;
• needs related to what appeared to be a rise in the number and
intensity of natural disasters.
Thus concerns rarely placed in the past in the traditional state-centred
context of security came to the fore or at least were increasingly
acknowledged as of relevance and finding their legitimate place in
discussions of security. Building on ideas of common and cooperative
security, this meant an expansion of the meaning of security in so far
as it had been conceived in the modern state system. In addition, it
seemed to call for a major effort in reactions at the state and lower
levels in order to address the challenges of these non-traditional issues
now being more readily debated at the international level.
Needless to say, this new thinking could only take place in a situation
of much-reduced potential for conflict within the inter-state system.
And it could only take hold in Canada because of the reduced relevance
of traditional schema of tensions in the international system and
increased interest in responding to threats and challenges long accepted
as irrelevant to wider security matters as seen through the state prism.
It must be said that at first the Department of National Defence, and
indeed many in the Department of Foreign Affairs, found it difficult to
take seriously the thrust of the new thinking. While some felt that it
was mere idealism unrelated to facts as it could not replace real state
security as a priority, others felt that the costs of taking it seriously
were prohibitive, whatever the inherent value of the idea.
The first group argued that state-related insecurities remained
present and demanded the continuing priority they had enjoyed before
the end of the Cold War. Such thinkers did not usually deny the need
to address other, new, security matters. However, they felt that these
matters were so great in scope and so inappropriately placed within
the security rubric of state concerns as to reduce the degree to which
they could be properly managed in a security framework, at least in
any security framework that could be envisaged at that time.
The second group insisted on the idea that, even with the best will
in the world, a serious effort could not be made to address the breadth
of issues involved in human security without a total change in
international attitudes towards economic, social and even political
development. They argued that the costs of a real effort with any
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chance of significant progress in these areas of human concern were
so massive as to preclude such initiatives. Only a total reorientation of
international relations, based on a deep-seated, and not merely Canadian,
sea change in attitudes of solidarity with the international community,
could, in their opinion, provide a political environment apt to sustain
such an effort.
Indeed, cynics (realists?) even within Canada argued that while the
country was doubtless a leader in new thinking on the needs of
developing countries, and that this was especially true in the security
field; there was even in Canada no intention to make the changes
implied by the human security approach in fields as central as access
to the markets of industrialized nations of the North, freedom of
movement of labour, and other reforms that were vital in order to
make real progress. Such analysts felt that discussion of the idea of
human security was indeed unhelpful as it raised hopes of major change
that could not be achieved in the current context of international
relations, even well after the Cold War.
Notwithstanding the above, and especially the open scepticism of
the Department of National Defence, Mr Axworthy was able to sell
his vision to such an extent that, two years after his taking over the
foreign affairs portfolio, it became a major plank of Canadian defence
and foreign policy. And this was done with relatively little watering
down of the approach’s tenets. Some came of course in the hope of
assuaging defence and other critics and making them see its positive
sides as non-threatening to their more realpolitik needs for the future.
But the centring of the approach on individual and collective human
needs short of the state did not change even though it remained far
from fully defined.
The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs called a series of
meetings to discuss the concept and invited foreign as well as Canadian
analysis of what it would actually mean, globally and in a variety of
world regions and sets of major issues. And bureaucratic structures
within the department soon had the official job of selling the idea widely.
Despite its scepticism, the Department of Defence also had to toe the
official line where human security was concerned.
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Human Security and Conflict Prevention ...
Hal Klepak
The United States and human security
Ideas of human security coming from across the northern border
were at first given sort shrift in Washington. If opposition among realists
had been strong in Canada, it was far stronger in the United States.
But opposition, firmer of course here, was still to be found in essentially
the same two streams of thought.
United States mainstream strategic thinking could find little appealing
in the idea. While generally acknowledging that there were many new
elements of the international security scene than had been present in
the Cold War world, US thinkers tended not to feel that the thrust of
human security was either logical or acceptable. And while the reaction
was hardly monolithic, and elements of the arms control and prodevelopment communities did have favourable things to say about
human security, it was none the less true that most thinkers scoffed
at the idea and at first gave it scant attention.
And as in Canada, but even more so in the United States, many
others merely felt that human security was wishful thinking as a
construct for international action. They, and there were many of them,
tended to argue that there was no basis at all for thinking that the
international community had evolved to such an extent after the Cold
War that it was prepared to make the real and significant sacrifices
necessary to carry forward the international development programme
such ideas required.
In bilateral and multilateral forums, Washington politely but firmly
suggested that the approach needed more serious work before it could
be taken on as a real suggestion for reform of security approaches.
Indeed, Canadian diplomats tended to find bemusement from US
security analysts in the face of what they often considered merely
another of the long string of Canadian idealistic and unworkable ideas
on international security. And when the expressions of such thinking
began to take on the form of support for an international ban on antipersonnel landmines and opposition to ballistic missile defence, US
mainstream thinking seemed even less impressed, or even amused, by
the idea.
Despite this, over time the United States position softened. Canadian
diplomats and military officers noted a slow but eventually perceptible
change in United States attitudes on human security. While slow to
enter US discourse itself, an evolution did take place as officials and
academics saw the pertinence of at least some of the tenets of the
approach. The clearly individual and non-traditional elements of much
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of the context of narcotics abuse, international crime, illegal immigration,
health, and ethnic and other modern conflicts forced a more accepting
approach, at least to the idea of considering human security as useful
in some important areas of concern.
In the few months before 11 September the trend to acceptance
grew. While most still held firm on the difficulties inherent in an
approach that appeared to suggest at least an attempt to come to grips
with the vexing issues of poverty and inequality, the rest seemed worth
thinking about and not excluding out of hand.
11/9 and all that
Then came 11 September. And as for so much else, so with human
security, everything seemed to be forgotten in favour of the dramatic
flavour of the month: counter-terrorism. And while this can hardly be
surprising given the horror and scope of the impact of that day’s events,
the fact remains that at least some of the tenets of human security
were very much wrapped up in them.
Human security had argued that only by addressing the root causes
of discontent could one provide real security in the complex context
of the beginning of the new millennium. Human needs for hope,
progress economically and socially, and ways to go about their lawful
business without fear, could easily be linked to the desperate feelings
of terrorists who felt that their calls for justice and change were
consistently and viciously ignored by an international community where
only the security and other needs of the powerful were addressed
while the weak were left to their own devices.
A seemingly new lexicon exploded on the international security
scene, sometimes harking back to the past, and sometimes looking
distinctly to a new situation. The new terms included ‘asymmetric
warfare’, ‘homeland defence’, ‘immigration controls’, and a host of
rapidly evolving words confusing to expert and neophyte alike. The
individual was perhaps to feel more personally threatened, at least in
the United States and the West, than at any time in modern history.
Yet the response to those needs was to be as state-centric as ever
and to include the traditional state panoply of resources – military,
police, justice, immigration, etc. – with which past threats had been
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Human Security and Conflict Prevention ...
Hal Klepak
It is far too soon to see where recent events will lead us where
human security is concerned. The Canadian Government hopes that
the advantages the approach offers will stand the test of time and be
acknowledged as helpful by the United States and other countries
even in the current dreadful situation. There is as yet little reflection
of this thinking in the United States.
Canada believes that the responses of the US to the terrorism
crisis are well-founded in so far as they go. Ottawa would agree that it
is vital to do both things the US proposes: find and punish the terrorists
responsible for the 11 September attacks while dismantling their terror
networks, as well as acting in ways to diminish the vulnerabilities of
our societies to such attacks in the future through improved defences
against attack. But Canadians tend to add a further, third, pillar to the
reaction in which one should be participating. This is the diplomatic
and political initiatives necessary to pull the rug out from under those
who argue for terrorist methods as the only ones that can potentially
bring change where injustices are perceived.
For the time being such thinking is not welcome in Washington.
There is no guarantee that it ever will be. But the divergence in views
between the two countries is clear. Americans speak of the ‘war on
terrorism’ while Canadians avoid the term like the plague. Instead, in
Canada the discussion is of a ‘campaign against terrorism’, an entirely
different thing. The ‘campaign’ acknowledges other, dare one say more
human dimensions, to the questions before us. The ‘war’ simplifies
the issues at hand.
The current crisis in Canada, despite the simply overwhelming and
unprecedented sympathy for the United States present in the Canadian
body politic, reflects in many ways the kind of thinking that gave birth
to human security ideas and to human security itself. Its handling in
the United States expresses the survival of very different ideas on
how to deal with new security challenges.
It is yet to be seen whether there will be cross-pollination between
the two approaches. At the moment there seems to be few signs of
any. But there are some, and the shock of the attacks may well stimulate
a degree of new American thinking on the subject that may end up
bringing the two visions much more closely into line. This is, however,
far from certain at present.
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The Human Security Network grew out of a bilateral arrangement
between Canada and Norway, signed at Lysøen Island (Norway) in
1998, and its aim was to form an association of countries with the
purpose of promoting a new concept of human security centred on
people. The first meeting of the Human Security Network was held in
1999, organized as a group of like-minded countries which, through
informal and flexible mechanisms, seek to generate points of consensus
and promote practical actions in this respect.
The Network
is currently made up of thirteen countries: Austria,
Canada, Chile, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, the Netherlands, Norway,
Slovenia, South Africa, Switzerland and Thailand. As provided in the
Lysøen Declaration, the ministers of foreign affairs of the countries
making up this association agreed to generate a forum for consultation
and concerted action based on ministerial meetings at least once a
year, ministerial groups to implement joint initiatives and meetings held
in parallel to traditional conferences. Since its launch, the Human
Security Network has held four ministerial meetings, in Bergen and
1. FLACSO-Chile researcher.
3. Juan Aníbal Barría, ‘Chile and human security’, paper presented at the Expert Meeting
on Peace, Human Security and Conflict Prevention in Latin America and the Caribbean,
Santiago, November 2001.
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Lysøen, Norway (1999); in Lucerne, Switzerland (2000); in Petra,
Jordan (2001) and in Santiago, Chile (2002). The next ministerial meeting
will be held in May 2003, in Graz, Austria.
The Network member countries have invited United Nations
representatives, academics and non-governmental organizations of
different continents to participate in their working sessions with the
purpose of establishing a concept and an action plan in relation to
human security. These bodies have been associated with the various
ministerial and preparatory meetings and have made important
contributions through articles and research works carried out with
governments and international organizations. The bodies participating
in the meetings include the International Federation of Red Cross and
Red Crescent Societies, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines,
the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, and the International
Action Network on Small Arms.
In the four ministerial meetings held to date, the ministers of foreign
affairs have sought to refine their diagnoses and perceptions in order
to build up common thinking about a concept of security that places
protection of the human being as the lynchpin of international peace.
In so doing, it is important to point out that Network member countries
understand that human security is not a substitute for conventional
security, but rather complements it, adding the element that the first6
priority is concern for the welfare of people, citizens and civil society.
The Declaration of the First Ministerial Meeting points out that human
security ‘means freedom from pervasive threats to people’s rights,
their safety or even their lives. ... Human security has become both a
new measure of global security and a new agenda for global action’.
For its part, the Chairman’s Summary of the second meeting is more
specific as to the variables or dimensions making up human security:
‘Ministers and representatives of the Human Security Network
reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening human security with a
view to creating a more humane world where people can live in security
and dignity, free from want and fear, and with equal opportunities to
develop their human potential to the full.’
4. htpp://
5. See article by Francisco Rojas Aravena, ‘Seguridad humana: Una perspectiva académica
desde América Latina’, in Chile 1999–2000. Nuevo gobierno: Desafíos de la
reconciliación, Santiago, FLACSO-Chile, 2000.
6. Heraldo Muñoz, Speech of the Under-Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Chile at the
Expert Meeting on Peace, Human Security and Conflict Prevention in Latin America and
the Caribbean, Santiago, November 2001.
7. Chairman’s Summary, First Ministerial Meeting, Lysøen, 1999.
8. Chairman’s Summary, Second Ministerial Meeting, Lucerne, 2000.
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Human Security Network: From Lysøen to Santiago
Claudia F. Fuentes
In addition to the declarations made at the ministerial meetings
about the human security concept and the set of principles accepted
by Network members, it should be noted that in the Network there
is a debate about the extent this concept must cover. In this respect,
one of the main tasks of this association of countries will be to work
on the definition of the concept of human security, set its boundaries
and establish links with other themes, especially in the field of human
Together with the challenge of conceptually defining human security,
the Network should go on working to establish its agenda and concrete
actions capable of generating policies that may have an impact on the
international context. Since it was created, the Network has worked
within a human security agenda including a wide range of different
subjects: anti-personnel mines, light weapons, groups at war,
International Criminal Court, non-state actors in armed conflicts,
education for peace, refugees, sustainable development, and peace
operations, among others.
It is important to point out that the Network has succeeded in
drawing attention to some issues at an international level, in particular
with respect to international cooperation in the campaign to ban
landmines through the Ottawa Convention. However, this range of
subjects, which is in part due to the diversity of the countries making
up the Network, has made the development of more concrete actions
more difficult for collective action in the international field.
The main issues addressed at the four meetings of the Human
Security Network are described below, followed by some reflections
about the development of the Network and its action at international
Lysøen, Norway (1999)
The First Ministerial Meeting on human security was held in Lysøen
on 19 and 20 May 1999. Representatives of the governments of
Austria, Canada, Chile, Ireland, Jordan, the Netherlands, Slovenia,
Switzerland, Thailand and Norway attended the meeting. South Africa
participated as an observer.
9. Chairman’s Summary, First Ministerial Meeting, Lysøen, 1999.
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The concept of human security, its significance and the themes
included in the human security agenda were analysed. The Chairman’s
Summary of the meeting, entitled ‘A Perspective on Human Security’,
provides a conceptual framework. According to the report, human
security means freedom from pervasive threats to people’s rights, their
safety or even their lives. It is indicated that human security and human
development are mutually reinforcing concepts, as they aim at two
interrelated objectives: to banish fear and to banish want.
The participants at the First Ministerial Meeting established three
fundamental requirements for human security development:
• A commitment to human rights and international humanitarian law
as the foundation for the building of human security. In so doing,
human security is advanced through the protection and promotion
of human rights, the rule of law, democratic institutions, a culture
of peace and the peaceful resolution of conflicts.
• The international organizations created by states in order to build a
just and peaceful world order, above all the United Nations, in its
role of maintaining international peace and security as stated in its
Charter, must serve human security needs.
• The promotion of sustainable human development through the
alleviation of absolute poverty, providing basic social services for all,
pursuing the goals of people-centred development.
The report on the Lysøen meeting stresses that while the aim of
improving human security is widely shared, the degree to which it is
threatened varies in the different regions of the world, as do the
resources available to deal with the threats. In this respect, the report
shows the need to establish a framework of flexible cooperation and
concrete actions in order to promote human security. Ministers and
government representatives thus established an agenda for the
promotion of human security, identifying challenges and proposals.
Lysøen agenda
Anti-personnel landmines: Ban the use and remove the mines from
contaminated lands through the following mechanisms:
• Strengthening joint work with the countries involved as well as at a
global level through the UN.
• Promoting the ratification and universalization of the Mine Ban
Convention, particularly at the regional level.
• Promoting partnerships with NGOs.
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Human Security Network: From Lysøen to Santiago
Claudia F. Fuentes
• Facilitating coordinated action in humanitarian emergencies in cases
where the use of anti-personnel mines prevents the return of
Small arms: Coordinate efforts to control the multiplication of small
arms, including:
• Encouraging national, regional and international action, focusing on
both the illicit and licit traffic of armaments.
• Strengthening the work of the UN Panel of Government Experts
on Small Arms and supporting the decision of the UN General
Assembly to hold an international conference on this problem.
• Welcoming the Elements of Common Understanding in this matter,
from the Oslo meeting of 13–14 July 1998, to the International
Conference on Sustainable Disarmament for Sustainable
Development held in Brussels on 12–13 October 1998.
• Seeking solutions to this issue through the United Nations, regional
and subregional arrangements in cooperation with civil society
Children in armed conflict: Identify the specific needs of children
in armed conflict, by:
• Ensuring that humanitarian and development assistance programmes
address the needs of children in armed conflict and by supporting,
where appropriate, the work of UN agencies such as UNICEF and
UNHCHR, in addition to intergovernmental and non-governmental
organizations working in this field.
• Contributing to the follow-up of commitments made by
governments and other parties involved in conflicts to the UN
Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children in Armed
• Promoting the implementation of existing standards, in particular
those of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and working
towards the adoption of an Optional Protocol on the involvement
of children in armed conflict.
• Encouraging the recognition and enforcement of these standards
by all armed forces or groups.
• Promoting and participating in activities that contribute to public
awareness and understanding of this issue in the Network member
countries and in those that are at present affected by conflict.
• Recognizing that the participation of children in armed conflicts can
be considered as one of the worst forms of child labour, and working
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towards the immediate elimination and prohibition of this form of
child labour, as well as the adoption of international instruments
dealing with this subject.
• Promoting measures to facilitate the reintegration in society of former
child soldiers.
International humanitarian and human rights law: Strengthen
the implementation and adherence to international humanitarian and
human rights law by:
• Cooperating to ensure that the 27th Red Cross Conference
succeeds in revitalizing commitment to international humanitarian
law in compliance with the Geneva Conventions and their Protocols.
• Monitoring the implementation of international humanitarian and
human rights law, particularly in situations of systematic violations
of human rights.
• Promoting the recognition and enforcement of the regulations of
international humanitarian law by armed forces or armed groups.
• Working together for the implementation and promotion of human
rights training for peace-keeping forces and related personnel.
• Promoting human rights education.
International Criminal Court: Seek the speedy ratification and
implementation of the Rome Statute establishing an International
Criminal Court.
Exploitation of children: Strengthen cooperation in the fight against
the sexual exploitation of children.
Safety of humanitarian personnel: Includes the identification of
concrete measures to enhance the safety of humanitarian personnel
and the promotion of universal adherence to the United Nations
Convention on the Safety of UN and Associated Personnel.
Conflict prevention: Strengthen the capacity of the United Nations
and regional organizations to develop cooperative strategies for conflict
Transnational organized crime: Work together to develop a
framework within the UN system to combat transnational organized
crime, in particular through the negotiations of the UN Convention
against Transnational Organized Crime and its Protocols.
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Human Security Network: From Lysøen to Santiago
Claudia F. Fuentes
Resources for development
• Strive towards the goal of the official development assistance
proposed by the World Summit on Sustainable Development in
Copenhagen, set at 0.7% of the gross national product of each
• Review progress on the 20/20 initiative, which proposes that
developing countries should reserve at least 20% of their budgets
for priority matters of human development and donor countries
should increase their help in this area by 20%.
Lucerne, Switzerland (2000)
The second meeting of the Human Security Network was held in
Lucerne on 11–12 May 2000. In addition to the eleven countries
participating in the first meeting, delegations from Greece and Mali
attended, giving rise to the present thirteen countries making up the
Human Security Network.
On this occasion, ministers and representatives of member
countries reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen human security
and they recognized the importance and the need to work together
with NGOs in order to reach this goal. Concerning the agenda, two
main points were developed: small arms and light weapons; and the
role of non-state actors in human security.
Among the commitments acquired by ministers and representatives
of the countries attending the meeting, the following points are notable:
• Working together and individually to combat poverty and to
contribute to sustainable human development. In particular, to
achieve sustained growth of income, which requires, among other
factors, investment in health and education.
• Promoting respect for human rights, international humanitarian law
and good governance. Recognizing the need to foster a culture of
peace, including the peaceful resolution of conflicts, to control the
instruments of violence, and to end impunity in cases of violation of
human rights and international humanitarian law.
• Encouraging consensus on the subject of human security at the
global level and promoting regional approaches and flexible
frameworks for cooperation.
• Deepening contacts among members of the Network, other states,
and NGOs in order to sustain consideration of human security
10. Chairman’s Summary, Second Ministerial Meeting, Lucerne, 2000.
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issues in international and regional fora, in particular the UN, as well
as within the framework of international financial institutions. In so
doing, they recognized the need to pool resources from different
sources such as government, private sector and civil society.
With respect to the need to develop alliances with NGOs, the
representatives stressed the crucial role of NGOs as key non-state
actors in developing, building and implementing human security. They
recognized the invaluable expertise, energy and commitment of NGOs
to progress across a range of key issues relevant to people’s security.
The representatives undertook to promote greater engagement
between governments and civil society on human security issues.
Lucerne agenda
Small arms and light weapons: Representatives of governments
belonging to the Human Security Network called on the international
community to adopt an action plan to prevent the destabilizing
accumulation and propagation of small arms and light weapons and
the illicit trafficking of armaments.
In so doing, they recognized the importance of the UN Conference
on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in All Its Aspects
to be held in 2001. They also stressed some points to be addressed at
the conference:
• Preventing the excessive and destabilizing accumulation and transfer
of small arms and combating illicit arms trafficking by means of
marking, record-keeping and tracing.
• Controlling the legal manufacture and transfer of small arms, including
the activities of brokers, and reducing small arms flow to conflict
• Strengthening international cooperation and exchange of information
between governments, judicial authorities, and improving
transparency in these activities.
• Assisting in the collection, transfer and destruction of illicit or surplus
Non-state actors: The report of the second meeting indicates that
the term ‘non-state actors’ includes several groups: NGOs,
humanitarian organizations, armed groups and the private sector. It
also points out the importance of non-state actors in human security
and the need to strengthen dialogue among the different groups
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Human Security Network: From Lysøen to Santiago
Claudia F. Fuentes
The government representatives paid special attention to armed
groups, specifying that they play an important role in human security,
especially in conflict areas. It was emphasized that the security of the
population, including that of humanitarian personnel, could be
improved if all actors, including armed groups, would respect existing
international law and principles. In this respect, ministers and
government representatives expressed their support for the
publication of a manual of armed groups all over the world, with the
purpose of creating a database on the targets, history, military capacity,
funding and other background information on these groups.
Other issues
A new topic was added to the agenda, that of ‘corporate citizenship’.
That is, the way in which small, medium and multinational companies
may contribute to promote human security. In this respect, the ‘Global
Compact’ initiative was appraised by the UN Secretary-General.
The subject of human rights education was also added to the human
security agenda. Ministers and government representatives agreed to
work together to enhance human security through human rights
education at national, regional and global levels, within the framework
of the United Nations Decade for Human Rights Education.
Finally, the Lucerne Conference Summary includes some issues
that were previously raised at the Network’s First Ministerial Meeting
in Norway: war-affected children and the protection of civilians in
armed conflict; creation of the International Criminal Court;
strengthening of conflict prevention; prohibition of use and eradication
of anti-personnel mines.
Petra, Jordan (2001)
The Human Security Network Third Ministerial Meeting was held
in Petra on 11–12 May 2001. Ministers and representatives of the
governments making up the Network as well as civil society experts
attended the meeting. Participants reaffirmed their intention to focus
on protecting people against violence and promoting an international
agenda oriented towards this purpose.
11. Chairman’s Summary, Third Ministerial Meeting, Petra, 2001.
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The issues analysed related to human development and security,
conflict resolution and prevention, the need to strengthen UN peace
missions, and children’s insecurity arising from the situations of violence
to which they are exposed.
Petra agenda
Human security and human development
The government representatives recognized that human security
and human development are complex and interrelated concepts. In
many circumstances, the failure to achieve development is a powerful
source of human insecurity, especially for marginal groups in society.
As an example, the document points out some sources of human
insecurity, such as inadequate access to basic entitlements such as
food, health and education. From this point of view, the participants at
the meeting stated that urgent and concerted action is needed to tackle
the root causes of human insecurity.
On the other hand, it was pointed out that violence or threats of
violence are an important impediment to the promotion of
development, as they prevent individuals from investing in the
economic and social development of their communities. In this respect,
the Petra Summary shows that the promotion of human security brings
a people-centred perspective to issues of freedom from fear and
violence, underlines the way in which different groups in society
(women, children, minorities and other disadvantaged sectors) are
particularly vulnerable to violence, including domestic violence. In this
respect, those attending the meeting recognized the need for
development policies taking into account these vulnerabilities.
Finally, the participants indicated that the link between human
development and human security is specifically illustrated by the HIV/
AIDS pandemic, which affects individuals and communities as well as
the capacity of government institutions.
Human Security Index
Ministers and government representatives recognized the
importance of developing human security indicators, similar to those
already existing in the human development area, through the analysis
of causes and consequences of human insecurity. It was proposed
that Human Security Network members join with NGO experts,
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universities and international organizations to participate in drawing
up a Human Security Index.
Peace operations and human security
The participants at the meeting emphasized the need to find the
necessary funds to strengthen conflict prevention in early and critical
stages, the need to strengthen the UN capacity for peace-keeping, and
establishing post-conflict peace-building measures promoting the
development of local capacity-building.
In this respect, they stressed the importance of taking into account
the following points:
• Recognizing the specificity of each peace operation, according to
the different conflict areas.
• Working with local and civilian experts before evaluating the need
for military deployment.
• Incorporating a gender-sensitive approach to peace-keeping
Children and human security
The report of the Petra meeting recognizes that children’s security
not only requires protection against physical violence in the context
of war, but also the incorporation of other variables such as physiological
necessities, communal relationships and opportunities for personal
Concerning children affected by armed conflict, ministers and
government representatives emphasized the importance of:
• Ensuring that children’s security is included as an important factor
in peace and reconstruction processes.
• Encouraging strategies that include children’s rights in humanitarian
assistance, development and cooperation programmes, as well as
peace and security initiatives.
• Raising awareness of children’s rights and their specific needs. Special
attention was paid to the situation of children in the Middle East
area, particularly in the Palestinian territories.
• Respecting international humanitarian law, which includes special
provisions for the assistance and protection of children.
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Other issues
The issue of the HIV/AIDS pandemic was included in the human
security agenda of the third meeting as affecting human security and
countries’ social and economic development, particularly in Africa and
Asia. Participants emphasized the need to encourage health strategies
and access to the required drugs.
Ministers and government representatives indicated the importance
of including a gender dimension in human security. In this respect,
they outlined the need to incorporate gender-sensitive indicators such
as violence against women and women’s human rights. They stressed
the fact that women are important actors in the peace-building process.
The subject of human rights education was again pointed out as a
fundamental aspect of the promotion of human security.
Furthermore, the participants reaffirmed the commitment adopted
at the Lucerne meeting in relation to an action plan to prevent the
accumulation and proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Finally,
the launch of the Human Security Network website
( was welcomed, its purpose being
to provide an electronic forum of consultation and coordination of
Network members’ activities.
Santiago, Chile (2002)
The fourth ministerial meeting of the Human Security Network,
held on 2–3 July 2002 in Santiago, Chile, was attended by ministers,
secretaries of state and special envoys from all participating countries.
On this occasion, ministers and government representatives
stressed the fact that the terrorist attacks of 11 September in the
United States had profoundly affected the current international mood,
altering the sense of security of individuals all over the world. In this
respect, they recalled the Statement of the Human Security Network
(New York, 12 November 2001) and renewed the commitment of
Network governments to support international efforts to eradicate
terrorism through better understanding of the sources of global
12. Chairman’s Summary, Fourth Ministerial Meeting, Santiago, 2002.
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The participants also reiterated the importance of promoting the
security of people and communities to deal with the new threats in
order to ‘build a world free from fear and free from want’.13 At the
same time, they stressed the importance of ensuring the effective
functioning of the international system for the protection and
promotion of human rights, within the United Nations and at the
regional level.
Santiago agenda
The Santiago meeting followed the agenda proposed by the
Government of Chile in its capacity of pro tempore secretary. This
agenda included a general review of the matters considered or initiatives
adopted by the Network at the three previous meetings. Particularly
notable were conflict prevention; non-state armed groups; protection
of civilians; NGOs and armed conflicts; international humanitarian law
and humanitarian personnel in conflict situations; anti-personnel mines;
small arms and light weapons; childhood and human security;
entrepreneurship and human security; HIV/AIDS; resources for
development; transnational organized crime; and women, peace and
In addition, the agenda was oriented to an in-depth analysis of three
issues: a human security perspective in public security policies; human
rights and international law education focused on human security; and
the measurement of human security – the Human Security Index.
A human security perspective in public security policies
The Chairman’s Summary of the meeting states that public security
involves a wide range of issues, such as crime and corruption, terrorism,
prisons, police and judicial authorities and the civil police, including
the private security sector. In this context, and bearing in mind the
problems of security and insecurity from the perspective of human
security, the following recommendations were submitted for
consideration by the member countries:
• To support the modernization of the police and public forces and
examine the guidelines and rules governing private security agencies.
• To promote staff training, particularly by sharing best practices
among countries and contexts.
13. ‘Building a World Free from Fear and Free from Want’, Chairman’s Summary, ibid.
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• To promote communication among members of the Human Security
Network on issues relating to public security.
• To promote the use of control mechanisms, for example in relation
to discrimination by police forces.
• To support a pilot plan aimed at adopting alternative measures to
deal with drug problems, based on the human security concept.
• To promote examination of the prison system and its function in
public security in the long term and in the development of secure
• To back analysis of the way in which insecurity is perceived as part
of the concept of human security, with special emphasis on the
function of the media.
• To back modernization of the armed forces and increased
cooperation among the countries of the Human Security Network
in their efforts to reform the security sector.
Human rights and international law education
The report of the meeting states that in order to promote education
on human rights and international humanitarian law, the following
recommendations should be considered:
• To address education on human rights and international law from a
global, holistic and transdisciplinary perspective, which would involve
governments, intergovernmental organizations, the academic world
and civil society. Also, to promote coordination of different
programmes of human rights education at national level.
• To back investigation of the links between human rights education
and human security.
• Measures aiming at promoting human rights education can be
considered as support for the creation of a global culture of human
rights, where participatory training at a basic level can be encouraged
as being of critical importance.
• When implementing legal norms, the following elements deserve
special consideration:
- training of military and police personnel in human rights and
international humanitarian law;
- incorporation of human rights education in formal and informal
teaching systems, including schools and universities;
- initiatives in favour of wide diffusion, in particular through the
use of the media.
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• To promote international humanitarian law as a continuation of the
initial policy commitment by the Human Security Network.
• To adopt a long-term and proactive strategy giving priority to
education policies.
• To promote such relevant instruments as the Declaration of the
People’s Movement for Human Rights Education in order to
strengthen associations among governments, international agencies
and all actors of civil society.
The measurement of human security: Human Security
Ministers and government representatives pointed out that the
measurement of human security is a complex but necessary task for
the operation of the Network. The meeting held that reliable data are
required for any projection aimed at conflict prevention, and it was
recognized that the most useful aspect of background data on human
security is the ability to note different trends, thus allowing governments
to take measures to improve human security. The meeting agreed to
consider the following recommendations:
• To supply methodological back-up for the ongoing investigation of
human security elements and, in particular, to promote relevant
investigation in various regional contexts. To promote projects to
set up and maintain reliable databases on the causes of insecurity.
• To consider the use of broader measurements of human security,
but in such a way that the efforts of the Human Security Network
can focus on one or two issues on the agenda in order to achieve
some international success.
• To draw up a Human Security Report to provide reliable data for
the formulation of effective policies.
Human Security Network agenda
Analysis of the agendas for the four Human Security Network
meetings held to date and for the one foreseen in Austria, shows some
consistency, as well as a strong emphasis on certain subjects at
particular times.
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Table 1 sums up the main themes dealt with at Network meetings.
Three issues have grown in importance as they have been discussed
at each ministerial meeting: the banning and eradication of antipersonnel landmines; controlling the proliferation of small arms and
light weapons; and children in armed conflicts.
Table 1
Agendas of the 1999–2002 Human Security Network
Ministerial Meetings
Small arms and light
Children in armed
Human Rights and
Humanitarian Law
Criminal Court
Peace operations
Prevention of
organized crime
Resources for
Small arms and light
Non-state actors
(armed groups)
Education in Human
Children in armed
Conflict prevention
Criminal Court
Protection of
civilians in armed
Human security
and development
Peace operations
Children in armed
Human Security
Gender and
human security
Small arms and
light weapons
Human Security
Education in
Human Rights
Public security
and human
Source: Chairman’s Summaries, First, Second, Third and Fourth Ministerial Meetings, Lysøen
(1999), Lucerne (2000), Petra (2001) and Santiago (2002) respectively .
The eradication of anti-personnel landmines has been repeatedly
addressed at all the ministerial meetings, especially at Lysøen. The
Human Security Network has played an important part at international
level through its campaign to ban landmines by promoting the ratification
of the Ottawa Convention.
In addition, the trafficking of small arms and light weapons has been
an ongoing concern to this association of countries owing to their
presence in domestic conflicts and civil wars. This is especially evident
in Latin America, where the illegal trade in weapons is associated with
drug trafficking, guerrilla movements and the increasing violence
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exerted by paramilitary groups and gangs. For this reason, all countries
of the Human Security Network took part in the United Nations
Conference on the Illicit Trade in Small Arms and Light Weapons in
All its Aspects held in July 2001, issuing a joint declaration calling on
the international community to adopt the plan of action drawn up by
the conference to prevent the accumulation and spread of small arms
and light weapons, as well as their trafficking. This declaration also states
the need to strengthen international cooperation and exchange of
information among governments in order to promote transparency.
Children in armed conflict is another ongoing issue in Human
Security Network discussions which was specifically covered at the
first and third ministerial meetings. Two points were particularly
relevant. First, promoting the ratification of the Convention on the
Rights of the Child and the adoption of its Optional Protocols on the
Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict and on the Sale of Children,
Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. Second, the need for the
international community to incorporate the rights of the child into
humanitarian assistance, development and cooperation programmes
and peace initiatives.
Apart from these three issues, which have been on the agenda of
all meetings of the Human Security Network since 1999, other themes
have been emphasized at some of the meetings: human rights and
international humanitarian law; non-state actors (armed groups); and
human security and development.
At the first meeting in Lysøen, the need to strengthen the
implementation and observance of international humanitarian law in
accordance with the Geneva Convention and its Protocols was
highlighted. In this respect, the Lysøen Declaration points out the
commitment of member countries to human rights and international
humanitarian law as the fundamental basis for the development of
human security. In this framework, the issue of education on human
rights and international humanitarian law was addressed at the fourth
meeting in Santiago and an agreement was reached on the promotion
of programmes to link human rights education with human security,
and on the adoption of a long-term strategy to give priority to education
At the second meeting in Lucerne, Switzerland, the need was
discussed to incorporate the issue of non-state actors into the human
security agenda, on the understanding that, in the new international
context, there is a great number of them and they form complex
relationships among themselves. The participants paid special attention
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to armed groups and the need for them to respect the principles of
international legislation in force in order to strengthen a feeling of
security in the population, especially in conflict zones.
The link between human security and development was one of the
main themes of the previous meeting in Petra, Jordan. The participants
pointed out that these concepts are interrelated, and for this reason
they thought it appropriate to work together in promoting human
development as one way to tackle the causes of people’s insecurity.
However, this is one of the most complex issues of the human security
agenda, as it is directly linked to the need for a definition of the whole
concept of human security, a process that is still being discussed by
the Network. The proposal arising from the Santiago meeting, to
produce a Human Security Report in order to identify the initial
parameters reflecting the main causes of people’s insecurity, is
undoubtedly a good starting point in the formulation of effective policies
by the member countries of the Human Security Network.
Finally, even though some continuity has been noted in the themes
of the human security agenda, it is important to mention that the
Network has worked on a great number of issues, making it difficult
for effective actions to be developed at an international level. In addition,
as previously stated, when the approach focused on promoting the
Ottawa Convention considerable success was achieved. In this respect,
the main tasks to be addressed by this network of countries in the
next few years include extending the analysis of the central themes of
human security; strengthening links and cooperation with civil society
and the academic sector; and continuing to stress the human security
perspective, at both domestic and international level, through the
various multilateral instances in which member countries take part.
One of the greatest challenges for the Human Security Network is to
become the main international reference point for the most urgent
problems of the citizens of the world.
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A basic dictionary of philosophical terms2 reminds us that peace ‘is
not limited to the absence of war. Harmony and understanding between
men can only be achieved by means of a political, cultural project …’.
Saint Augustine understood peace to be ‘tranquillity in order’. It is
habitually associated with performance of justice, defined as ‘… a
cardinal virtue, manifested by respect for other people’s rights (give
every person his or her due) … basic value for morals and politics’.
The most novel approach to the subject is the concept of a Culture
of Peace, originally proposed by Peruvian priest Felipe MacGregor,
developed with commendable enthusiasm by Federico Mayor, former
Director-General of UNESCO, and eventually taken up by the United
Nations General Assembly. According to UN Resolution 52/113, it
consists of ‘values, attitudes and conducts which give expression to
and at the same time arouse social exchanges and interaction based
1. Researcher, Peruvian Center for International Studies, CEPEI-Peru.
2. Francois Robert, Diccionario de Términos Filosóficos, Madrid, Acento Editorial,
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on principles of freedom, justice and democracy, all human rights,
tolerance and solidarity, which reject violence and attempt to prevent
conflicts by trying to attack their causes in order to solve problems by
dialogue and negotiation, which guarantee full exercise by all of all their
rights and provide the means for all to participate fully in the process
of developing their society’.
The concept of the Culture of Peace must not be banalized by
generic invocations. When addressing the issue at the General
Conference of UNESCO in October 1997, I stated: ‘Protests and
declarations are not enough for countries to be credible; they must
show their credibility with criteria that are not at all mysterious:
Domestically, by creating conditions for proper functioning of free,
democratic and peaceful societies. Internationally, by honouring
principles and provisions of international law, fulfilling treaties, educating
for peace, having true goodwill and sincerely looking to cooperate.’
Consequently, statements about being in favour of peace must be
accompanied internationally by fulfilment of the above conditions and
domestically by unequivocal demonstrations of respect for human
rights, legitimate use of political or financial power, fighting against family
violence, discrimination, exclusion and in favour of everyone
participating in development.
In sum, for peace to be achieved and consolidated the means must
be found to consolidate democracy and law, inseparable concepts and
conditions for peace, in both domestic and international circles of our
global village. Never before has the awareness of historic need been so
clear, the commitments made so specific and the desire of nations to
make it happen so pressing.
The concept of security
The number of threats can be restricted or enlarged, depending
on how wide-ranging one’s concept of security may be. A narrow
vision of security restricts the military’s role to defending the nation’s
sovereignty and repulsing direct aggressions against the state, for, in
principle, ‘threats’ to security must be counteracted by defence or, in
other words, by the option of using military force. Other problems
require different types of response. The Declaration of Bariloche by
Ministers of Defense of the Americas in October 1966, however, would
seem to adhere to the tendency to increase the number of ‘threats’ to
include, in addition to the above, such issues as the marginality of large
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sectors, drug production and trafficking, terrorism, organized crime
and violations of human rights. Others also consider such issues as
irregular migrations, environment, lack or weakness of democratic
institutions, technical and scientific backwardness, population explosion,
racism, political or religious fundamentalism, subversion, etc., to be
These problems cause disquiet and adversely affect the normal
course of economic, social and political life, but the responses do not
indicate whether or not these are to be considered ‘threats’ within
the ‘wide-ranging’ concept of security or ‘integral security’, and, as
such, whether they are issues that must be dealt with by systems of
defence, in other words, by the possible use of force which is security’s
ultimate resource.
In fact, there is a certain tendency to ‘militarize’ responses, which
implies a growing participation of the defence sector and of the military
in matters that are alien to their nature and function, including policies
of development.
On the other hand, one must understand that ‘new threats’ or
‘non-military threats’ form part of a development-underdevelopment
agenda in which problems originating in poor countries not only
compromise their own security but also regional and world security.
This ‘southern threat’ is ambiguous and worrying, because it refers to
problems originating in the continent itself that do not interest everyone
in the same way, and because the generators of the threat are not
states, as in classical cases, but rather groups of people or social,
economic or political situations.
There are several types of decentralized conflict in the globalized
world. There is non-political urban violence associated with the social
structure, as occurs in Johannesburg, Rio de Janeiro and other towns.
There is insurgent or subversive political violence, such as Shining Path
in Peru, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and a
series of movements in the Middle East, the Philippines and other
places. Another form of political violence is linked to crime involving
arms trafficking and money laundering. The relationship between
organized international crime and the increase in local criminality is
evident in these cases. Almost all these situations produce more or
less massive violations of human rights.
To further complicate matters, after the terrorist attacks on New
York on 11 September, people are talking quite naturally about a ‘clash
of civilizations’, to use Samuel Huntington’s phrase, where the Islamic
world is in conflict with the West. Regardless of the difficulty of
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accepting this type of proposal, one must be very aware of how
dangerous current circumstances are.
The highly predictable structured conflictivity of the Cold War has
been replaced by a rather unpredictable, unstructured conflictivity.
Furthermore, the classic concept of the security of states is giving way
to an examination of concerns about the security of people. This
includes new concepts of human security, democratic security and
various other types of cooperative or shared security. Instead of the
classic deterrent, more progressive states are considering cooperation
and integration as central elements of their security systems.
Hemispheric security
In inter-American terms, the OAS has also taken up the concept of
a culture of peace, coupling it with the need to promote it via education.
The latter must be based on the Organization’s own principles,
particularly those referring to achieving order based on peace and
justice; strengthening cooperation; fulfilling obligations arising from
treaties; the peaceful solution of disputes; the non-use of, or non-use
of the threat to use, force; non-intervention and defence of the
territorial sovereignty and integrity of its members; all subject to the
conditions and within the framework of a democratic system.
The situation of external peace in the Hemisphere, the absence of
threats from outside the continent and the widespread presence of
democratic governments have created a propitious climate for a new
consideration of the meaning of security for states, societies and people.
It is not easy, however, to discover security parameters in an
association where different interests have resulted in evident
asymmetry. One member has global strategic interests and
commitments, while the others are basically concerned with their
domestic situation and immediate surroundings, without implying that
they are not interested in hemispheric security.
‘New’ treatment of these matters began in 1991 at the end of the
Cold War. The Committee on Hemispheric Security is the official
forum where governments express their ideas on these issues. Their
results still do not compete with understandings in military areas. In
fact, some countries have a hard time with the Inter-American Treaty
of Reciprocal Assistance (TIAR), the School of the Americas and InterAmerican Defense Board, which subsist despite being politically
surpassed by the end of the Cold War. A hemispheric security format
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should be designed taking into account the concerns of all countries.
The Special Conference on Hemispheric Security planned for 2004
would be a good opportunity to bring these proposals to fruition.
Latin American countries, however, are reluctant to study criteria
among themselves for more informed, balanced treatment of
hemispheric security issues.
The Committee on Hemispheric Security studies measures to
encourage trust and security, a new conceptualization of security,
institutional aspects, transparency in military purchases, etc. American
defence ministers have met in several conferences. Traditional
conferences of commanders-in-chief of the armed forces continue to
take place. Most of the activities are military and, even though improving
military relations is convenient, it is not synonymous with increased
security for all countries.
A system of democratic, cooperative hemispheric security that
aspires to consolidated peace must focus on cooperation and
integration without threatening the sovereignty and independence of
any state. It will include measures of mutual trust, arms control and
limitations, disarmament, an institutional framework for hemispheric
security, suitable participation by the United States and proper
treatment in the OAS and the United Nations. Consequently, it does
not entail creating a military alliance, nor a system of defence centred
on the possible use of military force, but rather a system of security
based on cooperation.
Security in Latin America
Without security, national viability does not exist and citizens are
unprotected in the face of internal and external, new and old threats.
In Latin America, however, the subject is socially unknown, academically
marginal and politically concealed. As its urgency and significance are
evident, the fact that it has not been given more attention is one of
Latin America’s paradoxes.
There has been very little thinking about security and defence issues
in Latin America, other than specially prized geopolitical visions during
military regimes, which led to increased spending and acquisitions and
also to risks of conflict. The public is not interested in disarmament
issues. Political parties only make vague references to peace and
friendship and development combined with the need to ‘maintain a
suitable system of defence’, a concept which few countries have managed
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to clarify, even in its most generic aspects. The military consider that
they are authorized to define images of security and defence, partly
through default of society and politicians.
The regions take tremendous delight in talking about common
elements or identity, but this has not resulted in any action in the field
of security, much less in that of defence. Progress in matters of political
cooperation and regional integration do not automatically extend to
military matters. Numerous political statements and understandings
on security issues, building trust, reducing armaments and military
spending and related subjects simply are not put into practice. The
absence until recently of major proposals in matters of arms and
disarmament is cause for concern.
Treatment of security issues between Latin American countries
has been basically bilateral. Relatively little has been done in ‘subregional’
terms and regional is understood as inter-American, where these and
other issues show clear asymmetry. It is curious that issues which
neighbours are unable to deal with between themselves are dealt with
in this framework. Concepts of cooperative security, shared security
and ‘non-offensive defence’ deserve greater interest from the region.
The historical problem, which is still present, is the governance of
complex societies with weak states, where the armed forces have
always emerged as the most solid institution, with degrees of autonomy
that border on independence, and have been considered as endowed
with a transcendental mission. In these conditions, the question is not
the ‘constitutional subordination’ of the armed forces to the
government, which in practice has not worked, but rather the
possibility of establishing an effective ‘democratic management’ of the
armed forces.
Hence, any approach to democratic security will have to be based
on such elements as the rule of law, rapprochement of defence policies
and foreign policies, studying authentic national security needs, priority
strengthening of democratic institutions, overcoming ambiguities in
civil-military relations, responsible formulation of roles and missions
for the armed forces, non-offensive military deployment, complete
observance of human rights, non-use of armed forces for political party
ends, attention to economic conditions that presuppose that our
countries will not return to the levels of military spending of a few
years ago, and, finally, education for peace.
Compared with other regions, Latin America seems to be a relatively
stable, secure region. There is only one situation subsisting from the
Cold War, and, in general, there is international peace. Some still
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unresolved problems probably lack the potential for armed conflict.
Paradoxically, Latin America is also an extremely violent zone because
of such factors as subversion and terrorism, drug production and
trafficking, common national and international crime, enormous illegal
presence of individual arms; and its political volatility is cause for
concern due to the relative fragility of new democracies and of some
of the older ones.
Security will also have to be reconceptualized for Latin America as
a means of preserving and consolidating the democratic system.
Defence, as the possibility of resorting legitimately to armed force,
must concentrate on tasks related to its very raison d’être: protection
in the face of armed aggression from abroad or armed internal threat
against the democratic system, participation in United Nations peace
missions and civil defence in the event of natural disasters. Legitimate
use of force is clearly defined in international law and, consequently,
its instruments, i.e. the armed forces, cannot have equivocal objectives
such as ‘accomplishing national goals’.
Democracy would increase the possibilities of peace and security
with fewer or less expensive armed forces, but supported by society,
based on conceptualizations of security that include appropriate
definitions of the roles and missions of these armed forces. This
definition implies a different way of perceiving and conceptualizing
threats. Such a definition must be formulated politically, which means
that security and defence must actually be treated as state policies and
must be the object of public interest, academic study, parliamentary
debate and political decisions. Those who are politically responsible,
including the Council of Ministers, must have specific responsibilities
in defining strategic visions and also in forming, composing, equipping,
deploying and using the armed forces. That is how it works in
democratic societies.
The region’s security must be built on legal foundations and political
conditions and must build real trust. These foundations could be:
1. General, hemispheric or Latin American, such as the Tlatelolco
Treaty, which has created a Nuclear Weapons Free Zone, thereby
allowing the region to enjoy a total absence of these weapons; the
general process of democratization of the whole region after the military
regimes which increased their forces, military spending and arms
purchases and gave priority to ‘geopolitical’ schemes with constantly
increasing options of open conflict; and the inter-American system
and its legal obligations to maintain the peace and provide peaceful
solutions to disputes, and which serves as a forum for discussing
international security issues.
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2. Subregional, such as Central American efforts in the Framework
Treaty on Democratic Security in Central America, which contains
significant confidence-building measures and provisions for
consolidating democratic regimes, respect for human rights, civil control
of the military, etc.; Andean, such as the Declaration of Ayacucho,
which represented a historical effort; Galápagos in 1989, which adopted
resolutions regarding security issues and building trust; Cartagena
which rejected all weapons of mass destruction. The presidents also
approved general guidelines for a common foreign policy, strengthening
the political nature of the process and regimes that build trust and
security; Southern Cone, where the possibility of conflict between
Argentina and Brazil and Argentina and Chile has been overcome; the
latter two countries asked the Economic Commission for Latin America
and the Caribbean (ECLAC) for a method of comparing their military
spending which they are about to implement. Finally, the presidents of
MERCOSUR, Bolivia and Chile proclaimed the area as a Zone of Peace
free from chemical and bacteriological weapons. The Rio Group has
also reached understandings in matters of security and confidencebuilding measures.
3. Bilateral, with a substantial number of agreements on confidencebuilding measures between several pairs of countries, with different
levels of sophistication and compliance.
Human security
Human security is a key concept in the world today and forms part
of the democratic system. Although recently stated, it was implicit to
security proposals in more democratic, progressive societies. Canada
has promoted it politically and academically and the OAS has addressed
The concept is developed based on the changed nature of conflicts,
which are now basically internal and not so much between states; and
also on globalization, which gives rise to new forms of transnational
violence and crime that compromise the individual security of people
and nations. The human security vision questions the possibility of
there being a secure state with insecure citizens, for security of the
state is not an end in itself, disassociated from people’s security. In
this, it is in line with the reappraisal of a individual’s worth, which
results in the understanding that the state is at the service of people,
and not the other way around.
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Peace, Human Security and Conflict Prevention ...
Hugo Palma
Human security has two basic aspects which refer to chronic
problems such as hunger, sickness and repression, but also to abrupt
disruptions of daily living. The second refers to natural catastrophes
or serious crises that can lead to human tragedies. From this point of
view, human security can be threatened by economic, food, health,
personal security, environmental, community or cultural and political
problems, with elements of development having to be incorporated in
order to achieve social peace.
Human security must not be considered to be in conflict with state
security. It is rather a different, superior way of interpreting security
by redirecting its emphasis to the security needs of people, without
losing sight of the fact that they also require guaranteed security in the
face of, for example, the possibility of an external attack, but without
exhausting their resources on it. Its operational aspects must refer to
such issues as human rights and basic freedoms, the growing traffic
and use of small arms, illicit production and trafficking in drugs, antipersonnel mines, corruption and impunity, widespread violence and
contributing to achieving human development.
The viability of the concept depends on the irreplaceable political
support of democracy. At the 2000 General Assembly of the OAS in
Windsor (Canada), the Canadian Chancellor stated: ‘All our citizens
must be able to live in societies which reflect their interests, satisfy
their legitimate aspirations and guarantee effective participation in the
political, economic and social life of our countries. This is the
cornerstone of human security.’ For his part, the Head of the United
States Delegation considered that the concept involved an individual’s
inherent dignity and values, from which principles derive the freedoms
and rights of democracy, human rights and the responsibilities of the
state in protecting its citizens. He asked, ‘Where does one start to
define security and humanity? In a single word: democracy. Strong
democratic institutions provide the only solid foundation for the
complex architecture of human security. By strengthening institutions
of justice and democracy and improving proper exercising of
government, we protect human rights, improve public security and
make it possible for all of our citizens to achieve a better life.’
Peaceful solutions to disputes
Some think that conflicts do not occur because the ‘deterrent’
works. Nevertheless, there are other reasons why classical conflicts
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do not proliferate – the weight of international law, cost/benefit ratio
as the conflict can be very serious, greater economic interdependency,
growth of a democratic institutional framework, possible deterioration
of international image and international pressure against the conflict.
The considerable number of international problems and differences
that are resolved peacefully according to law go virtually unnoticed
compared with the disputes that end in conflict and which, in contrast,
receive enormous publicity. The relative absence of classical conflicts
between states is not due, therefore, to a lack of problems, or
necessarily to the effectiveness of deterrence.
Theories of conflict and preparations for war can only be left behind
by strict observance of international law and fulfilment of commitments
assumed, by peaceful solutions to differences and the non-use of force,
by political concert and diplomatic consultations, by economic, social
and cultural integration, by policies and measures that build trust, by
agreements for joint development of border areas, by neighbourhood
committees, by military links and cooperation, and, finally, by defining
the main points of security cooperation in the light of the needs of
medium and small states and of regions and subregions.
Domestically, so doing requires such elements as rule of law, political
decisions, overcoming ambiguities in civil-military relations, responsible
formulation of roles and missions for the armed forces, complete
observance of human rights, non-use of armed forces for political party
ends, ensuring that countries do not return to the levels of military
spending of a few years ago, and education for peace. A qualitative
change in the way in which political, social and academic leadership
understand their responsibilities in matters of peace, security and
development is also required.
These new security conditions could require downsizing and
restructuring the armed forces, which should be basically professional,
avoiding any deformation of their role that could lead to unrestrained
growth. The armed forces of the future must be professional, modern,
efficient and capable of adapting to new roles and missions, but this
does not mean that they should be excessively expensive or
Large military forces do not guarantee the security or well-being of
Latin American and Caribbean countries and they should rather adopt
strategic visions promoting the stability of all countries. This will require
developing and deepening measures of security and trust, fulfilling
agreements on weapons that should be banned and, if possible, including
more of them, maintaining a relative strategic balance, developing mutual
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Hugo Palma
study, comparison and understanding of strategic doctrines and making
them compatible. Strategic-military planning must be carried out on a
deterrent-defensive basis, which presupposes doctrine, instruction,
armament, equipment, logistics suitable for deterrence but unable to
project military force outside the country’s territory; as well as
discarding the possibility of supranational forces.
Consequently, governments, institutions and social sectors may
consider prompt implementation of proposals for spreading information
about security and defence issues and training civilians, by dealing with
these subjects on a bilateral level and in groups such as CAN,
MERCOSUR and the Rio Group, by dealing with them politically as
affairs of state and not exclusively of the government or the military,
by supporting the United Nations Regional Disarmament and
Development Centre and by promoting studies and research together
with civilians both within a country and between countries.
On the basis of current international peace, the task is to continue
to develop forms of external and internal security that are democratic,
politically defined, socially supported and economically cheap. Few
developing regions, like Latin America, and especially South America,
have the possibility of achieving greater security, development and
well-being for their populations. Making this possibility a reality is an
essentially political responsibility, but also an academic and social one.
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The dramatic transformations of the international system over the
last three five-year periods have definitively changed the course of
Central American history. This is not an exaggeration. Thanks to the
peace talks, the authoritarian, intervened Central America of the 1980s
gave way to a region where reason and pluralism have gradually taken
root. After hundreds of thousands of deaths, the peoples of the Isthmus
have finally opted for a new regional order, built on the symbol of
democratic normality, whose ultimate aim is to achieve development
with justice for the largest possible number.
Central American integration is an imperative of the times. The
experience of the Central American Common Market in the 1960s
showed – both then and now – that such integration is profitable and,
above all, capable of generating wealth for the region as a whole. It is
1. Professor of History and Political Science and Vice-Dean of the Social Science Faculty,
University of Costa Rica. Director of the Programme ‘Conflicto, cooperación y medio
ambiente en Centroamérica’ of the Foundation for Peace and Democracy (FUNPADEM).
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true that some countries benefited more than others during the period
and that the dividends of modernity did not permeate civil society.
There were, however, irrefutable factors – such as the predominance
of military dictatorships or anti-democratic civil governments – that
inhibited these processes. Even so, the net profit was evident in the
high indices of economic growth experienced by Central America from
1959, the year in which the General Treaty of Economic Integration
was signed, and 1969, when a war between Honduras and El Salvador
put a stop to it. Thanks to this ten-year experience, we learned that
integration is a means to progress.2
The peace process, which culminated in the signing of the Esquipulas
II agreements, added another no less important lesson to those learned
from economic integration: integration is also a means of pacification.
Thanks to that experience, Central America recognized the importance
of also guaranteeing, building and defending a common space in politics,
in the democratic arena. The opportunity had arisen to make new
tracks, to rewrite a true system of regional integration.3
The integration that Central America needs and desires has changed,
in these years of growing – although still insufficient – democratic
normality, from an ideological aspiration rooted in the liberal principles
of the nineteenth century to a true strategic need, without which it
will be impossible to link up with the twenty-first-century world of
global relations.
Peace, democracy and development
The 1987 Peace Plan was built on a virtuous trilogy – peace,
democracy and development. More than a doctrinal position, these
concepts embraced the convictions of the Central American presidents
of the time that the future of the Isthmus would depend, in the long
term, on a combination of at least four main facets: (a) social stability;
(b) political legitimacy; (c) economic growth; and (d) respect for people’s
self-determination. Needless to say, all these factors would only enjoy
the possibility of success in an international environment that lent its
support to Central America.4
2. Victor Bulmer-Thomas, Director, Royal Institute of International Affairs.
3. Luis Gmo. Solís, in Luis Guillermo Solís and Fernando Naranjo, ‘Paz, integración y
desarrollo: política exterior de la Administración Figueres Olsen (1994-1998), Heredia,
4. Luis Gmo. Solis, ‘Esguipulas: una experiencia centroamericana en resolución pacífica
de conflictos’, in América Central: del conflicto a la negociación y el consenso, San José,
UPAZlPAR, 1999.
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The success of the Peace Plan and its complex development over
the following seven years showed the relevance of that approach. In
fact, ceasefires led to free, clean elections, and these, in turn, to a
gradual process of democratic institutionalization which included,
significantly, a reduction in the size of armed forces and their subjection
to civil, constitutionally elected authorities. Improved political
conditions reactivated production and foreign investments, and this
improved employment indices and growth of gross domestic product.
On a regional level, governments decided to inject new spirit into the
process of integration by creating the Central American Integration
System (SICA) in 1991. Towards the end of 1996, when the peace
talks concluded in Guatemala, everything seemed to indicate that
Central America had inexorably changed for the better.5
The expectations generated by political normalization, however,
were not fulfilled in any of the countries with the expected speed, nor
to the expected depth. The greatest progress, none the less, occurred
in the electoral field, but otherwise progress has been slow and very
Without going into details, I would like to point out the four main
dysfunctions that explain the limits of democratic development in
Central America in the last three lustrums.
1. Weakness of democracy: 7 The new Central American
democracies have been unable to consolidate their democratic
institutions, which still lack the necessary strength and roots to
guarantee the existence of a true – and effective – democracy. This is
particularly the case with regard to the administration of justice and
the independence of the executive, the judiciary and the legislative.
2. Imperviousness of structures of domination:8 It has been very
difficult to penetrate and successfully confront past schemes of
domination. Except for progress made by the Farabundo Martí National
Liberation Front (FMLN) in El Salvador, power in the other countries
in the region continues to lie in the hands of more traditional political
5. Luis G. Solís, Centroamérica 2020: Los desafíos de sus relaciones externas, Hamburg,
Instituto de Estudios lberoamericanos, 2000.
6. See State of the Nation Project (Estado de la región en desarrollo humano sostenible),
San José, UNDP, 1999.
7. These problems could already be detected in the early 1990s and they have worsened.
See Régine Steichen (comp.), Democracia y democratización en Centroamérica, San
José, Editorial Universidad de Costa Rica, 1993.
8. Constantino Urcuyo (ed.), Partidos políticos y gobernabilidad en América Central,
San José, UNDP, 1997. Also Carlos E. Ramos and Carlos Briones, Gas élites, San
Salvador, FLACSO/USAID, 1999.
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and economic sectors, including, in Nicaragua’s case, the historical
leadership of the Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN). These
sectors, currently allied among themselves, have inhibited the growth
of alternative political sectors emerging from civil society by the use
of, among other machinations, discriminatory electoral legislation and
disloyal political practices.
3. Economic and social inequality :9 The predominance of
extremely exclusive economic models has led poverty indices to rise
consistently in the last decade. Reduction in actual investments in
education, health and social housing, increase in unemployment and
underemployment, worsening of the economic condition of female
heads of families and the tremendous vulnerability of Central American
populations to natural disasters have led to a significant decrease in
quality of life and increased levels of both public and domestic violence.
This has a direct impact on the quality of democracy, which cannot be
optimum in an environment marked by injustice and poor income
4. Corruption and impunity:10 No Central American country has
been free from serious problems of corruption, both public and private.
This problem, which, although by no means new, has grown to dramatic
proportions as channels of citizen information have continued to open
up, is a constant challenge to the credibility of democratic institutions.
This scandalous corruption is all the worse because it occurs in a
context of almost total impunity and in the absence of any system of
accountability. It is also aggravated by the existence of powerful
networks of organized international crime that have penetrated police
and military structures throughout the region.
Renewed tension
The situation in Central America is also worrying in another respect.
The process of regional integration has been slowing down progressively
since 1997. This slowdown is even more alarming because it has
occurred in the midst of a resurgence of old border conflicts along all
the region’s frontiers. This situation, aggravated by an overall
deterioration in domestic scenarios of SICA member countries, has
interrupted political dialogue between the region’s governments and,
in one case at least – between Nicaragua and Honduras – it has seriously
damaged the terms of trade of the Common Market.
9. State of the Region Project, op. cit.
10. On corruption and its mechanisms, see Mike Collier, Political Corruption in the
Caribbean Basin: A Comparative Analysis of Jamaica and Costa Rica, Miami, Fla.,
International University, 2000.
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Central America: Integration, Security ...
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Incidents that have aggravated regional tension abound. Recently,
tension has grown prominently on two fronts: the border dispute
between Honduras and Colombia with Nicaragua involving the
delimitation of their territorial waters in the Caribbean Sea, and the
signing of the Three Nations Declaration on 2 May 2000 between
Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua. In response to this latter
conclave, which Hondurans considered to be an action aimed at
isolating them in the region, the Honduran Foreign Ministry issued a
communiqué rejecting the agreements that were supposedly
detrimental to its sovereignty. In early August 2001, Honduran
authorities announced the expulsion of two alleged Salvadoran ‘spies’
who acted as military advisors in their country’s embassy in Tegucigalpa.
On 27 August 2001, the situation deteriorated after the bilateral
meeting between the presidents of El Salvador and Nicaragua, in which,
according to the joint declaration issued after the meeting, they tacitly
ignored the rights granted to Honduras by the International Court of
Law with regard to a territorial sea, a continental platform and an
exclusive economic zone starting from the centre of the line marking
the end of the Gulf of Fonseca in the Pacific Ocean. Once again
Honduras considered that this meeting was an unfriendly act and that
it deepened the misunderstandings resulting from the trilateral meeting
in May.
Meanwhile, further south, relations between Nicaragua and Costa
Rica continue to be complicated. The dispute between both nations
regarding free shipping on the San Juan River has not been settled. On
the contrary, it has in fact been further complicated by an unusual
decision handed down by the Constitutional Court of Costa Rica,
which imposes on the Costa Rican Government an interpretation of
the Cañas-Jerez Treaty with Nicaragua (signed in 1858) that, in practice,
severely limits options for negotiation between the countries. Worse
still, the revelation that the Costa Rican Government has included a
US$1 million item in its budget for a possible lawsuit against Nicaragua
at the International Court of Law at The Hague in 2002 has caused a
burst of nationalism in Nicaragua, whose authorities have renewed
threats – already fulfilled in the case of Honduras – to impose a ‘patriotic
tax’ on Costa Rican products entering Nicaraguan territory, including
those whose final destination is the rest of the Central American
Common Market.
All this is happening, unfortunately, at a time when there is dreadful
news of famine in the east of Guatemala and the north of Nicaragua.
These tragedies, which, in the former case, has caused forty-three
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fatalities and, in the latter, is still being described by President Arnoldo
Alemán as a ‘tall story’ being spread about by his political enemies, are
a crushing reminder that democracy is far from being consolidated in
Central America.
Moreover, the Central American military are also being recycled.
The days of assault troops and counter-insurgency battalions are over;
strategies of laying waste the land and the paradigms of the National
Security Doctrine are things of the past. Today, the armed forces are
protectors of the environment, they pursue ‘invading species’ – not
guerrillas – and the human security cause has become part of a new
definition of their roles and duties in a democratic society. That is
what emerges at least from the results of the conference on ‘Improving
Co-operation between Security and the Environment in Central
America and the Caribbean’, sponsored by the US Southern
Command in San José, Costa Rica, two weeks ago.
Paradoxically, this military ‘revival’ is taking place thanks to civilian
efforts to demilitarize the concept of security. In fact, after the perfidious
decade of the 1980s and with the advent of democracy, Latin America
witnessed the emergence of a whole new range of definitions that
went from ‘cooperative security’, ‘integral security’ and ‘alternative
security’ in the Southern Cone to ‘democratic security’ in SICA and
to the UNDP concept of ‘human security’.
The result of this mélange is the military-environmentalist or the
military-disastrologist; in any case, a military carrying letters of marque
which feels that it has been authorized to participate actively in managing
all areas of sustainable development. What was conceived fifteen years
ago as the demilitarization of the concept of security, now threatens
to end up militarizing the rest of the public policy agendas in Central
Faced with this worrying new trend, voices have been raised saying
that, as the presence of the armed forces in matters that are outside
the typical tasks of national defence is inevitable, they should be
restricted to providing support in specific emergency situations or
natural disasters, while always being in a position of subordination to
civil authorities. This position is even firmer where Central America is
concerned, because of the existence of a three-nation military
contingent devoted, for now, to mitigating natural disasters with help
from the United States and answering, not to specialized civil regional
institutions, but to a joint command of the Association of Central
American Army Chiefs.
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Beyond any conspiracy speculation, this ‘revival’ of the Central
American military is an important challenge for the region and a warning
about the status of the democracies in the area.
Few people believe that any kind of war could possibly break out
among Central American nations. As a matter of fact, the possibility
would be laughable were it not for the extraordinary suffering of the
peoples in the region. Notwithstanding the above, even if there is no
war between states, verifying the vulnerability of the process of
integration and its negligent handling by the region’s governments is
quite horrifying. It is difficult to be an optimist when faced with these
facts and the scenario of despairing abandonment of the official
institutions of SICA.
Central America in the face of global security problems
The presidents of Central America have agreed to join worldwide
efforts against terrorism. Meeting in Honduras on 22 September 2001,
the heads of state and the representative of the Prime Minister of
Belize reiterated their willingness to fight against this scourge by
‘exchanging information about possible terrorist acts … reinforcing
security on borders, at ports and airports in the region … coordinating
actions that prevent Central American territories from being used by
terrorist groups … and strengthening criminal legislation so that it
classifies association with terrorist groups or people as a crime’, among
other factors. They also ratified government support for a call by the
OAS to deal with terrorism as a threat to democracy and hemispheric
security, in the framework of the TIAR.
The presidents’ declaration, widely disseminated in paid
advertisements in the communications media of the Isthmus, included
a declaration of solidarity with the American people and government
and support for the thesis that the current situation ‘... must be handled
in such a way that tolerance and good relations between different
cultures, religions, ethnic groups and nations are maintained and
Central Americans were deliberately ambiguous regarding any
possible military actions embarked upon by the United States in its
campaign in what President George Bush termed ‘the first war of the
11. Declaration ‘Centroamérica unida contra el terrorismo’, in La Nación, 24 September
2001, p. 17.
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twenty-first century’. They stressed their ‘firm decision to cooperate
with and support the adoption and execution of measures aimed at
punishing those responsible’, but that they would do so ‘… according
to the rules of international law’. To this end and in order to bring to
fruition the actions announced, the presidents called for meetings of
the Security Committee, Directors of National Police Forces and the
Conference of Central American Armed Forces (CEFAC).
Beyond the rhetorical symbolism of this declaration in the light of
the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, there are two
ominous references that should not be allowed to go unnoticed. The
first is an imprecise reference to ‘… all those political organizations
that maintain relations with terrorist structures (must) suspend them
immediately. These relations – added the presidents – are aimed at
legitimizing international terrorism and can lead to the use of Central
American territory as a point of support for terrorist acts’. The second
is a ‘strong condemnation … of any link between groups or sectors of
the Central American region and international terrorism’.
This would seem to be addressed – although no names are
mentioned – to organizations that took up arms against the governments
of El Salvador and Guatemala in the 1980s or which, as in the case of
the FSLN, governed Nicaragua at the time. These groups were accused
at that time of being linked to such terrorist organizations as the Basque
ETA, the Irish Republican Army, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of
Colombia and al-Fatah, as well as to such countries as the Sudan, the
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,
among others, which allegedly supported those groups. In fact, in public
declarations made on 1 October 2001, the President of Nicaragua
denounced the danger for Nicaragua of more than 2,500 naturalized
citizens who were naturalized during the government of former
President Daniel Ortega (1981–90).12
The problem is that currently these former Central American
insurgents and the FSLN have become powerful political parties and,
at least in the case of El Salvador and Nicaragua, could be in power in
the short term. In the light of this situation, the presidents’ declaration
is at best worrying and at worst threatening. It is an example, as was
foreseen, of using the concept of ‘terrorism’ with ulterior motives
that in no way contributes to the common cause against terrorism in
the world.
12. In La Nación, Monday 1 October 2001, p. 14.
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Final comments
As a whole, the countries of the Central American Isthmus form a
trade and economic bloc of some significance in the Hemisphere. Their
combined gross domestic product in 1999 was US$58,000 million,
with exports worth US$13,000 million and a per capita income of
US$1700 per year.13 In this respect, the region’s prospects – if the
enormous social problems and problems of governance that afflict it
are resolved – should be positive.
Otherwise, considered individually the countries in the region would
have a hard time competing in a world of global markets. This is true
for relatively more developed countries (Panama and Costa Rica), but
even more dramatically true for Nicaragua and Honduras, whose
viability, given current circumstances, is more than questionable in
the medium and long term. This makes it extremely important to
consolidate and expand the process of integration.
Central America’s extreme dependence on its international
surroundings is another of the most dominant features of the region’s
history. Although in recent times this dependence has been centred
on the presence of the United States as the hegemonic power, the
fact is that Central America is also very vulnerable to its immediate
geopolitical surroundings, including the larger countries from the
Caribbean Basin.
This sensitivity to external factors, which, though economic, is also
expressed in political and security fields, is one of the biggest challenges
that the Isthmus faces in the next few decades.
Consequently, integration must not be a mere exercise in nostalgia,
rhetoric, economics and even reactionism. Nostalgia and rhetoric, in
so far as it attempts to beat the drum for the construction of a Central
American Federation based on ungovernable democracies. Economics,
if its sphere of actions is limited to economic growth and to establishing
sophisticated ‘logistics corridors’ that guarantee a link with the world,
but do not consider that growth can only be sustained by means of
politically stable and inclusive societies. Reactionism, if there is no
effective subjection of the armed forces to civil authority, if there is no
respect for all human rights and if there is no explicit recognition that
integration in itself does not solve all problems, nor guarantee fulfilment
of all the aspirations of human development and security of all the
people in the region.
13. Consultores Económicos y Financieros (CEFSA), Informe económico, 1999.
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Central American integration must be seen, then, as a gradual,
progressive process solidly rooted in the commitment of its member
countries and also of regionally organized civil society. This must take
place in a context of increasing democratization, of increasingly more
equal, productive regimes that are increasingly more responsible in
their management of natural resources and geared more and more
towards the common weal and solidarity.
It would be totally unfair and wrong to ignore the tremendous
progress made by Central America in political terms over the last
decade. Despite its huge deficiencies, representative democracy has
been gradually taking root on the Isthmus, whose history has always
been dominated by military dictatorships, repression and violence. This
is a tremendous achievement, especially if one compares the progress
made in Central America with the prevailing situation in other parts of
the world, which also experienced internal armed conflicts exacerbated
by Cold War tensions in the 1980s. In this respect, one has to hope
that things will improve and, for that to happen, some lines of thought
will have to be considered and evaluated.
First of all, it is essential that Central American governments should
double their efforts against poverty and social exclusion. No democracy
works in the midst of injustice and hunger. Pluralism does not flourish
in an environment of poverty. The most important historical lesson
that Central America should have learned from the political-military
crisis of the 1980s is that poverty leads to violence. If Central America
is unable to improve the quality of life of its people, it will end up
dilapidating the democratic capital that it has acquired at so much cost
over the last three lustrums.14
Secondly, any authoritarian temptation must be avoided. The
increased social disquiet in Central America and the weakness of
democracy mentioned above form an ideal breeding ground for reviving
the repressive options to which traditional elites are prone. Even though
diminished and relatively non-deliberative, Central American armed
forces are still powerful economic and political poles that are reluctant
to assume a subordinate role to the region’s civil authorities.15 Political
elites, in turn, insist with increasing frequency on classifying the situation
in their countries as ‘ungovernable’, a definition which could lead to a
14. Jorge Nowalski, Asimetrías económicas, laborales y sociales en Centroamérica:
Desafíos y oportunidades, San José, CIDH, 2001.
15. Arnoldo Brenes and Kevin Casas, Soldados como empresarios: Los negocios de los
militares en Centroamérica, San José, Fundación Arias/COSUDE, 1999.
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search for de facto solutions or, in any case, the search for firm-handed
strategies, which far from containing social turmoil could increase it.
Thirdly, although for now any efforts of this magnitude seem
complex and useless, one must continue betting on the System for
Central American Integration. Regardless of the weakness and manifest
lack of ability of the SICA General Secretariat, and beyond the evident
lack of prestige of the rest of the region’s institutional framework (with
a few exceptions, including especially the Secretariat for Central
American Economic Integration (SIECA), the fact is that, without this
basic instrument, it would be impossible to reactivate many of the
region’s virtuous tendencies.
Finally, the margins of participation of civil societies in decisionmaking processes must be expanded. It is commonly said that
representative democracy has to evolve into participative democracy,
in which traditional delegation of sovereignty goes hand in hand with
growing levels of citizen action at national level and, more especially, at
local level. The current make-up of representative democratic agencies
throughout Central America (including the CC-SICA, of course)
undoubtedly fails to guarantee popular representation or meet the
aspirations of citizens. In order to increase participation, the state would
have to be even further decentralized within the country (by
strengthening local governments), and methods of control by citizens
and accountability would have to be improved.
Faced with this not very optimistic scenario, it must be said
categorically that the problems of democracy can only be solved by
more democracy, not less. Any attempt to the contrary weakens
democracy and, ultimately, destroys it. Central America has already
opted for democracy as its historical destiny; what remains now is to
build it on a day-by-day basis.
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Increasingly characterized by spiralling levels of violence and social
unrest, armed subversion, criminality, drug trafficking, poverty and
deprivation, corruption and ingovernability, the Andean region has
become the epicentre of hemispheric instability. While widely accepted
that the Colombian crisis is the principal cause of this situation, such a
state-based analysis is incomplete both conceptually and empirically.
Focusing on how the internal problem in Colombia jeopardizes both
its own national security as well as that of neighbouring states is certainly
an important part of the story. Nevertheless, such an approach misses
the complex, relational and multidimensional nature of the post-Cold
War security predicament. The enmeshing of the domestic and
international security domains calls for a more holistic, interdependent
perspective of the security dynamic within the Andean region.
Furthermore, Colombia´s high-profile crisis has acted to crowd out
the consideration of other developments that also pose real risks to
Andean security, and in particular, to the region´s inhabitants.
1. This article was supported by a grant for Research Collaboration in Conflict Zones
by the Social Science Research Council’s Programme on Global Security and Cooperation.
2. Director, International Relations Center, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia
and Professor, Universidad Nacional de Colombia.
3. Director, Political Science Department, Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, Colombia.
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It has become increasingly recognized that the global security
problematic involves a wide range of security referents: individuals;
local, subregional and indigenous communities; civil society; subnational
political, social and economic actors; and transnational groups, among
others (Barry et al., 1998). Recent debates on human security are
particularly relevant in this respect, given that they have had profound
effects on the ways in which analysts and practitioners look at security
problems, as well as the identification of those topics considered to be
relevant security issues in the global context. While traditional statecentred definitions are limited to the management of external threats
to the state, placing the individual at the epicentre of security discussions
‘… automatically enlarges the question of what is to be secured against,
for individuals are jeopardized by a much wider range of issues than
are the state or society’ (Terriff et al., 1999, p. 179). Human security
also involves ‘… more than physical survival and the threats to it …’,
while also raising ‘… the question of the positive dimension of security
and security policy’ (McSweeney, 1999, p. 92). In consequence, the
human security approach suggests that the prevention of threat at a
global level, when people are the primary referents of security, requires
a proactive definition of this problem.
Since the end of the Cold War, significant juridical precedents have
emerged that highlight a shift towards international recognition of
individuals and human communities as legitimate subjects of
international law and regulation (Gurtov, 1999). In addition to the
emergence of the idea of humanitarian intervention within the United
Nations system, the increasing institutionalization of universal human
rights standards, the proposal to create the International Criminal
Court, and expanding direct links between individuals and small social
groups with international organizations, among others, attest to the
ascendance of human security frameworks within global practices.
In this paper, we attempt to provide a preliminary analysis of those
factors affecting the security dynamic in the Andean region. Our
discussion starts from the assumption that the state constitutes
neither the exclusive, nor the most appropriate, unit of analysis to
explore the complex security problems at play in the Andes.
The security dynamic in the Andean region
The Andean region security dynamic manifests itself in two
fundamental ways: (a) characteristics that are shared by regional states
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The Andean Region Human Security Dynamic
Arlene B. Tickner / Ann C. Mason
and societies, and that determine the ways in which the two interact;
and (b) processes that spill across the entire region, irrespective of
territorially defined borders. Both types of security problem are highly
interdependent, and affect a wide variety of subjects, most notably
the individual. Common traits exhibited by the countries of the region
include state weakness/democratic deconsolidation; economic
downturn/crisis; corruption; and the presence of global transnational
agents. The Colombian conflict; US Andean policy; the drug and arms
trade; as well as more positive dimensions of security, geared towards
preventing such threats, potentially include global transnational agents
and social resistance movements.
State weakness/democratic deconsolidation
It has become widely accepted that since the early 1990s Ecuador,
Colombia, Peru and Venezuela have all undergone varying degrees of
weakening of state structures (Mason, 2000), and of the efficacy and
credibility of their political institutions. In the Andes, the crisis of
credibility and legitimacy of political institutions such as the legislature,
executive, judiciary and traditional political parties, in combination with
the increasingly contested nature of the political rules of the game,
tended to undermine the institutional expression of the state, with
which greater state weakening ensued.4
Irrespective of the root causes and specific manifestations of political
crisis in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela, in all these
countries the ‘quality’ of democratic institutions is thus in question.
As a result, social actors are increasingly forced to move outside of
formal institutional channels in order to formulate demands, seek justice
and resolve conflicts in this illiberal democratic setting.
Corruption, although universal in scope, has normally been
associated with the poor quality of public institutions, low levels of
competition, social inequality, lack of acceptance of governmental
authority, limited freedom of the press, among others (Lambsdorff,
1999). In all the countries of the Andean region corruption is
widespread. In addition to the factors mentioned above, the persistence
of institutionalized practices such as clientelism, the lack of horizontal
4. See Buzan (1991) for a comprehensive discussion of strong and weak states.
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and vertical accountability, the general deterioration of political
institutions, state weakness, and the presence of transnational criminal
networks, most notably drug-trafficking organizations, also account for
this situation. The countries mentioned rank amongst the most corrupt
in Latin America and the world, according to the Transparency
International Corruption Perceptions Index for 2001. On a scale from
zero (highly clean) to ten (highly corrupt), Peru was classified with a
4.1 corruption index (placing it at 44 out of 91 on the country ranking);
Colombia 3.8 (50 ranking); Venezuela 2.8 (69 ranking); Ecuador 2.3
(79 ranking); and Bolivia 2.0 (84 ranking).
Economic downturn/crisis
Beginning in the 1990s, economic downturns and crises became
commonplace in the Andean region. This state of affairs has been
associated primarily (with the exception of Venezuela) with the
implementation of neoliberal reform and the inability of the majority
of the countries to effectively insert themselves into the global market.
With the exception of Peru, all the countries in question experienced
annual rates of growth below the Latin American average in the last
decade. Downward shifts in the gross domestic product during this
period were also dramatic in the cases of Ecuador, Colombia and
Venezuela (World Bank, 2000). More importantly, however, the overall
results of structural reform in social and distributive terms have been
dismal. One outcome has been a growth in unemployment,
underemployment, and informal sector employment, which has
combined with falling real wages (Smith and Korzeniewicz, 1997).
Reform measures have also given rise to alarming levels of poverty and
inequality: more than 50% of the population in the Andes lives below
the poverty level.
Presence of transnational actors
The expanding influence and scope of international institutions,
multilateral regimes, and global laws that reflect a worldwide shift from
the state toward mechanisms of global governance directly affect
regional dynamics within the Andean zone. Perhaps nowhere is this
shift more evident than in the area of new global norms and institutions
related to security. Not only is human security often prioritized over
national security, but the globalization of security now means that
humanitarian problems within the Andean states are considered a
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Arlene B. Tickner / Ann C. Mason
legitimate concern of the international community, and that the
responsibility for the provision of security now includes representatives
of global civil society. This transformation in the security paradigm has
resulted in high-profile visibility for the human rights crises of the last
decade within Colombia and Peru, the swelling number of displaced
persons who routinely cross international borders, the extraordinary
levels of criminal violence, as well as indigenous rights platforms within
the Andes. Growing external interest in the region in turn helps explain
the dramatic increase of representatives of the United Nations system,
international organizations, regional structures, transnational advocacy
coalitions, and both local and international NGOs who work on human
rights problems.
The fusion of all the region’s national economies within one global
economic structure has also prompted a growing regulatory role for
multilateral economic institutions such as the World Trade
Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund,
which has implemented structural reform packages in Colombia,
Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela. The ‘triumph’ of neoclassical economics
in the periphery (Biersteker, 1992) highlights the tremendous weight
that system-level determinants have acquired in the design of local
economic strategy, while simultaneously reducing the autonomy of
state and societal actors to develop autochthonous strategies for coping
with domestic problems.
Colombian conflict
The intensification of the Colombian armed conflict since the mid1990s has led to increasing concern in neighbouring countries, as well
as in the United States, over the potential spillover effects of this crisis,
primarily in terms of national and regional instability and insecurity.
Following United States approval of the Colombian aid package in mid2000, the militarization of neighbouring country borders in Venezuela,
Peru and Ecuador (in addition to Brazil and Panama) intensified
dramatically. The goal has been to confront the guerrilla incursions,
and the flow of drug crops and displaced persons that the
implementation of massive drug fumigation efforts in Southern
Colombia have begun to produce. Clearly, such concerns have not
been unfounded. In Venezuela, the kidnapping and extortion of
inhabitants of the Colombian-Venezuelan border has become a
common occurrence, while armed actors move freely between the
two countries. Kidnappings, guerrilla and paramilitary incursions, and
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the flow of illicit crops, and displaced persons fleeing from violence
into Ecuador have also accentuated the permeable nature of that
country’s border with its Colombian neighbour. These brief examples
illustrate the increasingly transnational nature of the Colombian crisis,
as well as the involvement of non-state referents such as migrant
populations and armed groups.
US Andean policy
The ways in which the issue of illicit drugs has been addressed in
countries such as Colombia, Peru and Bolivia derive substantially from
the US approach to this problem (Tickner, 2000). The definition of
the drug traffic as a matter of US national security implies that other
long-term objectives, including the strengthening of democratic
institutions, the defence of human rights, the reduction of poverty
and the preservation of the environment, tend to take a back seat to
narcotics. In addition, the US ‘drug war’ logic fails to make a clear
distinction between peasant coca growers and drug-trafficking
organizations, to the extent that both are equally targeted as criminals.
As a result, the crucial issue of economic, cultural and social subsistence
faced by those marginalized social actors involved in the cultivation of
coca is at best a secondary goal of the national drug control strategies
in these countries. Although alternative development efforts have been
implemented throughout the region, viable, sustainable substitutes for
coca cultivation have not been forthcoming, as recurrent social protests
in the coca-growing regions of both Bolivia and Colombia well indicate.
Finally, US counter-narcotics strategies in the Andean countries that
emphasize crop eradication have failed miserably in reducing the supply
of illicit drugs on the US market. Rather, illicit crops have simply changed
locale (from country to country, or among national regions), generating
new forms of anomie between countries.
A growing military role in the region has also had the effect of
subordinating local security patterns to the security imperatives of
the United States. The military presence in Colombia has been extended
to Ecuador following an agreement facilitating the use of the Manta
airforce base as a forward operating location, or FOL, for anti-drug
reconnaissance missions. The repercussions of this situation are
multifaceted, and include the aggravation of local tensions, as well as
the imposition of US national security interests over regional concerns.
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Drug and arms trade
A major portion of the cultivation, processing and trafficking of
illicit drugs are concentrated in the Andean countries, while illegal arms
flows traverse the region. The effects of both black markets in terms
of their capacity for increasing corruption, privatizing security and
undermining governmental authority are well-known. Although the
illicit arms trade in Latin America has been fuelled primarily by drug
and insurgent-related activities, it also furnishes weapons to common
criminal organizations, creating extremely complex dynamics that
enmesh a wide variety of transnational actors in highly interdependent,
multidimensional relations. The explosion of transnational criminal (and
political) activity in the region in the last decade has been facilitated by
the transformations normally associated with globalization, among them
an increasingly fluid, global economy, revolutions in communications
and transportation, and reductions in state sovereignty. As a result,
transnational operations span territorially conceived borders as if they
did not exist, while exhibiting a tremendous capacity for mobilizing
resources in response to perceived earnings opportunities (Serrano,
2000, pp. 90–1). Such organizations or networks are drawn to weak
state and/or illegitimate governmental settings that provide favourable
conditions for their illegal activities, given high levels of corruptibility
as well as constraints on the capacity to exercise traditional functions
such as the administration of security and border control.
Increasingly, arms for drugs transactions involving an array of state
and non-state actors have become commonplace in the Andean region.
In the Colombian case, the dismantling of the Medellin and Cali cartels
in the mid-1990s created a void that was filled in part by increasing
involvement by the FARC and the paramilitaries in diverse aspects of
the drug trade between 1994 and 1998. Since that time, drug revenues
have become a significant source of financing for the armed activities
of both groups (Rangel, 2000). In the case of the FARC, in addition to
suspected links with international drug and terrorist organizations such
as the Arellano Félix cartel of Mexico, and the IRA, there is mounting
evidence that links this organization with the Russian mafia, which has
become increasingly involved in global operations involving arms, drugs
and money laundering (Bagley, 2001, p. 3).
One smuggling ring operating between 1999 and 2000 involved
large shipments of arms originating from the Russian black market in
exchange for cocaine provided by the FARC for sale in Europe. In
Jordan, used for refuelling on both routes, corrupt governmental
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officials were normally bribed with cocaine. Brazilian drug baron Luiz
Fernando Da Costa (alias Fernandinho), who was captured in Colombia
in early 2001, was also discovered to have played an important
intermediary role in these transactions (Bagley, 2001, pp. 11–12). The
now infamous Peruvian-Jordanian arms scandal of mid-2000, in which
National Intelligence Director Vladimiro Montesinos was also found
to have been involved in arms sales to the FARC, clouds this picture
even further.
Social resistance movements
The challenges posed by social movements to our understanding
of Andean security dynamics transcend the immediate impact of
popular protest in specific national settings. Specifically, social
movement influence is related to: (a) the role of globalization and
neoliberal reform in transforming the spaces in which protest and
resistance take place; (b) the promotion of transnational linkages
between social actors; and (c) the extent to which territorial notions
of the state are undermined by these processes (Alvarez et al., 1998).
The mid-1990s witnessed an upswing in social movement activity
throughout Latin America, primarily in response to what was perceived
as the negative effects of neoliberalism and globalization in the countries
of the region, as well as the unresponsiveness of public authorities to
the plight of the lower echelons of society (Seoane and Taddei, 2001).
Although the Zapatista and Sin Tierra rural movements in Mexico and
Brazil, respectively, became two of the most active and visible
manifestations of resistance, popular protest, spearheaded in particular
by peasant and indigenous movements in the Andean countries, also
increased considerably. In the coca-producing areas of Bolivia, Colombia
and Peru, for example, social resistance has often been associated with
United States counter-narcotics policy. In the case of Bolivia, wellorganized coca grower associations in the Chapare region have
consistently opposed governmental efforts to eliminate coca
production with massive national protests since the early 1990s.
Between 1996 and 1997, unprecedented fumigation efforts in
Southern Colombia also provoked violent social protests in the
departments of Putumayo, Caquetá, Cauca and, mainly, Guaviare, that
in turn allowed the FARC to strengthen its social base of support
among those peasants involved in coca cultivation (Vargas, 1999). Such
scenarios are frequently played out throughout the Andes, and express
a variety of demands ranging from improved wages, increased prices
for agricultural goods, and access to public services, among others.
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In countries such as Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru (and to a lesser
extent Colombia), the class differences underpinning social protest
are made even more complex by the ethnic divisions inherent in these
societies. The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador
(CONAIE), for example, is one of the strongest, most well-organized
indigenous movements in the whole of Latin America. The January
2000 coup that resulted in the ousting of Ecuadorean President Jamil
Mahaud was orchestrated by indigenous groups led by CONAIE, along
with members of the military. This was followed by a series of massive
indigenous protests that led to the paralysis of Ecuador on several
occasions during 2000–2001.
The discussion presented here has highlighted the fact that the
security dynamic operating in the Andean region involves a wide array
of referents, ranging from the state to the individual. However, not
only do the Andean region, states, social groups and individuals
experience different kinds of security, but threats in one security
domain can result in increasing vulnerability in another. This is
particularly clear in the case of state and individual security. As
mentioned previously, a fundamental trait shared by the countries of
the Andean region is state weakness. According to Brian Job (1992,
pp. 17–18), the lack of legitimacy characteristic of weak states leads to
an ‘insecurity dilemma’ which frequently circumvents the security of
individual citizens. Given the highly contested nature of the state, the
notion of ‘threat’ is derived primarily from domestic threats to the
state’s own existence. As a result, the state’s instinct for selfpreservation reduces its institutional capacity to provide security and
well-being for the population at large, leading to the increased
vulnerability of society as a whole.
One of the greatest obstacles to a comprehensive incorporation of
the concept of human security at the policy level in the Andean region
is this common assumption, derived primarily from the insecurity
dilemma, that individual security is somehow counterproductive, rather
than complementary, to the security of the state. A more inclusive,
proactive interpretation of the notion of security itself, such as that
which we have raised in this discussion, would go a long way towards
overcoming this false dichotomy.
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Considerations about the need for security concepts centred on
people are not matters for theoretical speculation in Central America
as a whole and Guatemala in particular, but rather unavoidable subjects
on the public agenda of countries that are attempting to escape from
cycles of political violence and systematic violations of human rights.
Political conflicts in the second half of the twentieth century left a trail
of destruction and death in Central American countries, which has
made evident the need to build new concepts of security that prevent
the aberration of states that sacrifice the security of their citizens in
the interests of security understood as the survival of a given political
order. Consequently, the agenda of the processes of pacification and
democratization that took place during the final decades of the last
century include revisions of concepts of national and regional security.
1. This paper is based on the article ‘De la teoría a la práctica: Reflexiones sobre la
seguridad democrática’, in Bernardo Arévalo de León, Patricia González and Manolo
Vela, Seguridad democrática en Guatemala: Desafíos de la transformación, FLACSOGuatemala, 2002.
2. Coordinator of the Security Studies Area, FLACSO-Guatemala.
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At a regional level, acknowledgement of the inoperability of
traditional security frameworks in the new political context of the
Isthmus gave rise to an effort to establish a region of ‘… peace, freedom,
democracy and development …’ in Central America. This effort was
made in the light of the new process of regional integration started by
countries on the Isthmus after the successful process of pacification
and democratization of Esquipulas (Guatemala). In a conscious attempt
to establish a common conceptual reference, which would give regional
backing to national processes of democratization, and just as ancient
regional security structures served the counter-insurgency strategies
of authoritarian states, this effort led in 1993 to the signing of the
Framework Treaty on Democratic Security (TMSD) in Central
America. Its preamble clearly sets forth the new democratic orientation
of state security polity:
‘The raison d’être of the Central American Model of Democratic Security
lies in respect for, promotion and protection of human rights, so its
provisions guarantee the security of Central American States and their
citizens by creating conditions which allow them to develop personally,
as families and socially in peace, freedom and democracy. It is based on
strengthening civil authority, political pluralism, economic freedom,
overcoming poverty and extreme poverty, promoting sustainable
development, protecting consumers, the environment and cultural
heritage, eradicating violence, corruption, impunity, terrorism, drug
trafficking and arms trafficking, and establishing a reasonable balance of
forces which takes into account each particular State’s domestic situation
and the needs of Central American countries to cooperate in order to
guarantee security.’
The effort to redefine concepts of security governing the state’s
action in Guatemala was taken up in the process of political negotiations,
which, in 1996, put an end to more than three decades of internal
armed conflict. The Agreement to Strengthen Civil Power (AFPC)
and Function of the Army in a Democracy, an integral part of the
Peace Agreements, included an explicit reference to the need for new
conceptual frameworks vis-à-vis security, by developing a concept of
integral security which the signatories promised to institute as a
governing principle of the Guatemalan state security policy; it is defined
as follows:
‘Security is a wide-ranging concept that is not limited to protection by
the Army against external armed threats or protection by Civil National
Police against threats to law and order and internal security. The series
of Guatemalan Peace Agreements sets forth the idea that firm, long-
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Democratic Security in Guatemala: Reflections ...
Bernardo Arévalo de León
lasting peace requires respect for human rights and for the multi-ethnic,
pluricultural and multilingual nature of the Guatemalan Nation, the
country’s economic growth with social justice, social participation,
conciliation of interests and strengthening of the democratic institutional
framework’ … ‘Within this concept, citizen security and state security
cannot be separated from citizens fully exercising their cultural, social,
economic and political rights and duties. Social and economic imbalances,
poverty and extreme poverty, social and political discrimination,
corruption, among others, are factors of risk and direct threats against
democratic coexistence, social peace and, therefore, the democratic
constitutional order.’
Although qualifying terminology may differ – democratic or integral
– and some nuances may be different, both efforts have the same aim:
establishing a new conceptual reference for the security action of
democratic states. This new concept is based on two basic principles.
First of all, the conviction that, in a democratic regime, the state’s
security interests cannot enter into conflict with, nor subordinate,
the people’s security interests. Secondly, that the security conditions
required by human beings for their growth and development, and
that the state must procure in fulfilment of its basic functions, are not
limited to traditional political and military issues, nor to problems of
law and order, but rather incorporate all political, economic and social
issues that ensure a life free from risk and concerns.
This emphasis is the direct result of the experiences of societies
subjected to arbitrary actions of political regimes whose main resource
for maintaining law and order and their own existence, given the
impossibility of developing any foundation of legitimacy as a result of
their exclusive, authoritarian nature, was the coercive power of the
state. When the implicit conflicts in establishing a political order, which
subordinated the interests of the majority of society to those of a few
of its sectors, gave rise to outbreaks of rebellious actions – some of
them taking on the nature of insurrectionary movements – the state
turned this power against its own citizens, with sometimes tragic
consequences. The people’s security was sacrificed for the state’s
This juxtaposition of interests between society and political
institutions is obviously impossible in a democratic regime, whose
governance rests on the legitimacy given by citizens to various legal
and institutional expressions of a political order. From this point of
view, establishing a democratic regime would be enough to substantially
transform security’s conceptual frameworks – the logic of democratic
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values and principles, injected into political and social actors, would
permeate the respective policies. In the process of consolidating
democracy, however, establishing electoral regimes and developing
suitable legislation is simply one of the stages – essential but not sufficient
– in a long process that entails attitudinal and structural changes that
cannot be arranged by decree. The scope of these changes, particularly
in societies such as Guatemala, which are acceding to democratic life
for the first time or after a long authoritarian period, includes changing
aspects of political culture that are never easy or quick. Meanwhile, in
the context of formal democratic institutions, there may persist groups
whose values, actors, attitudes, perceptions and institutions are rather
more geared towards residual authoritarian elements.
Security is one of the spheres of action of public policies, which is
more susceptible to harbouring this type of residual element. The
centrality of the state security apparatus in authoritarian regimes and
the subsequent need to establish clear doctrinal control over its
operation generate a conceptual-institutional complex that does not
fully and spontaneously adapt to democratic logic. This is not necessarily
because there is an explicit attempt to resist, but because, faced with
the lack of any clear conceptual and operational alternatives, ancient
logics remain current through simple institutional inertia.
From this point of view, conceptual definitions of security contained
in the TMSD and AFPC are vitally important. Reintegrating the human
being as the ultimate aim of state security action and the subsequent
broadening of its agenda to incorporate threats to the security of those
previously relegated or simply ignored are the essential foundations
for renewed security polity by the state. But they are only the
foundations and, unless accompanied by the corresponding institutional
infrastructure, are not enough to extirpate all residual authoritarian
elements, nor, consequently, to exert any real influence on the
conditions of security of the country’s population.
Guatemala will have to overcome two obstacles in this effort at
institutional rebuilding: the conceptual definition of the demarcation
between security and development resulting from the incorporation
of new issues into the security agenda, and the weakness of the state’s
ability to design and implement public policies, which is explained by
the very nature of the process of democratic consolidation.
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Democratic Security in Guatemala: Reflections ...
Bernardo Arévalo de León
It is obvious, in the first case, that the incorporation of issues such
as sustainable development, poverty and extreme poverty, protection
of cultural heritage (TMSD), or social and economic imbalances, social
and political discrimination and corruption (AFPC), generates an overlap
between security and development agendas, which is not resolved in
either of the two agreements. These agreements do not establish any
institutional-operational mechanisms, over and above the political
declaration of new principles and guidelines, which might serve to clearly
mark the boundary between these two aspects, thus they concentrate
their policy efforts on security agencies devoted to traditional matters
– defence, domestic security, law and order. Consequently, the
intention of generating a different, wide-ranging and integrating public
security polity remains incomplete. The difficulty in transcending mere
declarations makes the security agenda vague and uncertain and
restricts the possibility of sectoral policies reflecting the wide-ranging,
integrating spirit of policy declarations; in the best of cases, basic
principles to protect human rights are included in security apparatus
regulations (which in itself is a significant step forward), but always
within the context of traditional security issues.
In the second case, we must remember that the process of
democratic consolidation in Guatemala is taking place in a context
marked by two critical traits: an institutionally weak state, with serious
limitations in terms of human and material resources, and a political
class most of whom find it difficult to transcend cliental, electioneering
attitudes rooted in the façade of democracy of authoritarian regimes.
This situation blocks the formation of clear, coherent public policies
invested with a medium- and long-term vision that transcends personal
polity and expresses the conceptual clarity, political will and operational
ability required by any public sector polity in the context of institutional
rebuilding. This is a critical need in security terms, not just because
the lack of a clear sectoral policy allows residual authoritarian elements
that could be manifested in various different aspects of the respective
public sector polity to remain, but also because the continued presence
of institutional structures that have not been renewed in depth is a
potential threat to efforts to consolidate the democratic regime.
In fact, the continued existence of a largely authoritarian political
culture at all levels of society creates the risk of state actors or civil
society resorting to quick, forceful solutions typical of authoritarian
thinking, when faced with political or security crises. As a result of the
structural weakness of the State of Guatemala to perform basic
functions of development, integration and protection in a manner that
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meets the expectations of the population, state institutions have
difficulty legitimizing themselves in the public eye. This combination of
unsatisfied expectations and precarious legitimacy generates problems
of governance, which reveal themselves, on the one hand, in anomic
expressions such as the defenestration of municipal officers and
lynchings, and, on the other, in authoritarian-type demands such as
militarizing public security or the more or less veiled invitation for
military intervention during the current political crisis.
In this type of scenario, reforming security institutions according
to new conceptual frameworks not only improves sectoral polity but
also contributes directly to the possibilities of political consolidation.
After all, the best guarantee for human security lies in maintaining the
framework of democratic rights and freedoms.
Guatemala’s main challenge, therefore, is to translate declared
principles of democratic security into clear policies endowed with the
necessary instruments for security polity to operate fully. In order to
do so, it must start by clearly establishing the demarcation line between
security and development agendas.
The first objective must obviously be to define clearly what we
mean when we refer to the concept of security, especially in the light
of the emergence of alternative versions or similar but not identical
descriptions, which has led to ambiguities and confusion.
In this respect, the distinction must first of all be made between a
restricted concept of security and a wide-ranging one. This distinction
establishes two extremes in a continuum which runs from the concept
of security centred on strategic international problems of a politicalmilitary nature – which restricts the security agenda to threats against
territorial integrity and political sovereignty – to the concept of security
which incorporates the various cultural, social, economic and political
conditions required in order to guarantee the well-being of people
and society. Within this continuum, each state identifies a specific
concept expressed in an operational legal-institutional model, which
responds to the specific conditions of its general context – political,
social, economic, international, etc.
Guatemala has had to adopt a wide-ranging concept of security,
which includes in its agenda a series of elements that put the economic,
political and social well-being of Guatemalan society at risk. More than
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Democratic Security in Guatemala: Reflections ...
Bernardo Arévalo de León
mere rhetoric, this reformulation is required in order to counteract
state-centred, militarist interpretations born in the context of a
counter-insurgency state and re-establish, in clear, unequivocal terms,
that the priority good that the security action of the state must defend
is human beings. In the context of an underdeveloped nation such as
ours, however, this expansion almost means an overlap between
security and development agendas.
As a result of the state’s historic inability to implement efficient
public policies that take care of the population’s needs in terms of
their well-being – because of a lack of political will or of material and
non-material means – the country’s living conditions are such that
most of the population is exposed on a daily basis to risks that severely
erode levels of well-being: morbidity and mortality, malnutrition and
hunger, unemployment and poverty, common violence and organized
crime, degradation of the environment and pollution, among others.
The primary task of political authorities in a developing state is to
overcome these weaknesses in society: health policies to solve the
problems of morbidity and mortality; economic and financial, agricultural
and labour, employment and social security policies to take care of the
problems of poverty and unemployment, etc. Consequently, by
establishing that the task of security is to create the necessary
conditions for overcoming the various dangers that threaten the quality
of life of the population, a complete overlap is created between
development and security – a single agenda.
The effects are clearly negative for both development and security.
For the former, conceptualizing the solution of weaknesses caused by
underdevelopment as a problem of security makes the process of
designing and institutionalizing public sector policies more difficult. As
security is easily identified with emergency or urgency, and emergency
situations require extraordinary measures, the development and
security overlap means ascribing the characteristics of an exceptional
situation, implicit in all emergencies, to development. And the danger
of considering extensive issues from the country’s public agenda as
exceptions is obvious, particularly when low levels of political
institutionalization, and the continued existence of elements from an
authoritarian political culture, mean that there is a lack of proper
structures of public control and social auditing.
Situations can quickly and easily arise in which the ‘exceptional
nature’ of problems of development justifies deferring new democratic
regulations in the interests of efficiency and security. Making
exceptionality a routine mechanism of government is fatal for
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consolidating the democratic rule of law – from the continued existence
of due process of law or administrative decrees for proper
administration of resources, to collective or individual political
Furthermore, making an issue part of the security agenda means
giving it priority in the state’s political agenda, which is evidenced in
mobilizing extraordinary resources in order to immediately deal with
a problem that looms as a threat. From this point of view, mutually
identifying development and security would be profitable in so far as it
served to prioritize the importance of improving prevailing conditions
of underdevelopment and social, political and economic backwardness.
If the security agenda overlaps with the development one, however –
if every situation of vulnerability of the population is classified as a
threat – the effect is to prioritize the whole series of state policies,
which means that the very idea of setting priorities as a mechanism for
mobilizing material and non-material resources loses force. If everything
is urgent, then nothing is. Consequently, the effect of the security
agenda as a mechanism for mobilizing resources in an extraordinary
manner is nil.
Finally, mutually identifying the development agenda with the
security agenda places us in a conceptual framework that is dangerously
close to the National Security Doctrine that fed the security concepts
of a counter-insurgency state, although from diametrically opposed
points of origin. In fact, where that doctrine was concerned, polity –
the series of state actions in various areas of national life – was an
element within the strategy whereby the state pursued goals arising
from its concept of the nation as a meta-historical project and within
the framework of a defensive concept – Permanent National Objectives.
Security became the state’s supreme goal. The need to guarantee the
security of these objectives meant, in practice, that polity was
subordinated as simply another tool in the state’s strategy motivated
primarily by state security interests that were very often juxtaposed
to the security interests of the population as a whole.
From the point of view of democratic security, mutually identifying
the objectives of development policies with the objectives of security
policies would have similar effects. This would not, however, be as a
result of a meta-historic project, but rather as an expression of a
democratic political pact; and the state’s political structures would
not be the core of the problem, but rather human beings and society
would be the focus of attention. Identifying development as the
objective of security would mean subordinating one – development –
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Democratic Security in Guatemala: Reflections ...
Bernardo Arévalo de León
to the other – security. This subordination would occur as a result of
the connotations of urgency and emergency associated with security
problems: the implicit cost of this type of situation forces the use of
exceptional measures, which relegate regular procedures. Once again,
in contexts where democratic values have still not been deeply rooted,
this subordination can give rise to actions that ultimately end up
threatening the consolidation of the democratic system. Hence the
need to establish a clear distinction between security and development,
which restores each one’s conceptual and operational specificity in
the interests of consolidating democratic rule of law.
An initial element in establishing this distinction is the difference
between positive security and negative security. Positive security is
the ability to continue or maintain a positive relationship. Negative
security implies the ability to terminate or stop a negative relationship.
Within the conceptual framework of democratic security or integral
security, positive security is the ability of the state to generate
conditions that mitigate vulnerabilities affecting society and threatening
general well-being. Its logic is to identify opportunities and potentials,
which maximize available material and non-material resources; this is
the positive relationship. Negative security is the ability of the state to
contain or detain specific threats against these conditions that affect
society’s well-being. Its logic is to identify dangers and threats against
efforts to generate well-being; this is the negative relationship.
The point of reference for both concepts must not be an ideal
security/well-being situation, but obviously the specific situation of
vulnerability to which the population is exposed at any given moment.
In other words, identification of existing dangers and threats must be
based on real, not potential, living conditions of a population and on its
real, not ideal, nature.
Although the security/development overlap in terms of positive
security is not solved, confusion in terms of negative security vanishes.
In fact, the action of state development policies is positive by definition,
because it attempts to generate conditions of well-being for the
population. Even though the objective of some public policies may be
identified as fighting a specific calamity – extreme poverty or infant
mortality, for example – its sense is to develop a positive relationship
which overcomes existing vulnerability. From this point of view, in
countries whose conditions of development expose the population
to a wide range of vulnerabilities, a positive security policy would be
almost the same as a development policy.
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In contrast, a condition of negative security is given by threats
looming over the conditions of well-being of the population.
Consequently, the action of the state in this respect must identify the
negative relationships which are acting against existing vulnerabilities –
dangers and threats – and define measures to counteract them. State
policy in this regard would, therefore, be different to development
policy to the extent that it is not geared towards generating conditions
of well-being, but rather towards containing any dangers or threats
against these conditions.
A further distinction will allow us to further confine the sphere of
action of security issues – the difference between conditions or
situations of security and of insecurity. Conditions of security are those
in which dangers or threats against well-being are stabilized, neutralized
or counteracted, often via state action. Conditions of insecurity are
those in which there are dangers or threats against which there are no
effective countermeasures available. So what classifies a situation as
security or insecurity is not the presence of danger or threat – much
less of vulnerabilities, which is the starting point for so many analyses
– but rather the presence or absence of an effective policy aimed at
containing or detaining them.
If we apply the distinction between positive and negative security
from this point of view, positive security tries to generate conditions
of security by developing measures to effectively eliminate
vulnerabilities, dangers and threats to which society and its institutions
might be exposed. Once again, there is complete overlap with
development. In fact, positive security would be that part of
development that deals with situations of vulnerability affecting the
well-being of society and its institutions. By way of example, in so far
as they attempt to reduce mortality and morbidity indices of large
sectors of the population – an evident vulnerability – mother-child
health policies would in turn form part of a positive security policy
and, therefore, of the development policy.
In contrast, negative security attempts to counteract all those dangers
and threats which at any given moment surpass the state’s ability to
protect the security of society and its institutions. Therefore, its
relationship with development would be complementary. Development
policies would include all those issues for which measures are adopted
that promote conditions of security in an attempt to establish a positive
relationship. Policies to resolve negative security would include all those
issues for which policies implemented within the framework of
development policies do not envisage suitable measures.
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Democratic Security in Guatemala: Reflections ...
Bernardo Arévalo de León
For practical purposes, the term democratic or integral security
should be used exclusively to indicate the condition of well-being
generated thanks to the action of development of the state, designating
specific measures for boosting development as development policies.
The term security policies should be confined to the series of actions
aimed at counteracting dangers and threats looming over conditions
of vulnerability of society and its institutions.
The next step would be to clearly establish what issues belong to
which of the two polities. The specificity of a security policy is
expressed unequivocally in a list of subjects or issues that it seeks to
tackle and resolve. This is what is normally referred to as a country’s
security agenda. Based on the parameters that we have established so
far, we could describe the security agenda as the series of dangers and
threats against the well-being of people, society and its political
institutions, whose effects must be controlled and counteracted, and
which are not provided for in development policies. In fact, this
distinction allows us to differentiate between situations of risk that
the state attempts to solve by procuring conditions of positive security
within the framework of its regular public policies and those resulting
from threats against which there are no concrete measures in place
and which surpass the latter’s sphere of action. In fact, the challenge
of defining new operational concepts of security lies in this area.
We must remember that one of the dangers of enlarging the
concept of security is the confusion between spheres of action of
security policy and development policy. In so far as the term security
often implies a level of state mobilization that implies exceptional
conditions, one of the objectives must obviously be to reduce as much
as possible the series of issues dealt with within the framework of a
security agenda. This is particularly so when, as we have stated, issues
for which the state does not have a suitable and/or planned response
form part of this agenda. In fact, one of the objectives of public action
must be to ‘normalize’ security issues – transfer problems or issues
from the security policy sphere of action, which deals in emergencies
and exceptions, to the development policy sphere of action, which
deals in regularity and regulations. This would be an indication of the
extent to which state action that has been effective in neutralizing
various threats and policies aimed at generating conditions of positive
security has been developed. Therefore, the objective of the state
security policy must be to keep to a minimum the number of problems
dealt with from the security agenda and the time it takes to deal with
an emerging problem within the framework of security policies. For all
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that, a reduced security agenda begins by defining the criteria whereby
a situation of risk or threat is classified to be included in the urgent,
exceptional regime implicit in the agenda.
Issues traditionally included in security agendas are those linked to
problems of survival, those whose existence poses an existential threat
to the state, which justifies using extraordinary measures to deal with
them. By adapting categories set up for international security problems
to the problems of democratic security, the following levels could be
tentatively established:
(a) Existential problems: those threatening the survival of the state or
any of its components – society, territory, political system – in the
short term.
(b) Vital problems: those threatening the viability of the state or any of
its components in the long term.
(c) Major problems: those which, if not properly corrected by the
state, could become vital problems.
(d) Minor problems: those which affect the well-being of the population,
but which in terms of magnitude, sphere of action or effects, are not a
major threat.
Major and minor problems obviously do not belong at the level of
urgency and exceptionality of the security agenda, but rather to the
conditions of positive security that must be generated via development
policies. This is precisely the challenge of national development; if not
dealt with, the country’s health conditions – to take an example –
could deteriorate to the extent that they threaten the survival of the
population, political stability, economic viability, etc. But they must be
dealt with within the positive relationship generated between a problem
and its solution in the specific public policies that the state has to draw
up in fulfilment of its basic functions, not in the security agenda’s sphere
of exceptionality. Poverty is not an issue for the security agenda; neither
are unemployment, insalubrity, malnutrition, degradation of the
environment. Not because they are not important per se or even vital
at an individual level – as are insalubrity or malnutrition – but because,
in underdeveloped countries such as ours, these are given situations
that must be dealt with within the framework of regular public policies.
The same is true of vital problems. Although the magnitude of these
problems makes them a threat to the viability of the state, to the extent
they are posed as problems with a long-term effect, they obviously do
not have the sense of emergency that justifies resorting to the
exceptionality implicit in a security agenda. Consequently, vital
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Democratic Security in Guatemala: Reflections ...
Bernardo Arévalo de León
problems, regardless of how serious they are, must be dealt with within
the framework of the state’s regular policies; in other words,
government authorities must include them as part of the objectives of
regular public policies with a view to controlling them initially so that
they do not become an existential threat, and then counteracting and
defeating them. In fact, the capacity of the state is an essential element
in this definition of the nature of a problem: the lack or inefficiency of
suitable state measures converts a major problem into a vital one, or
even an existential one. And vice versa: an efficient security policy
converts an existential problem into a vital one, and a suitable public
policy can even convert it into a major or minor one.
Therefore, the issues on a security agenda are obviously those of
an existential nature, which cannot be dealt with within the framework
of regular state policies. But, what classifies a problem to be included
on a security agenda with its characteristic urgency and exceptionality?
Traditional security points of view, and particularly international
security points of view, restricted this to political-military spheres –
military threats against territorial integrity or national sovereignty. In
fact, the international political context of the second half of the twentieth
century led to security being focused in strictly political-military terms.
But, within a framework of a wide-ranging, integral definition of
democratic security, how are existential or vital threats that threaten
human beings, society or its political institutions to be identified? Are
there any existential or vital threats in the economic sphere? What
are they? And in social, political, environmental spheres, etc.? Two
basic concepts need to be defined in order to outline an answer to
these questions – securitization and threshold.
Securitization is the action of projecting policy beyond established rules,
enshrining an issue as a special type of policy or over and above the
policy. This is based on the concept that any public issue can be located
in a spectrum that runs from non-political (that which fails to attract
the attention of the state and does not become a subject of public
debate and decision) to political (that which falls within the sphere of
public policies, requiring decisions and/or allocation of resources by
levels of government) to securitized (that which constitutes an
existential or vital threat and, therefore, requires emergency measures
beyond the limits of regular political procedures). Within the two
spheres where it must act (the latter two), the state operates by means
of specific measures – in the political sphere, via its development policy
and agenda, which is the sum of the various sectors’ public policies; in
the securitized sphere, via its security policy and agenda.
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Effective securitization of an issue implies three basic stages: (a)
identifying an existential threat; (b) identifying an emergency action;
and (c) freeing that action from the restraints imposed by the regular
set of regulations. There are issues in which the type of threat – its
recurrence, persistence, scope – causes the sense of urgency and
exceptionality to be institutionalized, with that being understood to
refer to the process whereby the threat is ‘routined’ within a precise
legal-institutional framework. The most obvious case is that of military
threats. Even if the threats are potential, the scope of military aggression
elicits perceptions of security and exceptionality that lead to securitizing
national defence issues a priori. Similarly, fighting various forms of
criminality – common or organized – that affect society involves
measures of urgency and exceptionality that place public security
permanently on the state’s security agenda. Finally, the magnitude of
the destruction associated with given natural phenomena (earthquakes,
floods, volcanic eruptions, etc.), and the type of response required to
cope with their effects, also implies that they should be dealt with by
the state in a normal fashion in terms of emergency policies.
From the point of view of an expanded agenda, however, there are
a series of issues which are normally dealt with as part of regular public
policies but which, in given circumstances, can become existential
threats. This is the case of ad hoc securitization, where securitization
of a specific issue – social, environmental, political – based on critical
connotations assumed at a given moment can transfer it from the
sphere of action of regular institutional policies to that of security
policies. The concept of threshold is vitally important in these cases.
Threshold defines the limit at which an issue passes from being dealt
with within the framework of regular state political institutions to being
dealt with by security policies, from the development agenda to the
security agenda. It is the space that the securitization process must
traverse. Where securitization has been institutionalized, thresholds
do not apply; the whole issue is dealt with regularly within the
framework of exceptionality and urgency of security policies. Where
issues are normally dealt with by regular public policies, however, the
importance of an issue passing from one sphere of action to the other,
and who makes the decision, is vital. It implies the existence of suitable
criteria for each sphere of action, as well as clearly identified institutional
agents who take on the responsibility of securitizing an issue.
The importance of clearly identifying who is institutionally
responsible arises from the fact that it is impossible to establish the
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Democratic Security in Guatemala: Reflections ...
Bernardo Arévalo de León
threshold for each issue a priori. First of all, because the specific nature
of the issue – political, social, economic, environmental – prevents
generic universally applicable criteria from being established: the
threshold justifying the transfer of an economic issue from the regular
public policy agenda to that of security can be so high that makes its
application quite improbable; but, in the case of a political issue linked
to democratic governance, the threshold can be relatively low.
Secondly, because the nature of an existential threat does not arise so
much from the nature of the event itself as from the various social
actors’ perceptions of that event. Security as social building is a process
that results from the intersubjectivity of relevant actors at any given
moment; what is and what is not an existential threat is not discovered;
it is defined.
The process of institutional building required to handle security
and development policies as different but integrated spheres of public
action based on a unifying concept of democratic or integral security
obviously will not be easy. Efforts at institutional building in a country
that is still suffering the consequences of a long, complex and violent
political crisis that has undermined its human, social, economic and
political resources, face serious problems. This issue does not only
affect the security sector; it also has an adverse effect on the state’s
overall ability to generate coherent policies that allow it to overcome
current weaknesses and, therefore, it also limits the state’s ability to
deal with danger and mitigate vulnerabilities to which its population is
subject because of the effects of shamefully low levels of human
The road is still open, however. Both the TMSD and the AFPC are
useful conceptual references and, if they are developed into proper
policies, they might substantially improve the polity of the state in this
respect. The necessary steps for new concepts of security to transcend
mere declarations of intent and become public polity centred on human
beings and based on democratic values include fine-tuning
terminological concepts, making an effective separation between
agendas, institutionalizing operational mechanisms and developing public
polity within a framework of principles of responsibility and
transparency that are required by democracy.
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The Andean region is currently suffering from a profound crisis
with unpredictable consequences. Colombia is just the tip of an
enormous iceberg of cumulative problems that have not been solved.
In fact, since the 1990s and the beginning of the twenty-first century
the Andes has become the major focus of South American instability
and concern. Politically, the self-imposed coup d’état of Alberto
Fujimori in Peru, the constitutional fall of Carlos A. Pérez in Venezuela,
the political exit of Abdalá Bucaram in Ecuador, the quasi debacle of
Ernesto Samper in Colombia and the coming into power of former
coup participant Hugo Banzer in Bolivia, stand out. The social disaster
that led to the de facto overthrow of Jamil Mahuad in Ecuador, the
authoritarian ambition of kleptocracy established by Fujimori in Peru,
the delicate institutional uncertainty generated by Hugo Chavez in
Venezuela, the growing problems of all kinds in Bolivia and the explosive
situation faced by Andrés Pastrana in Colombia are eloquent indicators
that the Andes is in the midst of a storm.
1. Director of Political Science and International Relations at the Department of
Humanities of the Universidad de San Andrés, Victoria, Argentina.
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Militarily, the largest border conflict in the Hemisphere took place
between Ecuador and Peru, and the border experiencing the greatest
degree of tension is that of Colombia-Venezuela. The Andean zone is
the region of the Americas that most systematically violates human
rights, with Colombia and Peru being the most dramatic cases. Growing,
processing and trafficking of coca leaf are concentrated in the Andes
region, and the five countries (together with Mexico) are key actors in
the illicit narcotics business. These are also some of the countries
with the highest levels of corruption in the world, especially Bolivia,
Ecuador and Venezuela.
Andean countries demonstrate high degrees of environmental
degradation, especially in the area of the Amazon basin that they share
with Brazil. In socio-economic terms, all Andean nations have alarming
rates of unemployment, marginality, poverty and insecurity with low
quality of life indicators, poor, volatile growth, heavy concentration of
income and paltry investments. Partial collapse of the state has been
exacerbated in the last decade in all five countries, although to varying
Furthermore, in the post-Cold War scenario, the Andean region is
the area (particularly Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela) where the military
have maintained greater incidence and influence in politics and business.
Likewise, the Andean Community of Nations (CAN) continues to be
increasingly more withdrawn. Finally, the Andean world is increasingly
dependent on Washington in material and political matters, and
increasingly further away from the Southern Cone in cultural and
diplomatic issues. The sphere of influence2 of the United States is
moving from its traditional mare nostrum – the extensive Caribbean
Basin – and projecting itself with ever-increasing strength into the
Andean corner of the South American continent.
In sum, the whole Andean region is suffering simultaneously from
different types of acute problems. Various social conflicts tend to
increase in the region, and the democratic regimes are very obviously
unable to process their citizens’ age-old, unmet demands. In this
context, Colombia is undoubtedly the most catastrophic case.
Colombia stands out for the magnitude of its crisis, but it is by no
means an isolated, solitary example. The whole Andean region is living
in conditions of ungovernability, which forebodes dangerous
institutional cataclysms.
2. On the notion of sphere of influence in international politics, see, among others, Paul
E. Keal, ‘Contemporary understanding about spheres of influence’, Review of
International Studies, Vol. 9, No. 3, 1983.
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Colombia: More Human Insecurity, Less Regional Security
Juan Gabriel Tokatlian
Thus, the way in which the Colombian crisis is dealt with will serve
as a potential model for foreign intervention in the internal affairs of
the Hemisphere. Likewise, how and how much area (Latin America),
region (South America) or zone (Southern Cone) contribute to
resolving the issue are at stake. The most difficult example – Colombia
– must be tackled, not avoided. Only by so doing will we be able to see
whether the diplomacy of our countries has matured sufficiently to
cope with the challenges of this new century with a greater degree of
relative autonomy.
Nature of the war
The armed conflict in Colombia can be analysed from different
perspectives. Here, I would like to emphasize two of them: one from
the perspective of the state and the other from the perspective of the
war itself. For a growing number of foreign and domestic analysts, this
Andean country is in the process of suffering from the collapse of the
state, comparable to the one that caused the experience known simply
as the Violence, but rather more unusual and complex. According to
the expression coined by Oquist regarding the ‘partial collapse of the
(Colombian) State’ in the 1940s and 1950s, the ‘specific tie-ins’ –
internal, not exogenous – that characterized it were (a) the ‘breakdown
of established political institutions’, (b) the ‘loss of legitimacy of the
state’, (c) the ‘contradictions within the state’s armed machinery’ and
(d) the ‘physical absence of the state.’3 Except for the third factor and
in spite of the reforms introduced in the 1991 Constitution, the other
indicators emerged strongly in the mid-1970s and have been
consolidating themselves at the start of the twenty-first century.
If we adopt a more recent definition of a collapsed state, then it is
characterized by an implosion of structures of authority and legitimacy.4
A problem of ungovernability then arises as a result of the combination
of internal forces and outside pressure. Simultaneous war and crime
on an internal front, combined with Plan Colombia and the Andean
Project at the same time on the outside, form a lethal combination. In
my opinion, Colombia, which is by no means an exceptional,
unprecedented case, is on its way to this collapsed status.
3. See Paul Oquist, Violencia, conflicto y política en Colombia, Bogotá, Biblioteca Banco
Popular, 1978.
4. See, among others, I. William Zartman (ed.), Collapsed States: The Disintegration
and Restoration of Legitimate Authority, Boulder, Colo., Lynne Rienner Publishers,
1995; William Reno, ‘Economic motivations of warfare in collapsed states’, National
Strategy Forum Review, Winter 2000.
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This will lead sooner or later to the country being witness to a failed
state, in other words, a state that is unable to protect its individuals and
communities from the forces that threaten their existential security.5 In
this respect, Colombia does not have an anarchical state (complete
absence of central government), but it is currently experiencing a mixture
of a ghost state (exercises authority in a few limited areas while it is nonexistent in others) and an anaemic state (its energies are consumed
fighting different kinds of armed groups).
It must be mentioned in this context that, according to one of the
main reports of the transcendental U.S. Commission on National
Security/21st Century, jointly headed by Gary Hart and Warren
Rudman, the United States must establish priorities in the event of an
expansion of the problems of failed States. Thus, it states:
‘Not every such problem must be primarily a U.S. responsibility,
particularly in a world where other powers are amassing significant wealth
and human resources. There are countries whose domestic stability is,
for differing reasons, of major importance to U.S. interests (such as Mexico,
Colombia, Russia, and Saudi Arabia). Without prejudging the likelihood
of domestic upheaval, these countries should be a priority focus of U.S.
planning in a manner appropriate to the respective cases. For cases of
lesser priority, the United States should help the international community
develop innovative mechanisms to manage the problems of failed states.’
Following experts who have defined different forms of state suffering
from acute internal instability, Colombia is close to becoming a failed state,
in other words, unable to protect its individuals and communities from the
forces that threaten their existential security. It seems obvious that the
country is not experiencing a political, popular revolution, nor an avenging
citizens’ revolt against a strong, dominating state. It is rather an amorphous,
intemperate uprising of a complex amalgamation of emerging, unsatisfied,
excluded and forgotten sectors. This uprising is partially and contradictorily
channelled through powerful, armed groups, which, in spite of their lack of
a univocal project, assert their social influence, territorial control and political
projection in the midst of a partially collapsed state and the suffering of
unarmed society. It is a violent, widespread state of unrest caused equally
by guerrilla movements, organized mafia and reactionary bands, which seem
to be strong enough to have pushed the state into a corner, but do not
have the ability to build new structures of authority.
5. On the problem of failed states, see, among others, Robert H. Dorf, ‘Democratization
and failed states: The challenge of ungovernability’, Parameters, Summer 1996; JeanGermain Gros, ‘Towards a taxonomy of failed states in the new world order: Decaying
Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda, and Haiti’, Third World Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 3, 1996;
Richard J. Norton and James F. Miskel, ‘Spotting trouble: identifying faltering and failing
states’, Naval War College Review, Spring 1997; Susan L. Woodward, ‘Failed states:
Warlordism and tribal warfare’, Naval War College Review, Spring 1999; Daniel Thürer,
‘The failed state and international law’, International Review of the Red Cross, No. 836,
December 1999.
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Colombia: More Human Insecurity, Less Regional Security
Juan Gabriel Tokatlian
The equilibrium perspective that characterizes reflection on
legitimacy does not seem to be very useful in this particular case. There
is no homogeneous project that grows in legitimacy as the other
diminishes, thereby compensating a situation of ups and downs as far
as legitimacy and illegitimacy is concerned. There is no traditional,
reigning, enlightened elite, nor any compact, vigorous, civilizing counterpower. Rather, we are witnessing degraded legitimacies, both existing
and challenging. We are in the presence of a dangerous failure of
democracy, but there is no immediate alternative on the horizon capable
of establishing order, peace and well-being. Hence, what predominates
is a mixture of political warfare, criminal violence and humanitarian
This conflict has become increasingly more intricate, which does
not mean, however, that it is indecipherable. Some clear trends must
be stressed. The irregular war that has predominated in Colombia for
decades is becoming a civil war in increasingly more places, with heavily
armed bands heading up polarized ideological projects and with their
own social bases of support.
Likewise, the political war seems increasingly to be a criminal war.
Armed actors demean their political profile more and more, abandon
practices based on principles and adopt criminal behaviours. The
Colombian conflict is also more than the summation of disparate,
contradictory local wars; the country is suffering from a national war,
in other words, the conflicts are not restricted to a region, but have
acquired the logic of a confrontation that extends throughout the length
and breadth of the country. In this context, while rural clashes continue
and are exacerbated in more areas of the country, the conflict has also
taken root in new urban milieus.
In the same way, the war in Colombia is no longer a domestic one.
The gradual, specific, persistent involvement of the United States in
the internal conflict has made the country the epicentre of an
increasingly more internationalized low-intensity war. Finally, the
Colombian war is no longer restricted in terms of victims, armed
participants and scope. The data could not be more eloquent.6
6. Colombian and international public reports are the source of all data referred to
here. Figures come from official bodies such as the Public Prosecutor’s Office, the
Public Defender’s Office and the Foreign Office, as well as Colombian NGOs such as
the Fundación País Libre and the Comisión Andina de Juristas, also from such institutions
as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
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Violence was expressed during the last decade by nearly ten deaths
a day. About 120 municipalities (12% of the total) have been completely
destroyed by the guerrillas. There were over 500 massacres (group
murders of four or more defenceless people) in the 1998–2000 twoyear period, mostly committed by paramilitary groups. More than 4,000
people have disappeared for political reasons since the 1980s. In 2000
alone, 743 people disappeared. About 12,000 kidnappings were
committed by armed individuals, common criminals and even state
security agents between 1995 and 2000. The number of homicides in
the 1990s was more than 250,000. Almost 350,000 Colombians have
left the country since 1996. More than 1,800,000 people have been
forcibly displaced in the last three lustrums. More than 1,000,000
children, including those who have been murdered, mutilated,
kidnapped, displaced and recruited, are war victims. Most of these
events go unpunished. All the above means that the Colombian war
has caused, causes and will continue to cause distressing, excessive
human insecurity, which mainly affects the non-combatant civilian
This changing, complicated and critical conflict in Colombia has
encouraged US interference in the country’s affairs. There is no
unanimous consensus in the United States, nor between the United
States and Latin America, regarding the best solution to Colombia’s
armed conflict. There is relative agreement, however, on the potential
negative effects of this Andean country’s critical situation on South
America as a whole and especially on its neighbouring countries.
Washington, with tacit consent from Latin America shown by the
region’s evident silence on the matter, has deployed an exceptional
method of indirect intervention in the Colombian case. On the one
hand, there is an old-style interventionism typical of the Cold War,
such as that used at one time in El Salvador. The United States is now
giving military support (aid, arms, training, information, etc.) to a country
affected by an increasingly bloody internal war. Colombia’s greater
geopolitical importance, its size, population and economy and the
combination of different threats (drug trafficking, organized crime,
guerrillas, terrorism, paramilitary groups) have meant that US aid to
Bogotá has become massive and growing.
On the other hand, there is also a new type of post-Cold War
interventionism: pressure and support (as the case may be) for
neighbouring countries to create a diplomatic and military cordon
sanitaire around Colombia and also the development of contingency
plans for potential use of greater force with the participation of countries
friendly to Washington.
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Colombia: More Human Insecurity, Less Regional Security
Juan Gabriel Tokatlian
This dual model has been gradually improved in recent years and is
made up of several components. These include increased security aid
for Colombia, elevation to the status of a ‘problem country’ at
hemispherical and international levels, growing regional diplomacy aimed
at mobilizing the countries in the area towards strategies designed to
contain the Colombian problem, and an increase in unifying official
rhetoric regarding the existence of an inexorable ‘narco-guerrilla’ threat
in Colombia.
Potentially, this new interventionism in Colombia could adopt three
forms. First, ‘intervention by imposition’: against the will of the
Colombians and in spite of efforts at internal negotiation, Washington
sets up an ad hoc coalition which decides to become militarily involved
in the Andean country in order to establish a new ‘order’. Second,
‘intervention by desertion’: the Colombian State is unable to contain
the internal armed conflict nor guarantee national sovereignty, which
serves as an excuse for Washington to head up a temporary
intervening coalition until established authorities in Bogotá have been
strengthened. And third, ‘intervention by invitation’: an elected
government asks for outside cooperation because it is unable to
maintain internal order, national unity and a democratic institutional
framework autonomously. Thus, Colombian military forces plus foreign
forces from several countries in the Hemisphere and led by the United
States would act together to prevent a national implosion. Although at
present these scenarios arouse justifiable rejection, one cannot reject
the political probability that some of them are being seriously considered,
with the third being the least improbable.
In short, the degraded nature of the war in Colombia, together
with US interventionism, has become a serious problem for regional
security, despite the fact that Latin American countries in general seem
to be unperturbed by this explosive combination.
US Plan Colombia
The multimillion-dollar security aid from the United States to
Colombia is already under way. In 2000, the Congress in Washington
authorized US$1,319.1 million to respond to a complex, degraded
internal war. The B component of so-called Plan Colombia – a plan
drawn up in 1999 in the Nariño House as suggested by the White
House – will be applied after intense debate in Washington, tenuous
discussions in Bogotá and worrying silence in the Hemisphere.
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Andrés Pastrana government’s Plan Colombia, worth US$7,500 million,
has three parts so far. Component A is internal; it is the largest and its
purpose is to mitigate the negative effects of the crisis being suffered by
the country using measures aimed at bringing the state closer to the areas
most affected by the violence. This type of ‘Plan A’ within the overall Plan
Colombia is aimed at reinforcing institutional presence in the country’s
territory. The idea of the ‘carrot’ is inherent to its design – pacification by
state contact with the community and a negotiated solution.
‘Plan B’ is US aid. Washington is offering more of the same, but in a
shorter space of time and for a different recipient. In fact, between 1989
and 1999, Colombia received US$1,388 million in anti-drugs and security
aid.7 The country will now receive a similar amount, but in only two years,
and the main recipient will not be the police as in the 1990s, but the army.
This is the ‘stick’ to go with the ‘carrot’. The underlying logic is that only
more firepower and increased spatial deployment of armed forces can
counterbalance the growing territorial power of the guerrillas and the
enormous regional influence of drug trafficking. If all the US security
resources given to Colombia in the last ten years simply increased violence
of all kinds, human rights violations and pushed the war out of control as
never before, there is no reason to believe that these same problems will
not be made worse in the next two-year period.8
7. US aid figures for Colombia can be checked in Nina F. Serafino, ‘Colombia: U.S.
assistance and current legislation’, in CRS Report to Congress, 13 June 2001.
8. At the end of the government of President Virgilio Barco (1986–90), faced with the
growing problem of drugs and its typical violence, the president submitted the Special
Co-operation Plan (PEC) for US$1,774 million. The main purpose of the PEC was to
strengthen the Colombian State and achieve support from more developed nations in
the fight against drugs. The country contributed 33.2% (US$590 million) and the
international community was asked for 66.8% (US$1,184 million). The United States
responded with its traditional ‘stick’ and ‘carrot’ combination on one hand and its
rhetoric of joint responsibility of supply and demand on the other. The then Secretary
of Defense of the Bush Sr administration, Richard Cheney, deployed a ‘sea blockade’ of
Colombia in January 1990, after the invasion of Panama. Likewise, as mentioned, between
1989 and 1999 Washington gave Bogotá US$1,388 million in anti-drug and security aid.
In parallel, in 1991 the United States Congress approved a ten-year Andean Trade
Preferences Agreement (ATPA) to encourage growth of a legal economy over the
illegal one. In turn, the then anti-drugs Czar, William Bennet, promised a decisive war
on drugs, although in the 1990s the United States only devoted 32% of its budget on
average to reducing the demand. For its part, in 1990 Europe approved a four-year
renewable General System of Andean Preferences. Latin America did not do much for
the country; only Carlos Menem’s Argentina supported anti-drugs repression by sending
two Pucará aircraft. For its part, Colombia continued to enforce extradition until it was
forbidden to do so by its Constitution. Fifteen Colombian nationals were sent to the
United States in 1989–90. The country eradicated almost 220,000 hectares of illicit
crops between 1990 and 1998. The two Medellín and Cali cartels were also pursued
and dismantled. But the state was not strengthened. On the contrary, it was weakened
even further – violence, human rights violations and the power of all armed actors
increased. Because of the resurgent threat generated by the drug problem and the
exceptional power of the insurgents, Colombia launched another SOS to the international
community in order to once again strengthen the state. Plan Colombia of President
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Colombia: More Human Insecurity, Less Regional Security
Juan Gabriel Tokatlian
The United States’ Plan Colombia has very precise components.
The specific package for Colombia amounts to US$860.3 million.
Military aid accounts for US$519.2 million of this total, while police aid
accounts for US$123.1 million. The idea is to strengthen the armed
forces (three new battalions to operate in the south of the country;
sixteen Blackhawk helicopters and thirty UH-1H Huey helicopters,
plus better combat and communications instruments), so that they
can actually assume a more offensive position in the war, and improve
the ability of the police in the war on drugs (two Blackhawk helicopters
and twelve UH-1H Huey helicopters, training in spraying techniques,
etc.). Other categories include alternative development (US$68.5
million), aid for displaced people (US$37.5 million), human rights
(US$51 million), judiciary reform (US$13 million), application of the
law (US$45 million) and peace (US$3 million). The rest of the
US$1,319.1 million – in other words, US$458.8 million – is broken
down into two main categories: aid for Colombia’s neighbouring
countries (US$180 million) and resources to be used directly by US
authorities (US$278.8 million). US$276.8 million of the latter category
are for the Department of Defense (improving bases in Ecuador, Aruba
and Curacao; routine and classified intelligence operations; radar
equipment; among others). If the overall package is broken down into
its various parts, recipients and aims, about 75% is geared towards
strengthening the military in the already very long, inefficient ‘war on
drugs’, a war which increasingly seems to be more in the nature of a
‘fight against narco-guerrillas’ in Washington nomenclature.
Andrés Pastrana’s administration (1998–2002) is four times as big as the PEC; the
country now contributes 53% of the Plan’s US$7,500 million and more industrialized
nations the remaining 47%. The United States responded with its own Plan Colombia
involving US$1,319 million. For its part, the European contribution is, as usual, much
smaller. Latin American contribution is non-existent; it does not even propose a more
lucid outlook. The new administration of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney drew
up the Andean Project involving US$882 million as a continuance of Plan Colombia. In
turn, the US Congress debated extending the ATPA again, while the national and
international anti-drugs budget 2002 only considers 31% of the US$19,200 million to
reduce demand. In addition, the new anti-drugs Czar, John Waters, who was John
Bennet’s right-hand man, has set up a renewed crusade in the ‘war on drugs’. Colombia
is now enforcing extradition again after a constitutional reform. In 1999–2000 alone,
the country eradicated about 105,000 hectares of illegal crops. The fight against twenty
sophisticated, but less visible, networks of drug traffickers continues. Collapse of the
state, however, does not seem so far off. Colombia is experiencing the eternal return
of a failed strategy, something which many acknowledge in private but conceal in public,
both in Colombia and abroad. The United States has imposed a vicious, not virtuous,
cycle in overcoming drugs on its own society and on Colombia – today, the world
narcotics business is more lucrative, virulent, widespread and reactionary than it was
ten years ago.
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‘Plan C’ is Europe’s contribution to peace. This part of Plan Colombia
represents the contribution aimed at improving social conditions in
regions where the state has less presence. Europe does not aim to
solve anything, but rather compensate for the costs of erroneous
policies, particularly those induced by Washington. This is not a new
component. Europe has always promised ‘another’ contribution – it
has done so since 1990 via its System of Andean/Drug Preferences –
‘another’ outlook, that of joint responsibility in drug issues, and ‘another’
spirit, in favour of human rights and peace via dialogue. And, as at
other times, not much can be hoped for from these promises; they
are always superseded by actions. Contributions by European states
have been more symbolic than practical. The Donors Committee
meeting in Madrid in July 2000 corroborated it. Only Spain (US$100
million) and Norway (US$20 million) committed resources to Plan
Colombia. Months later the European Union decided to contribute
105 million euros for the period from 2000 to 2006, as a means of
giving institutional support to the peace process and with a view to
defending human rights, protecting the environment and replacing illegal
crops. Europe’s diplomatic, material and strategic influence has been,
is and will be much less than Washington’s.
In this context, Colombia would seem to urgently need a ‘Plan D’,
one capable of seriously solving, not just containing in the short term,
the war from which it is suffering. This Plan should be drawn up by
the Colombians and be supported by Latin Americans. Colombia
urgently needs a Contadora Group. A Contadora Group that
reappraises negotiation and commitment over arms and promises. A
Contadora Group that is boosted by the Southern Cone and examines
the silence of Latin America and the paralysis of South America.
A political ‘Plan D’ is essential because neither massive US military
aid, nor remote European participation, show any signs of being able
to resolve the existing situation. The Contadora Group for Colombia
needs, in turn, to transcend the level of the state. An alliance of
Colombian unarmed civil society, influential social and political Latin
American actors, democratic sectors of the United States and
progressive European groups is essential. This could well repoliticize
the Colombia crisis – once again politicize the behaviour of the state
and the conduct of the guerrillas. Although it has still not been genuinely
attempted, this option could expedite a potential solution to a
devastating war.
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Clinton and Colombia
The armed conflict in Colombia undoubtedly has international
relevance. Possibilities of peace and war are conditioned by external
factors (growing consumption of drugs in more industrialized nations;
massive, clandestine supply of arms; US foreign policy; boom of
transnational organized crime; institutional uncertainty in the whole
Andean region; recurring brushes with neighbouring countries), while
the internal humanitarian drama has an increasingly large impact on
the region and internationally. Stressing the magnitude of the Colombian
tragedy, however, cannot lead to justifying any kind of military
interference, but it should lead to measured political intervention.
Colombia needs a new Contadora Group, in other words, wide-ranging
diplomatic support led by South America and in favour of a negotiated
political solution.
The urgency of a Contadora Group for Colombia must be evaluated
in the framework of the novel strategic situation in the area. In this
regard, the presence of Bill Clinton in Cartagena towards the end of
August 2000, in the context of a 10-hour visit to Colombia symbolized
the crossing of a thin line – the United States hopes to ensure that its
sphere of influence extends beyond the Caribbean Basin. This brief
visit to Colombia by the President of the United States was extremely
significant. The meeting of Clinton and Pastrana sealed a strategic
situation, rather than an individual relationship, which set the scene
for a novel moment in inter-American relations. As a matter of fact,
this brief summit enclosed multiple messages for various different
audiences against a common backdrop: the Colombian case was
definitely politicized, and a complex struggle for power was being
decided there that transcends that nation’s borders.
In terms of his domestic policy, President Clinton made the
Colombian conflict and its effects on US security highly visible; he
showed that he was capable of being firm in the ‘war on drugs’; he
tried to set a state policy (bipartisan, complete and long range) in dealing
with the Colombian case and sought to placate those who see treatment
of Colombia as the beginning of a new Viet Nam. In terms of relations
between Washington and Bogotá, the visit strengthened Pastrana as
far as domestic matters were concerned, but restricted his margin of
manoeuvre in the medium term: it implied a strong political blow against
the guerrillas and legitimized the growing influence of the United States
in Colombian affairs.
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In regional terms, the trip reinforced US preference for unilateralism
in hemispheric affairs; it hindered the summit of South American
presidents organized by Brazil at the time; it contributed to identifying
Colombia as the greatest security problem in the area; and it reinforced
increasing militarization of Andean and Amazon zones to contain the
consequences of the Colombian crisis.
The basic factor is that Washington now dominates its Caribbean
mare nostrum and is now looking for effective control in the Andes, this
‘homeland’ of South America.9 Thus, it is essential to define zonal alliances
and equilibriums. The United States has forcefully imposed a cordon
sanitaire around Colombia with resigned support from Panama and
Ecuador and ambivalent backing from Peru. Panama, a close ally of the
United States, has armed its borders. Ecuador, which is suffering from a
delicate internal situation and has chosen the dollarization of its economy,
has accepted Washington’s Plan Colombia de facto, because it will obtain
US$81.3 million – US$20 million for anti-drugs work and US$61.3 million
for improving the radar systems of its Eloy Alfaro airport.
The United States has implicit and explicit support from the small
countries closest to Colombia. For example, Nicaragua, Colombia’s
neighbour across the sea, has taken advantage of these circumstances
to put forward its claims to the San Andrés and Providencia
Archipelago, under Colombian sovereignty, but which has suffered
from marginal secessionist outbreaks. Jamaica, Honduras, Haiti, Costa
Rica and the Dominican Republic – Colombia’s neighbours increasingly
more affected by drug trafficking – do not question Plan Colombia or
the militarization of the greater Caribbean as promoted by Washington
under the guise of a war on drugs. Prospects are not very comforting
either in areas a little further away to the north of Colombia. Some
Caribbean islands have aligned themselves with Washington. As part
of Plan Colombia, the United States will give US$10.3 million and
US$43.9 million to improve radar systems of Queen Beatriz airport
on Aruba and Hato International airport on Curaçao, respectively.
For its part, Cuba is playing a discreet, constructive role: Fidel Castro
has fostered an attitude of dialogue within the Army of National
Liberation (ELN) and is trying to use his diminished ascendancy over
the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to prevent
Colombia from being led to disaster. For its part, Mexico varies between
9. It is pertinent to remember that on 38 of the 39 occasions on which the United States
used its armed forces in our continent in the twentieth century it did so in the Caribbean
Basin and only once (1986 in Bolivia through Blast Furnace) in South America. In this
respect, see Richard F. Grimmett, ‘Instances of use of United States armed forces
abroad, 1798–1999’, CRS Report for Congress, 17 May 1999.
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Juan Gabriel Tokatlian
support and distancing: in recent years Mexican diplomacy has sought
to disassociate itself from Colombia, thereby showing, with its eyes fixed
on Washington, that there is a difference between them in terms of
drugs and insurgency.
South of Colombia, Bolivia (which will receive US$110 million from
Plan Colombia and for whom Clinton requested total cancellation of its
foreign debt of US$4,500 million) supports the United States in silence.
Chile is expectant, but does not categorically condemn Washington
and, in practice, supports Plan Colombia. Diplomacy in Argentina
fluctuates between asepsis and scepticism; it formally supports peace,
but does not do much for Colombia nor censure the United States.
The south of the Southern Cone is geographically distant from the
Colombian situation and politically less inclined to vehemently criticize
Washington. Its traditional immediate interests do not seem to be at
stake, but that is a major strategic blunder. Tremendous instability is
being generated in the whole Andean region, and sooner or later it will
have an adverse effect on the region as a whole.
Similarly, in South America the positions of Brazil and Venezuela are
converging more and more, although for different reasons. Venezuela
has fortified its Colombian borders. Complex friction and recurring
incidents feed a delicate situation, which combines a historical dispute
in the Gulf of Venezuela, recent separatist demonstrations in Colombian
departments, such as Norte de Santander and Vichada, and the ‘Bolivarian
spirit’ shared by President Hugo Chavez10 and the FARC. Caracas is
heavily influenced by multiple border problems and the danger of a
domino effect in the middle of a convulsed internal situation in Venezuela
and a desire to distance itself from Washington on several fronts.
10. On the whole, revolutionaries and revolutions aspire to propagate themselves beyond
the specific framework of a nation. The revolutionary ideal tends to be grandiose in form,
contents and scope. Initially, the French Revolution was born with transcendental passion.
The Bolshevik Revolution started with the desire to spread around the world, far beyond
Russia’s borders. In more recent times and in a more hemispheric milieu, the Peronista
Revolution in Argentina in the 1940s, the Cuban Revolution after 1959 and the Sandinista
Revolution in the 1970s imagined projecting themselves beyond national borders. These and
many other revolutions were founding actions: they attempted to establish a new internal
political order. All these revolutions intended to expand to neighbouring countries and even
further afield. Sooner or later, however, revolutionaries understood that survival of the
national revolution depended, among other factors, on sensibly securing internal power and
restricting their hazardous irradiation abroad. Venezuela is currently experiencing the Bolivarian
Revolution of Hugo Chavez via a kind of plebiscitary democracy. As with all revolutions, it
involves the emergence of a new social figure who plans to achieve full hegemony. It is, in the
best of senses, the greatest plebeian revolutionary exploit in the Andes in decades, led by a
populist, heterodox caudillo under the praetorial protection of military forces. The Chavist
project openly declares his dream of spreading through the Andean heart of South America.
Latin America and the United States face the challenge of not repeating in Venezuela’s case the
isolation and harassment to which Cuba was subjected. The Chavez phenomenon must first be
understood, then moderated; neither aggression nor marginalization are favourable alternatives
for Venezuelan stability and pluralism in the long term.
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Brazil has significantly increased its military deployments on the
border. A border full of holes is equally useful to guerrillas and drug
traffickers, while the growing presence of US advisors in Colombia has
put the country on full alert. Metaphorically speaking, drug traffickers
and green berets are perceived equally as threats to a country, which
historically has not had any difficulties or imminent danger in delimiting
its borders. Neither must it be forgotten that drug trafficking has
expanded enormously in Brazil. There is obvious evidence of more use
of drugs, more routes used to transport them, more discoveries of
illegal crops, more urban violence linked to organized crime, etc.
It must be stressed, however, that Colombia is neither Viet Nam
nor El Salvador. Direct military intervention by the United States is
not an immediate possibility. Indirect military intervention by the United
States is growing and becoming more complex, and it is accompanied
by a diplomatic-military fence that is being built around Colombia.
Unarmed Colombians, however, do not need the Viet Nam paradigm,
or the El Salvador one. Colombia requires a new Contadora Group to
politically solve the country’s internal war.
Bush and Bogotá
Appointments by the George Bush administration related to key
aspects of international and hemispheric policy have put Colombia on
alert and Latin America in a situation that requires deep reflection. The
profiles of several officers with considerable influence on Washington’s
foreign policy generate disquiet and uncertainty. Their personalities,
background or opinions augur a step backward in terms of peace and
suggest ambiguity in drug-trafficking issues. All are mixtures of
contradictions and stubbornness, and that will have a confusing influence
on official bilateral links and make solving Colombia’s vital problems more
difficult. The above, in turn, could negatively exacerbate inter-American
relations and hinder hemispheric progress in terms of trade negotiations.
The spectrum of prominent decision-makers can be divided into
six categories. On the one hand, there are the crusaders, such as John
Ashcroft (Secretary of Justice), Asa Hutchinson (Director of the DEA)
and John Walters (anti-drugs Czar), who form a kind of species of
moral extremist who would wish that Colombia would wage a ‘war on
drugs’ until every last Colombian were dead. Then there are the
recalcitrants, such as John Negroponte (Ambassador to the UN), Otto
Reich (State Department Under-Secretary for Hemispheric Affairs)
and Roger Noriega (Ambassador to the OAS). The first two have a
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past marked by arduous, clandestine promotion of the Nicaraguan
Contras and by an acknowledged disrespect for human rights. Noriega’s
only merit is that he was the right-hand man of Jesse Helms, the ultraconservative republican legislator from North Carolina who, until May
2001, chaired the powerful Senate Committee for Foreign Affairs.
Similarly, the dysfunctionals, such as Paul O´Neill (Secretary of the
Treasury) and Richard Armitage (Under-Secretary of State), whose
conduct could seriously affect the international fight against drugs, stand
out. In fact, in early 2001, O´Neill stunned the United States main
partners in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and
Development (OECD) when he stated that Washington would no
longer support efforts of OECD members to combat ‘fiscal paradises’,
which, as is well known, are epicentres for drug money laundering.
According to various sources, some time ago Armitage – who was
linked to the CIA in the 1970s and the Department of Defense in the
1980s – proposed using heroine to weaken the fighting capabilities of
communists in Indochina and Afghanistan.
There are also the orthodox, such as Condoleeza Rice (National
Security Advisor) and Paula Dobriansky (State Department UnderSecretary for Global Affairs), who maintain an approach marked by
the Cold War and centred on the Russian Federation and China.
Colombia will increasingly be perceived in geopolitical code and in terms
of a double ideological (Marxist) and criminal (Mafia) offensive to
undermine the power of the United States. There are also the hawks,
such as Donald Rumsfeld (Secretary of Defense) and Paul Wolfowitz
(Under-Secretary of Defense), who are seeking to consolidate US
unipolarity at any price and seem to conceive a rather more military
than diplomatic regionalization of the way in which the case of Colombia
is dealt with. Finally, one must emphasize the warriors, such as Richard
Cheney (Vice-President), who, as a legislator, staunchly defended Oliver
North and the Iran-Contras operation and then, as Secretary of
Defense for George Bush Sr, was the architect of the ‘sea blockade’ of
Colombia in January 1990. In this scenario, Secretary of State Colin
Powell would seem, at least at the beginning of the George W. Bush
administration, to be the least bellicose and the most moderate. Make
no mistake, however, they are all alike. Their mental structures and
codes of reference belong more to the Cold War than to globalization;
they are in essence more ideological than pragmatic; in general, they
are more right wing than centre; they seem to be more inclined to an
iron fist than deliberation; they tend more to the ominous threat of
force than prudent diplomacy; they look at the world through a classical
realistic prism, not through a generous idealistic lens; they are seeking
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economic primacy, military sufficiency and political unilaterality of the
United States to the detriment of balanced, multilateral, stable,
multipolar thinking.
The future of Colombian-US ties lies in the balances of power and
strategies of action of these actors and their respective bureaucracies.
In this regard, the future does not look very promising. The combined
effect of Washington’s Bogotá policies and the Colombian and Andean
situation on the inter-American system is evident. A future of more
war and abundance of drugs will only cause more violations of human
rights, more displaced persons, more militarization, more degradation
of the environment, more corruption and more drug trafficking, as
well as less investments, less stability, less governance, less security
and less growth in South America.
Hence, it is essential to systematically follow Washington’s Bogotá
policies. In 2001, the Bush administration submitted the Andean
Project, involving US$882.3 million for the fight against drugs, to the
US Congress for approval. This project, which was reduced to US$731
million in early 2002 as a result of changes introduced by the House of
Representatives and the Senate, combines some ‘carrot’ (US$291
million in economic and social aid) and a lot of ‘stick’ (US$440 million
in anti-drug and security aid), and reflects continuity between the
current administration and Bill Clinton’s administration, in terms of an
indirect but massive involvement in the Colombian crisis.
The new republican strategy has three basic aims: consolidate the
military-offensive aspect of Plan Colombia – Washington version –
‘Americanize’ the war on drugs in the north of South America and set
up a diplomatic-military cordon sanitaire around Colombia.11 On the
11. It is essential to understand the conceptual basis of the war on drugs promoted by
Washington. To do so one must consider US reasoning, not its rhetoric. Washington’s
actions in this issue are based on four suppositions: first, it assumes that demand
depends on supply, so it seeks to repress centres where drugs are grown, produced,
processed and trafficked. Second, it assumes that punitive treatment at the centres of
supply of the drugs is more effective in terms of effects (goals and accomplishments) and
resources (aid and budget). It is more advantageous for Washington’s cost-benefit
balance to concentrate anti-drugs efforts on centres of supply. Third, it assumes that
there will be multiple effects for producing countries from increased eradication of
illegal crops. Among others, it emphasizes the drop in price of the illegal crop in
production zones, reduced power of drug traffickers and containment of violence
generated by drug trafficking. And fourth, it assumes that there will be three types of
effect for consumer countries from increased eradication of illegal crops: less availability,
higher price and less potential purity of the drugs. It would be pertinent, therefore,
based on these suppositions, to evaluate the results of the policy based on this reasoning.
In this respect, it must be said that Colombia sprayed illegal crops with paraquat towards
the end of the administration of President Julio César Turbay (1978–82). Colombia
increased massive spraying during the administration of President Belisario Betancur
(1982–86), applying glifosato for marihuana and using garlon-4 for coca. Colombia
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one hand, it shows America’s persistent concern and obvious interest
in strengthening the military capacity of the Colombian State. On the
other, it aims to intensify a common punitive policy against drugs based
continued forced, chemical eradication of marihuana and coca during the administration of
President Virgilio Barco (1986–90). Colombia reinforced spraying of marihuana and coca
and began the destruction of poppy using glifosato during the administration of President
César Gaviria (1990–94). Colombia beat all national and international records in chemical
and manual eradication of illegal crops during the administration of President Ernesto
Samper (1994–98) and tried more toxic herbicides such as imazapyr and tebuthiuron. In
1998 alone, the Samper government (until August) and the administration of President
Andrés Pastrana (1998–2002) sprayed 66,083 hectares of coca and 2,931 hectares of
poppy and manually destroyed a further 3,126 hectares of coca, 181 hectares of poppy and
18 hectares of marihuana. The current government destroyed about 90,000 hectares of
coca between 1999 and 2000. Finally, Washington has been putting pressure on Bogotá
since 2000 to apply a dangerous fungus, Fusarium oxysporum, in the process of forced
eradication in Colombia. In spite of these efforts, the effects of chemical repression of
illegal crops have been very poor. As a matter of fact, in 1981 Colombia had 25,000
hectares planted with marihuana and coca. In March 2001 the annual US State Department
report on drugs (International Narcotics Report) indicated that Colombia had 138,000
hectares planted with coca alone. In 1990, production of heroine was insignificant; in 1996,
the country was already producing 63 metric tonnes, and today Colombia has surpassed
Mexico as the main supplier of heroine in the Hemisphere. Whereas in 1998 Colombia
produced 435 metric tonnes of cocaine, in 1999 it produced 520 metric tonnes and in 2000
it increased its production to 580 metric tonnes. In the 1980s, Colombia had an emerging
criminal class; today it is experiencing the consequences of wealthy, violent and defiant
narco-criminality. The Colombian situation, however, is neither exceptional nor extravagant. In spite of years of forced, chemical eradication of illicit plantations in the world,
according to the most recent report from the United Nations Office for Control of Drugs
and Prevention of Crime (Global Illicit Drug Trends 2000) coca plantations increased from
240,000 hectares in 1987 to 270,000 hectares in 1999, poppy plantations from 211,000 in
1988 to 217,000 in 1999. Meanwhile, in the 1990s, 120 countries reported the existence
of cannabis crops in their territories. In 1999, global production of heroine was 580
metric tonnes, of cocaine about 1,000 metric tonnes and of marihuana about 30,000 metric
tonnes. Figures from the main consumer markets can be added to these. In 1981, the price
of a gram of cocaine in the United States was US$191 and purity was 40%, whereas in 1999
the price was US$44 and purity 70%. In 1981, the price per gram of heroine was US$1,200
and purity 5%, whereas in 1999 the price was US$318 and purity 25%. Similarly, in Europe
the price of a gram of cocaine in 1999 was US$90 and of heroine US$98. In 2000, more
drugs of better quality and lower price were available in the United States and Europe. In
terms of demand, the situation in Europe shows worrying signs of increasing, while there
has been no definitive improvement in the United States where there are still almost 14
million consumers. The rate of growth of young cocaine users in the United States has
increased alarmingly since 1997. Consumption of marihuana among young people, which
had dropped towards the end of the 1980s, increased notably from 1992 to 1995 and
continues to be high. Concomitantly, total drug-related arrests (for consumption, sale,
distribution, manufacture, etc.) in the United States in 1990 were 1,089,500, whereas in
1996 they increased to 1,128,647. In 1990, the total percentage of federal prisoners jailed
for drug-trafficking-related offences was 53.5%, whereas in 1995 it was 59.9%. Compared
with the world’s most industrialized nations, today the United States has the largest
population of prisoners imprisoned for drug-related offences. In sum, Colombia has
already sprayed enough of its territory with substances that are harmful to the health of its
population and preservation of the environment, while the demand for drugs among US
citizens continues to rise and consumption of narcotics in Europe is on the increase. Any
additional chemical eradication promises more of the same – a pyrrhic victory that fails to
solve the essential problem of the drug business. The consequences will also be the same.
The highest costs of this prohibition will continue to be paid by the Colombians, and the
dividends of this lucrative business will continue to be laundered in banks in the United
States, the Caribbean, Switzerland and Monaco, among others.
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on militant prohibitionism in the area around Colombia. The full prohibitionist package tends to include – as it has already done in Colombia and Mexico – demands for more criminalization, militarization, spraying, interdiction and extradition. Finally, it seeks to co-opt Washington’s
allies (Panama, Ecuador and Bolivia), convince those who are ambiguous about Plan Colombia (Peru) and put pressure on opponents of
US strategy in dealing with drug trafficking and insurgency (Brazil and
Venezuela), forming a circle of contention and coercion around Colombia.
An analysis of the amounts, proportions and recipients of the
Andean Project corroborates the above. Colombia is the biggest
recipient with US$439 million, broken down into US$164 million
(37.3%) for economic and social aid and US$275 million (62.7%) for
anti-drugs and security aid. In addition to what Colombia will receive
as part of this Project, Bogotá will receive US$218.9 in military and
police aid as part of various items of the US budget for defence and
the fight against drugs. Hence, in 2003 the country will receive a total
of US$657.9 million in US aid (US$493.9 million for the ‘stick’ and
US$164 million for the ‘carrot’).12
The Andean Project also considers US$292 million for Colombia’s
neighbours, several of which are already receiving US$222.3 million of
the US$1,319 million of the current Plan Colombia. Peru, which, during
the Fujimori government, had maintained an ambivalent policy regarding
the Colombian crisis – they criticized President Pastrana for having
initiated a process of dialogue with the FARC and, at the same time,
sold the latter arms through the corrupt practices of Vladimiro
Montesinos, a CIA favourite for many years – will receive US$135
million. Bolivia, which has been supporting Plan Colombia, will get US$91
million. Ecuador, which has docilely accepted US anti-drugs policy in
the zone, will receive US$37 million of the Andean Project. Panama,
which has not seriously questioned Plan Colombia and which is the
weakest link in the increasingly more internationalized Colombian war,
will receive US$9 million.
Brazil and Venezuela, the two countries most reluctant to support
Washington in its Colombia strategy, will receive US$20 million. The
former will get US$12 million solely in anti-drugs and security aid.
Venezuela will receive US$8 million also earmarked for anti-drugs and
security aid.
12. For these data, please consult information in the Center for International Policy as
part of its Colombia Project (
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The Andean Project then reinforces Plan Colombia, consolidates a
view that concentrates repression of the lucrative drug business on
centres where drugs are grown, processed and trafficked, and
strengthens the potentially intervening fence around Colombia in the
event of an uncontrolled internal implosion.
In this context, a foreseeable US Colombian policy could consist of
two phases or components that are not necessarily exclusive. The
Bush government could further politicize the Colombian case; for
example, it could consider that the country’s real threat arises from
an economic, territorial and militarily strong insurgence, not just from
drug trafficking and organized crime. In fact, it would all be intermeshed:
guerrillas, terrorism, organized narco-criminality would be relatively
the same thing. It could also put pressure on the Andrés Pastrana
government to cease political dialogue with the FARC and concentrate
on military combat. In exchange, the United States would promise
more military, technical and intelligence aid. So as not to appear to be
sabotaging peace in Colombia, Washington would agree to the start of
talks with a weakened ELN. In short, this first phase would be cheap.
Colombians would shoot each other on the one hand and dialogue on
the other, while the United States would intervene indirectly with
more military aid, but no fatalities of its own.
If this component of the Colombian strategy were to fail, then a
second, more extensive phase would be drawn up. In this case, there
would be more intervention. It would begin with more sophisticated
use of military technology and interdiction – testing new weapons (as
was done in Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo), mass spraying of illicit crops,
capture of guerrillas, drug runners and paramilitary in other countries,
on the high seas or the country’s borders (Panama and Ecuador by
preference), increased presence of mercenaries disguised as private
security companies (as is already contemplated in US Plan Colombia),
increase of advisors on the field, etc. Greater, more military interference
in Colombian affairs would gradually be legitimized. To do so,
Washington would have to set up an ad hoc Latin American coalition
to support its strategy.
After 11 September
The infamous terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 on the twin
towers of the World Trade Center in New York and against the Pentagon in Washington marked the end of an era in world politics and
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announced the start of a new stage in international relations. The postCold War ended tragically and symbolically. This hiatus of only a decade between the lengthy Cold War and a future scheme of things
that is just beginning to emerge ended in a worrying fashion.
George W. Bush immediately reported the start of a ‘new war’,
whose main characteristics will be its unconventional nature, its almost
unlimited length, worldwide scope and destructive purpose. Two
aspects must be underlined in this presentation, which was fulfilled in
the counter-attack on Afghanistan. First of all, the perspective of a ‘day
after the war’ in which victors proclaim their victory and a new order
is structured is no more. Since Washington, and not the UN Security
Council, communicated the start of the ‘war against terrorism’, the
United States reserves the right to tell the world when the goal of this
military confrontation has been accomplished. In this respect, it must
be noted that countries which act based on opportunist reasoning,
seeking presumed dividends from their support of the United States,
are making a mistake – conviction, not opportunism, will be eventually
rewarded when the elusive end of terrorism is achieved.
Secondly, Bush’ argument erased the distinction between war and
peace. If the war against terrorism is unlimited in time and geography,
then peace wanes in the midst of a constant war. We would then be
in a period of Hot Peace. The Cold War between two superpowers,
the United States and the Soviet Union, had very precise rules of the
game and little likelihood of developing into a direct, massive conflict.
The Hot Peace between multiple states, illegal transnational groups
and rebellious forces that resort to indiscriminate violence lacks any
rules and has a high probability of causing an unlimited number of
The summons to an international ‘war against terrorism’ makes
one wonder how to cope with a non-traditional conflict. Terrorism
expresses the existence of an asymmetrical conflict, in which,
paradoxically, the less powerful actor has the most advantages. The
latter chooses instrument, place, moment and objective of the action.
As did many other countries, the United States coexisted with this
asymmetrical condition. In fact, the strategy against international
terrorism practised by Washington during the last three lustrums was
inserted into the complex dynamics of asymmetry. The architect of
this strategy was the father of the current President of the United
States, George Bush, who, as Vice-President in the Ronald Reagan
administration, headed the Task Force on Combating Terrorism in
1985. The report’s conclusions guided US public policies from 1986
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to September 2001. Its four main tenets were: terrorism was a ‘potential threat to national security’ of the United States; states which
harboured terrorism should suffer the ‘consequences’ of that decision;
Washington would not make any ‘concessions’ to terrorism; and the
government of the United States would combat it ‘without sacrificing
basic freedoms or putting democratic principles at risk’.
After the attacks of 11 September, the way of dealing with the
asymmetric conflict has become the centre of a worldwide controversy.
Two alternatives now stand out. One model, which seems to be
favoured by the administration of Bush Jr, is to achieve symmetry
with the opponent. The basic aim is to make international terrorism,
now defined as a lethal threat to national security, impractical. This
aspiration means that the more powerful party becomes as perfidious
as the weaker one. This does not just involve improving the ability to
garner good intelligence, increase worldwide cooperation in the fight
against terrorism, impose more sanctions on states that harbour
international terrorism and ostracize those who foster terrorist groups.
It also involves reducing public freedoms in the interests of possibly
greater security, legitimizing clandestine murders and destruction in
advance of people suspected of terrorism, ignoring rules of international
law on human rights issues and privatizing the combat against terrorist
groups. The foreseeable consequence would be a cutback on
democracy inside and outside the United States. The Huntington of
the ‘waves of democracy’, not of the ‘clash of civilizations’, would have
been correct: democratic progress can be stopped and even reverted.
The ‘third wave of democracy’ that Huntington talked about would
fade away in the sands of the ‘war on terrorism’.
A second model considered by European experts, for example,
would aim at overcoming the asymmetry in a longer, not so immediate,
period of time and using means that are not exclusively repressive.
The idea in this case would be to make terrorism improbable,
unnecessary and illegitimate. This would require dissuasion,
development and dialogue. Military and police dissuasion obviously
belong to the sphere of the state and imply more prevention, more
intelligence and more sophistication. The effect of dissuasion is to make
terrorist behaviour improbable.
Political, social and economic development involves the state and
the private sector. If one wants to make terrorism unnecessary, the
specific living conditions of millions of people need to be improved,
both in the Arab world and on the periphery, and a just answer to the
specific cause of Palestinians needs to be achieved. Finally, dialogue
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belongs to the non-state sphere of action – NGOs, parties, churches,
youth, among many others. There urgently needs to be more
communication between cultures, religions and civilizations and these
need to be brought closer together to make resorting to terrorism an
illegitimate act. The potential consequence of this alternative could be
the gradual, effective reduction of terrorism in the framework of a
moderate democratizing process with greater global scope.
Now, regardless of the model that prevails in dealing with
asymmetrical conflicts, the strategic scenario for Colombia changed
drastically after 11 September. Colombia became the main referent of
hemispheric insecurity. And Colombians will have increasingly less time
to define their armed conflict in political terms and will be put under
increasing pressure to redefine it in criminal terms. Either a basic space
to reinitiate a very different type of negotiation with a Marxist guerrilla
movement, which preserves its status as political interlocutor, is
maintained, or conditions to foster a basically military war against a
terrorist enemy of any ideological persuasion are consolidated.
In foreign terms, the limits and scope of one or the other option
for Colombia will be decided by three elements. First of all, the final
results of US military action in Afghanistan will have to be evaluated. In
addition to a massive attack with enormous deployment of technology,
we will probably witness a new kind of armed confrontation that
combines elements of a conventional war and of a guerrilla war in the
framework of an extended operation. If this exercise in force is
successful in terms of objectives accomplished – break-up of terrorist
enclaves – and of legitimacy achieved – its proportion and precision
are widely supported throughout the world – it might possibly be
tried in other countries identified as fertile territories for terrorism.
Secondly, debates about Plan Colombia in Washington, after the
first phase of the counter-attack against international terrorism initiated
by the United States has been completed, will have to be analysed
carefully. In this respect, it is not unlikely that Plan Colombia should
cease to be an anti-drug plan, as requested by the Executive and
approved by the Legislative in 2000, and become an anti-terrorist plan
whose more explicit purpose would be to combat the FARC and the
ELN, and even the ultra-right-wing United Self-Defense Forces of
Colombia (AUC).
Thirdly, the use of the Interamerican Defense Treaty (TIAR) revived
by the OAS Resolution of 21 September in support of the United
States will have to be evaluated. Much reflection must be given to the
unexpected revival of this 1947 treaty, especially with regard to its
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Articles 3 and 6 on what the Consulting Body considers to be an
attack on members of the inter-American system of defence and on
state aggressions that do not constitute an armed attack, which could
possibly be invoked in the event that the Colombian crisis worsens
and gets out of control.
Two questions arise in this respect. On the one hand, if Colombia
does not make progress in settling its armed conflict, the country will
definitely be subject to external forces and factors beyond its control.
On the other hand, if South America maintains its current disdain
with regard to the Colombian case, the implacable logic of the ‘war on
terrorism’ will cross the threshold into the heart of the subcontinent.
From the Philippines to Colombia?
Whenever a process of negotiation involving an armed conflict in
search of power breaks down, the non-combatant civilian population
loses out and the hard men on either side impose their terms. The
Israeli-Palestinian example is an eloquent one. Colombia is not an
exception. The end of the dialogue between the government and FARC
in this corner of South America in February 2002 heralded the arrival
of the time of the hawks. Nobody is thinking now of sitting down to
talk again, but on how to intensify the war.
On one side, there are segments of the establishment, a sector of
the political class, the armed forces and paramilitary groups. On the
other side, the most intransigent groups within the guerrillas are
reasserting their warlike attitudes. A fraction of the elite – especially
cattle ranchers, big landowners and the nouveau riche from drug
trafficking – feel that this is not a time for social reforms, but rather for
taking the country on a crusade against insurgency. Part of the political
class – liberalism linked to presidential candidate Alvaro Uribe and
more orthodox conservatism, for example – seem to be betting on a
firmer policy. Most of the armed forces will be thinking that, with
massive military support from Washington and considering the
tiredness of citizens in the face of a process of dialogue that made no
progress in three years, they will now have sufficient internal and
external support and sufficient political autonomy to defeat ‘communist
subversion’. The paramilitary will see that nobody is stopping them
and that they have been given a blank cheque to not only contain the
guerrillas but also bring back their regional influence by means of
atrocious massacres and murders.
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The guerrillas, in turn, will increase their less ‘revolutionary’ practices. Kidnappings of civilians, blackmailing of companies in their area
of influence, resorting to the drug business and indiscriminate attacks
on urban centres will increase. In this context, the war in Colombia
will be based on ever-fewer principles and the time for peace will be
postponed for when all the bands are exhausted or further
In this context, the role played by the United States is crucial. When
the process of negotiations in Colombia between the Pastrana
government and the FARC broke down, various different scenarios
to understand the direction that the armed conflict in Colombia would
take, and Washington’s policy in that regard, were proposed. For some,
the most probable image would be that of Viet Nam – the United
States directly involved in an internal war in a South American country.
For others, the possible image would be that of El Salvador –
Washington offering massive aid and intervening indirectly in the
country’s crisis. For others, the most conceivable image is that of
Rwanda – warlords involved in an atrocious conflict, and tardy
interference by the United States on humanitarian grounds.
These images could be true, but they are inserted in a typical Cold
War or post-Cold War outlook; they fail to consider the changes that
occurred in US foreign and defence policy after 11 September 2001.
From now on, the war in Colombia will be identified by Washington
within the framework of a worldwide fight against terrorism. In this
respect, the best comparison for Colombia is not Afghanistan, but the
The ‘war on terrorism’, begun energetically against Afghanistan and
headed in increasing solitude by the United States, now has a new
confrontational scenario in the Philippines. Presidents George W. Bush
and Gloria Arroyo agreed to send 650 US soldiers to support the
Philippine armed forces in their fight against the Abu Sayyaf (‘Bearer of
the Sword’ in Arabic) armed movement.
Five characteristics of Washington’s direct military involvement in
Philippine anti-insurgency policy need to be underlined. First, Abu Sayyaf
is identified as being closely linked to international terrorism, in this
particular case with strong connections with al-Qaeda. Second, Abu
Sayyaf normally resorts to kidnapping, even of American citizens. Third,
military clashes will be concentrated geographically in the country’s
southern area. Fourth, the actions to be taken by the US contingent
will not imply fighting against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and
the National Democratic Front, as specified by the Philippine
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Government. And, fifth, the United States will furnish US$100 million
to create a special Philippine anti-terrorist force.
The Colombian case, where Washington’s Plan Colombia authorizes
the presence of up to 500 US advisors and subcontracting private
security firms (formerly known as mercenaries), has very similar
symbolic and practical characteristics. First, the FARC is very often
presented as a movement with links to international terrorism – the
IRA, for example, among others. Second, the FARC is the group that
undertakes the most kidnappings. Third, the FARC controlled but has
now abandoned the goodwill zone granted by the government in 1998,
but still exercises de facto control over the south of the country and
has done so for lustrums. Fourth, progress in talks with the ELN could
lead the Colombian Government not to request direct military aid
from Washington to combat this movement and, thereby, focus the
fight on the FARC. And, fifth, the White House has just asked Congress
for US$98 million in aid so that US troops can train Colombian armed
forces in protecting the country’s infrastructure.
Given these similarities, the obvious questions hinge on who will
be the Colombian Gloria Arroyo; what will be the diplomatic
implications of increased direct military involvement by the United
States in Colombia; what does this situation mean in terms of
depoliticizing the armed conflict and subsequent definitive
criminalization of the FARC; and whether Colombian armed forces
will become a rearguard for an armed US contingent.
A brief final reflection
In short, for Colombia not to become a testing ground for methods
of military intervention, our countries – especially those in South
America – must assume a leading role in resolving the Colombian crisis
by diplomatic means. The country now needs and deserves the type
of political solidarity that prevailed with regard to Central America in
the Contadora Group, not the military arrogance displayed by NATO
in Kosovo, nor the lucubrations which led to invoking the InterAmerican Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance and much less the probability
that the more recalcitrant sectors in Washington should set up an
additional scenario of the ‘war against terrorism’ in South America.
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This paper is a reflection on the conditions of poverty being
experienced by Bolivian society, as well as on the factors that prevent
progress from being made in solving this structural and historical
problem. It also analyses the modest results achieved in this regard at
a time when democracy is being consolidated and the state is being
modernized, although still in an insufficient and much questioned
manner. One of its most important conclusions is the lack of a state
policy to cope integrally with poverty, as well as the absence of a social
pact that asserts the legitimacy of the state in mounting its strategies.
Even though poverty may be a necessary condition for stimulating
a climate of violence, insecurity and conflict, it is no less true that
other important factors must be taken into account, such as, for
example, unresolved historical and socio-economic patterns, the quality
1. Sociologist. Member of the National History Committee and Bolivian Strategic Studies
Program. Specializes in security and defence institutions and social conflict.
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of democratic governance and its effects on public opinion, as well as
those external variables which a precarious, unintegrated,
uncompetitive national economy with an enormous deficit in modern
technology has difficulty in controlling.
One of the effects of the unfavourable structural conditions that the
country has been experiencing for some time is the citizen security crisis.
Even considering its origins in precarious living conditions, low degree of
social integration and loss of social capital in a free market economy, the
truth of the matter is that the state is dramatically losing its ability to
exercise legitimate monopoly over forces of law and order. The loss of
legitimacy, effectiveness and response capability of judicial and police
institutions set up to protect citizens is explained by the increase in
violence, criminality and social self-protection, as well as also the increase
in private security and the alarming access of marginal populations to private
justice. In this context, one of the major problems faced by society is its
defencelessness in the face of crime, caused in part by the collapse of the
state security model and especially by the chronic inability of the police to
prevent, control and repress criminal acts.
Approaches to poverty in Bolivia
Poverty is one of the most complex problems faced by Bolivian
society at the beginning of this century. The poverty problem, which
the state has still not addressed with proposed solutions that are in
line with its social and economic magnitude, is a critical disruptive
element for democratic governance and human development. Similarly,
it is one of the factors causing asymmetric conditions in the process
of integration, besides casting a shadow of uncertainty over the stability
and security of the region.
The poverty problem has been subjected to numerous evaluations
and investigations in a continuous attempt to identify its causality. These
have progressed from unilateral approaches that treat the problem
based on insufficient income (poverty line), passing through multicausal factors linked to education (incremental illiteracy and school
enrolment rates), lack of access to basic utilities (suitable housing,
health, potable water and basic sewerage). Other approaches take into
account criteria linked to more general privations, such as the lack of
opportunity to achieve greater citizen participation.2
2. Various authors, Las políticas sobre la pobreza en Bolivia. Dimensión, políticas y
resultados (1985–1999), La Paz, PRISMA Institute, 2000.
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Poverty, Social Conflict and Citizen Insecurity ...
Juan Ramón Quintana
From a government perspective, poverty in Bolivia is considered
to be the expression of the lack of opportunities to obtain resources
which would supply basic needs, especially to guarantee a minimum
level of consumption and basic utilities. Consequently, its causes would
be related to economic, social and cultural factors. This is associated
with macro-economic instability, low growth rates and increased
inequality. In this context, an unstable economy lowers the income of
the poor, and low growth rates reduce job opportunities.
Some experts maintain that three factors have conditioned the lack
of development and high poverty prevalent in Bolivia: geophysical
conditions, social organization and economic policies.3 This approach
claims that, in addition to the crisis and collapse of the state economic
model of the 1980s, plus the adverse effects of the structural reforms
implemented since 1985, there is also the problem of unequal
economic development caused largely by geographical variables. The
main conclusion reached is that, in addition to insufficient economic
development and unequal distribution of income and opportunities,
high poverty is associated basically with low returns on investments
resulting from poor agricultural yields and work performance.
Population distribution, with greater concentration in rural areas and
limited contribution to gross domestic product, the low degree of
technological development, the problem of land ownership and erosion
are considered to be obstacles to improved productivity. Likewise,
heavily sloping land and precarious fertility of the soil severely threaten
development of the country’s agriculture and livestock.4
In general, causes of poverty in Bolivia would be associated with:
(a) concentrating, exclusive pattern of socio-economic development,
driven by exports of raw materials and unchanged for more than a
century; (b) historical persistence of notions entertained by the ruling
classes that the country contains an abundance of natural resources,
while, in fact, the opposite is true; (c) presence of physical and
institutional obstacles which make it difficult to incorporate production
technologies capable of maintaining a sustained increase in levels of
agricultural productivity in the country’s western zone.5 Despite
numerous studies, there are no unanimous, trustworthy indicators
that can be used to measure this situation.
3. See Anaya Rolando Morales, Bolivia. Política económica, geografía y pobreza, La Paz,
Universidad Andina Simón Bolivar, 2000.
4. Morales, op. cit.
5. See Las políticas sobre la pobreza …, op. cit.
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Over and above the multiple, complex causes which occasion the
precarious living conditions of the population, the fact is that Bolivia
occupies one of the lowest positions on the scale of Human
Development in Latin America. It is above Haiti and in a similar position
to Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador. With an average annual per
capita income of US$925, most Bolivians live below the poverty line.
Although it is no consolation, however, the country’s levels of inequality
in income distribution are lower than most Latin American countries.
Two-thirds of the population is classified as poor, and more than twothirds has a daily income of less than US$2 per person. Furthermore,
about a third of the population lives in conditions of chronic poverty,
while the next third shows symptoms of deteriorating income or
employment levels.
The country is in a much more critical situation than in the 1960s
or 1970s, yet some significant progress has been made. Human
development indicators have improved in the last three decades.
According to the UNDP Report on Human Development in Bolivia
1998, together with another thirty-four countries in the world, Bolivia
has climbed from a low level of development to a medium one. Life
expectancy increased from 42.7 to 59.7 years, illiteracy dropped from
43% to 18% and per capita income in relation to purchasing power
parity of the dollar increased from US$650 to US$1,142.6
One of the major obstacles to tackling poverty is the non-existence
of a state policy. Since 1985, governments have targeted several
strategies which have not made sufficient impact to revert social
indicators. Furthermore, without adequate analysis because of a lack
of statistics and trustworthy information to guide definition of such a
policy, recommendations made by international cooperation were
adhered to in a disciplined manner. The latter’s approaches have been
as heterogeneous as erratic government proposals.
Over the last four years, the government has insisted on
implementing a drastic policy of foreign debt reduction in order to
renegotiate terms and conditions and volumes of national resources
flowing to the international financial community every year. This strategy
was also used to give continuity to the free market economic model,
for the impact of the crisis in the early 1980s, typified by hyperinflation
and a fall in prices of ore, coupled with the foreign sector crisis, drastically
reduced social investment. To compensate for the cost of this
readjustment, stabilization policies and government reforms,
6. See Informe de desarrollo humano en Bolivia 1998, La Paz, United Nations
Development Programme, 1998.
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Poverty, Social Conflict and Citizen Insecurity ...
Juan Ramón Quintana
governments promoted social policies based on the creation of Emergency Funds (FSE), Social Investment Funds (FIS) and Peasant Development Funds (FDC). Currently a Single Fund Committee (DUF)
operates; its purpose is to promote decentralization of public sector
investments and resources from international cooperation by poverty
lines. The DUF is made up of regional and national investment funds.
As some studies show, despite promotion of social investments to
compensate for the readjustment, poverty’s structural roots were not
attacked and, even though wages recovered, they failed to rise to the
levels achieved in previous decades.
Creation of the funds was backed by international financial agencies,
but they were criticized as well. One such criticism stated that, because
the funds were not coordinated with social sectors and with income
distribution, they did not achieve the desired success because they
were not targeted on vulnerable sectors. The most severe criticism
stated that what should have been done instead of trying to compensate
for the effects of the readjustment was to protect the income of the
As a result of these criticisms, since the early 1990s policies in the
fight against poverty have been focused on vulnerable populations
(targeting), especially on mother-child couples. Investments were also
geared towards social sectors with the greatest incidence on the
population’s conditions of reproduction and towards two areas
considered to be the most important for reducing poverty – education
and health. Social investments in the 1990s increased considerably
compared with the 1980s.8
Even though first-generation reforms managed to stabilize the
economy (1985–93), reduce fiscal deficit and remove the state from
business activities to give way to private enterprise, second-generation
reforms (1993–97) were aimed at modernizing the country by
promoting growth whose centre of gravity was focused on a policy of
capital formation. Similarly, an attempt was made to correct regional
imbalances and unequal investments by redistributing income via the
Law of Popular Participation. To that end, 312 municipalities were
created and began an aggressive process of social investments.
Correspondingly, municipalities and prefectures were assigned the task
of administering decentralized educational reform and health and social
security policies. Together with these reforms, an attempt was made
7. See Morales, op. cit.
8. Ibid.
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to implement a novel policy of subsidies for people over 65 through
the BONOSOL (Solidarity Bonus). These resources come from
distributing profits theoretically generated by pension fund
administrators (AFP).
Despite the progress made, the government that came into power
in 1997 made a series of changes to the state modernization
programme. It designed a new government project to fight poverty
based on the following four central issues. Opportunity to promote
economic growth, which includes strengthening the financial system,
systems of regulation, micro-credits, foreign trade, road infrastructure
and rural power supply. Dignity as a strategy for fighting drug trafficking
on four fronts: alternative development, interdiction, eradication of
the coca leaf and prevention of consumption. Institutionalization with
a view to strengthening governance, access to and modernization of
the legal system and the fight against corruption. Finally, equity, as a
series of strategic actions to promote social and human development.
This includes strongly promoting education, health, basic sewerage,
rural development, utilities and gender perspectives.
The catastrophic administration of President Banzer (1997–2001)
put paid to any plans to fight poverty. Contrary to expectations, the
country was embroiled in one of the most turbulent historical cycles
of social conflict of recent decades, caused by the crisis of governance,
corruption and the ineptitude of government bureaucracy. The only
success achieved in four years of government, before Banzer’s
resignation, was the fight against drugs.
Despite the difficulties faced by democratic governments, social
investment in education and health improved qualitatively in relation
to the 1960s and 1970s. In relation to GDP, education increased from
3.7% to 4.5% and health from 1.8% to 3.1%. Illiteracy rates dropped
from 36.8% in 1976 to 20% in 1992 and 15.9% in 1996. Global health
indicators also improved considerably. The infant mortality rate
dropped from 150 per thousand in 1976 to 67 per thousand in 1998.
Similarly, vaccination coverage in children from 10 to 13 years old
surpassed 10 percentage points. Institutional care of pregnancy and
birth improved from 52.5% to 69%.9 Housing indices have not suffered
any major changes. Electricity coverage in rural areas is very low, and
almost a third of the population does not have access to potable water.
A third of the population does not have access to a radio to keep
informed. Of course, the digital disparity in Bolivia is dramatic.
9. See National Demographic and Health Survey (ENDSA), National Institute of Statistics,
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Reports for 1997 from the government unit of social and policy
analysis (UDAPE) stated that almost 59% of homes were under the
poverty line and 32% did not have enough income to even cover a
basic food basket. Poverty in urban areas dropped from 49% to 47%,
and extreme poverty was reduced from 22% to 20%. In contrast, the
percentage of homes in rural areas living in conditions of poverty and
extreme poverty has not changed between 1993 and 1997. Poverty
affects 76% of the population and extreme poverty 50%.10
In March 2001, the government submitted the Bolivian Poverty
Reduction Strategy (EBRB) to international cooperation with a view to
drastically reducing its foreign debt (Debt Reduction Initiative Additional
to the Initiative for Highly Indebted Poor Countries, HIPC I and II)
with creditor countries. This relief will allow the country to reinvest
resources in development. Agreements reached with the international
community will allow more than US$1,500 million to be invested in
the next fifteen years. A second component of the strategy is linked
to domestic efforts, especially maintaining fiscal balance.
Correspondingly, policies of institutionalization are being implemented
in tax collection and control of contraband, as well as in the tax regime.
The third component of the strategy has to do with access to markets,
improving competitiveness, fighting corruption and strengthening public
authorities, especially the legal system.
Legal support for the EBRP consists of the National Dialogue Law, a
public instrument of consent agreed to by social, political and economic
actors in round-table discussions. This law defines criteria for
distributing the resources from HIPC II, determines procedures for
implementing the policy of compensation, establishes social control
mechanisms and sets up regular national round-table discussions. The
latter will serve as a constant, vital mechanism of social participation,
evaluation of strategy and verification of its impact on the reduction of
poverty. The pivotal aspects on which this strategy turns are
decentralization, strengthening of the institutional framework,
development of production and social investments. The instruments
for executing it will be the country’s 312 municipalities, whose centre
of gravity will be geared towards developing their production capacity,
infrastructure, investments in health, housing and education, as well
as implementing environmental policies. The government plans to invest
US$4,149 million from 2001 to 2006.
10. See Bolivia: perspectiva económica y social 2000 – 2010. Unidad de Análisis de
Política Económica (UDAPE), Cuadernos de Futuro No. 10, La Paz, UNDP, 2000.
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In sum, the need has been established to invest resources in increasing job and income opportunities for the poor population, developing production capacity and increasing protection and security of
the poor. Similarly, plans have been made to improve social participation, maintain transversal policies and strengthen institutional capabilities.
There are several proposals for overcoming current conditions of
poverty in Bolivia that are in line with the heterogeneity of social
diagnoses. These can be summarized in four general lines of action:
the government proposes (a) increasing job and income opportunities,
(b) raising poverty indices, (c) reducing vulnerability, and (d) promoting
participation.11 The academic community maintains that they must:
1. Direct their efforts towards sustained economic growth, setting up
access to markets in developed countries, executing actions to resolve
the problem of access to the sea and developing a systematic strategy
geared towards optimizing mechanisms of regional integration;
2. Transform the rural land ownership system in the Andean area;
3. Reconsider production capacities of the Altiplano;
4. Focus on pockets of ‘hard’ poverty by means of multisectoral actions
and direct efforts towards migration programmes;
5. Evaluate school and health infrastructure programmes to optimize
their use;
6. Stress qualification of education and health services, accelerate
educational reform;
7. Carry out a strict follow-up of the debt-relief programme;
8. Eliminate political interference in development programmes and
9. Improve social statistics as a state policy and support independent
Finally, independent experts suggest that it is imperative to combine
poverty and development. To that end, they propose:
1. Promote economic growth and access to jobs, make available good
quality land, access to credit, technology and markets, increase
production infrastructure;
2. In the field of human development, increase supply and demand for
education, health, water, environmental clean-up, from a perspective
of equity and efficiency;
11. UDAPE, Bolivia: perspectiva …, op. cit.
12 Various authors, Las políticas sobre la pobreza …, op. cit.
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Poverty, Social Conflict and Citizen Insecurity ...
Juan Ramón Quintana
3. Promote citizen development, popular participation, fight cultural
and gender discrimination and improve government performance. In
terms of economic policies, increase returns on investments, redefine
public spending and encourage competition. In terms of public sector
policies, defend the environment, guarantee equal access opportunities
to productive employment and basic utilities, strengthen municipal
m anagem ent and improve adm inistrationofjusti13
More qualitative fieldwork carried out in direct consultation with
the people and with support from the World Bank offers a more wideranging perspective on the problem of poverty.14 Those consulted
believed that problems of poverty, quality of living and well-being were
closely linked to the concept of well-being, social priorities, operation
of institutions and the precarious situation of women. They thought
that the economic problem was the basic cause, but that it was
insufficient to explain the miserable situation and lack of well-being.
Similarly, the urban area population associated well-being with job
security, while the rural population placed more emphasis on producing
enough. There was a strong demand for justice, expressed in terms of
unity, not exclusion. It was assumed that exclusion of communities,
especially rural ones, was a condition favouring vulnerability and,
consequently, people believed that the possibility of living in a
community was a basic condition for their security. Those consulted
admitted the need to combine individual efforts, outside help and a
favourable environment in order to overcome poverty. Work was
not enough to break the vicious circle, so people considered that
transgenerational conditions needed to be accumulated because
poverty could not be solved in the short term. People pointed out
that poverty was caused by a complex set of mutually reinforcing
People also asserted that their living conditions were worse now
than before and that, even though conditions in terms of education
and health services were better, that was not enough because of the
prevailing need to work as a family. Public institutions were seen to
lack legitimacy and to act in a discriminatory fashion. Faced with the
exclusion shown by the state, people preferred to take refuge in their
families and to strengthen community ties. The question of gender
was of course basic to the problem of poverty. In recent times, women
13. See Anaya Rolando Morales, op. cit.
14. See Consultando con los pobres. Reporte de síntesis nacional, La Paz, World Bank,
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had acquired more responsibilities, especially work-related, but
inversely they received less benefit than men. Domestic violence was
seen to have increased dramatically and the family was not exactly the
best place to guarantee the safety of women and children.
Obstacles to and potentials for development and human
Bolivia currently faces a complex scenario of social, economic,
political and cultural conflict that has built up over time. The evil
consequences of poverty are the most critical factors that put a brake
on efforts to progress towards human development and security. It
would seem that neither the 1952 Revolution, which significantly
disrupted old post-colonial structures, nor the structural reforms
implemented since 1985, have been enough to qualitatively improve
levels of development. Studies of human development in Bolivia
undertaken by the United Nations offer an illustration of the obstacles
to achieving reasonable standards of growth and human security.
The current situation consists of a set of unresolved paradoxes.
Social understanding of human development is focused on a strong
demand for modernity, but lacks political leadership based on values
associated with the common good. There is a demand for greater social
integration, but equal opportunities do not exist. The demand for
decent employment is made in a context of recession, low wages and
job flexibility. The state’s bureaucratic structure is required to work
better, but its operations are anchored in corrupt practices of
patronage on dubious legal ground. There is a strong sense of national
frustration, and its effects encourage commitments to conservative
government trends, especially when the sense of citizen insecurity,
violence and public disturbances are set against the erratic answers
received from the government.16 According to studies undertaken by
the UNDP, there are three basic obstacles in this context: social
disparities, institutional weakness and the competitiveness factor.17
15. This section is based on the UNDP Report on Human Development in Bolivia 1998
(Informe de desarrollo …, op cit.).
16. See Mitchel A. Seligson, La cultura política de la democracia boliviana, La Paz,
Pittsburgh University/Encuestas & Estudios, 1998 and 2000.
17. Informe de desarrollo …, op. cit.
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Poverty, Social Conflict and Citizen Insecurity ...
Juan Ramón Quintana
Reports on social disparities show that, despite the progress made
in the last twenty years, differences in rural and urban development
indicators have been maintained. The poorer the department, the larger
the gap between country and town. Similarly, gender inequalities
continue, showing that women’s levels of human development are
lower than men’s. One of the constant indicators is level of income:
when it comes to wages, women receive on average a third less than
men. Differences in development by province remain constant. In many
cases, the gap in the Human Development Index (HDI) between
Andean and eastern regions is abysmal. Some eastern provinces
evidence a level of development similar to the average of developed
countries, while that of Andean provinces is close to the poorest
countries in Africa.
This social asymmetry interferes with, and in many cases creates
obstacles for, social mobility. Social mobility and public prestige are
essential for promoting human development. In this respect, differences
in regional and provincial development by gender and income
contribute to generating cultural intolerance. Persistent discrimination
prevents changes in the social and economic situation of the population.
Although no precise records exist, it would seem that less-developed
social sectors harbour greater feelings of frustration and misfortune.
The difficulty in acceding to resources would also seem to heighten
intolerance. The less resources available for regions, municipalities and
communities, the more limited are the possibilities for dialogue. Hence,
social conflict is not only activated by obstacles that prevent access to
resources, but also by the frustration caused by failure to comply
with negotiated agreements. As the UNDP report states, closing social
gaps requires among other factors that people understand them and
mobilize to overcome them.18
Another obstacle lies in the level of competitiveness. Competitive
prospects are clearly critical. Bolivia is placed last among seventy-five
countries in the latest World Economic Forum Report. There is
absolute imbalance between assets and liabilities in this field. The
country’s liabilities are associated with low growth of GDP and industrial
production, low public debt-equity ratio, poor road infrastructure,
reduced capacity for technological innovation, high unemployment and
a cumulative deficit in education. Crossing competitive factors by
department or municipality will produce the same negative results.
Statistically, there is a low correlation in Bolivia between competitiveness
and human development.
18. Informe de desarrollo, op. cit.
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Competitiveness, which is impossible to avoid given the force of
globalization and the processes of regional trade integration, requires
an in-depth transformation of education and training of human
resources. At the same time, building an efficient institutional
framework, which not only guarantees investments but also
strengthens society’s production capacity, is essential.
A third factor is institutional. It has been proven that this variable
acts interdependently with human development. Without a stable,
sustainable institutional culture, without state public policies and with
only a low degree of citizen participation in public decisions, there is
little likelihood of progress in building competitive conditions. The
country must qualitatively change its democratic culture and, especially,
improve its social capital. In other words, it must raise the level of
availability of society to participate actively in a common project. It is
essential that democracy should become a public good experienced
by all. For it to do so, freedoms must be exercised more, citizens must
acquire a great capacity to join together and, crucially, mechanisms of
negotiation and alternative solutions to conflicts and disputes must be
Unfortunately, the economic crisis tends to break the fabric of
family and community, introducing a good deal of frustration and social
disenchantment. Together with social capital, proactive mechanisms
to encourage social trust, equality and tolerance must be encouraged.
Societies such as ours fail to properly take advantage of the
opportunities arising from cultural and ethnic diversity. In fact, the
opposite is true, and, because of underlying intolerance and
discrimination in urban and rural spheres of power, this diversity has
become an additional factor of conflict. In this respect, the weight of
colonial influence on our society – so prone to establish territories,
highlight ethnic differences and exclusion – has not been overcome,
although significant progress has been made.
The institutional framework is one of the major problems that
political elites must solve. In this respect, political parties continue
with ancient patrimonial methods of patronage. Failure to fulfil electoral
promises, inadequate functioning of the legislature and the loss of
equilibrium and independence of public authorities contribute to
frustration and disenchantment with democracy. Similarly, party shields
in the face of illicit acts obstruct the course of justice, corrupt public
values and socialize practices of impunity, besides voiding the ethical,
egalitarian sense of the law.
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Faced with this triad of obstacles, education has become one of the
main strategies to see the light of day. Education must be conceived as
one of the plausible means for improving inclusiveness of the people,
optimizing production capacity and encouraging citizen participation
and representation in public authorities.
Notwithstanding the limitations mentioned above, Bolivian society
has enormous expectations that it will change its low degree of human
development. As the UNDP report states, subjectivity is the key to
starting a process of interdependence that is proactive with human
development. 19 One of the main challenges faced by future
governments is changing the past accumulation of pessimistic
subjectivity. In this respect, Bolivia has socio-cultural assets that can
contribute to improving the situation. One of these assets is the ability
of the Bolivian community, especially the Andean community, to
organize itself, mobilize and demand liability from public authorities. A
large part of the population is registered in some kind of social
organization from which people work or mobilize for different
purposes. Another Bolivian asset is a sensitivity to dialogue and the
search for concertation, notwithstanding demonstrations of violence
and social unrest. Despite economic, political and social difficulties,
the community has a high degree of mutual sociability and trust.
Bolivia is characterized by its tendency to live as a community. As
in few societies, community living is admitted to be an important
strategy for collectively overcoming difficulties arising from frustration
and poverty. Appreciation of dialogue as a means of resolving conflicts
is another attribute that can be used as a starting point for progressing
towards development. Unless bridges of dialogue are built, there is
little likelihood of overcoming poverty. Dialogue and the desire to be
heard contribute to solving problems, designing strategies, questioning
concentration of power and limiting its authoritarian tendency. Finally,
the community is extremely appreciative of the possibilities of
overcoming poverty on a local scale. Its ability to mobilize and participate
in social organizations supports this assertion. People believe that
poverty can be overcome when the community is organized into small
groups with the participation of public authorities.
19. Informe de desarrollo …, op. cit.
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Democratic government and social conflict: From unstable
equilibrium to constant conflict
Almost two decades have not been enough to forge a climate of
democratic governance, consolidation and construction of a new state
pact in Bolivia. Past instability continues to throw a shadow over the
present. The conflict between state and society has become a constant,
which over time has eroded democratic values and social aspirations.
The country is extremely vulnerable and fragile in institutional terms.
At the same time, the quality of life of the population does not seem to
improve. So much so that, when there is a major social and political
crisis, the Roman Catholic Church and non-state mediators, such as
the Permanent Assembly on Human Rights (PAHR), take over
negotiations from the government. As a result of its cumulative
frustrations since it became a republic, Bolivian society is on the verge
of conflict as never before. This situation is fed by the force of
globalization and the prevalence of a liberal economic model which
lays bare the structural backwardness of a precariously integrated
society. Even though conflicts between state and society no longer
imply mutual destruction or the logic of war, this does not mean that
economic and human costs are any less than in the past. On the
contrary, the recurrence, intensity and expansion of social conflict in
Bolivia, in proportion to its economy, production capacity and
infrastructure, have irreversible effects. This leaves the possibility of
improving conditions of development and human security even more
There is no doubt that the challenges that must be faced in order
to prevent an escalation of violence and conflict are immense. Where
the state is concerned, it must be modernized and institutionalized,
there must be administrative reforms, corruption must be fought and
the efficiency of public services improved. Challenges on the social
plane include land distribution, more sovereign management of natural
resources, overcoming social exclusion and increasing citizen
participation in public decision-making. Similarly, the reactive, repressive
pattern of behaviour traditionally assumed by governments when
dealing with social conflicts absolutely must be changed.
The general view of the people associates inertia and deepening of
poverty with the failure of the free market economic model. Similarly,
it questions monopoly and privatization of natural resources managed
by foreign companies whose sole goal is seen to be to plunder the
country’s heritage. According to experts, there are several causal
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explanations for the pessimism and sense of social misfortune, two of
which are fundamental. First, structural reforms were implemented
without any consensus and in a socio-cultural context that was not
very predisposed to change. Second, the economic measures adopted
provided stability but failed to generate development and economic
growth. In this context, the political system is seen to be an evil mediator
that widens social disparities by benefiting only a privileged minority.
Although not enough studies have been undertaken to make any
correlation between the economic model and the transformation of
patterns of conflict in Bolivia, several analysts have suggested that the
roots of violence lie in a lengthy process of unresolved post-colonial
accumulation, deepened and updated by application of the free market
Even though Bolivian society has been extremely tolerant of
economic reforms implemented since 1985, hoping for improved
conditions and quality of life, the fact is that the sacrifice made did not
produce the compensation expected. The threshold of social resistance
was breached in 2000. That year, the country experienced one of its
most intense cycles of social conflict and violence, which put
democracy in check. Several factors were influential in taking this
situation to unforeseen limits. Two events marked this turning point
in the country’s history over the past two decades: the so-called ‘water
war’ (Cochabamba, April 2000) and the largest road blockades since
1979, also called ‘the flea war’ (Andean Altiplano, September/October
In the first conflict, several of Cochabamba’s social sectors, allied
to suburban and rural communities associated with the demand for
community water management, instigated one of the largest social
mobilizations of the twentieth century. Privatization of this resource
and the increase in water rates for irrigation and human consumption
detonated confrontations with the forces of law and order. In the
context of a state of siege, police/military mobilization caused several
deaths and hundreds of wounded and also furnished evidence of anticonstitutional behaviour by the forces of law and order who used
military ‘sharpshooters’ to shoot defenceless civilians.
The second event was characterized by one of the longest, most
stubborn blockades by peasants of the roads linking the Altiplano and
valleys with La Paz. The country’s political and economic capital was
surrounded by thousands of indigenous people who cut off and stopped
20. See Xabier Albó and Raúl Barrios (eds.), Violencias encubiertas en Bolivia, Vols. I
and II, La Paz, Ediciones CIPCA/Aruwiyiri, 1992.
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the supply of basic goods to more than one million inhabitants. The
blockades set up by the Aymara indigenous movement, a political force
whose roots of rebellion date back to the seventeenth century, were
in support of the creation of an indigenous state. These mobilizations
rocked the country, but at the same time instigated one of the largest
spirals of violence, death and destruction of the road infrastructure.21
Both events point to a break in the traditional pattern of conflict in
the country and its consequences, that is, displacement of the political
prominence centred on the miners’ movement to the indigenous and
peasant movement. Under the monotony of trade union centralism,
miners had dominated the political scene from 1952 to the end of the
twentieth century. Currently, peasants are the ‘new political force’,
which articulates many social demands and whose political weight
includes the powerful Chapare coca-growers movement.
Incorporation of a radical discourse calling for the ‘defeat of the
neoliberal, oligarchic, racist and excluding state’ is in line with this
displacement in the correlation of social forces. This renewed social
movement proposes setting up a new state based on respect for
cultural identity, indigenous participative democracy and selfmanagement of natural resources, and rebuilding of democratic,
community forms of production.22 In fact, the peasant movement
proposes reconstruction from a historical perspective, strongly linked
to the past, whose symbolic synergy fosters its mobilization and orders
strategies of resistance around a radical, anti-colonial discourse.
Indigenous movements from the east, the Amazon and the Chaco,
as well as the recently established Landless Movement, have gained
strength in conjunction with the emergence of the peasant movement.
There is no doubt that the peasants from the Altiplano and the cocagrowers from Chapare and the Yungas are the new, questioning,
mobilizing force that has put Bolivian politics in check. It has also caused
a geographical displacement of the conflicts. Mobilization and resistance
in new territories have obliged the government to embark on
extraordinary movements of their forces of law and order.
21. Some students of politics have coincided in pointing out that the size and nature of
these conflicts mark the end of the liberal economic model administrated by an
incompetent, corrupt political system. In fact, these outbreaks of social unrest crowned
the profound crisis of governance, supported by pyrrhic interparty agreements and
pacts, with political parties more concerned with hiding their behaviour behind a shield
of impunity. See H. Róger Cortez. ‘La reforma estrangulada’, Pulso, La Paz, 2001.
22. See Linera Alvaro García. ‘Sindicato, multitud y comunidad. Movimientos sociales y
formas de autonomía política en Bolivia’, in Various authors. Tiempos de rebelión.
Colección Comuna, La Paz, 2001.
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The strength of the mobilizations has imposed new forms of negotiation and handling of territories under conflict. Government representatives now travel to negotiate in the territories occupied by the
peasant movement. Thus, new codes are being rewritten for the
struggle and these have laid bare the fragility of the state and its current administrators. The peasant-indigenous movement has managed
to relocate ‘civilizing’ negotiations historically set up in town and in the
domain of dominant authorities, moving them to the countryside. This
is a singular event, because it breaks with all the traditional forms of
mediation and the political clientele. The grassroots now negotiate
directly with government ministers and their leaders are mere
mediators of their demands. This new style of negotiation has
incorporated the role of women in a significant manner; although they
had always been present in trade unionism and the social movement,
until now they had remained invisible.
The negotiations introduced components of social control. These
were carried out under supervision by the community to avoid any
manipulation. This new form of handling conflicts and negotiations from
a social basis is an expression of the high degree of mistrust and
resistance in the face of recurring government deception. In turn, it is
a negation of the traditional practice of co-opting trade union leaders.
Of course, the fighting strategies of the new social movement have
changed radically. It has opted for a type of efficient return to past
indigenous resistance, but also emancipation from that past. There is
no doubt that the greatest strategy and weapon in this struggle is the
roadblocks, which, given Bolivia’s serious limitations, have a catastrophic
impact on the economy. This strategy has transformed the power and
balance of the peasant movement, forcing it to move through different
stages of organization and resistance. In this context, strikes by miners
would seem to be in decline as the main strategy in the political struggle
of the workers’ movement.
There is no doubt that the new pattern of conflict formulates
demands concerning not only social inclusion, but also modernization,
recovery of ethnic identity, respect for indigenous rights and tolerance
of cultural diversity. In urban circles, demands include re-establishing
social victories and restoring the authority of the state in dealing with
private and transnational companies. Essentially, the right for migrant
populations to own land, as well as improvement of the economy to
provide jobs for the population working in the informal market.
In general, demands are focused on solving problems of poverty,
correcting governmental oversights, solving economic backwardness,
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unemployment, fighting against corruption and resisting privatization
of public assets.23 Government administration and performance, in
other words its crisis of efficiency and legitimacy, are vigourously
questioned. Even though the conflicts entail maximalist positions, there
are reasonable convictions behind them. In general, people do not
believe that conflict is the ideal way to make their demands, but it is
the only one that allows them to achieve anything. It is not the best,
but it is effective. This would suggest that the government itself and
the state have become instigators of social conflicts.
Conflicts develop in a vicious circle – protest/indifference,
mobilization/underestimation, intensification of mobilization/hurried
negotiations to conclude with a spurious resolution. In fact, much of
the conflict arises from the government’s failure to fulfil its promises.24
Even though conflicts have become constant, in general terms
Bolivians are deeply concerned with democracy as a possible means
of achieving equality, as an affirmation of their rights and opportunities
and as an option for building civic responsibility; also, the country’s
destiny as a unit. They aggressively reject the free market economy.
All the above has triggered the possibility of conflict in society,
repeatedly stirred up by the defects of the political system.
The view of conflict described above coincides with the first
diagnoses of the climate of violence and human insecurity made in the
mid-1990s. That report stated that the social problems faced by
Bolivians could be grouped under five tendencies:
1. Acknowledgement of the lack of social integration mechanisms and
of a persistent, strong tendency to exclude more vulnerable groups
from the dynamics of development;
2. Strong, deep-rooted pessimism in most of the population regarding
their individual and collective chances of improving their situation;
3. Acknowledgement of a national cultural logic that is restricted in
terms of its capacity to adapt to modern changes;
4. Growing illegitimacy of state institutions, typified by patronage, cooption, inefficiency, impunity and crisis of credibility; and
5. Non-existence of channels of communication between the state
and society and within society itself.25
23. See Encuesta nacional sobre conflictos sociales en Bolivia. Observatorio de
conflictos, La Paz, Analytical Unit for Defense Policies, 2001.
24. See Roberto Laserna, David vs Goliat en Cochabamba: Los derechos del agua, el
neoliberalismo y la renovación de la propuesta social en Bolivia, Revista tinkazos, La
Paz, No. 8, 2001.
25. La seguridad humana en Bolivia, percepciones políticas, sociales y económicas de
los bolivianos de hoy, La Paz, PRONAGOB-PNUD/UNDP-ILDIS, 1996.
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In sum, Bolivian society is facing a crisis of democratic governance,
both in terms of its political capacity to promote and legitimize change
and in terms of being able to execute it. This crisis stirs up conflict and
reduces opportunities for dialogue and consensus with a view to
instigating a national development project. In this context, uncertainty,
a sense of abandonment, vulnerability and insecurity of the people are
on the increase.
The conduct of the state in dealing with the conflict has also changed.
It has focused more on reactive/repressive tendencies than on
preventing conflict. In fact, governments have been unable to
understand the change in the patterns of conflict, nor, worse yet, the
new culture of conflict which currently envelops Bolivian society. The
government’s attitude towards encouraging dialogue is marred by a
constant superior logic and lack of preventive capacity. In recent years,
the government has lost its power to bring people together and its
legitimacy to make propositions that will solve conflicts. Consequently,
the two sides resort to third parties, such as human rights institutions
and the Roman Catholic Church, who act as efficient mediators.
Governments have opted reactively to employ two political weapons
– repression of the social movement and a state of siege. Paradoxically,
neither of these has produced reasonable results. Until now, no
government has absolved itself from declaring a state of emergency.
There is still no democratic government, moreover, in which human
rights violations have not been a constant associated with the irrational
use of the forces of law and order.
Citizen security and state reaction in check
In spite of the fact that there are no comparative studies correlating
poverty with violence and insecurity, there has been a tendency in
the last few years to associate both with structural weaknesses long
since inherited by the country. Expert opinion remains ambiguous.
Some analysts have tended to combine deterministic explanations as
structural causes of violence with the type of institutional violence
and social conflict caused by the weakness of the state.
At the beginning of a new century, Bolivia undoubtedly presents a
complex set of paradoxes. One is the modernization of its economic
policy, anchored in a perspective of liberal openness, which coexists
with patronage, corruption and unpunished practices. The poor
democratic institutional framework, growth of inequality and poverty
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and enlarged sphere of social exclusion contrast with moderate economic growth and stability, based on the creation of political pacts
which gave the country its longest democratic cycle of the twentieth
As Mayorga has stated, this is a contradictory situation. ‘Growth of
democracy has meant institutional progress in the political and electoral
systems and in civil-military relations, but, notwithstanding the above,
the disastrous inheritance of a tradition dominated by the absence of
basic constitutional guarantees that are essential for exercising civil
responsibility and by the violation of human rights, has not been
overcome.’26 There is a kind of sociological density which clouds the
correlation between economic, political and social factors and the
growth of crime and insecurity. In fact, over the past few years
qualitative changes have occurred in several areas of the country’s
circumstances: intensive urbanization, high rates of unemployment,
conflictive social environment, disintegration of drug-trafficking
networks, increase in social inequality and crisis of the political system,
in addition to a weakening of the legal system, despite its modernization.
To this must be added the impact of the international economic crisis,
which is contrasted with the country’s low degree of insertion in world
markets. It is in this context that we consider citizen security,
understanding it to be a ‘concern for quality of life and human dignity
in terms of freedom, access to the market and social opportunities’.27
One of the most visible problems of the last decade has been the loss
of the state’s ability to handle and administrate its monopoly of the
forces of law and order, as well as deficient administration of justice.
Police corruption, which resulted in the largest institutional crisis of
the century, emergence of armed groups, privatization of security,
inefficiency of judicial agencies, as well as the exponential growth of
private justice, all furnish revealing data on this problem.
Over the past few years, we have observed the sustained growth
of various forms of violence and insecurity. According to data from
the National Institute of Statistics,28 furnished by the national police
force, recorded cases per year according to type of offence,
misdemeanour, minor crime and intervention have spiralled not only
26. See R. Antinio Mayorga, ‘Democracia y seguridad ciudadana e instituciones del
orden público’, talk given at the Forum on Governance and Human Development, La
Paz, PRONAGOB-PNUD/UNDP, 25 March 1997.
27. See Irma Arriagada and Lorena Godoy, Seguridad ciudadana y violencia en América
Latina; diagnóstico y políticas en las años 90, p. 9, Santiago, ECLAC, Social Policies
Series, 1999.
28. See Estadísticas policiales. Delincuencia, violencia y disturbios civiles, La Paz, National
Institute of Statistics (INE), 1995–1999.
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in terms of number but also in intensity. Ordinary offences increased
from 68,853 in 1995 to 100,145 in 1999, misdemeanours and minor
offences from 58,776 to 82,118 and interventions from 16,896 to
22,481. The same source shows that offences against property
increased 87% between 1995 and 1998. One of the most striking
statistics is undoubtedly the growing number of people arrested for
various offences. In 1995, 68,231 people were arrested compared
with 168,839 in 1999. Of all crimes recorded from 1995 to 1998,
64.2% on average were offences against property. Of these, during the
same period, 68.6% on average were robbery and theft compared
with 42% in the 1980s.
Civil disturbances, many leaving unfortunate victims, have undergone
understandable variations due basically to different styles of
governance, implementation of state policies and also the capacity to
manage and solve disputes. Notwithstanding, the nature of conflict
has changed dramatically as a result of the increase in poverty and
crisis of governance. An average of some 3,000 disputes per year was
recorded between 1995 and 1998.29
Theft of vehicles is one of the most critical problems in crime. These
thefts increased by more than 100% in recent years. These data must be
treated cautiously, however, because surveys of public opinion regarding
citizen security provide much more serious data, as shown below.
Citizen security seems worse when one compares complaints filed
by private citizens with the ability of the police and legal system to resolve
them. In practice, both institutions fail to resolve even 40% of complaints
filed. This enormous difference, coupled with general distrust of
extremely corrupt police and court actions, encourages people to take
justice into their own hands. Lynchings have increased significantly in
the past five years. Twelve lynchings were recorded in the country
between 1992 and 1996. In 2001, this figure had jumped to thirtyseven lynchings, eight of them failed. Most occurred in town suburbs,
caused by the people’s sense of impotence and their anxiety at seeing
their precarious assets threatened. As Rivera stated: ‘private executions
are a kind of delegitimization of existing legal procedures and practices,
an action undertaken by the populace because they feel vulnerable and
29. According to National Institute of Statistics records, civil disturbances are considered
to be strikes, public demonstrations, plenary meetings, disturbances, shutdowns and
blockades. See INE, op. cit.
30. See Fredy Rivera Vélez, Violencia y seguridad ciudadana, Revista iconos, No. 7,
FLACSO, Ecuador, (
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The crisis in citizen security, especially the institutional collapse of
the police force in the face of crime, has caused the emergence of
dozens of private security firms. The latter, together with the creation
of municipal police forces, private detective agencies, vigilante
committees and community night patrols, are holding in check the
authority of the state with regard to its primary role, which is to
provide the population with security. Recent governments have been
powerless in the face of growing organized and common crime. Their
answer has been to militarize not only citizen security but also the
fight against drugs and control of contraband.31
Of course, violence and crime have multiple causes. Hence, it would
be useful to consider some aspects which bear directly on this
problem. In the first place, Bolivian society, as is the case in most of
the region, is exposed to the internationalization of crime, whose most
objective expressions are drug trafficking, arms trafficking, armed
robbery of banks and private financial institutions, kidnapping and
prostitution. Bolivia’s geographical position is especially important in
this respect, for it has become a transitory bridge and temporary refuge
for international bands of criminals. At the same time, it provides
opportunities for criminal activities and easy movement between the
Andean region and MERCOSUR countries. Intelligence investigations
have shown that criminal migration works simultaneously and very
efficiently with vertical tactics (domestic level) and horizontal ones
(transnational), especially in terms of armed robbery, drug trafficking,
and transfer of arms and vehicles. Second, the growth of domestic
criminal networks linked to foreign organizations has included the use
of sophisticated information systems, technology and criminal
intelligence services, which in many cases neutralize the state’s
preventive capability. Third, high levels of police corruption, inefficiency
and incompetence, as well as the weakness of courts in punishing and
imprisoning criminals, encourage crimes to be committed. Fourth, the
absolute lack of state policies in matters of citizen security reduces
the capacity of social reaction against crime. The sum of these and
other factors contributes to creating a climate of constant insecurity
in the population.
The impact of violence and insecurity on public opinion is constantly
increasing, especially through the daily coverage provided by the media.
It must be noted, however, that levels of perception of the substantial
growth of crime, measured in surveys of victims in 1995 and 2001,
31. See Juan Ramón Quintana, Gobernabilidad y fuerzas armadas en Bolivia, Lima, Andean
Committee of Jurists, August 2001.
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confirm the seriousness of the problem. People perceive that offences
involving vehicles have increased alarmingly in the past six years. For
example, total theft of vehicles increased by 422%, partial theft by
335% and malicious damage by 225%.32 The survey shows that the
most extreme cases of vehicular crime quadrupled, other cases tripled
and minor offences doubled. Furthermore, the crime recurrence rate
in this same field increased by 11% in the same period.
Survey data show that geographical areas where crimes are
committed have also changed. Whereas in 1995 crime was
concentrated in specific areas, in 2001 people were of the opinion
that the danger was the same anywhere in the towns. This leads one
to think that all towns are dangerous and that nowhere is free from
The perception of domestic crimes, especially robberies, has
increased by 27% in the last five years. Even though robberies have
not increased to the same extent as vehicular crimes, the fact is that
the danger of having one’s home robbed has spread to all social classes
and the rate of recurrence is 11%. One of the most critical statistics is
undoubtedly personal robbery with violence. This type of crime has
increased by 82% over the same period.
According to the results of the survey, personal crimes are at an
intermediate point – less serious as the situation concerning vehicles
in the last six years, but much more serious than domestic robberies.
Criminals used to prefer assaulting people of little means. Today
criminal selectivity has practically disappeared. Whereas in 1995 the
tendency was to rob older men and women, in other words defenceless
people, now no criteria is used because absolutely everyone is
susceptible to being assaulted and robbed. Similarly, personal crimes
have spread to all towns. The number of criminals has tended to drop
over the last six years. Fewer criminals are operating, but they are
doing so with increasing violence. More firearms are being used by
criminals than six years ago, and the criminals’ arsenal has diversified
Sexual crimes show the greatest increase during this period. Sexual
harassment of women has increased by 87% with a rate of recurrence
of 20%. Tendencies regarding criminals and places where the crimes
are committed have not changed: people close to the victims commit
the crimes in well-known places. Similarly, intra-family violence has
increased at the alarming rate of more than 135%.
32. See ‘Así piensan los bolivianos No. 76. Encuesta nacional sobre delincuencia y
criminalidad’, Encuestas y estudios, Vol. II, August 2001.
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The low credibility of the courts and police corruption and inefficiency continue to encourage social resistance to reporting crimes.
Even though it is true that the percentage of people who reported
crimes to the authorities increased from 12% to 18% between 1995
and 2001, 82% and 88% abstained from doing so for various reasons,
mainly those mentioned above.
The sense of insecurity has increased alarmingly. The degree of
freedom to walk the streets has dropped from 57% to 48% in the last
few years, and trust in the police has fallen noticeably. 95% of people
think that the police do a poor or only a fair job, while only 5% think
that they do a good job. Faced with this situation, 12% of people said
that they had acquired a firearm, while 5% said that they had taken out
some kind of insurance against theft.
Of course, given this critical perception of insecurity, citizens tend
to place greater trust in private justice. 35% of people surveyed
nationwide agreed that neighbours should take justice into their own
hands. Along these same lines, support for the death penalty has increased
in proportion to the level of mistrust and disbelief in the law. In 1995,
only 54% supported the death penalty, while in 2001 67% supported it.
Finally, one of the essential factors for explaining the climate of
citizen insecurity is undoubtedly the problem with the police force.
This problem is vitally important in Bolivia, because the institutional
behaviour of the police in the last few years has confirmed what an
enormous danger they are, not only to citizen security but also to
democratic governance itself. All surveys of public opinion in the
country, without exception, point to the police force as the country’s
most corrupt institution. Similarly, reports from the People’s Defense
Committee, civil human rights organizations and Parliament have
showed that it is the state institution that commits most human rights
violations. The police force shares first place with political parties and
Parliament as the least trustworthy of all public or private institutions.
Surveys reiterate its bad reputation, as well as its professional inability
to resolve citizens’ problems.33
During the last half-century, the Bolivian police force has shown
terminal symptoms of organic decomposition, marked by cumulative
problems of institutional inefficiency and disorder, without any solutions
being offered by the state. Paradoxically, after nearly two decades of
democracy and state reforms, the police force, just like the armed
forces, continues to be left out of all projects involving institutional
reform and modernization.
33. See ‘Así piensan los bolivianos …’, op. cit.
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There are various explanations for the crisis in the police force.34
These include, in particular:
1. This problem forms part of a major crisis caused by modernization
of the state and factors associated with the internationalization of
organized crime.
2. It is an expression of the expiration of the political system whose
prebendal logic of patronage is subsumed by the police force as an
institution. This explains the existence of reciprocal pacts of complicity
and shielding from blame between the political system and the police
force, which for a long time fed an unresolved process of internal
3. Extreme bureaucratization aimed basically at endowing the police
with extra-legal economic privileges and prerogatives at the expense
of carrying out the mission entrusted to them by the Constitution.
This includes collecting legal and illicit funds which feed pockets of
corruption without any governmental or parliamentary control.
4. Chronic institutional weakness expressed in the fragmentation of
corporate capital, which, encouraged by the lack of ethical values and
the institution’s leadership vacuum, tends to political deliberation and
discretionary application of rules and regulations.
5. Enormous corruption reflected repeatedly in criminal association
between police and criminals.
6. Chronic loss of public service mandate arising from lack of
7. Militarization of structure, values, doctrine, organization and
institutional functions.
8. Institutional autonomy which places the police force above the rule
of law.
Finally, the lack of a modern state policy on public security has
prevented the conception of projects aimed at modernizing and
professionalizing the institution, essential in order to restore the
authority of the state in the face of police autonomy. Similarly,
institutional inefficiency and incompetence form part of the collapse
of both the police force model and state security logic. Traditional
patterns of action were not changed in democracy, nor was a new
code of police ethics introduced that would reconcile the rule of law
with citizens’ rights.
34. See Juan Ramón Quintana, Policía y democracia. Los laberintos de la inseguridad
ciudadana en Bolivia, Research Project, Bolivian Strategic Research Program (PIEB), La
Paz, 2001.
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The absence of a policy on citizen security prolongs the state’s
traditional operational inertia, the failure of which is evident in the face
of the rapid sophistication of the criminal element. Instead of
redesigning a new institution which can respond to the complexity of
domestic and international crime, the police force continues to be a
bureaucratic organization with little resources, deficient intelligence
services, precarious technology and limited training of its human
resources. All this puts members of the police force in an untenable,
very vulnerable position. The number of police casualties in
performance of their duty has increased over the last few years.
In sum, deficient police action based on an inadequate organizational
structure reflects the crisis of a public security model anchored in a
still authoritarian, informal state logic rather than in the prevalence of
the rule of law. Similarly, the police crisis is an expression of the collapse
of a political system with which the police force has maintained
uninterrupted buddy relations for more than half a century.
The structural poverty in which Bolivian society is immersed, and
which at present has no possible solution, requires a policy of state,
but at the same time the construction of a new social pact. Democracy
and the process of consolidation are undoubtedly essential factors for
political stability and economic growth. However, profound changes
in cultural and educational patterns for managing, negotiating and solving
social conflicts in an alternative manner are required. Other, no less
important, challenges involve uprooting patronage, improving poor
performance of public administration and eliminating corruption in
state bureaucracy, while at the same time rebuilding the legal authority
of the state and its legitimate monopoly of the forces of law and order.
Correspondingly, preventing the community fabric from being broken
down and social capital from deteriorating in the face of the apparently
unstoppable maelstrom of the free market economy and globalization
means mobilizing citizens and strengthening their civic potential so as
to be able to imagine and design alternative solutions to the irrational
imbalance between capital and work.
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Disruption of social and political cohesion
This paper evaluates the crisis in Chiapas, Mexico, from the point
of view of a very long process of social and political crisis, which
culminated in the disruption of the fabric of society and pre-existing
cohesion among communities. This disruption of social cohesion has
had a severe political impact and has transcended regional borders to
become a national crisis.
Social structures existing in Chiapas since colonial times, and which
were restructured in the nineteenth century, managed to adapt to
the revolutionary regime in the twentieth century, maintaining
agricultural power as the core of political domination. Social reforms
made by the Mexican Revolution were implemented without changing
historical structures, thereby failing to prevent polarization and
radicalization of political conflicts. Political order began to gradually
1. This paper is a personal academic reflection. It does not include or represent any
institutional opinion.
2. Researcher with the North American Research Center, National Autonomous
University of Mexico (UNAM).
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deteriorate starting in the 1970s, and indigenous peoples and peasants slowly emerged as subjects demanding the transformation of dominant structures. Numerous factors combined to transform the crisis
of semi-feudal domination into a radical disruption of political relations. These elements include the influence of insurrections in Central America, the emergence of alternative pastoral activities to traditional ones, both by groups from Protestant Churches and from the
‘theology of liberation’; the successful creation of a foundation of social support by an armed group that was not considered to be involved in guerrilla activity, and which won this support by focusing its
struggle on the demands of indigenous peoples and putting claims for
autonomy, restoration of traditional cultures and the proposal that
the Mexican Constitution should be amended to accept ethnic plurality, respect for common law and education in indigenous languages as
the core element in its negotiations.
Disruption of social cohesion in indigenous communities in Chiapas
was nourished by the collapse of an almost feudal regime of domination.
Protests by numerous indigenous and peasant sectors began to emerge
in the 1970s, causing a defensive reaction by local groups of landowners
supported by state and federal power structures. The result was the
rebellion by indigenous peoples in Chiapas in January 1994, headed by
the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN).
As the Chiapas crisis is the result of the unviability of a model of
political, social and economic domination, whereby relations between
dominant sectors supported by the Mexican State and indigenous
communities were disrupted, the solution must of necessity be brought
about by rebuilding or building a new social fabric that includes new
mechanisms of social and political cohesion among communities.
This paper maintains that, starting in 1994, the Mexican Government
has tried to contain the insurgent forces and the communities and
groups that support them by means of an ‘indirect approach’, based
on social policies aimed at isolating the political, social and international
support which the rebellion headed by the EZLN has managed to win.
This containment strategy was not successful from 1994 to 2000.
There has also been a clear deployment of military force to ‘saturation’
levels, in order to ensure that any military strategy by the EZLN should
be considered impossible as a result of the enormous difference in
correlation of forces between the two military groups.
Another mechanism of containment and ‘reconstruction of social
cohesion’, having failed so far, has been to dialogue with the insurgent
group, seeking their disarmament and insertion in political life, a strategy
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which has also been unsuccessful for six years. In other words, there
has been a ceasefire, dialogue and bogged down negotiations, but no
decisive negotiations have taken place that satisfy the demands of the
EZLN and the communities that support it to the extent of
transforming it from a military force into a social, political movement.
Dialogue has failed, but military fighting has not broken out again, thereby
gradually and increasingly undermining political stability and causing
the outbreak of serious political violence, which has heightened the
crisis of social cohesion and deterioration of the rule of law to
unprecedented levels. The most significant indicator is human rights
violations, whose maximum expression was the Acteal massacre in
December 1997, where those primarily responsible were local security
forces (police and local government officials).
On a military level, Mexican armed forces received orders to clash
directly with the EZLN between 1 and 12 January 1994 and between
9 and 16 March 1995. The army uses an almost constant ‘deployment
of forces’ as a deterrent in Chiapas, without being able to clash directly
with the EZLN. The core element in explaining military deployment in
Chiapas is consolidation of a deterrent and indirect containment. This
is due to the lack of a suitable political climate for using the army directly.
There simply has not been enough consensus regarding the
government’s Chiapas policies among Mexican political elite [now
divided into three main parties – the Institutional Revolutionary Party
(PRI), the National Action Party (PAN), and the Party of the Democratic
Revolution (PRD)], in civil society and at an international level.
The EZLN, for its part, primarily from 1994 to 1996 built a network
of support that has become its main defence strategy. The EZLN has
managed to convey an image that is a guerrilla force whose main weapon
is its ‘moral strength’ in representing indigenous Mexican peoples. It is
supported by significant segments of the Mexican political elite (basically
in the PRD) and civil society. Similarly, it has very large international
solidarity networks, mainly in the United States, Canada and Europe,
basically organized through NGOs.
There is consensus in the bosom of Mexico’s political elite and civil
society to search for a solution via dialogue and negotiations. This is
also the view expressed internationally, starting with the SecretaryGeneral of the United Nations, various branches of the government
of the United States and numerous European governments and NGOs.
In sum, a military solution to the conflict is not very likely, so the army
must restrict its deployment of forces to shows of force (deterrent),
control of communications (patrolling roads and highways) and
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guarding strategic and border facilities. The current Mexican State does
not have enough legitimacy to resort to direct military action.3
State monopoly of the use of force.
The Mexican Government’s weakness and failure
of the Mexican Revolution
According to Max Weber, the modern state is ‘a human community
that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of force
within a given territory’,4 so it is the only one that can legally and
politically use force in a society. This theory does not apply to rural
areas in Mexico.
As a result of the failure of agricultural land distribution and social
policies of Mexico’s revolutionary regimes, peasant and indigenous
rebellion has once again become one of the deciding elements of social
and political conflict in Mexico. The failure of the state has led to
widespread ‘systems of self-defence’ as a means of protecting property
and settling political disputes. This has become widespread in the
country’s more backward regions. Consequently, since the 1970s a
large wave of violence between peasants and landowners has erupted
in many states, primarily Chiapas and Guerrero. In other words, rural
social cohesion, which was considered one of the most important
elements of the policies of the Mexican Revolution, has entered a
terminal crisis. Chiapas is the state with the worst poverty indices in
Mexico; it has the largest percentage of indigenous population in relation
to the whole and the least capacity of the state to implement effective
policies in the fight against poverty. Similarly, the rule of law is practically
non-existent in Chiapas. Indigenous peoples and peasants do not have
access to the law.5 Consequently, the Mexican federal government
3. The change in the governing party with the triumph of Vicente Fox on 2 July 2000,
heading an alliance of parties centred on the PAN, does not invalidate the theory that
the Chiapas crisis can only be resolved via politics and negotiations.
4. Max Weber, Economy and society, Vol. I, edited by Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich,
New York, Bedminister Press, 1968.
5. José Ramón Cossío, José Fernando Franco and José Roldán, Derechos y cultura
indígena. Los dilemas del debate jurídico, Mexico, Miguel Angel Porrúa, 1998. See also
Magdalena Gómez, ‘Chiapas: El estado de derecho y la legitimidad’, and José Roldán
Xopa, ‘La crisis de Chiapas: Desafíos para el derecho’, in Cynthia Arnson and Raúl
Benítez Manaut, Chiapas, los desafíos de la paz, Mexico, ITAM/Miguel Angel Porrúa/
Wilson Center, 2000.
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has failed in its attempt to impose the rule of law in Chiapas, so systems of justice based on self-defence have been developed. The State
of Mexico has repeatedly allowed local landowning classes to dominate local systems of justice, thereby causing a gradual disruption of
the traditional fabric of society without any alternative mechanisms
based on efficient, modern state institutions. As a result, military force
(active and deterrent) is the mechanism used to project the Mexican
The agricultural reform as a product of the Mexican Revolution has
not had enough impact to satisfy the needs of the indigenous and
peasant population. This has led to ownership of land being
concentrated in the hands of a few and the marginalization and extreme
poverty of most of the indigenous and peasant population.6 By way of
showing how backward it is, a National Population Council document
evaluating the educational structure in Chiapas states:
‘In 1940, for example, nearly 45.9% of the population of the Republic of
Mexico knew how to read and write, whereas in Chiapas less than 23.8%
knew how to do so. By 1980, figures show that a little over 80% of the
population of the Republic of Mexico knew how to read and write, while
in Chiapas only 63.8% knew how to do so. This year, the illiteracy rate
in Chiapas is at the same level as that of the Republic of Mexico in
At the same time, this study mentions that only 11% of the
population has access to institutional health services.8 Whereas 70%
of the population on a national level has drinking water, only 43% of
the Chiapas population has access to this utility; this percentage drops
to 23.5% in Selva Lacandona and 33.4% in the north,9 the zones where
the EZLN is strongest. On analysing these problems of quality of life
among the indigenous population, the study states:
‘The indigenous people per se are not a problem, but there are serious
situations of backwardness associated with them which have a negative
effect on their quality of life; for example, only 8% have access to piped
water, 100% do not have sewerage, 100% do not drink milk, 90% do not
eat meat and 75% do not eat eggs; their diet consists of corn and beans,
which in most cases is not enough’.10
6. Thomas Benjamin, A Rich Land, A Poor People. Politics and Society in Modern
Chiapas, Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 1989.
7. Consejo Nacional de Población Estudio Sociodemográfico del Estado de Chiapas, p.
68, Mexico, CONAPO, Provincial Government Secretariat, 1985.
8. CONAPO, op. cit., p. 68.
9. Ibid., p. 72.
10. Ibid., p. 78.
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Information available for 1995 shows that these conditions have not
changed; on the contrary, they have worsened. For example, only
14.46% of the whole population is a beneficiary of the Mexican Social
Security Institute or the State Workers’ Social Security and Services
Institute (ISSSTE).11 The rest only enjoy coverage from the Health
Secretariat, or departments that run parallel health programmes, such
as the Social Development Secretariat or the armed forces. There are
only 12,721 doctors in the State of Chiapas to take care of 3.5 million
people (1 doctor for every 235 inhabitants). The illiteracy rate stands
at 27% of the population and is the highest in the country.12
These conditions describe the quality of life of the Chiapas
population, similar to conditions in Central America in the 1970s, when
armed movements expanded their activities. One can say, therefore,
that the Mexican Revolution failed in Chiapas.
Social, political conflicts and violence.
The guerrilla is reborn
Political conflicts arising from the struggle for land predominate in
Chiapas. Landowners defend their properties with armed ‘white guards’,
and peasants and indigenous peoples ‘invade’ these properties. Both
groups resort to violence and none resort to the law. The violence of
this struggle for land in the 1980s thus produced the widespread
conditions that led to the outbreak of ‘small civil wars’ throughout
most of the state. Self-defence and ‘taking the law into one’s own hands’
became accepted methods in the fight between landowners and
peasants and indigenous people. For landowners, it was to protect
their properties using white guards; for peasants and indigenous people,
it consisted of violent takeovers of properties because the Agricultural
Reform Secretariat did not hand over the land.13
The federal State of Mexico showed a tremendous inability to
impose the law and prevent social, political and subsequently military
polarization in Chiapas. In other words, it was unable to maintain Max
Weber’s paradigm – the monopoly of legitimate force.14
11. INEGI Anuario Estadístico del Estado de Chiapas, p. 196, Mexico, Instituto Nacional
de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (INEGI), 1997.
12. INEGI, op. cit., p. 237.
13. Juan González Esponda and Elizabeth Pólito Barrios, ‘Notas para comprender el
origen de la rebelión zapatista’, in Chiapas, Vol. 1, Mexico, Economic Research Institute,
UNAM, 1995.
14. Implausible Deniability. State Responsibility for Rural Violence in Mexico, New
York, Human Rights Watch/Americas, 1997.
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On the other hand, the disintegration and weakness of armed leftwing groups in Mexico in the 1960s and 1970s meant that most analysts
could assert that a similar rebellion to the one that occurred in Central
America in the 1980s could not possibly happen in Mexico. Besides,
their tactics and strategies could not aspire to taking over the reins of
power, nor coordinate with popular movements: ‘No rural, local
guerrilla movement can triumph in such a vast, urban country as
Consequently, analysts considered that situations such as those
occurring in Guatemala, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Colombia or Peru could
not occur in Mexico. Between 1977 (year of the political reform and
amnesty, which reinserted guerrillas into legality) and 1994 (public
appearance of the EZLN), there was no significant guerrilla activity, so
containment by the army and government security forces can be
considered to have been successful in those years.
On 1 January 1994 an unknown group, which had organized itself
in almost complete clandestinity, seized San Cristóbal de las Casas and
six settlements in the State of Chiapas.16 The EZLN was born of the
former FLN guerrillas.17 As such, according to its own spokespersons,
it had celebrated its tenth anniversary on 17 November 1993,18 so its
actions had been executed in total silence (in other words, what in
guerrilla parlance refers to the phase of ‘accumulation of political and
military force’). This was the first time in the history of contemporary
Mexico that a guerrilla force managed to generate sympathy and real
political leadership in large sectors of the population, for it is estimated
to have more than 2,000 sympathisers and militants,19 and its area of
political influence includes more than 200,000 indigenous peoples. The
Mexican army itself estimated that the EZLN had 5,000 combatants at
the start of the conflict.20
Most interpretations point to the emergence of the EZLN in Chiapas
as a product of two circumstances which coincide in time.21
15. Jorge Castañeda, La utopía desarmada. Intrigas, dilemas y promesa de la izquierda en
América Latina, p. 104, Mexico, Joaquín Mortíz, 1993.
16. Literature on the Chiapas crisis is vast. See Elaine Katzenberger, First World. Ha, Ha,
Ha, San Francisco, City Lights Books, 1995; EZLN. Documentos y comunicados, Vol. 1,
Mexico, ERA, 1995; EZLN. Documentos y comunicados, Vol. 2, Mexico, ERA, 1996;
Carlos Tello Díaz, La rebelión de las Cañadas, Mexico, Cal y Arena, 1995; Chiapas, 4 vols,
Mexico, Economic Research Institute, UNAM, 1995, 1996, 1997.
17. Tello Díaz, op. cit., pp. 60–85.
18. ‘Aniversario de la formación del EZLN, 19 de noviembre de 1994’, in EZLN.
Documentos y comunicados, Vol. 2, p. 131.
19. Representatives of 1,111 indigenous communities participated as EZLN militants just
in the March on Mexico City in September 1997, La Jornada, Mexico, 14 September 1997.
20. La Jornada, Mexico, 7 January 1994.
21. The army’s interpretation of the Zapatista rebellion can be seen in Revista del ejército
y fuerza aérea mexicanos, Era III, Year 88, Mexico, SEDENA, January–February 1994.
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On the one hand, there were very similar economic, social and
political structures to those in Central America; the State of Mexico
had not been able to express itself through, nor develop, its institutions,
political leadership was controlled by an elite of local political bosses
and landowners and there were no real, impartial structures for
imparting justice. The above led to an accumulation of disputes and
tension over land and the emergence in the 1970s, and primarily in
the 1980s, of a large number of autonomous peasant and indigenous
movements, which were brutally repressed by the authorities. This
led to a polarization of the social and political situation, speeding up
social and political breakdown in a similar manner to Central America.
Dominant sectors began to develop structures of ‘self-defence’, and
the peasant and indigenous movement began to radicalize its actions
(mainly takeovers of rural properties). This private exercising of justice
by both poles of conflict caused the disappearance of already inherently
weak police and legal structures. In other words, rural zones in Chiapas
were feudalized.22
On the other hand, radical political leaders managed to insert
themselves successfully and take over leadership of peasant and
indigenous movements that were fighting against the power of
dominant local classes, and little by little what in 1993 was to become
the EZLN began to develop. The link between these peasant and
indigenous movements and the EZLN became a ‘strategic alliance’.23
Religious leaders known as ‘theologians of liberation’ joined the
movement, setting up an ‘alternative power group’.24 Thus, a duality of
power emerged in Chiapas between traditional groups permanently
occupying local PRI and state government structures, supported by
Mexico’s federal government, and this emerging, autonomous, power
group, which gradually began to organize around the EZLN. They were
two antagonistic projects with no common ground between them,
and this led to extreme violence.
22. Neil Harvey ‘Rebellion in Chiapas: Rural Reforms and Popular Struggle’, Third
World Quarterly, Vol. 16, No. 1, 1995. See also Jan de Vos ‘Raíces históricas de la crisis
chiapaneca’, in Arnson and Manaut, op. cit.
23. Donna Lee Van Cott, Defiant Again: Indigenous Peoples and Latin American Security,
p. 65, Washington, D.C., Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense
University, 1996.
24. Carlos Bravo, Samuel Ruíz, Pablo Latapí and Andrés Aubry, Chiapas: El evangelio de
los pobres. Iglesia, justicia y verdad, Mexico, Espasa-Calpe Mexicana, 1994.
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Declaration of war on the army and phases of conflict
The EZLN initially declared war on the federal government and
army: ‘We declare the following to the Mexican federal army, the pillar
of the Mexican dictatorship that we suffer from, monopolized by a
one-party system and led by Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the maximum
and illegitimate federal executive that today holds power,’ and ordered
its military forces to march on Mexico City: ‘… advance to the capital
of the country, overcoming the Mexican federal army’.25
These original demands, projected to national levels, were changed
very quickly to focus on the demands of the indigenous communities.
Acceptance of the ceasefire proposed by the federal government
changed the objective – of reaching Mexico City – and, by dialogue
with the government, ‘legitimized’ a power which the EZLN had
considered to be ‘illegitimate’. The list of thirty-four demands made by
the EZLN on 3 March 1994 all focused on the needs of the peasant
and indigenous population of Chiapas.26
The EZLN subsequently did an about-turn in its strategy, abandoning
its objective of ‘taking over power’ and denying any intention to act
again in a military fashion. It centred its discourse on projecting the
representativity of Mexico’s indigenous population and its demands.
Its messages and press releases began to be targeted on that objective,
thereby avoiding being considered a ‘military adversary’ and obtaining
significant support which made it impossible for the army to act against
it. For example, in December 1995 it stated:
‘The EZLN has a public commitment with the people of Mexico to insist
on dialogue and negotiations in order to search for a political solution
to the war begun in 1994. The EZLN has no warlike intentions and is
not making any preparations to assume offensive actions against supreme
government forces or the positions that they occupy, nor does the EZLN
intend to in any way alter the local, regional or national situation (…).
We are preparing for peace, not war.’27
Based on the above, the phases of the Chiapas conflict are as follows:
1. War. From 1 to 11 January 1994. Characterized by the EZLN
offensive and the active defensive response of the army – active military
containment. The military result of this phase was 152 dead.
25. ‘Declaración de la Selva Lacandona, 2 de enero de 1994’, in EZLN …, Vol. 1, op. cit.,
p. 34.
26. ‘EZLN. Pliego de demandas. 3 de marzo de 1994’, in EZLN …, Vol. 1, op. cit., pp.
27. ‘Comunicado, 23 de diciembre de 1995’, in EZLN. Documentos y comunicados, Vol.
3, Mexico, ERA, 1997, p. 67.
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2. Ceasefire and initial dialogue. From 12 January 1994 to 8 February
1995. This phase is characterized by two subperiods – dialogue between the Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee of the
EZLN (CCRI-EZLN) and the Chiapas Peace and Reconciliation Commission (headed by ‘commissioner’ Manuel Camacho, with mediation
by Bishop Samuel Ruíz). Meetings were held from January to June 1994,
at which time the EZLN rejected the government peace proposal,
issued a ‘Second Declaration from Selva Lacandona’ and called upon
‘civil society’.28 From that moment until 8 February 1995 there was a
ceasefire without any official communication between the government
and the EZLN. In November 1994, Samuel Ruíz set up the National
Mediation Commission (CONAI).
3. 9 February 1995 to 6 March 1995. Second military phase of the
conflict. From the order to capture Subcomandante Marcos (identified
by the government as Rafael Sebastián Guillen Vicente) to debate and
approval by Congress of the ‘Law for dialogue, conciliation and honourable
peace in Chiapas’. The military operation against the EZLN was called
‘Rainbow’ and, in theory, Marcos was to be captured in five days.29
4. Start of the second phase of dialogue between the EZLN and the
government. Two instances of mediation were set up: CONAI and
the Commission for Peace and Reconciliation (COCOPA). The first
was headed by Samuel Ruíz, and the second by a committee of PRI,
PRD, PAN and PT senators and deputies. This phase of dialoguenegotiations culminated with approval at the negotiating table of the
Larráinzar Agreements on 16 February 1996.30
5. Cooling of dialogue and negotiations without any military
confrontation,. March 1996 to December 1997. The government –
through representatives of the official party – failed to incorporate the
Larráinzar Agreements into Union Congress debates. These would
supposedly have involved reforms to the Constitution, primarily with
regard to the ‘autonomy of indigenous peoples’, in other words,
acknowledgement that Mexico was not an ethnically and culturally
homogeneous nation.31
28. ‘EZLN. Segunda Declaración de la Selva Lacandona. 12 de junio de 1994’, in EZLN
…, Vol. 1, op. cit., pp. 269–78.
29. Andrés Oppenheimer, México: en la frontera del caos, op. cit., p. 251. This author
states that this operation was one of the army’s military failures: ‘But Operation Rainbow
was a total failure: Marcos had fled from his headquarters shortly before the army’s
attack,’ p. 256.
30. ‘Acuerdos sobre derechos y cultura indígena a que llegaron las delegaciones del
EZLN y el gobierno federal en la primera parte de la plenaria resolutiva de los Diálogos
de San Andrés Sacamch’en’, in Chiapas, Vol. 2, op. cit., 1996.
31. Luis Hernández Navarro, ‘Entre la memoria y el olvido: Guerrillas, movimiento
indígena y reformas legales en la hora del EZLN’, in Chiapas, Vol. 4, op. cit., 1997.
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6. Breakdown in communications, dismantling of CONAI and no dialogue, from January 1998 to 2000.32 As a result of the ‘Acteal Crisis’,
which led to the resignation of Emilio Chauffet, Provincial Government
Secretary, and an enormous national and international questioning of
the government for human rights violations. Chiapas security forces
were held legally responsible.
7. Change of government, attempts to negotiate and the Zapatista
caravan. From 1 December 2000 to date, the government set up a
new negotiating commission, demilitarized the areas of conflict and
allowed the Zapatista caravan to take place. The Union Congress
accepted the presence of Zapatista representatives in Congress. The
EZLN once again withdrew to the mountains.
Negotiations without any solution
Negotiations are centred on the debate to change the constitution
to recognize ‘Indian peoples’. Writer Carlos Montemayor states:
‘The Indian people’s struggle has to be to transform the State, which
would be at Constitutional level, and transform its relationship with
regional governments. Indian peoples have to be very clear about when
they are fighting against the government of a region, when they are
facing the government of the whole country and when they are
considering what form the country as a whole should take as a State’.33
This postulate paves the way for polarized debate. On the one hand,
it is asserted that there cannot be laws of exception for any individual
or group in Mexico (the liberal philosophy of the 1824, 1857 and
1917 Mexican Constitutions) and that all citizens are equal in terms of
rights and duties, with Mexico’s territorial integrity being in danger.34
On the other, it is asserted that constitutional spaces must be opened
for indigenous communities.35 This debate conditions negotiations
between the EZLN and the government. Resistance to changing the
Constitution is not only political, but also philosophical, throwing doubt
on the foundations of ‘national unity’ and the ‘social cohesion’ which it
implies is rejected.36 This is the result of a prevailing classical concept
32. This analysis covers up to October 2000.
33. Carlos Montemayor, ‘Reconocimiento jurídico a los pueblos indios’, paper submitted
to the Second Assembly of the National Indigenous Congress, Mexico, 14–15 September
1997, Coyuntura, Mexico, No. 83, November–December 1987, p. 18.
34. José Manuel Villalpando César, Los Acuerdos de San Andrés Larráinzar: Retorno al
pasado-problemas a futuro, México, Instituto de la Integración Latinoamericana, 1998.
35. Jorge A. Vargas, ‘NAFTA, the Chiapas rebellion, and the emergence of Mexican ethnic
Law’, California Western International Law Journal, Vol. 25, No. 1, 1994.
36. Felipe Vicencio Alvarez, ‘El reconocimiento del otro, condición para una reforma justa’,
in Autonomía y derechos de los pueblos indios, Chamber of Deputies, México, 1998.
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of national security, which is threatened by the possibility of fragmented
territories or ‘pockets’ of autonomy.37
Negotiations between the government and the EZLN are evidently
in crisis from several points of view:
1. Mediation format. The peace commission formula (1994) failed and
a government delegation was tried (1995 to 1997), with the CONAI
and COCOPA acting as links between the EZLN and the government.
A four-party negotiating table.
2. From military to political-community or ‘feudalization’. As of 1995,
the core of the conflict moved from a military confrontation between
the EZLN and the army – currently virtually impossible – to generalized
violence between communities – mainly in the north of Chiapas –
between EZLN sympathizers and PRI sympathizers. This phase peaked
with the massacre of forty-five indigenous people in Chenalhó on 22
December 1997 by paramilitary groups directed by PRI militants.38
The federal government abandoned political efforts and transferred
efforts to ‘contain’ the EZLN to local political elites39 (which meant
‘feudalizing’ security). This strategy was based on harassment of
Zapatista sympathizers by ‘paramilitary’ groups. Several sources of
information state that there are seven of these groups (Chiapas versions
of the Guatemalan or Salvadoran ‘death squads’ of the 1970s and early
1980s) and that, since 1995, they have caused the death of more than
1,500 indigenous people and displaced more than 10,000 from their
communities of origin.40 The strategy of feudalizing the countryside
sought to cause an outbreak of conflict in indigenous communities by
having peasants and indigenous peoples clash for reasons of religion,
land, heritage, etc. This, of course, increased violence, further weakened
the rule of law, and, in sum, strengthened ‘feudal’ forces while weakening
federal government.41
37. Donna Lee Van Cott, op. cit., pp. 65–87.
38. Reforma; La Jornada, Mexico, 24 December 1997. See article ‘Aseguran que grupos
priístas dan entrenamiento paramilitar a jóvenes’, La Jornada, Mexico, 17 June 1997, p.
39. Claudia Guerrero, ‘Una guerra paralela’, Reforma, Mexico, 8 December 1997, p. 4A.
40. ‘Exterminio en Chiapas’, Proceso, Mexico, No. 1104, 28 December 1997, pp. 6–17.
The seven paramilitary groups are Peace and Justice, The Chinchulines, Red Mask, Fray
Bartolomé de los Llanos Alliance, Antizapatista Insurgent Revolutionary Movement
(MIRA), The Throat-cutters and The People’s Armed Forces. The group held responsible
for the Chenalhó massacre on 22 December 1997 was Red Mask, led by the PRI´s mayor
of Chenalhó. CONAI sources say that 11,443 indigenous people were displaced between
1995 and 1997, La Jornada, Mexico, 31 December 1997, p. 1.
41. Roger Bartra, ‘Violencias indígenas’, La Jornada semanal, Mexico, 31 August 1997.
Bartra is one of Mexico’s foremost anthropologists.
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3. The army as main actor. The army headed efforts to contain the
EZLN on two brief occasions – from 1 to 11 January 1994 and from
9 February to 5 March 1995. During the remainder of the conflict, the
army has been a passive containment force, making a large deployment
of force as a deterrent (between 20,000 and 40,000 at any given
moment), which means committing more than 20% of its soldiers to
Chiapas on a semi-permanent basis.
4. Impossibility of military formulae. Both the army and the EZLN
have been prevented from acting militarily. During the conflict, the
Salinas government (January–November 1994) and subsequently the
Zedillo administration (as of December 1994) have come up against
enormous national and international rejection of the use of military
force during moments of tension (January 1994 and February 1995).
In contrast, efforts to set up dialogues lend legitimacy to government
5. ‘Moral strength’, the EZLN’s shield.42 The EZLN’s projection of its
discourse both nationally and internationally is based on its ‘moral
strength’ – representing the indigenous peoples and fighting for a noble,
just cause. This logically also makes the direct use of arms unviable.
Thus, the EZLN has become an armed guerrilla group that cannot use
its arms. It has managed to deploy an international ‘invisible army of
militants’ or ‘network warriors’ which gives it political strength,43 in
the face of its precarious military capability. The Mexican army cannot
act against this new type of combatant, because it is set up to fight a
‘conventional war’ or the irregular ‘guerrilla-style’ wars typical of the
Cold War period. The primary impact on the army, however, is that
for the first time since the mid-1970s, the armed forces have been
accused of violating the human rights of the civilian population.44
Faced with this crisis in the peace negotiations, in an opinion poll of
August 1998, Mexican civil society had this to say:45
42. ‘Moral strength’ in the sense that Clausewitz gives it in a war: ‘Moral strength is the spirit
which impregnates all war ... the state of mind and other moral qualities of an army, of a
general, of a government, public opinion in the regions where the war takes place, the moral
effect of a victory or a defeat’, Carl von Clausewitz de la Guerra, Diógenes, Vol. 1 of 3, p.
155, Mexico, 1973.
43. David Ronfeldt and Armando Martínez, ‘Comentarios sobre la guerra de red zapatista’,
in Sergio Aguayo and John Bailey (coor.),Las seguridades de México y los Estados Unidos en
un momento de transición, p. 343, Mexico, Siglo XXI, 1997.
44. Human Rights Watch/Americas Mexico, The New Year Rebellion: Violations of Human
Rights and Humanitarian Law During the Armed Revolt in Chiapas , Vol. 6, No. 3, Washington,
D.C., 1 March 1994. Amnesty International Mexico, Disappearances: A Black Hole in the
Protection of Human Rights, Report AMR 41/05/98, London, 7 May 1998.
45. ‘Percepción de la sociedad mexicana sobre el conflicto de Chiapas’, Perfil de la jornada,
19 August 1998. Survey by the Rosenblueth Foundation. The sample comprises 4,854
people over 18 years old interviewed on the street in twenty-three states.
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1. Has the government made its best efforts to
achieve peace?
Yes Don’t know
2. Has the EZLN made its best efforts to achieve
5. Has the army treated indigenous communities
with respect?
6. Has the army allowed or encouraged the
formation of paramilitary groups?
8. Do you think that the army should withdraw
from indigenous communities?
9. Is the presence of the EZLN a useful
contribution to the process of negotiation?
3. Has the army been useful in conserving the
4. Has the government been consistent in
what it says and does?
7. Does the army represent a danger to
indigenous communities?
10. Does the EZLN legitimately represent
indigenous peoples?
11. Who is responsible for the Acteal
Federal government 45%
State government 10.5%
PRI paramilitary 13.9%
EZLN 10.6%
Roman Catholic Church 4.8%
Don’t know 12.4%
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To sum up, public opinion in Mexico is divided regarding the Chiapas
crisis. The EZLN has a better image than the government in terms of
its desire to search for peace, and the population is mainly in favour of
the army being withdrawn.
In other words, the EZLN is the first armed movement in Mexico
since the Cristeros movement in the 1930s which has a basis in society
and has succeeded in legitimizing its demands in sectors of the nation’s
civil society and even internationally. Hence, the only way to pacify
Chiapas is by political negotiation.
Strategic-military analysis
In political terms, both the EZLN and the army have won by not
using ‘arms’. The army gains national and international recognition and
legitimacy by submitting to ‘civil authority’ and not imposing military
solutions.46 The EZLN shows that it is not ‘fundamentalist’, that it accepts
the ceasefire and that it prefers dialogue with the government to acting
in similar fashion to other armed groups in Latin America. In this respect,
the EZLN has gained similar recognition to the FMLN in El Salvador and
the URNG in Guatemala,47 when they accepted to dialogue and negotiate
with their respective governments, reinserted themselves in legal, political
life and dismantled their military forces. Hence, for both the army and
the EZLN, arms are a ‘deterrent’, not for shooting, and being a guerrilla
force that does not fight is the EZLN’s main legitimization.
There is tremendous speculation in Mexico about the existence of
more armed groups. Since the outbreak of the Chiapas crisis, there has
been much talk of other groups that are reorganizing in clandestinity.
One group of former guerrillas from the 1970s, who form part of the
Center of Historic Investigations of Armed Movements (CIHMA),
maintains that there are ‘at least’ fourteen armed groups operating mainly
in Puebla, Hidalgo, Chiapas, Oaxaca, Veracruz and Guerrero. Likewise,
the CIHMA maintains that between them, from 1994 to 1997,
government officers and soldiers and guerrillas suffered ‘500 casualties’.48
46. Stephen Wager and Donald Schulz,The Awakening: the Zapatista Revolt and its Implications for
Civil Military Relations and the Future of Mexico, Carlisle Barracks, U.S. Army War College, 1995.
47. Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) signed a peace accord with the government
of El Salvador on 16 January 1992, and the Guatemalan National Revolutionary Unit (URNG) signed
a peace accord with the government of Guatemala on 29 December 1996.
48. La Jornada y reforma, Mexico, 2 December 1997. According to the CIHMA, the revolutionary
nomenclature of the 1990s has set up the following groups. In the State of Guerrero, the Southern
Armed Revolutionary Commando, Genaro Vázquez Army of Execution, Chilpancingo Army of
Insurgency, Southern Liberation Army, Southern Mountains Liberation Army and Clandestine
Armed Forces for National Liberation. In Oaxaca, the Clandestine Indigenous Commando for
National Liberation and the Clandestine Armed Forces for National Liberation operate. In Baja
California, Chihuahua and Sonora, there is the Popular Insurgent Revolutionary Army.
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Given the dispersed nature of these groups and the uncertainty as to
whether or not they exist, action by the army and state security forces,
structured mainly around the Provincial Government Secretariat, is
defensive, preventive and intelligence gathering.
In June 1996, the Popular Revolutionary Army (EPR) made its
appearance in the State of Guerrero. 49 It was set up on the first anniversary
of the ‘Aguas Blancas massacre’, when ‘militarized’ police forces of the
Guerrero state government murdered seventeen peasants who were
members of the Southern Mountains Peasant Organisation (OCSS). 50 The
EPR acts in one of the most violent regions in Mexico, where local political
bosses, joined together through ‘families’, 51 control economic, social and
political structures.52 The EPR’s main areas of action are the states of
Guerrero and Oaxaca. Its predecessors are the armed groups from the
1970s (mainly the PROCUP), and its name was changed as a result of the
merger of fourteen dispersed clandestine groups. For the EPR, the Mexican
State and its political system have not changed, there is no true process of
democratization and, therefore, waging a guerrilla war is viable. The EPR
has shown that it has commandos in the states of Mexico, Hidalgo, Chiapas,
Guerrero and Oaxaca. Its forces are based in rural indigenous and peasant
communities in the two latter states, while the others are urban cells.53
Popular support for the EPR is small compared with the EZLN and it has
no support at all in ‘civil society’.
Government strategy in dealing with it reiterates actions against guerrillas
in the 1970s – rural counter-insurgency with the army taking the initiative,
and security forces being used to detect urban cores. No type of dialogue
or negotiation is envisaged with the EPR. According to the journal Proceso,
up to December 1996 the EPR was operating in seventeen states and had
caused twenty-six casualties among soldiers and police. 54 The strategy of
war is justified for the EPR, because it considers that, despite the elections
of 6 July 1997, democracy still does not exist in Mexico:
49. ‘Mexico’s New Guerrilla Eruption’, World Press Review, November 1996, pp. 16–17.
50. The Aguas Blancas massacre, committed on 28 June 1995, was investigated by the
National Committee for Human Rights (CNDH) and several national and international
human rights institutions. The conclusion was that the Guerrero state government was
totally responsible. This led to the police responsible being imprisoned and the resignation
of the governor. Political polarization led to the radicalization and increasing linkage of
several peasant movements which would later form part of the EPR. See ‘Clamor de
justicia en el segundo aniversario de Aguas Blancas’, La Jornada, 28 June 1997, p. 3.
51. The most powerful ‘family’ of local bosses in Guerrero is that of Rubén Figueroa.
The ‘family’ power structure in Guerrero is very similar in this case to that of Sicily.
52. Armando Bartra, Guerrero bronco: campesinos, ciudadanos y guerrilleros en la
Costa Grande, Mexico, Ediciones Sin Filtro, 1996.
53. This is studied in depth in Raúl Benítez Manaut, ‘Guerrilla. Civilizarse o morir’,
Enfoque-Reforma, Mexico, 5 January 1997.
54. Proceso, Mexico, No. 1098, 16 November 1997, pp. 22–8, which maintains that the
data are from ‘military intelligence’.
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‘It’s hard to believe that we have reached the end of the road to democracy when this type of injustice is taking place in our Mexico; it’s hard to
think that democracy has begun its journey in our Nation when most of
the people are witnesses to and victims of corruption, demagogy, exploitation, injustice and oppression’.5 5
Three federal government institutions are basically responsible for
containing armed groups in Mexico: the Provincial Government
Secretariat (responsible for domestic law and order and civil intelligence
services), the Attorney General’s Office of the Republic (PGR)
(responsible for enforcing the law) and the National Defense Secretariat,
which acts when security and police forces are overrun, based on the
codes of the Constitution and its defence plan DN2.
In Mexico, however, direct use of the armed forces has always been
a subject of controversy. Since the student movement in 1968, the
army has tried to stay clear of becoming involved in controlling political
commotion and the PGR is a collapsed, inefficient institution. Hence, in
most cases, the Provincial Government Secretariat assumes responsibility
for seeking a negotiated solution to the conflicts.
In the 1970s, the army was able to contain rural guerrilla groups,
primarily the Party of the Poor in Guerrero, using a classical counterinsurgency strategy. In the 1990s, the strategy of containment for the
EZLN is indirect, while it is direct for the other armed groups (basically
the EPR). Numerous sources of information in 2000 mention that there
are as many as sixteen armed groups, but only four of them have
evidenced any military capability – the EZLN, EPR, ERPI and FARP.56
Since 1994, the armed forces have been training in modern counterinsurgency tactics, despite the fact that their policy is ‘deterrence’.57 As
an American analysis has stated, in Chiapas ‘moderation in the
government’s response was a reaction to the growing popularity and
legitimacy of the Zapatistas’.58 Consequently, the government moved
from a direct response (use of the army) to an indirect response, looking
to negotiate. The presence of foreigners in indigenous communities in
Chiapas is a real obstacle to any military action and to attacks by local
paramilitary groups; hence, they serve to ‘protect’ the communities.
55. ‘Comunicado del EPR sobre las elecciones del 6 de julio de 1997’, Reforma, Mexico,
27 July 1997.
56. The ERPI is the Insurgent People’s Revolutionary Army and the FARP are the
People’s Revolutionary Armed Forces. FARP have been active in Mexico City in 2000.
57. Tactically, the Mexican army wrote its Manual de Guerra Irregular in order to
provide its members with conceptual and practical elements for fighting guerrillas. See
Secretaria de la Defensa Nacional (SEDENA), Manual de Guerra Irregular. Tomo I.
Operaciones de Guerrilla, Mexico, 1998, and SEDENA, Manual de Guerra Irregular.
Tomo II. Operaciones de contraguerrilla o restauración del orden, Mexico, 1998.
58. Major Antony Lerardi and Major Casey Wardynski, ‘The Zapatista Rebellion in
Chiapas’, Military Review, Vol. LXXIV, No. 10, 1994, p. 74.
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The armed forces budget was increased in the 1990s in order to
strengthen their combat capability. The percentage of military spending
in relation to government spending between 1990 and 1996 increased
from 1.96% to 6.16%.59 Similarly, the number of personnel under arms
increased considerably. Between 1986 and 1995, it increased from
169,746 (army and air force 129,695, navy 40,051), to 225,200 (army
and air force 172,072, navy 53,128).60 By 1999, the number is expected
to have risen to 323,000 personnel, of which between 20,000 and
40,000 will be deployed in Chiapas.61
This increase in the resources of the armed forces is not only due
to the possibility that they may have to be used directly in Chiapas,
but also to strengthening their capabilities in the war on drug trafficking
and their growing responsibilities in reinforcing public security forces,
watching borders and the strategic installations of Pemex, the staterun oil company, and CFE, the Federal Electricity Commission.62
Another important army mission in indirectly supporting deterrent
containment of the EZLN is performing numerous activities that can
be considered as ‘civic action’. These are support activities for marginal
sectors (indigenous communities) consisting of vaccinations, dental
treatment, building rural roads, distributing basic foods, etc. This civic
action forms part of the classic counter-insurgency theory, in other
words ‘win over the hearts and minds’ of the population, and ‘leave
the fish stranded out of water’, which is to cut down the guerrilla
group’s leadership among the population.
There is absolutely no doubt that the Chiapas crisis forced the
army to institute an in-depth reform of its organizational structure,
with the creation of the Airborne Group of Special Forces (GAFE),
which has been set up in twelve regions and forty-four military zones.
The GAFE is a foundational factor in containing drug trafficking or
armed movements, depending on the region or military zone.63
59. Secretaria de Hacienda y Crédito Público, Cuenta de la Hacienda Pública Federal,
Mexico, SHCP, 1991, 1997.
60. Poder Ejecutivo Federal, Segundo informe de gobierno, Anexo, 1 September 1996,
Mexico, 1996.
61. This is studied in Raúl Benítez Manaut, ‘Las fuerzas armadas mexicanas a fin de siglo’,
Fuerzas armadas y sociedad, Year 15, No. 1, Santiago, FLACSO-Chile, January–March
62. This was very important when the army took over command of the police in Mexico
City from May 1996 to December 1997.
63. The Grupo Aerotransportado de Fuerzas Especiales is a Mexican adaptation of the
‘hunting’ battalions of the Salvadoran army, created in the mid-1980s to confront the
FMLN. The hunters were small, extremely mobile battalions, well-trained, more capable of penetrating zones controlled by guerrilla forces and with intelligence training.
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Through binational cooperation programmes between Mexico and
the United States, the latter has been instrumental in boosting the
modernization and professionalization of the army.64 Mexico was the
Latin American country that most benefited in 1996 and 1997 from
military aid targeted through the International Military Education and
Training program (IMET), with 221 students in 1996 and 192 in 1997.
To this must be added Mexican attendance at Spanish-language training
schools, which was higher than any other Latin American country.
149 Mexican students attended the School of the Americas in 1996,
and 305 in 1997. 141 attended the Interamerican Air Force Academy
in 1996, and 260 in 1997. 1,085 students were trained in military and
police courses in 1998, and the aid budget was US$26 million. This
budget dropped to US$21 million in 1999. Significant amounts continue
to be applied for from required aid budgets, however, to support
training of Mexican military personnel at the School of the Americas
and the Interamerican Air Force Academy.65
For example, in justifying the need in Congress to request foreign
aid funds for 2001, the following was said about Mexico:
‘The United States is interested in good government, application of the
law and regional stability by means of an evolution in the capabilities of
the Mexican military in terms of human rights. IMET funds for 2001 will
provide professional and technical training in areas of mutual concern,
such as military command capabilities, technical abilities, human rights,
resource administration, and English speaking abilities. The effectiveness
of IMET will be measured in part by the promotion of officers trained in
the United States and civil personnel to positions of leadership and
command, thereby increasing interoperability and cooperation in joint
operations, and the effectiveness of missions against drugs and others
that help strengthen application of the law’.66
The aid given to Mexico was the largest of any Latin American
country, with the exception of Colombia. Cooperation was targeted
significantly on anti-drug-trafficking programmes, but academy courses
also include training in irregular warfare. The emphasis on respect for
human rights is directly related to the Chiapas crisis.
64. Adam Isacson and Joy Olson, Just the Facts. A civilian’s guide to U.S. defense and
security assistance to Latin America and the Caribbean, Washington D.C., Latin America
Working Group, 1998.
65. Adam Isacson and Joy Olson, Just the Facts. 1999 Edition. A civilian’s guide …, pp.
90–1, Washington, D.C., Latin America Working Group, 1999.
66. U.S. Department of State Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations,
Fiscal Year 2001, 15 March 2000, p. 29.
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This increase in budget, personnel under arms and US military aid
has led some analysts to talk of ‘militarization’.67 The above is asserted
because: more troops are seen to be deployed on highways and roads
leading to rural communities; responsibilities have been transferred
from other security forces and the police to the army, and officers
from the armed forces are being used in security forces; and men and
budget have increased.68
One of the elements making it difficult for the armed forces to be
used directly in the Chiapas conflict is the type of strategies and tactics
employed by each party. If we use Alvin Toffler’s scheme69 as a
theoretical point of reference, then the EZLN combines military forms
from the first agricultural civilization (its military base is made up of
indigenous peoples who are politically and ideologically motivated, but
have no military training or modern weapons) and the third
technological civilization (use of modern communications and
international solidarity networks), while Mexican armed forces are
trained for wars from the second civilization (conflicts between nationstates) and confront insurgency with ideologies, strategies and tactics
developed during the Cold War (such as the armed movements of
the 1970s or the EPR).
Consequently, their different ways of understanding military strategy
and the fact that they base their strength on different elements (the
EZLN on ‘moral strength’ and mobilization of the indigenous peoples,
without any weapons, and the Mexican army on ‘material strength’ and
the backing of the rest of the machinery of the state, with an overwhelming
superiority in human, material and equipment resources) make it very
difficult for either of the two forces to be able to successfully fight against
its adversary. Because of the above, the political arena has become the
main arena where the fight must take place.
One of the most important strategic elements present in the Chiapas
conflict is the presence, as indirect actors, of numerous NGOs, mainly
defenders of human rights, which support the EZLN. This variable,
present in many conflicts in other parts of the world, can be considered
an unconventional, but very important, actor, which stops the Mexican
army from taking direct action. It has become a virtual defensive shield
and projection of the EZLN’s demands to other countries.70 Similarly,
67. Graham H. Turbiville Jr, ‘Law Enforcement and the Mexican Armed Forces: New
Internal Security Missions Challenge the Military’, Low Intensity Conflict & Law
Enforcement, Vol. 6, No. 2, 1997.
68. Turbiville, op. cit., pp. 69–70.
69. Alvin and Heidi Toffler, War and Anti-war, Boston, Mass., Little Brown Press, 1993.
70. Margaret Keck and Kathryn Sikkink, Activist Beyond Borders. Advocacy Networks
in International Politics, Ithaca/London, Cornell University Press, 1998.
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many of these NGOs, including many linked to European political parties and religious organizations, develop an activism that is essential for
the EZLN and which the Mexican government or armed forces are
powerless to deal with (except by applying the Immigration Law).71
Similarly, this support for the EZLN is projected through important
figures in the international political and even artistic scene.
Four scenarios
The breakdown in negotiations in 1996 has led the conflict’s primary
actors – the government and the EZLN – into a dead-end street. There
are social and political forces opposed to a negotiated solution to the
conflict – mainly landowner sectors in Chiapas – and many sectors in
favour of negotiation (in the rest of the country).
The above results in the following scenarios for the conflict:
1. Prolongation of the current impasse, leaving direct containment to
local forces (government of the State of Chiapas and its security forces
and the landowners). This ‘solution’ entails a growing humanitarian
catastrophe because of human rights violations, conflicts between
communities for religious or land-related reasons and refugees from
these conflicts (there are currently 10,000 displaced people). The
Ernesto Zedillo administration’s strategy was to ‘wear down the EZLN’,
and the EZLN was seeking to survive through to the end of the Zedillo
government in December 2000. This option ‘feudalizes’ the conflict,
propagates each party’s (landowners and peasants and indigenous
peoples) systems of self-defence and undermines state governance
and stability. The result of this strategy is the outbreak of small civil
wars in communities and constant confrontations and tensions
between local security forces and peasant and indigenous movements.
Both parties maintain ‘hard’ positions: the government refuses to amend
the Constitution (if the Larráinzar Agreements were implemented),
and the EZLN will not dialogue unless those agreements are fulfilled.72
The result of this option is the constant presence of armed forces and
their deterrent. This scenario means an almost complete absence of
the rule of law and institutions that impart justice.
71. During the first months of 1998, the Mexican government expelled groups of proZapatista activists, thereby causing tremendous controversy. In March, 145 Italians
were expelled.
72. For an analysis of the Agreements of San Andrés Larráinzar, see Luis Hernández
Navarro, Chiapas. La nueva lucha india, Madrid, TALASA, 1998.
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2. Resumption of military clashes. This is the least likely of the scenarios.
Vicente Fox’s triumph in the elections on 2 July 2000 makes it even less
probable. If the EZLN were to start any military offensive, it would lose
everything that it has gained nationally and internationally in political and
even financial support. To quote Clausewitz, it would lose its moral
strength and legitimacy. Zedillo and the military high command have
constantly refused to use the armed forces. Vicente Fox has also rejected
the idea of using the army as an option. The Mexican Government would
not have the backing of Congress or civil society (most pressure groups,
such as businessmen and the Church, oppose a military solution), or
backing from abroad. The United States has been emphatic in stating
that the solution must be a negotiated one. When asked the question,
‘What does the United States want for Chiapas?’, Jeffrey Davidow, the
US Ambassador to Mexico, replied, ‘It wants a negotiated peace, without
violence’.73 The main obstacle for the government and the armed forces
in a military solution would be the probable violation of human rights of
the civil population (it is estimated that in a counter-insurgency war
between five and ten innocent people die for every guerrilla killed).
Another element making a military solution difficult is the probable
prolongation of the conflict (that a rapid deployment operation fails to
achieve its objective), that the rebellion is dispersed and becomes very
difficult to detect and fight and that the ELZN’s reaction is a ‘war of
attrition’, entailing the danger of ‘Messianization’ in an indigenous sense.
3. Stalled national negotiations. The need for a negotiated solution is
acknowledged, but no novel formula that can break the impasse in place
since 1996 has been implemented. This option has been set aside because
of a lack of political will and the inflexible positions adopted by each
party. The government has implemented several mutually contradictory
formulae in the negotiations with different offers for the EZLN. In May
1994, the EZLN was offered a package of measures which even made
references to political and administrative autonomy.74 Subsequently, in
February 1996, the Agreements of San Andrés Larráinzar were signed.
Once signed, the government made an about-turn and refused to debate
them in Congress (Chamber of Deputies and Senate), and then existing
mediating bodies were disallowed and accused of being biased (which
caused the CONAI to disband in 1998). The government has had five
different Peace Commissioners or mediators, with different levels of
leadership and organizational abilities.75 Two different mediation formulae
73. Ambassador Davidow’s interview with María Elena Medina, Reforma, México, 6
August 1988, p. 10A.
74. During the period in which Manuel Camacho was the federal government negotiator.
75. Manuel Camacho, Jorge Madrazo, Marco Antonio Bernal, Pedro Joaquín Coldwell
and Emilio Rabasa.
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have also been used: the first was via a Peace Commission (1994), and
the second via a Commission from the Provincial Government
Secretariat (1995–2000). Negotiating tables have been set up in two
formats: three-party during 1994 (government, EZLN and mediator),
and four-party from 1995 to 1998 (government, EZLN, CONAI and
COCOPA). After the Larráinzar Agreements had been signed, the conflict
between February 1996 and 1998 focused on negation and amendment
(government’s position) or full fulfilment (EZLN), which led to the
suspension of negotiations. The EZLN has participated in the negotiations
in two ways: through Subcomandante Marcos and conditioning
negotiations to mediation by Samuel Ruíz (1994) and, subsequently,
through the commission set up by the Clandestine Revolutionary
Indigenous Committee (CCRI) and mediation by the CONAI. The EZLN
considers that the negotiations were concluded in the Larráinzar
Agreements and maintains that they should be executed. In the face of
this impasse in dialogue and negotiation, the debate has again focused on
the method of mediation and legitimacy of the mediators, because the
EZLN refuses to recognize the government’s mediators; for example,
no talks were conducted with Emilio Rabasa.
4. New forms of mediation. After the crisis caused by the Acteal
massacre in December 1997, there has been talk since early 1998 of
new mediation formats so that dialogue suspended since 1996 can be
renewed. Four proposals have been focused on to renew mediations:
(a) The government proposal to continue with the ‘mediator’ method
of the Provincial Government Secretariat in a ‘direct dialogue’ with
the EZLN, without any intermediaries. This format is rejected by the
EZLN, because it ‘does not trust’ the government; (b) A new mediation
format using Mexican ‘dignitaries’ trusted by both the EZLN and the
government to get the two parties communicating again and thereby
renew negotiations; (c) International mediation. This formula can be
implemented via ‘dignitaries’ – there was insistent mention of the
possibility of Latin American Nobel prizewinners – or institutional
mediation by the United Nations.76 This third form of negotiation is
rejected by the Mexican government, considering that it threatens
national sovereignty and foreign policy principles, and because it would
mean acknowledging the inability of domestic resources. In this regard,
President Zedillo said, ‘We Mexicans do not need, nor do we accept,
foreign tutelage to settle our differences or solve our problems’.77 The
76. Raúl Benítez Manaut, ‘Chiapas: La bandera nacional contra la ONU’, Milenio, Mexico,
No. 48, 27 July 1998, pp. 32–3.
77. Ernesto Zedillo, ‘Cuarto informe de gobierno, 1 de septiembre de 1998’,Novedades,
Mexico, 2 September 1998, p. A-10.
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EZLN has kept silent about this possibility, which is seen as tacit acceptance;
(d) New mediation set up by representatives of the new government elected
on 2 July 2000, because, in the final phase of his election campaign, Vicente
Fox promised to accept the Larráinzar Agreements and debate them in Congress. When appointing his team for the transition in July 2000, Fox appointed Luis H. Alvarez, PAN member and COCOPA participant, to build a
new form of mediation with Chiapas. The first step in this new effort was to
make contact with EZLN leadership.78
Final reflections
The first three of these four options have shown a lack of efficiency
that increasingly undermines the stability of the state. The strategy of
wearing each other down simply cannot be allowed to continue, because
the image of all the actors involved – government, army, EZLN, clergy,
Congress, etc. – has been weakened by the lack of any constructive
mediation. The various options implemented between 1994 and 2000
have failed to come up with an effective mediation formula. The military
solution is the most dangerous, because it would make the Chiapas
situation more tense and would have dangerously expansive negative
impacts – human rights crisis, political crisis, deterioration of legitimacy
and image of the actors (government, armed forces, EZLN) – and it
would be difficult for either of the two parties – EZLN and the armed
forces – to win anything in a war applying military strategies. The military
solution is the least likely of them all. In any case, the military solution
would only solve one dimension of the conflict for both parties, leaving
its social and political components latent.
On the other hand, the ‘facade of negotiations’, as the period from
1996 to 2000 could be termed, has reached its limit. The attempt at
dialogue via a commissioner appointed by the Provincial Government
Secretariat did not even achieve minimal communication from the EZLN,
and attempts by other actors involved in the conflict – the clergy (through
CONAI), legislature (through COCOPA), state government (through
security forces and paramilitary groups) – have also failed to come up
with an alternative formula. The reason for this failure is the lack of political
will to return to negotiating the Larráinzar Agreements, as they were signed
in 1996, as a basis for renewing the talks (for that is the minimal condition
demanded by the EZLN in order to resume communications).
78. ‘Solución en Chiapas, prioridad de Vicente Fox’, Milenio diario, Mexico, 18 July
2000; ‘Reunión entre Fox y EZLN, prioridad de Luis Alvarez’, La Jornada, Mexico, p. 4;
‘Quince minutos para pacificar Chiapas’, El País digital, Madrid, 15 July 2000.
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Chiapas: Crisis and Disruption of Social Cohesion ...
Raúl Benítez Manaut
Consequently, rebuilding dialogue and transforming it into negotiations is the only way out of the Chiapas crisis. In this regard, the State
of Mexico, now in a process of rapid democratization, must rebuild
formulae for dialogue and talks with the EZLN. Only political negotiations can rebuild social cohesion in the communities that have taken
up arms in Chiapas, for, even though the military solution could restore the rule of law, it could never rebuild social harmony in the
The new government headed by Vicente Fox on 1 December 2000
stated the possibility of opening up new spaces of communication and
goodwill with the EZLN. The strategy was based on three elements:
(a) demilitarize indigenous regions in Chiapas, leaving army, air force
and navy detachments solely to protect the border and strategic
installations; (b) promote the Indigenous Law; (c) open up spaces of
tolerance and goodwill, allowing the Zapatista caravan in February and
March 2001 to take place and inviting EZLN leadership to direct dialogue
with the president.
This strategy was in force during the first half of 2001. By sending
the caravan to Mexico City, popularity of the EZLN soared during the
early part of the year.79 This political mobilization climaxed, however,
with the speech in Congress by EZLN commanders. Debate between
government and the EZLN centred on the Indigenous Law, with the
EZLN demanding fulfilment of the Agreements of San Andrés
Larráinzar, signed in 1996, without any amendments, and the
government proposing the amendment of those Agreements by means
of a Bill that considers the indigenous problem in conjunction with the
other ethnic groups resident in the country.80 The Indigenous Law
proposed by the government was approved by eighteen states, rejected
by nine and at the time of writing is still pending in four. Chiapas,
Guerrero, Hidalgo and Oaxaca, which have high percentages of
indigenous population, rejected the law.
79. The Zapatista caravan started on 24 February 2001 with a speech by Subcomandante
Marcos in San Cristóbal de las Casas. Comandante Ester’s speech to Congress was
given on 28 March; they returned to Chiapas on 2 March.
80. The Indigenous Law was voted in the Chamber of Deputies on 28 April 2001. 385
deputies voted in favour, 60 against, 2 abstained and 53 deputies were absent. The
Chamber is made up of 500 deputies. This law led to the process of legislative approval
by the various state congresses. Most of the local congresses finally approved it on 14
August. It should be mentioned that in general PRI and PAN deputies voted in favour,
while PRD deputies, closer to the EZLN position, voted against. Note that the law was
not approved in Chiapas. Pro-indigenous and political organizations close to the PRD
and EZLN say that this law does not favour the peace process.
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When the Indigenous Law was not approved on the basis of the
Agreements of San Andrés Larráinzar, the EZLN decided not to
negotiate with the government of President Fox, nor with the
negotiating committee, and its leadership returned to the Chiapas
mountains. In this unprecedented manner, the EZLN missed the
opportunity given to them by the government to move freely about
the country, present their proposals to Congress and rejected a meeting
with the president. This withdrawal to the jungle has meant a return
to the strategy of attrition, waiting for more advantageous political
conditions, used between 1996 and 2000. Meanwhile, Zapatista
mobilization has lost strength since April 2001 and is no longer a subject
of national politics. The EZLN’s contradiction between a prolonged
strategy of social pressure and approval of the law based on the
Larráinzar Agreements has isolated it.
Finally, it must be said that, after the events of 11 September 2001
with the terrorist attacks on the United States, there has been a growing
climate of rejection of any political activity which implies or threatens
the use of violence. This could isolate the EZLN, because it failed to
take advantage of the political opportunity that opened up with the
caravan to continue to exercise political pressure within the legislature.
Consequently, the future scenario would seem to be a prolongation
of the conflict, although tension will be unlikely to increase. In other
words, the conflict will probably be handled on the basis of a prolonged
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Characteristics of citizen insecurity
The crime problem
The Peace Agreements, which put an end to twelve years of civil
war in El Salvador that had caused an average of 6,250 deaths per year,
were signed in January 1992. Violence, however, did not diminish after
these agreements; rather it simply changed to criminal violence. This
country is estimated to have experienced annual homicide rates
between 1994 and 1997 that were higher than the average annual
deaths by violence during the war.2
1. Former Minister of Public Security, Costa Rica.
2. Diálogo Centroamericano por la Seguridad y la Desmilitarización, ‘El SalvadorViolencia’, Diálogo Centroamericano, No. 30, San José, Fundación Arias para la Paz y el
Desarrollo Humano, May 1998.
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Similarly to El Salvador, Guatemala evidences a serious crime problem with one of the highest homicide and kidnapping rates in the world;
and the other countries in the region have smaller, though growing
rates. Several criminal behaviour indicators, such as the crime rate
and victimization indices, confirm this.
Countries with relatively reliable crime statistics show a constant
increase in crime, especially violent crime – crimes against people. Thus,
for example, between 1987 and 1997 crimes against property increased
by 40.5% in Costa Rica, while crimes against people increased by 79%,3
in other words almost double the increase in crimes against property.
The contrast is even greater in Nicaragua, where crimes against property
increased by 39.7% between 1991 and 1997, while crimes against
people increased by 61.4%.4 The situation in Panama also illustrates
the point; whereas crimes against property increased by only 4.3%
between 1991 and 1995, crimes against life increased by 55.9%.5
The violent death rate in most of the countries in the region –
except for Costa Rica – is high, as Table 1 shows.
Table 1
Central America: Violent deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, 1994–98
El Salvador
Costa Rica
Source: Charles T. Call, Sustainable Development in Central America: The Challenges of Violence,
Injustice and Insecurity, Hamburg, Institut für Iberoamerika-Kunde, 2000. (Central America
2020, Working Papers No. 8.) (
If crime statistics are supplemented with victimization surveys
carried out in recent years, crime is seen to affect more than 20% of
the population in most Central American countries (Figure 1).
3. Poder Judicial, Departamento de Planificación, Anuario de Estadísticas del Organismo
de Investigación Judicial, 1991–1997, San José, Costa Rica.
4. Ministerio de Gobernación, Policía Nacional, Compendio estadístico 1991–1995, y
anuario estadístico 1997, Managua, Nicaragua.
5. Policía Nacional, Dirección de Planeamiento, Estadísticas 1991–1995, Panamá.
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Citizen Security in Central America
Laura Chinchilla
Graph 1
Central America: victimization rates
Costa Rica El Salvador Guatemala
Source: United Nations Development Programme, Democratic Governance in Central America
Project, Barómetro Centroamericano, Encuesta de Opinión Pública 1997, San José, UNDP,
Sense of insecurity in the population
The sense of insecurity, understood as being citizens’ perception
of their personal situation, or the situation of their town or country in
relation to crime, is an important component of citizen security. Based
on surveys carried out to attempt to measure this sense of insecurity,
Central American citizens in general consider their situation and the
situation of their countries to be insecure (see Table 2).
Table 2
Central America: Perception of level of insecurity, 1998
Citizens who consider their country insecure or very insecure
El Salvador
Costa Rica
Source: Prepared by author based on results of a survey carried out in Villa Nueva (Guatemala),
Ilobasco (El Salvador), Choluteca (Honduras), Masaya (Nicaragua) and Pavas (Costa Rica). In
Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos. Proyecto Seguridad Ciudadana en
Centroamérica, Seguridad ciudadana en Centroamérica: Diagnósticos sobre la situación, p. 30,
San José, IIDH, 2000.
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Main factors linked to insecurity
Considering the complexity involved in evaluating the genesis of
criminality and the fact that there has been little research on this issue
in Central America, it would be pretentious to categorically establish a
direct relationship between certain factors and the increase in crime
in the region. A series of factors, however, tends repeatedly to be
associated with some of the violent ways in which the criminal problem
is manifested in those countries. These factors include the deterioration
of the socio-economic conditions of the population, the after-effects
of armed conflicts, the growing presence of organized crime and certain
patterns of behaviour associated with the use of psychoactive
substances, especially alcohol.
The thesis that there is a relationship between the deterioration of
social and economic living conditions of extensive sectors of the Central
American population and the increase in criminal violence is increasingly
gaining ground as an explanation, particularly for the problem of juvenile
delinquency. Thus, it is estimated, for example, that in Central America
18.9% of children between 7 and 12 years of age, and 59.7% of children
between 13 and 18 years of age, did not have access to education
during 1997,6 a situation which favours participation by this sector of
the population in criminal bands. Some authors have gone even further,
making a positive correlation between the fall in levels of consumption
of the Central American population and the increase in crimes against
When mention is made of the impact of the armed conflict on
current levels of violence, it is based on three situations arising from it.
These are the prevalence of typical patterns of behaviour of post-war
societies based on conflict and violence,8 the failed attempts to
demobilize members of regular and irregular armies which fostered
their participation in criminal activities,9 and widespread circulation of
firearms to which the civil population has easy access via the ‘black
6. Proyecto estado de la región, op. cit., p. 168.
7. Elias Carranza et al., Delito y seguridad de los habitantes, Mexico, Siglo Veintiuno
Editores, 1997, pp. 23–49.
8. José Miguel Cruz, ‘Los factores posibilitadores y las expresiones de la violencia en
los noventa’, Estudios Centroamericanos, San Salvador, Universidad Centroamericana
José Simeón Cañas, No. 588, October 1997, pp. 977-992.
9. According to declarations made in 1995 by a former Assistant Inspector of the
National Civil Police, ‘most organized bands of criminals operating in El Salvador are
made up of members who used to be in the armed forces or the FMLN’. Alarcón, ‘La
perspectiva policial’, in Carranza, op. cit., p. 339.
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Any link in the relationship between common crime and organized
crime tends to be established basically via drug trafficking and activities
arising from it. Central America is obviously located between the main
drug-producing countries and the major drug-consuming markets, and
this has made the region a natural bridge for the passage of psychoactive
substances. Passage of drugs through the region has favoured the
establishment of local networks specializing in transportation,
warehousing and packing; these have tended to receive payment ‘in
kind’, which has fostered an increase in drug consumption in Central
American countries and the development of criminal structures
devoted to selling drugs, which operate using violent methods. Thus,
for example, the emergence of organized bands in Guatemala in the
last ten years is considered to be linked to local market distribution of
drugs left over from their passage through the country.10
The drug market has also encouraged a series of illicit activities
such as gun running, stolen vehicles, money laundering, etc., all of which
has entailed the establishment of criminal structures whose methods
of operation tend to be increasingly more violent and sophisticated.
The case of the Atlantic coast of Nicaragua, where the circulation of
large amounts of illegal arms and the increase in drug trafficking has
fostered a bartering trade of guns for drugs, is an example of this.11 In
general, various factors associated with the increase in consumption
and distribution of drugs among the population, particularly the
adolescent population, are considered to have created a ‘new criminal
subculture’ in Central America.12
Finally, other factors must be stressed which, coupled with the
above circumstances, tend to aggravate violence in the region. These
involve particularly high patterns of consumption of psychoactive
substances, especially spirits. A recent study carried out in Costa Rica
showed that nearly 60% of violent deaths that took place in a six-year
period had occurred when the victim or perpetrator had been under
the effects of alcohol.13
10. Observatoire Géopolitique des Drogues, Geopolítica, 1997, p. 230.
11. Observatoire Géopolitique des Drogues, op. cit., p. 232.
12. International Drug Enforcement Conference (IDEC XVI), March 1998. Informe del
grupo de trabajo de México y América Central, San José, Costa Rica.
13. Guido Miranda and Luis del Valle, ‘La violencia en Costa Rica: visión desde la salud
pública’, Aportes para el análisis del desarrollo humano sostenible, No. 6, March 2000,
State of the Nation Project.
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Public security agenda
In spite of manifestations by citizens regarding the diverse nature
of the measures that should be applied, governments in the region
have opted rather for a more restrictive security agenda stressing
repressive-penal and police responses aimed at placating the sense of
insecurity and obtaining immediate returns.
From national security to public security
Current public security agendas of Central American countries
show evident conceptual progress compared with the agendas that
prevailed in the years prior to the 1980s. Progress has been made
from an agenda centred on the concept of national security to one
governed by the idea of public security, with differentiated actions
and allocation of different levels of prominence to institutional actors
which participate in formulating and applying these agendas.
The National Security Doctrine conditioned a public agenda whose
primary concern was to control ‘dissident’ political and social
manifestations that threatened the established order; it completely
blurred the boundary between internal and external security,
presuming that the former was simply an extension of the latter; and
it entrusted formulation and management of ‘security’ actions to the
armed forces, militarized the police and undermined the independence
of the courts.
The second half of the 1980s saw Central America begin a process
of national and regional reconciliation that culminated in the Esquipulas
II Agreements and execution of the Procedure to Establish a Firm and
Lasting Peace in the Region,14 which made peace possible first of all in
Nicaragua and El Salvador and then in Guatemala. The climate of goodwill
generated by these processes in the Isthmus, accentuated by an
international context marked by the end of the bipolar world, led to
an abandonment of the national security concept and transition to the
idea of public security, which has given rise to a new security agenda.
14. For an evaluation of the contents of the Esquipulas II Agreements, see Francisco
Rojas A. and Luis Gmo. Solís, Súbditos o aliados? La política exterior de Estados Unidos
y Centroamérica, San José, FLACSO, 1988.
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Characteristics and limitations of the current public security
New government security agendas could be characterized by the
following traits: a notion of public security which favours problems of
crime – common and organized – and law and order; preference for
repressive rather than preventive measures; and a sectoral approach
to solving the problem that is not so much integral as centred on
criminal justice and police sectors.
We must point out that the notion of public security tends to be
assimilated strictly to concepts of criminality and breaches of the peace,
with the former being understood to be a whole series of violations of
penal law, and the latter actions which, although not punishable as
crimes, are none the less breaches of life in society and, therefore,
punishable by administrative means.
The genesis of the problems of criminality and law and order tends
to be associated more with individual dysfunctions than with faults in
the system. Thus, notions such as ‘social dangerousness’ and ‘deviant
behaviour’ tend to prevail in treatment given to criminals, whether
adults or minors. However, it is important to recognize the progress
that has been made in this area, as is shown by legislation being approved
in the region with regard to minors who violate the law, and which is
based on the doctrine of integral protection fostered by the 1989 UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child.15
These public security notions have encouraged treatment of
problems of crime and breaches of the peace that favours intervention
to mitigate the effects of certain criminal manifestations and neglects
prevention to neutralize the causes of these manifestations. Similarly,
the problem is not tackled in an integral fashion, but rather encourages
sectoral intervention with the weight of this intervention falling on
criminal justice and police sectors.
Furthermore, this emphasis on intervention by the police and the
courts has occurred at a time when these institutions are coping with
significant procedural reforms, most of which have still not been
consolidated. Thus, for example, most of the reforms to the Penal and
Procedural Codes, as well as legislation associated with domestic
violence and juvenile delinquency, were approved in the 1990s.
15. UNDP, Acceso a la justicia en Centroamérica: Niñas, niños y adolescentes infractores
de la ley penal, San José, Imprenta LIL, 2000.
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Changes experienced by criminal justice in the region have been
both normative and functional. The traditional inquisitorial model of
criminal law has been changed to a rather more accusatorial or mixed
one;16 and new legislation regulating minors who infringe the law,
inspired by the doctrine of integral protection promoted by the
Convention on the Rights of the Child,17 has been approved. In parallel,
training programmes have been implemented, career systems in the
judiciary have been strengthened and investments have been made in
computerizing and equipping court offices, primarily with funds from
international cooperation.
The reforms undergone by Central American police forces have
been equally important. All Central American countries have approved
specific laws converting the police into a civil force and stipulating
action principles that must guide a police career. Demilitarization and
professionalization have been reinforced by changes in training
programmes, which stress respect for civic and democratic values, as
well as technical-legal aspects.
Reforms of the police and court systems of the Isthmus have been
strengthened by some regional instruments (see Table 3), which have
either strengthened a democratic security doctrine,18 or attempted
to improve levels of cooperation between police and court authorities
in matters involving organized crime.
16. The basic features of this new model are: strengthening the role of the Office of
Public Prosecutor, both during the instruction stage as well as during the trial itself;
greater respect for and protection of procedural guarantees; reduction of procedural
deadlines; reduction of assumptions for preventive imprisonment and introduction of
alternatives to criminal persecution; greater participation by the victim in the process;
and orality and public nature of the trial during all stages.
17. We are referring to the Minor Infractor Law of El Salvador in 1995; the Juvenile
Criminal Justice Law of Costa Rica in 1996; the Childhood and Youth Code of Guatemala
in 1996; the Childhood and Adolescence Code of Honduras in 1996; the Childhood and
Adolescence Code of Nicaragua in 1998 and the Special Regime of Criminal Responsibility
for Adolescents of Panama in 1999, as well as to another series of legislation on
matters of intra-family violence.
18. Such is the case of the Framework Treaty on Democratic Security, whose security
doctrine emphasizes the following aspects: security is a condition for development
resulting from the combination of a multiplicity of factors, including ‘the supremacy and
strengthening of civil authorities, reasonable balance of forces, security of people and
their goods, overcoming poverty and extreme poverty, promoting sustainable
development, protection of the environment, eradication of violence, corruption,
impunity, terrorism, drug trafficking and arms trafficking’; security is not the result of an
action taken by the state on behalf of civil society to fanatically defend a stability
understood as being the ‘status quo’, but rather emerges from the free, peaceful
interaction of governors and governed; the difference between citizen security (Section
II) and regional security (Section III) is established, thereby delimiting the obligations of
the armed forces, which are restricted to such aspects as protecting territorial integrity,
reasonable balance of forces, arms control and the collective security of the states in
the region.
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Table 3
Central America: Regional security instruments
Date of
Joint Declaration for Establishing the Association of Central
American Police Chiefs
July 1992
Mutual Legal Aid Treaty in Criminal Matters
October 1993
Agreement Establishing the Permanent Central American
Committee for the Eradication of Production, Trafficking,
Consumption and Illicit Use of Narcotics and Psychotropic
October 1993
Central American Treaty on Recovery and Return of Stolen,
Robbed and Illicitly or Improperly Appropriated or Retained
December 1995
Framework Treaty on Democratic Security
December 1995
Agreement Establishing the Central American Higher Institute
of Advanced Police Studies
July 1996
Central American Agreement for Prevention and Repression
of Money Laundering and Asset Laundering Crimes Related to
Illicit Traffic of Drugs and Associated Crimes
July 1997
Despite the extent of police and court reforms, they are still too
weak to contain the criminal problem faced by the region, within a
framework of respect for procedural guarantees and the rule of law.
This situation produces a sense of impunity among the population and
weakens the credibility of social control institutions. Thus, for example,
the survey carried out by the Barómetro Centroamericano showed
the prevailing lack of confidence among the region’s population with
regard to the judiciary and the police (see Table 4).
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Table 4
Central America: Level of distrust in judiciary and police, 1997
El Salvador
Costa Rica
Source: United Nations Development Programme, Democratic Governance in Central America
Project, Barómetro Centroamericano, Encuesta de Opinión Pública, San José, UNDP, 1997.
Responding to social pressures, governments have fostered other
types of measure in matters of social control, which run contrary to
the spirit of the penal and police reforms announced previously and
threaten to revive elements of the former National Security Doctrine.
The most common of these measures is to propose Penal Code
reforms, either to introduce new types or to increase terms of
imprisonment or have judges impose maximum sentences. Thus, for
example, Costa Rica changed from a maximum twenty-five-year prison
sentence to a fifty-year one; Congress in El Salvador is debating the
eligibility of the death penalty; and Congress in Honduras is also debating
an initiative sent by the Executive to institute life imprisonment. For
its part, Guatemala has imposed the death penalty with extensive
publicity in recent months.
Another oft-repeated measure has been the incursion of the armed
forces in police functions. The most frequent interference of military
institutions has been in patrol duties, such as, for example, the ‘Guardian
Plan’ in El Salvador in 1995, the ‘Cordillera Plan’ in Guatemala in 1997,19
and joint patrols in Honduras throughout 1998.
19. The Guardian Plan was designed initially for the army to patrol rural zones, while
coverage by the recently created Civil National Police Force was being extended; it was
then extended to urban zones, however, and is now a common practice. The Cordillera
Plan was designed to cover certain roads by joint army and police patrols. See ‘La
seguridad llega por Cordillera’, in Siglo XXI, Guatemala, December 1997, p. 5.
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‘Social clean-up’ operations by police raids, as has occurred in Costa
Rica,20 and the imposition of curfews as a measure for ‘neutralizing
youth gangs in Honduras’,21 or extreme measures such as extrajudicial
executions of members of youth gangs, pickpockets and street children
in Guatemala, which involved self-defence groups working, according
to reports by human rights agencies and local press, in complicity with
members of the security forces, have been resorted to.22
Citizen reaction to crime
The high sense of insecurity prevailing in the Central American
population, coupled with low levels of credibility in institutions devoted
to social control, have produced a social reaction that is characterized
by a tendency to look for private answers to the problem and demand
that the government should adopt repressive measures.
At a personal and community level, measures for ‘protection’ against
crime, such as installing home security devices – railings, alarms, dogs,
etc. – purchasing firearms, hiring private security guards and organizing
neighbourhood watch committees,23 stand out.
There is also a tendency on the part of the population to use force
and violence to resolve problems of a criminal nature. The clearest
manifestation of this tendency is the increasing use of popular
punishment, such as lynchings, to pursue and punish alleged criminals.
Although there are instances of this type of action in every country in
the region, the most sensitive is Guatemala where in one year (January
1997 to February 1998) about ninety popular lynchings took place,
with it subsequently being proved that, in some cases, the victims had
not been involved in the crime for which the citizens blamed them.
The population tends to legitimize forms of state intervention of a
repressive nature in the face of crime, although it also calls on the
authorities to adopt preventive and socio-economic measures (see
Table 5).
20. In spite of the fact that this kind of practice was declared unconstitutional, the local
press has reported that several raids have been made since June 1998.
21. In September 1998, the Mayor’s Office of Tegucigalpa issued an ordinance whereby
people under 18 were forbidden from being in public areas after 11 p.m., under penalty
of arrest and the imposition of a fine.
22. There is an extensive Amnesty International report on this aspect, 1997.
23. Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos, Proyecto Seguridad Ciudadana en
Centroamérica, Seguridad ciudadana en Centroamérica: Diagnósticos sobre la situación,
p. 31, San José, IIDH, 2000.
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Table 5
Central America: State policies supported by citizens
Increase sentences
Build jails
Increase number of police
Prevention programmes
Rehabilitation programmes
Improve economic
El Salvador Honduras Nicaragua Costa
Source: Prepared by author based on results of a survey carried out in Villa Nueva (Guatemala),
Ilobasco (El Salvador), Choluteca (Honduras), Masaya (Nicaragua) and Pavas (Costa Rica), in
Instituto Interamericano de Derechos Humanos. Proyecto Seguridad Ciudadana en
Centroamérica, Seguridad ciudadana en Centroamérica: Diagnósticos sobre la situación, p. 38,
San José, IIDH, 2000.
By way of conclusion
Central America has made significant progress in terms of its
security agenda compared with the years prior to the 1980s and the
period immediately following. There was a change from an agenda
focused on concerns about social protest and armed insurrection,
inspired by the National Security Doctrine, to one that focuses on
criminal violence. Actions aimed at making the rule of law more
dependable by reforming the courts and police have been implemented,
and the level of cooperation between countries has been increased by
promoting regional instruments.
Prevailing national public security agendas, however, still
demonstrate serious conceptual limitations, which, coupled with a
significant deterioration in criminality and strong social alarm in the
face of crime, generate actions that are not very effective and even
counterproductive for democratic stability.
If Central America wishes to improve the levels of insecurity
affecting its population without endangering processes of democratic
consolidation and strengthening of the rule of law, it must adopt an
integral security proposal within its new agenda that considers the
following premises:
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• The ultimate aim of a security policy is to ensure full enjoyment of
citizen rights and guarantees, so these must be protected with full
adherence to the rule of law.
• Causes of citizen insecurity are multiple and complex, so interinstitutional intervention is required and must be properly
coordinated and based on common goals.
• Citizen insecurity has multiple stages and manifestations, so any
intervention must take place on various different fronts: crime
prevention – social, situational, community; punishment and
repression; rehabilitation and restoration.
• Citizen insecurity is manifested in various, specific ways depending
on the context, so promoting decentralization in designing and
executing actions by encouraging the participation of local authorities
and organized communities is recommended.
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Many analysts think that the attacks against the World Trade Center
and the Pentagon in the United States have led the world back to the
situation that prevailed during the Cold War. Others see in these events
and the consequent military action the start of a new era in global
international relationships.
The truth is that these events seem to dispel the fixation by state
and non-governmental actors on the notion that, with the end of the
Cold War and the bipolar confrontation, a more stable world with
less world tensions was foreseeable, that is, a world where social and
development agendas would largely replace military agendas and
The asymmetrical war in Afghanistan, as well as the integration of
military coalitions made up by new and old allies around a military
objective and the international campaign against terror which is now
beginning to take shape, place before us a redefinition of the
international and local safety agendas.
1. Political and international analyst, coordinator of the Security and International
Relations Area, FLACSO-Dominican Republic.
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In this new scenario, where terrorism ‘from any place’ becomes
the main threat to world safety and stability, the following question
arises: where can human security be placed?
In this respect and during their recent participation in the United
Nations General Assembly’s 56th regular session (2001), the heads of
state and government of Latin America and the Caribbean – while
strongly condemning the terrorist attacks and declaring their
unquestionable support for the United States in dealing with this
catastrophe – asked that the unresolved agenda in the region, mainly
referring to the fight against poverty, drug trafficking and its associated
crimes, as well as development issues and other factors, should not be
Under the current international circumstances, the beginning of a
debate is appropriate to tackle the issues and needs of human security,
peace and prevention of conflicts from the point of view of moving
towards the solution of the tensions existing between global security,
as defined in essentially military terms, and human security, understood
as a condition and consequence of human development. The war against
Afghanistan has harshly underlined the impact of using weapons of
great destructive power against communities and populations living in
conditions of extreme poverty. Combat aircraft drop bombs as well
as foodstuff for people trapped between the extreme fundamentalism
of the local authorities and that of military action which is seeking a
diffuse rather than a localized target.
Human security: A complex concept
The Human Development Report 1994 produced by the UNDP
was accurate in identifying the ‘New Dimensions of Human Security’.
It was prepared at a time of paradigmatic changes in the international
system, of development models breaking off, of new forces and actors
with a number of motivations (political, ideological, religious, economic,
social, criminal, technological and cultural) at the national, regional and
international levels,2 and after the inrush of non-traditional threats to
global security on a large scale, such as terrorism, drug trafficking,
organized crime, mass migrations, genocides, disasters caused by natural
phenomena, etc.
2. See Ayón Mirian Villanueva, ‘La seguridad humana: Una ampliación del concepto de
seguridad global?’, in Argentina Global, No. 3, October–December 2000.
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Human Security: Perceptions and Realities
Alejandra V. Liriano
The definition of human security focused on the human being and
concern about the way in which people live their lives in society, the
freedom with which they may exert different options, their degree of
access to the market and to social opportunities and to life in conflict
or in peace,
places us in a complex frame of analysis, as it refers to a
term of ‘multidimensional nature, polyvalent order, anthropocentric
content, universal, interdependent, preventive, democratic, global,
integrative, local and with quality and quantity connotations’.4
Human security indeed corresponds to a pattern where two factors
concur: a perception of insecurity and conditions where needs are
not met, on the one hand, and on the other the creation of a climate
of confidence which makes possible ‘participation, cooperation, trust
and also dealing with conflicts’.5
The fact is thus stressed that the increase of people-oriented
opportunities, such as income, longevity and education, is not enough
unless it takes place within a social environment which allows access
to their benefits.
In increasingly interdependent societies, the link between
international, state and human security is also growing. The emphasis
on which factor prevails may change according to different scenarios.
For some authors, the axis around which this linking takes place is still
the state. ‘The state continues to be the main international actor and
the one having the greatest number of resources as regards the use of
force. Also, as the demands of civil society, expressed as a demand for
human security, are presented to the state, the latter must meet these
demands. International instability, in turn, is meant to be overcome by
generating alternatives in multilateral frameworks, where states are
the actors generating recommendations and resolutions’.6
The above argument is interesting because the central role is brought
back to the state actor as regards the possibilities of implementing
strategies in favour of human security. Without overlooking the role
played by non-state actors of a local and international nature in
promoting human security at different levels, it is also true that the
necessary measures to provide people with conditions guaranteeing
their economic, political, environmental, nutritional, health and personal
security can only be carried through redistributive policies, a role which
should be played by the state rather than the market.
3. Human Development Report 1994, New York, United Nations Development
Programme, 1994.
4. Villanueva, op. cit.
5. De la seguridad humana en la modernidad. El desarrollo humano en Chile [On Human
Security in Modernity. Human Development in Chile], 1998.
6. Francisco Rojas Aravena, ‘Seguridad humana: Una perspectiva académica desde América
Latina’, in Chile 1999–2000. Nuevo gobierno: Desafíos de la reconciliación, Santiago,
FLACSO-Chile, 2000.
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As we know, globalizing trends have questioned the importance of
the state in social construction, but today, following concrete
experiences of the crisis of the neoliberal model, reconstruction of
this view is under way. In this context, the state’s role in constructing
human security must be rethought, as well as the dimensions in which
it is going to intervene effectively in its generation.
Agendas trying to respond to the specific needs of the people are
defined in the continuous flow between the global and the local,
between international security and the security of citizens. Global
figures speak to us of a more insecure world, of a world at risk: ‘1,300
million people lack the basic necessities and are living in extreme
poverty with less than one US dollar per day; 3,000 million people live
in poverty and must survive with less than two dollars per day; 1,300
million lack current water; 3,000 million have no basic sanitary facilities
and 2,000 million have no electricity.’7
In many countries, the increase of insecurity produced in some
cases by active riots, political terrorism, acts of organized crime and
repressive governments, threaten the very existence of states, which
lose political and territorial control, thus increasing the number of
people displaced from their places of origin and being forced to become
permanent refugees in their own territories.
As mentioned by the Reports of the Carnegie Commission on
Preventing Deadly Conflict,8 people cannot prosper in an environment
where their survival is at risk. Threats from the increase in production
and use of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, indiscriminate use of
light weapons, coexist with the insecurities linked to social injustice,
inequality and lack of opportunities, as well as the violation of human rights.
Modernization, exclusion and construction of security
It is important to integrate the issue of people’s perceptions of
security in the framework of the debate on human security in Latin
America and the Caribbean, that is, to consider how people perceive
insecurity based on the material and social conditions of their life.
The existence of a cause and effect relationship between violence
and poverty is not clear. For some, it cannot be affirmed that under
7. Kliksberg Bernardo and L. Tomassini, Capital social y cultural: Claves estratégicas
para el desarrollo, IBD, Maryland University, Fondo de Cultura Económica, Argentina,
8. Reports of the Carnegie Commission on Preventing Deadly Conflict, New York,
Carnegie Corporation, 1997.
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Human Security: Perceptions and Realities
Alejandra V. Liriano
conditions of extreme poverty, conflicts and violent events are more
likely to occur, as – so they argue – if this were the case we would
experience constant bursts of violent conflict in many African
countries, or in Haiti in our own Hemisphere, affected by a progressive
fragmentation of the state structure. This would be a very simplistic
approach to such a complex problem as that of human insecurity.
Nevertheless, agreement is growing on the effect of inequality and
social exclusion on the creation and worsening of conditions leading
to events that threaten people’s security, including violence. This is
not just a question of poverty, but about how people perceive it in a
context of increasing inequality of opportunity and social exclusion in
societies which, at the same time, include them (only) symbolically in
their development horizons, thus greatly raising their expectations.
Violence and insecurity in citizens
In a study on perception of citizen insecurity prepared by FLACSO
in two urban sectors of the city of Santo Domingo, the population
associated the increase of delinquency and criminality with the lack of
a future for the younger sector of the population, which is asked to
live with the illusion of the benefits of modernization without having
the resources and abilities to access them.
As an example, some relevant results from this study are given
Neighbourhoods selected for the study
Los Alcarrizos, a community located in the north-west zone of the
city of Santo Domingo, specifically along Duarte Highway, which is a
through route for land transport to the northern part of the country.
Over time, and despite the features of the land, two factors determined
the development of Los Alcarrizos: the great displacement of population
from the rural areas to the cities that has occurred in our country;
and the relocation of victims of natural disasters, as well as the evictions
from private and government property that have taken place in other
areas of the city of Santo Domingo.
The rapid growth of Los Alcarrizos in the last ten years saw new
neighbourhoods spring up, especially in the northern area of Pueblo
Nuevo, such as Nuevo Amanecer, Horizonte and Nazareno, which
juxtapose certain elements that give a particularly interesting focus to
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our research, in that highly typical characteristics of the rural and urban
environments concur in a substantial way. All this gives rise to situations
that facilitate the basic elements of the development of actual threats to
security in a general sense and to the security of citizens in particular.
In institutional terms, Los Alcarrizos has become an area on the
outskirts of the city of Santo Domingo rather than a neighbourhood,
consisting of more than fifteen neighbourhoods, banks, stores of different
types, a local office of the National District City Council, Roman Catholic
and Protestant churches, neighbourhood associations, an industrial zone,
primary and secondary schools and two police stations or outposts.
The other neighbourhood, Gualey, located in the northern part of
the city of Santo Domingo, is delimited to the north by the Ozama
River, to the south by Oscar Santana Street, and to the east by Francisco
del Rosario Sánchez Avenue. Like other neighbourhoods in the north
of the city, it has socio-demographic and economic features that place
it among the clusters of poverty in the country. According to figures
presented by the Map of Poverty prepared by the National Office of
Planning (ONAPLAN) in 1997, Gualey ranks third among the ten
poorest neighbourhoods of the National District, with 54.4% of poor
homes, only surpassed by Damingo Savio (Los Guandulez) and La Zurza.
Together with other neighbourhoods of the National District, Gualey
demonstrates the levels of poverty considered to be the general trend
for the Dominican Republic, with an unemployment rate of 36% for
the poor population and 43.5% for those in extreme poverty, the
group most affected being young people between 15 and 19 years.
The 1997 ONAPLAN report on poverty in the Dominican Republic
states that the Gualey neighbourhood has 58.5% of poor households,
that is over half, with 49.3% of them assigned to Category II. The
characteristics of this group are as follows: the socio-economic level
of these neighbourhoods is ‘medium’ and ‘low’, with an average family
income of RD$751, above the indigent line but below the poverty line
(RD$850, that is, the approximate cost of the basic shopping basket).
They also demonstrate a significant number of unsatisfied basic needs.9
According to a UNDP Human Development Report, in the
Dominican Republic over 2 million people (25.8% of the population)
live in households with a per capita income below the poverty line of
US$60 per month. Generally, studies on human development also
show a low educational level. The incidence of poverty where the
head of household has no education attains 37.8% of the population.10
9. ONAPLAN, Report on ‘Focalization of Poverty in Dominican Republic’, No. 11, December 1997.
10. Human Development in the Dominican Republic, New York, United Nations Development
Programme, 2001.
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Human Security: Perceptions and Realities
Alejandra V. Liriano
General characteristics of the population
The study on the perception of citizen insecurity in the
neighbourhoods of Gualey and Los Alcarrizos was carried out with a
sample of 600 people, 300 in Gualey and 300 in Los Alcarrizos. Of the
total population, 49.8% is male and 50.2% female. This is also a mainly
young population, with 63.1% within an age range not above 39 years.
Forty per cent of interviewees in both neighbourhoods are between
0 and 29 years old; 23.1% between 30 and 50 years, and 30% over 50
years. We must emphasize that this is a young population, which is
relevant to the aims of the study in that the results not only express
the perception of a prevailingly young population, but also the
expectations of a population affected by the public order measures
implemented to control delinquency and crime.
Regarding the schooling levels of the population, the results are as
follows: 31.6% of the sample has incomplete primary studies, while
25.6% has incomplete secondary studies. Only 12.2% had finished
primary studies and 13.3% had finished secondary studies.
The employment situation of the interviewees is the following: 30.7%
of interviewees are housewives, followed by 14.7% who work in the
private sector and 10.9% unemployed, while 8.4% are engaged in
informal employment. Only 7.3% of interviewees work in the public
sector. Independent technical activities, with 7.1%, and occasional or
seasonal workers with 6.0%, are the prevailing activities.
Concerning the family income, the majority (23.6% of the total
interviewees) earn between 3,701 pesos and 5,000 pesos per month,
while the proportion of those with an income up to 2,500 pesos per
month is 23.1%. This figure shows a population living above the poverty
line. Also 19.3% of interviewees have a monthly income of between
6,701 pesos and 13,200 pesos.
Insecurity and poverty: not always a clear link
The analysis of citizen insecurity has two dimensions: first, objective,
considering the events of violence and crime known and reported by
the media or forming part of the statistics of police and judicial reports;
and second, subjective, expressing people’s personal experiences and
feelings in relation to violent facts, situations and events which may or
may not affect them directly.
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The subjective dimension, notwithstanding the complexity of its
approach, has a central significance in shaping the insecurity issue and
in spreading the fear of crime. The increase in this feeling of insecurity
becomes an important problem, both in the sense that it may be a
hindrance to peaceful living and solidarity and in the sense that such a
perception may cause the population to demand stronger repression
of the escalation of violence and to a certain extent justify excesses,
ignoring the importance of respecting human rights.
An important component of citizen security is related to the feeling
of insecurity, understood as the perception by the citizen of his/her
personal situation and the situation of the neighbourhood and the country
in relation to crime.11 In this respect, the study showed that the
population considers the insecurity situation to be serious or very
serious. Percentages are as follows: 69.2% of citizens interviewed consider
insecurity as serious and very serious, while only 25.8% consider it normal.
Analysing these figures separately, we may note that for the Gualey
neighbourhood, 80.7% of interviewees consider the situation as serious
and very serious, as compared with 17.6%, who consider it normal.
These figures change for Los Alcarrizos inhabitants, where the
perception of insecurity ranges between serious and normal, with 41.6%
of interviewees considering insecurity as serious, 34.3% considering the
situation normal and only 15.7% considering it to be very serious.
Figure 1. Perceptions of insecurity by
Very serious
No problems
11. Laura Chinchilla, ‘Citizen security in Central America’, paper presented at the
Expert Meeting on Peace, Human Security and Conflict Prevention in Latin America and
the Caribbean, Santiago, November 2001.
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Human Security: Perceptions and Realities
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Criminal behaviour in the neighbourhoods
This perception of insecurity as serious or very serious is associated
with the behaviour patterns of criminal activity in both neighbourhoods.
Insecurity is very serious where crime in these neighbourhoods is
increasing; 46.6% of the population thinks that the crime rate is
increasing, but this perception is not the same in both neighbourhoods.
In Gualey, 51.5% of interviewees considered that criminal activity has
increased in recent years, while in Los Alcarrizos only 41.6% think that.
The percentage of people who think that the crime rate has
decreased, however, is significantly high: 35.4% of interviewees in Los
Alcarrizos and 31.6% in Gualey say that the crime rate has decreased.
We face a paradox, as on the one hand the population perceives an
increase in the levels of insecurity and crime in their neighbourhood,
but at the same time an important number of people say that the crime
rate has decreased. This complexity reveals a neighbourhood as a
complex of social networks, where people meet each other and establish
relationships that make it difficult to identify certain actions as crimes.12
In the same neighbourhood, criminals live alongside non-criminals.
Although many people are against criminal acts, they live with criminals
and they even develop survival strategies towards these acts. In many
cases, this coexistence reaches the agencies responsible for public order.
Despite the complex social networks existing in the
neighbourhoods, it is also true that the population lives in fear of the
increase of criminal and delinquent acts taking place in their territories,
but especially of the impunity surrounding those who commit crimes.
Such expressions as ‘nobody speaks, nobody tells, because they are
put in jail, but are released immediately’13 reveals the degree of distrust
in the mechanisms of the police and legal system as a means of
controlling crime and delinquency.
Impunity, then, becomes one of the main causes of criminality.
Referring to a study carried out in Chile, in 1940 Adolfo Ibáñez stated:
‘There has been an impression for many years that most crime in
Santiago goes unpunished; numerous victims do not report the crimes
of which they have been victims, because they consider that the
nuisance involved is absolutely pointless or to no effect.’14
12. Interview with the anthropologist Tahira Vargas.
13. Interview with a leader of the neighbourhood association in Gualey.
14. Adolfo Ibáñez, Contribución al estudio del aumento de la delincuencia en Chile,
1940, cited by Hugo Frühling, in ‘Violence and insecurity in modern Chile’, paper
presented at the Expert Meeting on Peace, Human Security and Conflict Prevention in
Latin America and the Caribbean, Santiago, November 2001.
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Main crimes affecting neighbourhoods
The information gathered on people’s perception of which are the
violent and/or criminal situations affecting their neighbourhood
produces important values for analysing insecurity.
Drug trafficking and consumption. 90.9% of interviewees mentioned
drug consumption as the main issue as regards violence and criminal
behaviour affecting both neighbourhoods, followed by drug trafficking
with 87.4%.
Domestic burglary. The third most frequent crime is burglary of
private houses, 48.4% of interviewees in both neighbourhoods
mentioning this as the most frequent criminal act.
Homicide is ranked in fourth place with 47.9%.
Armed robbery, with 41.9%, ranked fifth among the most frequent
criminal acts in these neighbourhoods.
Although difficult to characterize on the same level as the previous
acts, 35.3% of interviewees mentioned prostitution as a frequent crime.
Also, 27.4% of interviewees mentioned robberies committed by gangs
as frequent crimes in these neighbourhoods.
Finally, 18.1% identified physical aggressions as frequent.
There are significant variations in the data provided by the
inhabitants of Gualey and Alcarrizos concerning these criminal acts,
except for drug trafficking and consumption, which is equally high in
both neighbourhoods: 88.6% and 87.5% for interviewees in Gualey,
and 92.2% and 89.0% in Alcarrizos.
It is important to analyse the disaggregated figures in both
neighbourhoods. As regards drug trafficking and consumption, the levels
are equally high in each neighbourhood. In Gualey, 88.6% of
interviewees mentioned drug consumption, while 87.5% referred to
drug trafficking; in Los Alcarrizos, on the other hand, 92.2% referred
to drug consumption and 89.0% to drug trafficking.
The perception has increased that the origin of many of the
robberies committed in the neighbourhoods under study lies in wellorganized gangs which are often associated with drug trafficking. In
this respect, the results reveal that 41.8% of interviewees in Gualey
mentioned robberies committed by gangs as the most frequent criminal
act. In Alcarrizos the situation is different, as only 19.9% of interviewees
considered the robberies committed by gangs to be frequent.
In recent years, networks of South American drug dealers have
used the Dominican territory in their way to the United States. The
increase in activities associated with narcotics trafficking, as well as its
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Human Security: Perceptions and Realities
Alejandra V. Liriano
location mainly in densely inhabited and deprived neighbourhoods and
the increasing use of children in ‘merchandise’ delivery activities have
resulted in the association between drug trafficking and criminality.
Public perception has increased that there is a cause and effect
relationship between drug trafficking and consumption and the increase
in criminality. According to figures provided by the National Directorate
of Drug Control (DNCD), about 325 minors below 17 years old were
prosecuted due to their involvement in the trafficking, sale and
consumption of drugs in 2001, compared with 267 in 2000.15
The activities of the gangs and their fights for territory are not a
new problem, nor are they exclusively associated with drug trafficking
and consumption. In popular culture and in social relationships in the
popular sectors, the control of territory carries a lot of weight. Disputes
over territory are often related to revenge, vindication of masculinity
and ‘honour’, but due to the boom in drugs, the control of a territory
has increasingly become an alternative economy, where poverty is
mixed with the alternatives offered by the drug trade.
Neighbourhoods turn more violent and insecure as zones controlled
by groups linked with drug trafficking are established. This perception
of a very dangerous neighbourhood is held by those living outside
these neighbourhoods, rather by the inhabitants themselves. It is no
secret, however, that ‘there are areas that neither people nor police
dare to enter’.16
Complex social networks are organized around the territory,
promoting all kinds of exchange and at the same time making it difficult
to control criminal activities. We are referring to networks where
money, favours, services, territory or territorial boundaries and
functions are exchanged. Through these mechanisms, people associated
with crime relate to the rest of the neighbourhood; everyone knows
who sells and who consumes drugs; the drug dealers in turn use other
people to store the merchandise – because of the economic benefit
involved – who do not necessarily support this trafficking.
Fear and insecurity of citizens
The neighbourhood continues to be a space where living is possible,
but interviewees showed fear that they themselves or their homes
15. Statement by DNCD (Dirección Nacional de Control de Drogas) spokesman, Mr
Jacobo Mateo Moquete, published in El Caribe, 3 January 2002.
16. Interview with a leader of the neighbourhood association in Gualey.
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would be attacked or assaulted. This is shown by the answers given to
the questions about what is security, the answers to which may be
divided into four major groups. The first is related to security at home,
as for the interviewees living in a peaceful house is to feel protected,
without fear of being assaulted or robbed, as well as being able to leave
the doors open. Another set of answers refer to security in public
places and streets, showing that expectations of security outdoors
are also important. To be able to walk in the street without fear of
being assaulted or robbed is regularly repeated in people’s answers.
The other sets of answers relate to the security and protection given
by the authorities and, finally, to socio-economic and political conditions.
Subjective security and the press
The general opinion is that the media are often responsible for the
perception of an increase in violent or criminal acts, although this does
not necessarily correspond to reality. By giving blanket coverage to
violent events, an atmosphere is promoted of public alarm,
sensationalism of images and repeated statements about the
ineffectiveness of control measures for delinquency and crime.17
Many people take news about the increase in criminal acts splashed
across the media to be true, without submitting the information to
any kind of verification. The part that sources of information can play
in building up a subjective dimension of security has often been
emphasized. In addition, third parties’ comments and accounts may
give rise to rumour, with its negative consequences on public opinion
through lack of accurate information.18
In the period covered by this study on perceptions, different social
sectors of the Dominican Republic publicly expressed their concern
about the increase in violence and criminality. The reference to a wave
of crime and delinquency never before seen in the country, even
resorting to kidnapping, were some of the concerns stated by the
government, the Church and civil society.19
17. Luis Vial, ‘La inseguridad ciudadana y la participación’, in Correa Enrique and Marcela
Noé, Nociones de una ciudadanía que crece, Santiago, FLACSO-Chile, 1998.
18. Rosa del Olmo, ‘Ciudades duras y violencia urbana’ [Inhospitable Cities and Urban
Violence], in Nueva Sociedad, Caracas, No. 167, May-June 2000.
19. See ‘Evangélicos muestran su preocupación por creciente ola de violencia’, Hoy
newspaper, 6 August 2001, article signed by Hilda Feliz. In this respect, the article by R.
González of Hoy of 6 August reports the pronouncements of Dr César Mella, medical
advisor to the Executive, when referring to the need to launch a crusade, that is, a great
demonstration against violence and crime.
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Human Security: Perceptions and Realities
Alejandra V. Liriano
When asked if the media reflect the feeling of insecurity in the
neighbourhoods, 61.5% answered yes, while 34.5% answered that they
do not reflect reality.
Guillermo Sunkel states that changes in people’s concerns are closely
linked to changes in the media in their attempt to tune in with the
latest concerns shown by mass audiences, where violence occupies a
very important place in the dynamics of the market place.20
We must accept that the state of public opinion expresses a
concern founded on an actual boom in delinquency and crime, while
insisting on the fact that the lack of reliable statistics prevents an
assessment of the trends of this growth, that is, to see delinquency
not as an isolated phenomenon, but as part of the social network where
disfunctionalities operate.
Citizens as victims
As already mentioned, we do not have in our country updated or
reliable figures of the state agencies responsible for security and justice
policies, which may serve as reference in order to establish classifications,
trends of growth, locations and other necessary references, in order to
give a historical starting point for the behaviour of the victimization rate
and its relationship with the behaviour of type of crime.
In this study, which is generally focused on dealing with the
perception of security by citizens of specific neighbourhoods of the
city of Santo Domingo, we may not overlook the need to establish
victimization indexes, as they also become the determining factors
per se of the scenario studied and, in a practical sense, victimization is
the most immediate reference in terms of experience that ordinary
citizens have; therefore this is the most direct determining factor in
their perception of crime.
For some experts on the subject of citizen security, the concept of
victim is generated as from the fears founded on real considerations,
which may inhibit citizens in the exercise and use of their rights as
such, due to the danger and threats when getting in touch with a
certain public environment, while for other authors, the victim
originates in the damage caused to the physical or moral people, both
to their properties, belongings or other qualities, with this implying a
direct contact between the victim and the offender.
20. Guillermo Sunkel, ‘Medios de comunicación y violencia en la transición chilena’,
Santiago, 1992, cited by Luis Vial, op. cit.
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In our context, the above means that a diagnosis about insecurity
is not enough. Insecurity must be related to the security of people as
a regulatory horizon and a condition for the lasting success of a fully
modern society.21
Thus, human security becomes a permanent social construction in
the field of opportunities and threats 2 2 both nationally and
internationally. From this perspective, the creation of social mechanisms
of security should aim not only at the limitation of threats via preventive
diplomacy, or at the reduction of weapons, the control of terrorist
groups and networks of organized crime, but also at promoting rules
and practices within states, thus allowing the development of resources
and economic potential, so as to avoid and prevent conflicts and
promote practices of good governance.
We have attempted to go through the possibilities and opportunities
of the complex concept of human security in the framework of
worldwide conflict scenarios, where the solution seems to be a return
to a largely military response to events of a political nature. Also, we
wished to place human security in the context of the reorganization
of national and international strategies intended to enlarge the scope
the state has to control citizens via intelligence, as required by the
international fight against terrorism.23
21. De la seguridad human en la modernidad …, op. cit.
22. Ibid.
23. The study on the perception of citizen insecurity in two neighbourhoods of Santo
Domingo was prepared by Alejandra Liriano and Daniel Pou. A complete version is
currently in press.
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Scenes showing children brandishing the latest automatic rifles in
armed conflicts have become commonplace. I was struck by an image
on television a few years ago showing a scrawny African boy, about 12
or 13 years old, dressed in torn civilian clothes and holding a shiny
automatic rifle in his hands. It is also common in Latin America and the
Caribbean to see teenagers brandishing European or North American
automatic rifles, not only in armed guerrilla-type conflicts, but also in
gang fights to control drug trafficking in poor areas on the periphery of
major towns. It must be pointed out that, both internationally and
locally, the use of state force as the primary means for resolving conflicts
has caused more victims among civilians than among the combatants
involved in the conflict. This even applies to the way in which police
are used in the fight against drugs in various towns in Latin America.
The police are used as a fighting force, and dealers (whether real or
imaginary) are seen as enemy ‘combatants’. Consequently, dealers die
in confrontations between gangs; dealers die from police action; police
die; defenceless women and children die from stray bullets.
1. Researcher, FLACSO-Brazil.
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The questions must be asked: How can we live in a world in which
the financial resources that are lacking in order to mitigate the hunger
of children and adolescents are in abundant supply when it comes to
putting guns into their hands so that they can kill and be killed? What
security can be given to hungry children in the world, especially in
poor countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America? What security can
citizens have against pollution of the rivers in their towns or villages?
What security do they have against rash or corrupt management of
resources by the governors of their country, province or district?
What security do they have against their own use of drugs? What
security do citizens who do not use drugs have against the effects of
militarized repression of those drugs?
The substance of this paper shows that the security paradigm that
has guided relationships between nation-states in the international
system, which is still geared towards issues of economy, power and
the force of arms, is the same one that has guided public security
actions within countries, especially in the periphery of major towns.
The paper shows that this has to do with the rejection of multilateral
solutions, which has marked the decisions of major powers on the
international scene.
An initial appreciation is made of the concept of human security
and its applicability to local problems in a world in which coordination
of global and local issues takes place independently of geographical
boundaries and isolated decisions – for example, the drug problem
and the firearms issue. Drugs cannot be fought as if they were a merely
local problem; and the proliferation of firearms in our towns cannot
be dealt with without taking into account the fact that international
producers and beneficiaries from this legal and illegal business do
everything possible to boost this proliferation. The next section
presents an evaluation of the negative effects of applying the
international security paradigm to domestic issues in Latin American
and Caribbean countries. The adoption of the human security and
civil society perspective in the fight against urban violence and local
crime, as set forth by the United Nations and other supranational
agencies, is proposed.
Human security – the concept
The concept of human security has been developed in the context
of international relations. It is true that, from a philosophical, religious
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point of view, humanitarian concepts have been around since Antiquity.
But in formal terms, the humanitarian methodology, which places human
beings at the centre of political concerns, as Rojas 2 points out, ‘has been a
basic source of international law for 500 years, even before the Westphalia
peace treaty, which established inter-state order in 1648’. Humanitarianism has not been strong enough to fully accomplish its goal of putting
human beings at the core of social relations, both between nations and
within them. It can be said, then, that humanitarianism has been developed as a theory, but its effects have not transcended treaties and conventions. Unfortunately, in the twenty-first century security continues
to be sought based on power and the force of arms.
The destructive consequences of traditional development and security logic can be seen in The State of World Population 20013
report from the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA). The report
is an objective account of global threats, mainly to the environment,
and of the abysmal disparities to which the world population is subject
(6.1 billion people; double the population in 1960):
‘POVERTY AND ENVIRONMENT. Despite substantial economic activity
estimated today at more than US$30 trillion per year, nearly 1.2 billion
people live on less than one dollar a day. Close to 60% of the 4.4 billion
people in developing countries do not have basic sewerage; almost a
third do not have access to clean water; a quarter do not have suitable
housing; 20% do not have access to modern health services; and 20% of
children will not pass fifth grade at school.’
The problems set forth above continue to challenge global
governance, which is still involved in power issues. It appears that
state security is preferable to the human security of populations. The
(neo)liberal point of view, whereby a country’s economic development
is a precondition for human development and the well-being of its
citizens, prevails. This is used to justify the poverty of countries and
peoples. It is also used to justify tremendous lack of equality within
countries with good economic performance, but with groups of people
living in conditions of extreme poverty similar to those of people living
in economically very poor countries. A Brazilian president once said,
‘The economy is doing fine, but the people are doing badly’, expressing
the idea that a country must first grow economically in order to then
be able to divide the ‘cake’.
2. Francisco Rojas Aravena, ‘Seguridad humana: Una perspectiva académica desde América
Latina’, in Chile 1999–2000. Nuevo gobierno: Desafíos de la reconciliación, Santiago,
FLACSO-Chile, 2000.
3. The State of World Population 2001, New York, United Nations Population Fund,
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Thus, the concept of human security opens up a new perspective
for nations and peoples, especially for the poor throughout the world.
It is hoped that social relations in international or local spheres of
action may be marked by government policies that reflect a decision
to put human beings at the core. It is hoped that the efforts of
humanitarians are not lost and that the idea of human security should
prevail over the idea of security sought through the use of arms and in
the interests of the state. The old Latin precept, si vis pacem para
bellum, has once again proved in post-modernity to be a fallacy
promoted by warmongers and arms dealers.
We must avoid dealing with the fight against urban violence in the
public security arena as if it were a war, with poor communities
transformed into theatres of operation, as has been done in our towns.
This is a very important point for Latin America, a region strongly
marked by a belief in military ‘solutions’ to social problems. As Rico
says (1997, pp. 25, 26, 61):4
‘This system was made worse by the military nature of Latin American
states towards the end of the nineteenth century. … Military
characteristics from the previous century permeated police issues to a
greater depth in the first decades of the twentieth century. … The largest
obstacles faced by the process of democratization in Latin America are
militarism, economic crisis, foreign debt, social consequences of structural
adjustment, permanence of traditional schemes and attitudes, extremism
(right and left wing), surviving guerrilla forces, party bureaucracy,
corruption and drug trafficking’.
The concept was made official with the publication of the UNDP
Human Development Report 1994, whose central theme was human
security based on another concept – sustainable development – which
is in turn based on the universal right to life:
‘The life of no one person is worth more than that of another. No child
at birth should be condemned to a short or poor life simply because he
or she was born into the ‘wrong class’, the ‘wrong country’ or the
‘wrong sex’.5
If one makes human beings the centre of one’s concerns, the nature
of the challenges faced will be different. Focus changes from territorial
security to personal security anywhere in the world, without
considerations of race, origin, class, religion, culture, conception of
4. For militarization of public security, see also Da Silva, 1996.
5. Human Development Report 1994: New Dimensions of Human Security, New York,
United Nations Development Programme, 1994.
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the world, etc. Human beings are the supreme value, and a rich child
from a rich country is considered the same as a hungry child from a
peripheral country; a rich child from a rich neighbourhood is
considered the same as a hungry child from a poor community. In
fact, a project with such humanitarian content sounds like Utopia.
Those who think that way are right to a certain degree. But one must
first remember that, in today’s world, this is not just a humanitarian
question, but also one of security and survival for all, rich and poor,
both internationally and locally.
In point of fact, the new concept of security began to appear in
reports on human development published in 1990. The 1990 UNDP
report introduced new development indicators, in addition to
economic ones. Measuring the quality of life of people around the
world has been considered important since then. The main indicator
is the Human Development Index (HDI), used not only to compare
quality of life between different countries but also between groups of
human beings within individual countries. The index expresses people’s
conditions based on such variables as per capita net domestic product
(and true purchasing power), life expectancy, and school enrolment
rates, and includes concerns about food security, human rights
violations, proportion of military and social spending, access to drinking
water, gender inequality, incidence of HIV/AIDS, access to newspapers
and telephones, availability of hospitals and doctors, security against
crime, drugs, etc. In sum, the core of the index is a concern for threats
against the human condition. As Regehr also stated (1999):
‘The idea of emphasizing the ‘human’ in security is to re-establish balance
in the security discourse, which has placed too much emphasis on state
security and too little on people security within the country’s borders.
While security and behaviour of countries is obviously central to people’s
security, the excessive concern for sovereignty, state structure, military
defence of territory and, in many cases, survival of the regime, is frequently
detrimental to and gives little attention to the security, well-being and
physical integrity of people.’
Although prepared focused on the security of the international
system, Table 1 (MacLean, s.d., p. 3) could be very useful in establishing
distinctions between dimensions of what one could call ‘traditional
public security’ and ‘human public security’.
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Table 1
Dimensions of traditional security and human security
Traditional security
Human security
Territorial sovereignty
Diplomatic and military
Patterns of control
Potential threat
Formal (political)
Structural violence
Diplomatic and military
Not spatially oriented
Community and individual
Socio-political, socioeconomic, environmental
Not institutionalized
Informal (intuitive)
Non-structural violence
Scientific, technological,
multilateral governance
Source: MacLean, op.cit.
My point, as mentioned above, is that the logic that has guided
security in the international field is the same logic that has guided local
decisions in the fight against crime and violence, a logic which is based
primarily on the principle of the legitimate use of violence by the state,
as Weber (1968) explained in ‘Three pure kinds of legitimate
domination’. The result is that public security has not been focused
on people. Even when people are taken into account, their human
values have been differentiated by reasons of race, gender, wealth, etc.
If Table 1 is analysed bearing in mind public security and the fight
against urban violence, the ‘dimensions’ of human security on an
international scale are shown to be completely applicable to public
security at local and community level. This becomes very clear if the
effects of the traditional concept of security on the area of public
security are analysed, as is done below.
Traditional security paradigm and its effects on public
After the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon,
CNN television immediately coined the phrase ‘America’s New War’,
and soon afterwards, ‘War Against Terror’. In the midst of world
commotion, President George W. Bush did actually declare a ‘new
war’. Curiously enough, from an acknowledged unilateral (and
isolationist) position, whereby the world’s problems were only
important if they directly affected the United States, President Bush
began to exert pressure on all countries to join the United States6 in
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dealing with a problem which, from that moment onwards, he considered to be everyone’s problem. This point is especially important because the United Nations and other supranational humanitarian agencies have been fighting for multilateral policies and cooperation for a
long time, and for the focus of world society’s concern to change so
that an agenda putting human beings at the centre of local, national and
international policies could be established. These organizations’ struggle
has concentrated on efforts to give priority to such issues as ‘firearms
control’, ‘proliferation of anti-personnel mines’, ‘child soldiers’, ‘hunger
and poverty in the world’, ‘pollution’, ‘human rights’, ‘racism’, etc. Despite humanitarian rhetoric in official discourse, the truth is that security has continued to be focused on economics, power, territory, etc.,
with its favoured tool for action being the force of arms. According to
MacLean (op. cit.), at the beginning of the twentieth century the proportion of dead and wounded in military conflicts was 90% soldiers and
10% civilians; at the end of the century, the proportion was inverted –
10% soldiers and 90% civilians. The fact that a country makes war without loss of soldiers (compared with the enemy) has been commemorated as tremendous progress.
After the terrorist actions of 11 September, everyone began to talk
of a Third World War, as if it were a traditional war between nations.
Such is not the case. The US is leading a non-conventional ‘war’, an
asymmetric one some would say, but against terrorist groups with cells
in different, possibly unknown countries. In a Manichaean equation, the
world’s countries have been presented with only two possible
alternatives. They either consider themselves real or potential victims
of terror, or they are considered ‘suspicious’ for not unconditionally
supporting the US in the fight of ‘good against evil’. In his declaration of
war, Bush warned that politically neutral positions would not be accepted,
not even in countries where religious, ethnic or ideological extremism
was not a major problem. Thus, either one chose to be a ‘victim of
terror’, together with the United States, the United Kingdom, France,
Spain, or one became a country ‘suspected’ of practising or supporting
terrorism together with Afghanistan and who knows who else.
6. The El Clarín newspaper, in its edition of 18 August 2001, states: ‘BUSH REJECTS
MULTILATERALISM. Since he assumed the Presidency last February, President George
Bush has rejected all international treaties, always on the same pretext: ‘They are fatally
flawed.’ Until now, the Bush administration has rejected the 1972 Convention on
Biological Weapons, the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty from the same year, ratification of
three projects favoured by Clinton – the Kyoto Protocol, the International Criminal
Court and the Ban on Nuclear Tests – signed by the Democrats but not ratified’. In July
2001, the United States and Israel also unilaterally walked out on the Conference
Against Racism and Intolerance in Durban, South Africa.
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A serious consequence of this Manichaeism is the tendency for
people to emerge in peripheral nations, who, whether to make sure
that their dedication to the ‘centre’ is not doubted, or because of a
compulsion to mimicry, see ghosts on every side, or even, for some
unfathomable reason, appeal to an unfailing alarmism, ‘discovering’
conspiracies and hate where they had never existed before and
choosing enemies because of their appearance or origin and
resurrecting Cesare Lombroso from the grave.
There is no doubt that terrorism is an abominable practice, a
statement which could only be disagreed with by terrorists and those
who support them. That is one thing. Not gauging relative
responsibilities of countries in the fight against terrorism, and adopting
procedures that are also worthy of condemnation, are something else
As has been stated, the main thrust of this paper has to do with the
effect of all this on public security in Latin American towns. In this
respect, this is not really the Third World War, but the Fifth. The
Third was the War on Communism; the Fourth was the War on Drugs,
both declared by countries in the ‘centre’. And now we have the Fifth,
the War Against Terror, with the same model of distribution of tasks
that characterized the Third and the Fourth. The guideline given to
countries, peoples and individuals to orient their actions, even in
domestic spheres of action, is contained in a single word – ‘war’.
In the light of this new conflict, then, it would perhaps be
appropriate to bring to mind some data, which, although apparently
obvious, have none the less been passed over in these discussions.
During the ‘War on Communism’, in the so-called Cold War period
(the Third), we were witness to a rather strange distribution of tasks.
While we in Latin America let our imagination run wild thinking of
magical, infallible buttons which, presumably, the United States and
the Soviet Union kept ready for any emergency – and which could be
pressed at any moment (but, apparently, were not pressed either in
New York or in Washington) – we worked on our own ‘hot war’,
killing each other in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, El Salvador and other places
(except in the countries which had declared the ‘Cold War’). During
the ‘War on Drugs’, we were, and still are, witnesses to mass killing of
our youth in large towns in these marginal countries, very often using
guns produced in Europe and the US, while we have to exert every
effort to ensure that the drugs do not reach European and North
American consumers. I believe that perhaps we need to reflect a little
more on the fact that countries such as Colombia and Brazil, for
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example, lead the number of dead (Colombians and Brazilians) in the
‘War on Drugs’.
Consequently, in the ‘War Against Terror’, Latin American and
Caribbean countries must establish their own guidelines (and not have
them set for them), and the citizens and institutions of these countries
must not exaggerate possible problems riding an opportunistic wave.
More than that, careful attention must be paid to opportunists, who
are experts in heightening fear to create new markets for the
production of electronic devices, intrigue, state intelligence
bureaucracies, anti-terrorist troops, and expert, academic theses on
Without getting into the merits of the motivations that lead suicidal
extremists to perpetrate such dastardly actions against innocent human
beings as those of 11 September (labelling them fanatics or crazies
does not really explain the problem), and keeping some precautions,
such as those specified above, in mind, every country and citizen around
the world has the moral obligation to support the American people
and help in the fight against terrorism, which does not mean closing
their eyes and embarking on a new global ‘war’.
It seems that, in the whole negative picture of the world today,
with wars, poverty, oppression and all the rest, the unilateralism that
has characterized the action of central countries has no place in the
current world situation. Until 11 September, human security seemed
to be an exclusive aspiration of persistent humanitarians and of peoples
constantly exposed to suffering and hardship. It was really a Utopia.
Since then, however, it has to be recognized that what is at stake is the
survival of everyone, including the rich, as has been pointed out. It is
as if a historical conspiracy has opened up a real opportunity to achieve
multilateral cooperation. The curious thing is that it has come about in
a way that could never have been imagined.
We must continue to hope and fight for the human security
doctrine to prosper, not only on the world stage but also nationally
and locally. Much can be done in the area of public security, if human
security is the focus of our concern. The truth is that, as we have
seen, the focus of public security is also territorial (spatial) and
patrimonial, and the preferred means used by the state is force, with
human beings relegated to third place. Thus, I believe that it has been
amply proved in any town in Latin America that acting against urban
violence as if it were a problem totally isolated from global issues, in
other words, a problem that can be solved by using the police, has had
the perverse effect of increasing the level of violence and, above all, of
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increasing discrimination, based on who is ‘dangerous’ and who is not,
who is ‘good’ and who is ‘bad’ in society. The intimate relationship
between global and local in security issues can be inferred from the
words of Ramírez-Ocampo, commenting on the effects of the Cold
War on Latin America (2001, p. 179):7
‘(...) In many latitudes, this false global security implied arbitrary,
premeditated action by government authorities in dealing with their
inhabitants, very often seen to be ‘internal enemies’ and, therefore, a
danger to ‘national security’ interests proffered to the control of East or
Thus, the concept of international security in the ‘War on
Communism’ forced regimes and governments, within their territories,
to join the rationale imposed by the major powers, with the
consequences that we all know so well and which Ramírez-Ocampo
has so eloquently stressed. As we said above, we cannot make the
same mistake again.
Urban violence and human public security
Public security is concerned with public order, violence and crime
at a local level. One of the challenges faced by those responsible for
this sector in our towns and countries is related to doing so within
the framework of human rights. Thus, I simply cannot refer to violence
without first making a few observations about what it means to fight
for human values in developed countries and what it means to fight
for those same values in Latin America, which is still strongly marked
by authoritarianism and social hierarchy. Above all, one must consider
the paradox that historically human rights have followed different
routes in the world. In countries such as France, Portugal, Spain and
the United Kingdom the route has been towards more rights; in Africa,
Asia and Latin America, towards fewer rights. And, most importantly,
the conquest of the citizens of Central European countries occurred
at the same time that those countries were imposing domination and
oppression and ensuring that colonized peoples did not have even the
most basic rights – the right to freedom, to individuality, to their own
culture, to their own religion, to their own lifestyles and even to life
itself. Today in Latin America we are still concerned with first-generation
rights for most Latin American peoples, fighting inequality, poverty,
oppression and state violence.
7. On discrimination of ‘dangerous’ people, see also Da Silva, 1998, pp. 51–62.
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In sum, the following must be kept clearly in mind as a primary
concern in the search for human rights in Latin America: from a formal
point of view, the rights of all are declared in the Constitution and
laws of the land, but material conditions, in other words, the region’s
history and issues involving power and economics, prevent them from
being universally guaranteed. Considering public security without taking
into account the fact that there is a tremendous gulf in our countries
between formal and informal simply contributes to digging a deeper
pit; it is a perverse, though not intentional way, of expiating the blame
of political elites and leaving things as they always were. Consequently,
it can be said that, in most of our countries, the expression ‘maintaining
law and order’ means fighting to maintain hierarchies, authoritarianism
and exclusion.
When speaking of militarizing public security in Latin American
countries, it must be recognized that this is not an isolated choice. In
fact, it involves applying the traditional model of order sought using
military force, which explains the presence of the military in directing
public security activities and even in the police itself. The idea of an
‘internal enemy’, of militarized raids against drug dealers in poor
communities, the use of cordon sanitaires, all owe their origin to a
concept of security that is not focused on human beings.
If problems related to the proliferation of small arms around the
world are combined with the problems of the militarist logic of the socalled ‘War on Drugs’, what is happening in many Latin American towns
in terms of urban violence is understandable. For example, according
to statistics from the State Public Security Secretariat, in Rio de Janeiro
alone the police have impounded 72,274 firearms in the last ten years,
and the number continues to increase. In 1991, 3,958 firearms were
impounded; in 1995, 5,115; in 1999, 9,502; in 2000, 10,332; and in
2001 the projected figure is 12,000 firearms. In the last three years
alone (1999, 2000 and 2001), the police have impounded 362 rifles,
123 submachine guns and 1,171 hand grenades. The above shows
that one cannot offer people security simply through the police; it
shows that global factors, such as the interests of the worldwide arms
industry, the financial power of drug trafficking around the world, the
connections of crime with the international financial system, directly
affect local decisions.
Not taking these factors into account and believing in the use of
force by the police simply means establishing a vicious circle around a
mistaken view of ‘more of the same’. In this context, the police
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themselves can contribute to heating up the drug and arms market,8
in addition to becoming a factor that increases violence, as Zaffaroni
(1988, pp. 5–8) has stated in his book with the suggestive title
“Criminología: Aproximación desde un margen”. The author maintains
that there are two main types of response in these situations –
‘responses that do not question authorities’ and ‘responses that do
question authorities’. He suggests that the role played by the penal
system as a power structure in Latin American countries should be
questioned. Responses that do not question authorities are those that
do not consider the theory that the penal system can become a
conditioning element of crime and violence; in this, Zaffaroni is in
agreement with Lopez-Rey (1981), who had already listed what he
termed the five main ‘conditionates’ of crime – power, development,
inequality, human condition and the penal system. After pointing out a
few characteristics of the system in Latin America, such as its selective,
elitist, classist and racist operation and its intimate links with authorities,
Zaffaroni concludes (p. 19):
‘All this shows us that in our latitude we need knowledge that allows us to
explain what our penal systems are, how they work, what effects they
produce, why and how their effects are hidden from us, how they are
linked to other instances of social control and authorities, what the possible
alternatives to these systems are and how they can be implemented.’
I mentioned above the number of firearms impounded in the State
of Rio de Janeiro, but I did not mention that, in the same ten-year
period, in other words, from 1991 to September 2001, 75,829 people
were murdered in the state, most of them poor young people from
the periphery. Nor did I mention that the number of teenagers
imprisoned by the penal system also increased consistently during the
same period. In 1991, 203 minors were imprisoned; in 1995, 631; in
1996, 1,385; in 1999, 1,634; in 2000, 1,594.9
Thus, if one considers the problems of the proliferation of firearms,
the complexity of international narcotics trafficking, the method
adopted in many places to fight drugs (such as imprisoning young
people), and the number of killings, one can better understand what
Zaffaroni was trying to demonstrate. And one will understand that
the best thing to do in the interest of all citizens is to opt for human
public security.
8. The world drug trade is estimated to turnover about US$500 billion a year, more
than the international oil industry and twice that of the automobile industry (see Estudo,
2000, p. 8).
9. Data from trials of children and teenagers in the town of Rio de Janeiro.
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The traditional perspective of security, in other words, the idea of
security based on such notions as sovereignty, military and economic
power, has caused much suffering in the world, as was mentioned
above. The concept of human security, putting human beings at the
centre of concerns of global governance and local governments, is an
imperative for civilization. It presupposes support from every country
in the world, primarily from the major powers, for its aim is to put an
end to threats against humanity and people in their homes, their work
and their lives.
My point, as I mentioned at the start, is the application of the
concept of human security to public security. I believe that I have
demonstrated that international security logic has had a negative effect
on local decisions in such issues as maintaining law and order and the
fight against crime and urban violence.
I referred to problems of public security in towns in Latin America
and how coping with them has been conceived. It is evident, of course,
that public authorities have been concerned primarily with their assets
and their own interests, in other words, national security interests.
Setting basic questions to one side, the thinking is that an end will be
made to violence and crime by simply using the police, as if the police
were an army fighting against declared enemies. This view puts police
in a cause and effect relationship with violence. If violence does not
diminish, the thinking is that more police are needed or that they are
not properly trained. So the decision is made to increase the number
of police and train them. Then once again, if violence does not diminish,
the thinking is that even more police are needed and even more
training. Well, first of all, it must be borne in mind that two different
things are being referred to. One is the ideal of having a police force
that respects citizens, a well-trained police force that works
professionally; another thing is to think that a police force organized
along these lines is the means par excellence to put an end to violence,
as has been the tendency in the discourse of governments, police,
journalists and even academics. By doing so, they forget basic issues
such as, for example, the effects of globalization on Latin America and
its towns, unemployment, poverty, illiteracy and, it must be reiterated,
the financial interests of international dealing and trafficking in drugs
and arms.
It would seem that, after 11 September, the two major powers are
a little more disposed to support cooperative multilateralism. Public
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security in Latin American and Caribbean towns will be benefited by
action on two main fronts: (a) on an international scale, by a tremendous
effort to control firearms and contain their proliferation in the world,
something that can only be done under the leadership of the United
States; and (b) internally, our countries must set their own agenda,
taking into account local problems and priorities. Supporting the fight
against terror and drugs is a duty, but it cannot be done to the
detriment of problems which affect our populations more directly –
such as hunger, inequality, and the killing of our youth. The question
must be asked: Why do we continue with a militarized fight against
drugs in the poor neighbourhoods of our towns just to see more and
more pointless deaths of thousands of young people?
There is no doubt that, with the concept of human security prevailing
in political decisions regarding public security in our towns, we will be
able to come up with more rational alternatives in order to solve the
problems that afflict us in particular. The concept to be developed is
that of ‘human public security’, and the key word is PEACE.
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Ricardo S. Bustamante (org.), Ensaios Jurídicos – O Direito em Revista, pp. 497–519. Rio de Janeiro, Instituto de Atualização Jurídica–
DA SILVA, JORGE. 1998. Violência e racismo no Rio de Janeiro. 2nd ed.
Rio de Janeiro, Forense.
Estudo global sobre o mercado ilegal de drogas no Rio de Janeiro
(Relatório de Pesquisa). 2000. Rio de Janeiro, NEPAD/UERJ; CLAVES/FIOCRUZ.
LOPEZ-REY, MANUEL. 1981. Introducción a la criminología. Madrid, Universidad Complutense, Instituto de Criminología.
MAC LEAN, GEORGE. The Changing Perceptions of Human Security:
Coordinating National and Multilateral Responses. Paper prepared
for the United Nations Association in Canada conference, The
United Nations and the New Security Agenda, Ottawa, Ontario, 8
May 1998 (
RAMIREZ-OCAMPO, AUGUSTO. 2001. La paz internacional, seguridad humana y protección de la democracia. In: Rodrigo Alberto Carazo Z.
(comp.). Violencia y paz en América Latina. Cartago, Costa Rica,
Libro Universitario Regional.
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Human Security and Public Security ...
Jorge Da Silva
REGEHR, ERNIE. 1999. Defense and Human Security. In Ploughshares
Monitor, December 1999 (
Rico, JOSÉ MARÍA. 1997. Justicia penal y transición democrática en América Latina. Madrid/Mexico City. Siglo Ventiuno Editores.
ROJAS ARAVENA, FRANCISCO. 2000. Seguridad humana: Una perspectiva
académica desde América Latin. In Nuevo Gobierno: desafíos de la
reconciliación. Yearbook. Santiago, FLACSO-Chile.
UNDP. 1994. Human Development Report 1994: New Dimensions
of Human Security. New York, United Nations Development
UNFPA. 2001. The State of World Population 2001. New York, United
Nations Population Fund.
WEBER, MAX. 1968. Three pure types of legitimate domination. In:
Guenther Roth and Claus Wittich (eds.), Economy and Society,
Vol. 1. New York, Bedminister Press.
ZAFFARONI, E UGENIO RAÚL. 1988. Criminología: Aproximación desde un
margen. Vol. I. Bogotá, Editorial Temis.
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Violence is a particularly relevant subject for analysing factors
affecting people’s security. In order to work properly, every social
system requires the production of reciprocal certainties, securities,
acknowledgements and expectations that are met to a reasonable
degree. The lack of these certainties threatens social stability and
people’s psychological well-being.
Social change creates new factors of insecurity or diminishes the
importance of old ones. Transition from a rural society to an urban
one, and from an economy with high levels of intervention by the
state to a free market one, are two examples of changes that modify
areas of certainty, causing some to disappear while creating new ones.
At the same time, these social changes cause existing security
mechanisms to be modified; in other words, they modify policies and
measures aimed at dealing with factors that cause insecurity.
1. This paper owes a great deal to the research assistant, Azun Candina.
2. Lawyer, Doctor in Juridical Sciences and Master in Law, Director of the Center for
the Study of Citizen Security of the University of Chile.
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This paper evaluates the changes experienced since 1930 as a result of a perception of insecurity based on crime and political violence
in Chile. It refers, therefore, to expressions of interpersonal and inter-group violence.
Any evaluation of violent crime as a factor causing insecurity must
of necessity comprehend it as a historical circumstance in order to
understand its real influence on modern life.
Until recently in Chile, certain violent, criminal acts were traditionally
accepted as normal and considered acceptable within certain limits,
given power relationships within the home. Such is the case of violence
against women, traditionally very common in both rural and urban
Chile, which none the less, was considered for decades to be a fact of
life with very different connotations to those of a crime and which
was never cause for collective fear (Tinsman, 1995, pp. 111–46).
Citizens’ interpretation of crime is also affected by the historical
context. The history of humanity shows the existence of regular
manifestations of collective fear imputable to a wide variety of
circumstances (natural catastrophes, epidemics, military conflicts,
political violence, unemployment and sudden increases in crime). Of
course, whether or not these causes of insecurity prevail in the
perception of citizens depends, in part, on how serious they are and
on how vulnerable citizens feel when confronted by them. In other
words, collective fear increases when there is a sense that existing
social mechanisms are incapable of preventing the occurrence of events
that threaten personal security (Rico and Salas, 1988, p. 13).
It is not our intention here to measure growth or diminution of
insecurity caused by crime, because such historical measurements
are limited by the lack of reliable statistics and by the fact that significant
percentages of crimes remain in the shadows. It would be much less
feasible to establish how fear of crime has evolved, as it has only been
measured by recent surveys. What we would like to do, however, is
specify the ways in which crime has evolved as a cause of insecurity
and how it relates to the country’s prevailing perceptions. Likewise,
we would like to refer to security mechanisms that have been
recommended and adopted to fight crime at different times in the
country’s history.
Fear of common crime or violence is not a recent problem in Chile’s
history. Urbanization gave rise to forms of crime that are typical in
large towns, but which seem to appear mostly in popular sectors. The
response to this process of the state and of individuals was a mixture
of policies aimed at promoting stability in the home and actions that
would increase the attributes of the criminal justice system.
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Violence and Insecurity in Modern Chile
Hugo Frühling
New patterns of violent crime and political violence marked by
increases in robberies and the emergence of groups committing
common crimes for political ends began to take root in the 1970s.
Citizen concern was focused on the significant increase in political
The 1980s and 1990s saw an increase in widespread fear of crime
in the country, typified by a general fear among citizens of the criminal
element that was stimulated by an increase in crimes against property
and by the fact that the perpetrators were often armed.
Criminal violence acquired an increasingly rational, instrumental
nature keyed to acquisitive goals, while criminal violence as the product
of irrational impulses and interpersonal disputes diminished. Fear was
also intensified by the very acute perception that the criminal justice
system was in crisis. This period is characterized by widespread fear
of crime and its identification with armed robbery. In addition, crimefighting proposals were geared basically to modernizing police and court
There is no reason to think that this fear will ease up in future.
Certain typical risk factors of societies that have to cope with crime,
such as use of drugs, prevalence of an acquisitive, individualistic culture,
will continue. Furthermore, until now it would seem that no
mechanisms promoting more in-depth solutions to the problem have
been used.
Crime and violence. Historical background
This section covers a period starting in the 1930s and ending in the
second half of the 1980s. We have divided it into two parts. The first
emphasizes social representation and perception of common crime
until 1964, while the second deals with the irruption of political violence
as a result of political mobilization begun in the second half of the
1960s. This chronological division means that we can evaluate the
sources of fear of violence while the so-called State of Commitment
was in force in Chile, and then during the process of installing social
and economic liberalism under a strongly authoritarian regime.
Rural violence
Crime and violence in Chile did not emerge with the process of
urbanization. They had a great deal of influence on those who migrated
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to rural zones close to the Central Valley at the beginning of the twentieth century. Some maintained that these popular movements were
caused by the poor living conditions of the tenants. Others, in contrast, maintained that the main reason lay in banditry and insecurity in
the fields (Arteaga, 1995, p. 183). One must not forget in this regard
that rural banditry was an enormously important problem after the
end of the War of the Pacific. Historical literature has recorded
declarations saying that organized banditry scoured the countryside
with impunity, frightening the population (Maldonado, 1990, p. 9).
In order to ensure successful colonization of the south, which
involved foreign immigrants, the ‘Colonial Police Force’ was formed in
1884 and entrusted with maintaining law and order in Arauco, Malleco,
Cautín, Valdivia and Llanquihue. This force was eventually broken up
and replaced in 1902 by a Police Squadron consisting of members of
the army who performed the same function (Aguila and Maldonado,
1996, p. 76).
A peasant’s daily life witnessed frequent acts of physical violence,
although not caused by the actions of professional criminals. Men on
the haciendas were linked to productive work, while women did the
housework. Selling food and alcoholic beverages in their homes and
installing canteens or bars were an additional way of obtaining income
for the family, or for subsisting in the case of women living alone.
Studies of criminal cases show that there were frequent hold-ups
and fights inside these properties, usually caused by excess consumption
of alcohol and ending in serious injuries and death (Arteaga, 1995, pp.
184–7), just as happened in the towns. However, these actions only
occurred among popular rural sectors.
As a result of the rapid process of urbanization begun in the
nineteenth century and speeded up in the early decades of the
twentieth century, images and expressions of violence were transferred
to a different context – the urban context and more specifically the
city of Santiago.3
Representations of urban criminal violence (1930–64)
In the years following the economic crisis of the 1930s, specialized
literature of the time told of concern about the increase in crime,
recorded empirically through the increase in the number of criminal
3. In 1930, 51.6% of the 4,287,445 Chileans lived in rural zones, while the urban population
accounted for 49.4%. In 1940, the urban population was 52.5% and in 1952 it was 60.2%.
In 1970, it had already climbed to 75.2%. See National Housing and Population Censuses,
1952, 1960 and 1970.
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cases passing through the courts. Businessman Adolfo Ibáñez, in a paper presented in the Puerto Varas Rotary Club Conference in 1940,
‘This study, this tremendous effort to get involved in a field so alien to
the author, intends to be a contribution to the tremendous work of
saving at least some of those thousands of unfortunate souls whom
crime is pulverizing every year in our country. Caught up by the
impression of lives destroyed by crime, by compassion for annihilated
families, by horror at such dreadful crimes, I began studying the statistics
of this horrible epidemic …’ (Ibáñez, 1940, p. 4).
Figures quoted by the author are eloquent: criminal cases taken to
court in 1930 amounted to 88,000, the next year 67,000 and by 1937
they had risen to 144,000 (Ibáñez, 1940, p. 20). He is not particularly
rigorous in defining the crimes to which he refers. He maintains, however, that if one considers trials of primary crimes – fraud, homicide,
robbery, fire, assault and battery, theft – then these increased by 4,335
between 1838 and 1939 (Ibáñez, 1940, p. 21).
Ibáñez asserts that the average number of people imprisoned for robbery, theft, fraud, assault and battery and homicide every year amounted
to 17,838 in the five-year period from 1922 to 1926, dropped to 12,256
between 1927 and 1931, and then rose to 24,956 between 1936 and
1938 (Ibáñez, 1940, p. 29). He also asserts that the number of offenders
per 100,000 inhabitants was double the figure for European countries,
such as Italy, France and the United Kingdom.
Manifestations of a deep concern about crime continued through the
1950s. This is borne out, as we will see, by the Senate debate of the bill
establishing antisocial statuses. It had been a project of the Gabriel González
Videla government aimed at dealing with assault using violence or intimidation, known as ‘mugging’. 4
Four years later, in 1958, criminologist Israel Drapkin criticized the
editorial line of the press at the time, because it placed too much emphasis on the increase in criminality and the impunity of crimes, on the need
to increase sentences and enlarge the police force, without putting forward any serious arguments (Drapkin, 1958, pp. 119–25). This shows
that crime continued to be a current issue in national debate as the 1960s
drew near.
Studies in the 1940s maintained that medical, hereditary, social and economic reasons had a bearing on crime, and that these, in turn, were influenced by the moral conditions in which poor urban sectors lived and bred.
4. Speech by Senator Pedro Alvarez, ordinary session of 2 June 1954. Minutes of ordinary Senate Session, 1954, Vol. I, p. 294.
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In his dissertation for his degree, Salvador Allende maintained that
there was an evident influence of hereditary defects and degenerative
diseases in the aetiology of crime. He based his reasoning on European
studies, which showed the influence of epilepsy on the genesis of crime.
He also maintained that alcoholism, tuberculosis, venereal diseases and
drug addiction were other aetiological factors (Allende, 1933, p. 12).
Thus, in his conclusions, he recommended dealing with crime by means
of educational and public health measures: enlarging and spreading
experimental schools for the mentally weak, creating and organizing
mental hygiene services throughout the country and establishing medicalcriminological services in jails and prisons (Allende, 1933, p. 18).
Evaluations at the time clearly could not overlook social and
economic factors that predisposed people to crime. Once again factors
which have been repeated in subsequent decades were considered.
One of the factors which, of course, was specified as speeding up
crime in the second half of the 1930s was the economic crisis with its
after-effects of unemployment, poverty and moral decline. Reference
was also made, however, to other causes related less to the economic
cycle than to changes occurring in society.
Thus, the process of urbanization was seen to be one of the primary
causes of the increase in crime. As Abraham Meersohn stated in an
excellent test thesis, the urban media was where crimes were
committed with greater frequency due to greater population density,
the marked contrast between the wealth of some and the poverty of
others, the abundance of dens of vice and corruption, as well as job
instability (Meersohn, 1940, pp. 9–15).
A second social risk factor was the rapid break-up of family
organization by so-called industrialism, which displaced private
production and changed the system of family life. Fathers now had to
earn a living outside the home, leaving their children in the care of
their mothers or sometimes of strangers. This had repercussions on
the children’s moral formation, upon which depended whether or
not a child became first a young offender and then a professional
criminal. (Meersohn, 1940, pp. 22, 23).
The most devastating expression of this break-up of family
organization was abandoned children, a situation that, according to
Meersohn, brought with it a greater degree of danger. Abandoned
children fed the ranks of vagrants and beggars. The author maintained
that there were about 4,000 beggars in Santiago and about 6,000
vagrants wandering about the town with no fixed activity. These occasionally committed crimes.
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According to Meersohn, vagrants and beggars were more perverse
and vicious than habitual criminals (Meersohn, 1940, p. 31). His
evaluation in this respect reflects the learned opinion prevailing in the
nineteenth century. The populace lived in a ‘vicious, perverse’ social
milieu, which had a bearing on the lack of moral formation; the picture
was one of poorly formed families, alcoholic parents, with illegitimate
children who ended up as prostitutes or vagrants and beggars. In his
dissertation for his degree in medicine, Salvador Allende referred to
‘unsavoury characters’ who represented a transition stage between
honesty and crime. As such, they were untouched by the law, but
society had to defend itself against them and protect them for they
were a breeding ground for future criminals (Allende, 1933, p. 16).
Vagrants and beggars, however, were the most extreme expression
of the problem of a lack of social discipline and lack of diligence, which
were important seeds of crime. Adolfo Ibáñez, whom we have already
mentioned, maintained that the cause of crime was not low wages and
that workers and employees would live better if they knew how to
better invest their wages and earnings, for they liked to drink and very
often wasted their money on drinking and gambling (Ibáñez, 1940, p.
The risk factor, which received the most attention in those years,
was alcoholism. High consumption of alcohol in the country was shown
by the fact that 55.7% of all inmates of public jails had been imprisoned
for drunkenness. According to a study by doctor Luis Cubillos entitled
‘Crime, a Social-Biological and Legal Problem’ and cited by Meersohn,
about 70% to 75% of Chilean murderers had a background of
alcoholism (Meersohn, 1940, p. 73). The same author maintains that
statistics from the Detective Service and the Institute of Criminology
indicated that drunkenness was the cause of a high percentage of the
most violent crimes, such as homicide, assault and battery and rape.
Finally, just as in previous decades, one of the main causes of crime
was considered to be its impunity. Ibáñez quotes a speech by the
President of the Republic stating that most crimes committed in Santiago
went unpunished and reiterates:
‘There has been an impression for many years that most crime in Santiago
goes unpunished; numerous victims do not report the crimes of which
they have been victims, because they consider that the nuisance involved
is absolutely pointless or to no effect’ (Ibáñez, 1940, p. 25).
The author agrees absolutely with this point of view and states that
the direct cause of the increase in crime is the lack of discipline, fostered
by impunity.
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The image that emerges from the studies quoted above is that of a
criminal from the low classes, living in a milieu in which violence,
alcoholism and social dissolution prevail. Criminals were individuals
acting alone, but who sometimes acted with accomplices and were
protected by accessories after the fact. Criminals did not act in constant
association with other criminals. But, what were the most worrying
The studies by Allende and Meersohn stress so-called violent crimes
against people, such as homicide and assault and battery. The former
declared that criminality in Chile was essentially homicidal in nature
(Allende, 1933, p. 18). Ibáñez, in contrast, referred to epidemics of
robberies, which in popular neighbourhoods took the form of typical
muggings. Both, in turn, referred to crimes which were not serious in
themselves, but which could cause fear in the population and foster
social disorder – vagrancy, mendicity and alcoholism. Is this perception
supported by statistical data?
Crime: true facts (1930–64)
As is well known, police statistics on crime are only part of the
truth, never a faithful reflection of it, because a large percentage of
crimes are never reported or never recorded by the police. Chile
only has statistical records of crimes reported to the police since 1948.
In turn, the Plainclothes Detective Force has only recorded its orders
to investigate since 1944. There is information about arrests made by
the police during the whole period, but these are rather more a
reflection of police activity.
Existing information reveals a significant amount of crimes against
people during the years covered by these statistics. In fact, the highest
homicide rate was recorded in the period from 1944 to 1949,
amounting to 10.72 homicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Similar rates
were only repeated between 1970 and 1973. The number of homicides
investigated by the Plainclothes Detective Force, however, obviously
declined starting from 1950. Reports of assault and battery remained
high throughout the period from 1948 to 1972, dropping quickly after
that date. The lack of any additional information makes it hard to
interpret these figures. If, however, a large percentage of homicides
and assault and battery were caused by fights under the influence of
alcohol, then naturally the gradual increase in the income and education
of popular sectors of the population would be reflected in a fewer
number of cases.
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The number of reports of robberies and thefts during this period
stayed the same with a slight tendency to decline. In sum, the natural
psychological impression caused by violent crime, and the fact that
rates of violent crime were high during the period, combine to
consolidate the public image that violent crime during this period
typically involved bloodshed and people from popular communities.
Security policies
Insecurity during this period was dealt with basically via state policies,
which increased discretionary powers and the severity of the penal
system and sought to promote the stability of legitimate families and
control the consumption of alcohol. All this was in line with the prior
diagnosis that the breakdown of family organization and excessive
consumption of alcohol contributed to the increase in crime.
The most obvious expression of greater discretionary powers for
the police was the gradual increase in arrests on suspicion by the police,
coupled with arrests for vagrancy and mendicity that usually did not
lead to any convictions, but which increased in number during the
1930s and 1940s. I refer to this as an increase in discretionary powers
of the police, because arrests were not on suspicion of having
committed a specific crime but rather on suspicion of having evil intent.
Consequently, arrest on suspicion became a system of control designed
for people from the populace considered to be dangerous. As Appendix
5 shows, arrests on suspicion were 11.8% of total arrests in 1930,
while in 1964 the figure was 35.2% of total arrests. In 1930, 18,612
people were arrested on suspicion, while in 1964 173,288 people
were arrested on the same grounds.
The most obvious attempt to increase the discretionary powers of
the system of criminal justice to deal with crime was the enactment of
Law 11.625 on Antisocial Statuses, approved on 4 October 1954, to
deal with robbery with violence. Among other things, this law
established a criterion of dangerousness in penal legislation by defining
‘antisocial statuses’, which was the status accorded to given persons
who were considered to be a danger to society, because they were
discovered in situations that were a breeding ground for criminals
and, therefore, they would later commit crimes. The new law was
aimed at homosexuals, drug addicts, vagrants, drunks and identity
forgers, among others. Its Article 3 sets forth such measures to deal
with these groups as internment in agricultural workhouses, the
obligation to reside in a given place, bail-bonds, etc. These security
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measures were to be adopted after a short proceeding before a judge.
As can be seen, the law imposed restrictive measures on personal
freedom without having to prove that a specific crime had been
committed. This part of the law was never applied, because the
regulations issued under it were never issued; but, in fact, it remained
in force until 1994 when it was repealed by Law 19.313.
The same Law 11.625 on Antisocial Statuses introduced a series of
severe amendments to sentences imposed for robbery and theft.
Article 47 amended Article 450 of the Penal Code, prescribing that
robberies and thefts under Section IX of the Code would be punishable
as having been perpetrated even if they had only been attempted. This
eliminated sentences imposed on attempted robbery or theft. Likewise,
Paragraph 2 of Article 450 of the law placed armed robbery as a separate
crime. Sentences were severe, including life imprisonment. The law
also stipulated that persons over 18 years of age who participated in
robberies and thefts with persons under 18 would always be punished
as authors, even if they had only been accomplices. These sentences
were subsequently tempered by Law 13.303 of 1959.5
In addition, policies on the stability of legitimate families and prevention
of alcohol consumption sought to act on risk factors that created
conditions for an increase in criminal violence. These included abandoned
children, lack of discipline and alcoholism in popular communities.
Promoting legitimate families was done basically through promotional
and legislative activities. The law expedited conditions for recognizing
illegitimate children, thereby preventing them from evolving, as was
believed at the time, towards abandonment, vagrancy and crime. Thus,
Law 4808 of 1930 imposed the obligation on Civil Registry Officers to
explain to those who were about to marry that they could legitimize
their illegitimate children. This led to nearly 19,000 illegitimate children
being legitimized between 1933 and 1937 (Meersohn, 1940, p. 35).
Social security legislation also recognized some privileges for married
workers that were not recognized for unmarried ones. Thus, the
preventive medicine law approved in 1938 granted married workers
and widowers a subsidy equivalent to 75% of their wages, if they were
absent through illness. Single workers only received 50%.
Payment of a family allowance for workers was approved from 1952,
but could only be collected for legally recognized children. Benefits
paid by the Obligatory Insurance Fund only applied if children were
legally recognized.
5. See Jorge Burgos, pp. 26 ff.
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Preventive and repressive efforts to reduce consumption of alcohol
did not lag behind those made to promote family stability. At the time,
alcohol was considered to be the cause of heavy economic losses and
also to induce the most violent crimes. The Alcohol Law in force in
the 1930s and 1940s heavily taxed new vineyards that were planted,
except for those whose production was geared towards consumption
of grapes or to making pisco for export. Teaching notions of physiology
that showed the consequences of alcohol abuse was obligatory in all
schools, and people found in an evident state of drunkenness on the
public thoroughfare were meted additional punishment.
Based on the series of legislative, preventive and repressive measures
referred to above, we can assert that during this period there existed
a model of security measures consisting of a combination of repressive
actions and preventive and promotional ones, but always carried out
by the state. The instrument used was always the judiciary acting
through punishments or rewards and bonuses.
The state was strongly regulatory and did not hesitate to renege on
liberal-democratic principles in order to respond to criteria of
dangerousness and deal with unsavoury characters. Both penal law
and social measures sought to consolidate a society based on a strong
family system and disciplined workers. Evidence from the times,
however, would seem to indicate that these security mechanisms were
not the result of any scientifically designed criminal policy. Furthermore,
many of the measures, such as the mass alcohol prevention campaigns,
were only implemented on paper.
Political violence
The second half of the 1960s marked the beginning of patterns of
political violence which, if not exactly new, achieved new levels of
intensity and culminated in the installation of a military government in
1973. With it, concern for common crime was attenuated.
Official crime figures show some not very serious fluctuations in
this period. The number of reports of robberies was 223.4 per 100,000
in 1964 and 284.2 per 100,000 in 1980. The truly significant, explosive
increase occurred later, in the 1980s and 1990s. The highest number
of reports prior to 1982 occurred in 1972. Theft, in contrast, declined
noticeably. According to the Plainclothes Detective Force, homicides
rose sharply between 1970 and 1973 and then stabilized at levels that
can be considered normal for the period.
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A distinctive sign of this subperiod, however, was the increase in
violence originating in social-political aims and often manifested through
collective action, thereby becoming a manifestation of inter-group
violence. There was a marked increase in acts of violence starting from
1967, partly due to the emergence of new social actors, such as the
peasant, shanty-town dweller and student movements.
A recent study of the causes of human rights violations in Chile,
based on journalistic reports, shows that, whereas in 1966, 37 acts of
violence of a political and social nature were recorded, in 1967 these
rose to 89, in 1968 the figure was 71, in 1969 151 and in 1970 219
(Frühling, 1999, p. 28). The number of acts of violence rose during
the government of Salvador Allende (1970–73) and, in addition, the
make-up of this violence also changed considerably. In fact, acts of
violence classified as terrorism, seizure of land, farms and industries
and street fighting predominated (Frühling, 1999, p. 48). Another study
covering the period from 1947 to 1987 reaches the conclusion that
the average number of acts of popular violence during the presidential
period of Gabriel González Videla (1947–52) was 12.5, during the
presidency of Carlos Ibáñez del Campo (1952–58) it was 10.6, during
that of Jorge Alessandri Rodríguez (1958–64) it was 18.6, while during
the presidency of Eduardo Frei Montalva (1964–70) it was 31.5 and
during that of Salvador Allende Gossens it was 63.0 (1970–73) (Salazar,
1990, p. 132).
These inter-group conflicts not only occurred in large towns, but
were also enormously widespread in rural areas. In 1967, there were
702 rural conflicts as a result of strikes and seizures; this figure dropped
to 674 in 1968, rose to 1,275 in 1969, to 2,036 in 1970 and to 3,036
in 1971 (De Vylder, 1976, p. 204).
The level of political confrontation under the Allende government
rose to even greater heights and the opposition began to include groups
that also performed acts of violence and sabotage. 83% of the people
interviewed in a survey undertaken in September 1972 declared that
Chile was living in a climate of violence, while only 17% declared that it
was not.6
The beginning of the military government opened the way for an
increase in new forms of political violence. There was repressive
violence, of course, aimed at breaking up opposition parties and groups,
and there were armed actions by groups opposed to the military
6. Revista Ercilla, 13–19 September 1972, p. 11. Cited in Arturo Valenzuela, El quiebre
de la democracia en Chile, p. 188, FLACSO-Chile, Santiago, 1989.
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government that began operating in the late 1970s and reached their
peak in the 1980s.
Government repression was most intense in 1973, when the Truth
and Reconciliation Commission Report recorded 1,264 homicides and
disappearances, which in many cases involved common criminals.
Action by government security forces remained high in the following
years, but became more selective. The most deaths were recorded in
1974, 1975 and 1976, but figures were lower than in 1973. Of course,
in addition to these events, there were politically motivated arrests
and numerous left-wing militants were sent into exile.
Armed left-wing organizations began to act as well towards the end
of the 1970s. These performed armed propaganda acts, blew up
buildings, committed armed robberies and made selective attacks on
members of the military and police. In fact, the years in which most of
their actions took place were 1984, 1986, 1987 and 1988 (Frühling
and Waiser, 1995, pp. 112–13).
These series of events took place in a social and economic context
of profound socio-economic change, characterized by the reduction
in the size of the state and privatization of state-owned companies.
The country was adversely affected by two strong recessions – 1975
and 1982–83. All this meant high rates of unemployment over many
years, lack of job stability and slow product growth. One journalist
defined the subjective feeling of the population as one of fear. This fear
had many different causes, not just the probability of being affected by
physical violence. Moreover, some of these fears could explain why
the authoritarian political order was considered desirable and
appropriate to prevent precisely the events that caused insecurity.
Patricia Politzer wrote as follows about the series of life interviews she
did to obtain different versions of the first decade of the military
‘As time passed and I dug deeper into the hearts of such diverse people
as a priest, a member of the military, a communist militant and a bank
clerk, I began to perceive that fear was a common element in almost all
of them. Their histories are as diverse as that of a Chicago Boy, a copper
miner, a volunteer worker at the Women’s Secretariat or a mother of a
missing detainee. At some moment during the conversation, however,
fear emerged more or less explicitly and for more or less justified reasons.
For some, it was fear of the military; for others, fear of losing their job;
for others fear of poverty, of informers, of repression, of communism, of
Marxists, of chaos, of violence or of terrorism. Everyone had his or her
own fear’ (Politzer, 1985, p. 10).
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Citizen insecurity increased with the onset of the economic crisis in
1982, and robberies multiplied, rising in 1986 to an until then unheardof rate of 581.5 reports for every 100,000 inhabitants. Figures from
Chile’s Plainclothes Detective Force indicate that the number of
robberies with violence that they had to investigate increased by 77%
between 1980 and 1986 (Blanco et al., 1995).
Even though some refer to an increase in crime (Jacob, 1984, pp.
47–8), the truth is that the problem did not achieve the same impact
as the rise in crime subsequently did under the democratic regime.
There could be many different explanations for this. We would simply
like to put forward one. The increase in criminal violence in the 1980s
coincided with a milieu loaded with concerns about the economic
crisis, increased unemployment, increasing terrorism and political
polarization. This to a certain extent meant that the problem of an
increase in common crime was kept hidden from public debate and
coverage by the press.
The increase in repressive actions by the government and in actions
by armed groups caused worry and fear, but also low levels of
insecurity. In fact, government action was mostly selective and aimed
at relatively well-defined targets. The same thing was true of terrorist
actions, which only rarely affected people not involved in the main
political conflict. Current fear of crime is rather different.
Current crime and violence
With the restoration of democracy, fear of common crime has
impregnated all of society and has become a subject of discussion that
is de rigueur and takes up prime time in the news transmitted by the
media. Even more importantly, in order to calm citizen anxiety, a series
of measures aimed at dealing with the collective feeling of insecurity
and new criminal characteristics has been put into practice.
Perceptions of urban violence
Since the democratic regime started in 1990, perception that crime
has increased, that it is not under control and that the government
should do more to deal with the problem has been strong.
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Hugo Frühling
Table 1
Priority given to crime by Chileans, 1989–957
March March April June
1991 1992 1993
December November
Source: Surveys by CEP-ADIMARK (1989–93) and CEP (1994–95).
As may be seen from Table 1, from 1990 crime has become one of
the three priority issues for Chileans. In contrast, terrorism,
demonstrations and disturbances have gradually become less important
in public opinion as they have become increasingly more isolated
incidents. Tables 1 and 2 both reflect fluctuations in citizen concern
and priority given to the crime issue. These would seem to be due,
however, to the importance or violence of the events described in
the press rather than to any changes in actual conditions of crime.
Table 2
Evaluation of government performance in various issues 8
Source: Surveys by CEP-ADIMARK (1992–93) and CEP (1995).
7. The question posed a list of problems for the respondents. They were asked to
indicate the three most important problems to which the government should dedicate
most effort. The percentage in the table indicates the percentage of respondents who
included the issue among the three most important.
8. The survey asked for an evaluation of government performance with a grade of 1
(very bad) to 7 (excellent). The percentage represents the proportion of respondents
who graded performance in the issues specified with a 5, 6 or 7.
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Government performance on crime consistently received one of
the lowest evaluations in the three surveys carried out.
In 1993, 1996 and 1997 the company ADIMARK, in association first
of all with the Centre for Public Studies (CEP) and later with the Citizen
Peace Foundation, carried out surveys focused on the crime issue. These
surveys were carried out in the largest towns in the country and
consistently showed a strong fear of crime, robbery and assaults.
In March 1997, 68.6% of respondents considered that crime had
increased since the previous year. Likewise, 84.2% considered that
crimes were more violent than a year before. A larger percentage of
people interviewed declared, in turn, that they believed that crime
would increase in future.9 1997 figures are somewhat lower than 1996,
but still considerably higher than 1993. According to information
provided by the surveys themselves, this greater fear does not change
in relation to the percentage of respondents who had been victims of
some kind of robbery during the previous year.10
A recent ADIMARK survey carried out in 1996 for the Citizen
Peace Foundation in the community of Santiago revealed that 92.4%
of residents thought that they could be the victim of a robbery or
assault, 44.2% that they could be the victim of a rape or sexual assault
and 35.7% that they could be the victim of a murder.
None of the inhabitants of the homes surveyed, however, had been
victims of a murder in the past twelve months, and only 0.5% had
been a victim of rape or some kind of sexual assault.
The survey carried out by ADIMARK in 1993 ranks answers according
to socio-economic level, political position and gender of the respondents.
It is significant that the percentages of respondents who thought that
crime had increased in number and violence compared with the past
correlates positively with age and a more conservative political position.
Even though all ages showed fear, it was significantly greater in people
older than 55 and in those whose political leanings were to the right.
This increased perception of violence has significantly curtailed people’s
freedom of movement. The three surveys show that more than 50% of
the respondents have stopped going to certain places, stopped going out
at certain times of day, or have reinforced the security of their homes.
9. Delincuencia y opinión pública, Fundación Paz Ciudadana/ADIMARK, 1997.
10. In the survey carried out in March 1996, 73.5% of respondents said that crime had
increased in comparison with the previous year, whereas in March 1993 only 58.5% had
said so. In 1996, 67.8% maintained that crime would increase, while in March 1993 only
37.9% had said so. Differences in the percentage of respondents who had been victims
in those years, however, were minimal. Respondents suffered more robberies without
violence in 1996 than in 1993. But robberies with physical violence in public places had
increased in 1996 (14.7% compared with 12.4%).
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Before analysing in greater detail how fear of crime has changed, we
focus our study on current criminality. To do so, we discuss official
figures reported by the police and results of a victimization survey
carried out in 1997 by the United Nations Development Programme
as part of this project.
Current criminality
Robberies reported to the police have increased since 1982,
reaching their highest point in 1991 when there were 614.2 reports
for every 100,000 inhabitants. This increase is undoubtedly very
significant, as in 1980 there were only 284.2 reports for every 100,000
This figure has fallen since 1991, although it is still above historical
averages. However, it rose again in 1997 and 1998. At first sight, this
robbery rate seems very high when compared with other countries,
but comparisons are difficult because Chile’s definition of a robbery
includes acts which in other countries would not be classified as such.
The only other crime that seems to have increased substantially is the
trafficking of narcotics. According to data from the Chilean Police
Force,11 in 1977 254 people were arrested for this crime, while in
1999 the figure was 10,119.
Two basic aspects of robberies must be taken into account. The
first is a sharp increase in robberies with violence or intimidation
between 1980 and 1992. According to figures from the Plainclothes
Detective Force, this increase was 66.5% (Blanco et al., 1995, annexes).
More important than this increase, however, is the fact that the
methods used to carry out these assaults have changed substantially
in recent years. In fact, bands of armed criminals have been detected
assaulting banks, financial establishments and commercial stores, using
tactics formerly used exclusively by armed groups of a political nature.12
Likewise, the press often reports armed robberies of homes, which
undoubtedly is a factor that causes great fear among the population.
A second important factor is that reports of robberies increased
significantly in the wealthiest communities of the Metropolitan Region.
In 1992, Vitacura recorded 3,214 reports for every 100,000
inhabitants, Las Condes 2,735 and Providencia 5,237. Crimes against
property increased significantly more in wealthier communities during
11. Note that cases of drug trafficking are not reported because there is no victim as
such, as would be the case in a robbery, for example.
12. See, for example, ‘Banda de asaltantes usaba tácticas subversivas’, La Epoca, 10 July
1997, p. 20.
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those years, while crimes against people were more numerous in
popular communities. The increase in fear in the country’s most
influential sectors has undoubtedly permeated the media, contributing
to the general sense of insecurity.
This increase in fear of crime has highlighted the deterioration in
police and court means of dealing with these new challenges. One
indication of this is the reduction in the ratio of police to inhabitants, as
can be seen in the maximum personnel established by the law (Table 3).
Table 3
Number of inhabitants to number of police, according to
maximum personnel stipulated by law
Source: Compilation of Laws and Decrees. General Comptroller’s Office of the Republic 1932–
1994, Population Estimates and Projections 1950–2050, INE-CELADE, 1996.
Faced with this new situation, security policies and private security
mechanisms have undergone substantial transformations.
There are important differences between social strata, however,
regarding the circumstances that cause fear in the population and the
degree of satisfaction with police protection. Low- and middle-income
sectors undoubtedly feel the most vulnerable (Table 4).
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Table 4
Situations causing fear and satisfaction with police protection, by
socio-economic level
Socio-economic level
Feels most fear
On returning home at night
When leaving home for work
At home at night
Satisfaction with police protection
More or less
Source: Centre for Public Studies, 1993.
The reason for this fear is that many of those who are in a situation
of social risk are perceived to also consume drugs and alcohol, and, as
such, subject to a significant lack of control.
Existing studies assume (although it has still not been empirically
proved) that there is a close link between consumption of crack in
Santiago’s poorer sectors and the emergence of new forms of violence
and crime (José Bengoa, 1997, p. 14). Consumption of crack
contributes to the break-up of poorer families and also to the increase
in violence, definitively breaking with any form of social integration.
Sociologist Doris Cooper maintains in this respect that armed
domestic robberies, which have increased in recent years, are normally
perpetrated by non-professional criminals who use drugs and alcohol,
hence the violence with which they act (Cooper, 1992, p. 53).
Current social representation of urban violence, then, is closely
linked to common crime and in particular to robbery with violence.
Those who write or comment on crime tend to see robbery with
violence as the most dangerous, most repeated expression of urban
violence. This agrees, as we will see, with specific figures from police
Part of the fear expressed by the population is also caused by the
disproportionate growth of the city of Santiago and the intensification
of typical patterns of social segregation. The National Urban
Development Policy enacted in 1979 repealed regulations governing
‘urban limits’, opening up the possibility of incorporating almost 65,000
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hectares into urban use. This made it much harder for police to patrol
the city, encouraged the emergence of new housing developments
where neighbours did not know each other and made eradication
policies possible.
These policies were carried out between 1979 and 1985 and
consisted of evicting about 30,000 families living in shanty towns in
the eastern area of the city and incorporating them into social housing
programmes in the low-income outskirts of the city (Sabatini, 1997, p.
4). This process of concentrating poverty in areas that very often lacked
essential basic services and which forced residents to make long trips
to find work, had negative effects because it concentrated social
pathologies in these communities that received massive contingents
of urban poor (Sabatini, 1997, p. 15).
Reports written in the 1980s by municipal officers in the
communities that received these families state that these eradications
had a negative impact on the security of people and their goods. In
many cases, the new housing developments were concentrations of
social disorder and crime (Frühling and Sandoval, 1997, p. 267). Our
hypothesis, still unproved, is that the changes experienced by the city
had two effects. First, social experiences became more impersonal
and transitory, which made mechanisms of social control more difficult.
Second, the process of concentrating poverty in specific geographical
areas increased the possibility of a critical mass and the consolidation
of subcultures that reject the legal system.
This sense of fear has meant first of all a significant increase in private
security spending, which has led to a high demand for private security
services, alarms and insurance. Similarly, public spending on police and
on the system of criminal justice as a whole – criminal courts, police,
National Minors Service and prison guards – has increased. Public
policies aimed at dealing with citizen insecurity have become a constant
government concern. Until now, programmes to stimulate citizen
participation, implemented by the General Secretariat of the
Government, have been minor.
The ADIMARK and Citizen Peace Foundation survey carried out
in 1996 asked respondents about types of behaviour adopted to deal
with the fear of crime. Most preferences talked of evasive behaviour
and the acquisition of physical means to reinforce security of their
homes. 1 3 This is borne out by the increased demand for security
13. 69.5% of respondents declared that they had stopped going out at certain times of
day and 67.3% said that they had reinforced the security of their homes. In contrast, only
51.3% said that they had reached agreements with their neighbours to help each other
(Citizen Peace Foundation, 1996).
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products and private security services. An evaluation of the cost of
crime in 1994 shows that US$66,840,000 were spent that year on
security guard services, US$7,737,000 on insurance against robberies
and breaking and entering and that US$14,449,000 worth of national
security products were sold (Citizen Peace Foundation, 1994).
This increase in the demand for protection has led some authors
to suggest deregulating the private sector to provide additional security
units for those who can pay for them. The main argument is that this
would allow more private resources to be contributed to the fight
against crime (Guzmán, 1995, p. 96) and also contribute to increasing
competition among security companies, thereby lowering their cost.
The private security guard system is currently concentrated almost
exclusively in wealthy neighbourhoods and thereby very clearly and
distinctly marks the profound social segregation that characterizes
Santiago. In addition, some high-income communities arbitrarily close
streets and control access using private security guards who have no
competence to do so.
The government, and particularly the police, are opposed to granting
freedom of action in the streets to security companies, for fear that
they might usurp the exclusive prerogatives of the police force.
Action by the state is characterized by a significant increase in the
budget allocated to controlling crime by creating specific entities
dedicated to coordinating narcotics control policies and proposing and
evaluating measures to tackle public security issues. Finally, several
bills designed to make it easier to report given crimes, to more
drastically punish drug trafficking and to change the structure of current
criminal proceedings, also setting up a Public Prosecutor’s Office, which
is non-existent at present, have been approved or are in the process
of being approved.
Table 5 shows how fiscal contributions to the Uniformed Police
Force and Plainclothes Detective Force evolved during the decade
from 1986 to 1996. Table 6, in turn, shows how total fiscal
contributions have evolved during the period under study, divided
into two subperiods – 1986–90 and 1990–96. The division is given by
the restoration of democracy, which, as mentioned above, marked
growing concern over crime.
Of the two institutions, the Plainclothes Detective Force
demonstrates the most growth in terms of numbers, with its resources
being increased by 87% in the period between 1986 and 1996. If one
only considers the percentage variation under democratic government,
growth is almost 127%. There are two reasons for this. First of all, the
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government considered that the Plainclothes Detective Force was in a
particularly precarious position at the end of the military regime and,
as it is a smaller institution, any contributions to its sustenance obviously
have a greater proportional impact.
The Uniformed Police Force also experienced negative growth under
the military regime and a variation of 86% in the period from 1990 to
1996, almost 23 percentage points higher than the variation for the
whole period.
Table 5
Total fiscal contribution to uniformed police and plainclothes
(thousands of dollars, June 1996)
Year Total
Uniformed police
Plainclothes detectives
100, 229,100
92, 508,190
99, 213,006
144, 078,151
Source: Budget Law for each year.
*Includes fiscal contribution in local and foreign currencies.
Table 6
Evolution of total fiscal contribution to uniformed police and
plainclothes detectives
(thousands of dollars, June 1996)
Uniformed police Plainclothes detectives
% variation 1986–90
% variation 1990–96
% variation 1986–96
Source: Budget Law for each year.
*Includes fiscal contribution in local and foreign currencies.
**Does not include DIPRECA.
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Hugo Frühling
Although no detailed information is available, it must be added that
the Uniformed Police Force has also received large municipal and private
contributions of a logistical nature during this period. Similarly, the
increase in fiscal contributions has also benefited the judiciary, the
National Minors Service and prison guards.
In September 1990, the government created the National Council
for Narcotics Control (CONACE), made up of representatives of the
government, Congress and the police. This council immediately
launched a study entitled ‘National Plan for the Prevention and Control
of Drugs’. This has led to regular surveys of national narcotics
consumption (CONACE, 1996), funds being allocated to projects to
prevent consumption and, above all, the enactment of the new
narcotics control law.
The Public Security and Information Bureau was created on 30
April 1993 by Law 19.212. One of its objectives is to propose policies
and plans that the state can implement in internal public security and
public order issues.
Legislative policies implemented in recent years have increased the
powers of police agents, established obligatory security measures for
certain companies and more drastically punished drug trafficking.
Law 19.077 of 1991 made it easier for victims to report cases of
robbery and theft. The same law authorized agents of both police
forces to search without a warrant in the event of flagrant crimes and
always provided that there were well-founded grounds for suspicion
that those responsible for the crime were in a given premises.
Law 19.303, in turn, determined that companies specified by
supreme decree should assume the cost of installing security measures
stipulated by the competent authorities.
New legislation punishing the illicit trafficking of narcotics and
psychotropic substances also increased police powers to investigate
these crimes,14 created new crimes such as money laundering, and
granted the Council for the Defense of the State the power to report
or file criminal complaints for perpetration of these crimes (Law 19.366
of 30 January 1995).
Finally, the government has submitted several bills and constitutional
reforms to Congress aimed at creating a Public Prosecutor’s Office
and establishing an accusatorial penal procedural system that is both
oral and public. These efforts are aimed, in part, at establishing a more
efficient system of criminal justice that responds properly to the needs
14. The law on undercover agents and informers in Article 34 may be mentioned in this
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of criminal investigations, as currently the responsibility for investigating the crime, accusing the guilty parties and passing final sentence is
all concentrated in the judge.
A survey of leaders of neighbourhood organizations in three popular
communities of Santiago showed that cooperation to protect the
neighbourhood was not a widespread option (Frühling and Sandoval,
1997, p. 284). Furthermore, there does not seem to be any long-term
strategy for relations between police and community, other than
ensuring that communications between them continue to be good.
Clearly, based on the above and on the description of existing
security mechanisms to deal with citizen insecurity, there is a strong
emphasis on improving the system of criminal justice, thereby increasing
the state’s capacity of deterrence in order to achieve a drop in the
crime rate.
Even though it is true that financing of drug-addiction and alcoholprevention programmes has increased and that public discourse
promotes citizen organization to deal with criminality, the fact is that
most of the emphasis has been placed on police strategies and reforms
to penal legislation.
A new private security services market is being developed parallel
to this emphasis by the public sector, but for the moment its benefits
are only available to commercial companies and high-income residents
of Santiago.
In sum, it does not seem that security measures adopted will be
able to rebuild a sense of neighbourhood community that is so essential
to generate systems of informal control of adolescent behaviour,
especially in popular urban communities.
Citizen security in future
Any speculation about future evolution of violence is certainly risky,
especially when it is difficult to determine precisely what factors shape
human behaviour.
Some elements of the cultural and social changes taking place in
Chile are important when it comes to predicting how crime will evolve
in future and what security mechanisms will be set up to deal with it.
The country is evolving into a consumer society in which a large sector
of poverty will coexist for some time with a large sector of extreme
wealth. This will probably not be expressed, however, in a revitalization
of sweeping ideological concepts, which used to mobilize large sectors
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Hugo Frühling
of society and which were incarnated in conflicts with the social structure. Rather, an individualistic, acquisitive value trend that responds
to a complex, fragmented social and cultural system will predominate.
It can be inferred from this that – at least for now – crime or breaches
of the peace for political reasons will diminish, while crimes against
property, now perpetrated by young people acting more violently than
in the past and who do not share the cultural values of old-time crooks,
will increase.
In future, we will foreseeably experience a deterioration of
organizations and institutions that have played a central role in
socializing people – family, school, church – so our society’s community
links that shape informal social control of human behaviour will be
further debilitated.
Economic growth will increase the number of potential targets for
criminal activities, by increasing income and the number of commercial
and industrial establishments. Furthermore, the difference in income
and individualistic trends will be a stimulus for an increase in robberies.
It would not be unthinkable for these to become more violent and
better organized to deal with increasing security measures adopted by
the population.
As the country’s income increases, crimes against property will
foreseeably be displaced to middle- and even lower-class communities,
and to other communities and regions where desirable targets for
criminal acts are also to be found.
The security measures adopted to deal with this situation will
probably be the result of a growing awareness that the increase in
crime, as well as of occasional breaches of the peace or vandalism,
must be prevented by means of different kinds of policies, as the mere
operation of a system of criminal justice (arrest, trial and imprisonment
of the offender) does not seem to be a suitable formula. One can
feasibly expect, then, that policies of development and community
participation aimed at rebuilding a more densely woven tissue of social
relations will be designed.
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Appendix 1
Homicides. Orders to investigate, rate per 100,000 inhabitants and
percentage of participation in total crimes investigated, 1944–94
Year Population
Total orders
to investigate
Orders to
Source: Chilean Plainclothes Detective Force Annual Police Statistics. National Institute of
Statistics-Plainclothes Police Force, 1994. Population Estimates and Projections 1950–2050.
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Hugo Frühling
Appendix 2
Reports of robberies and thefts 1948–94
Source: Republic of Chile Annual Statistics. National Institute of Statistics. 1948–1976. Chilean
Uniformed Police Force Annual Police Statistics. National Institute of Statistics-Uniformed
Police Force, 1977–1994. Population Estimates and Projections 1950–2050. INE-CELADE,
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Arrests for reasons specified
Number of arrests and percentage participation in total number of arrests
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Druntenness %
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Appendix 3
Druntenness %
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Violence and Insecurity in Modern Chile
Seguridad Humana inglés.P65
Source: Republic of Chile Annual Statistics. National Institute of Statistics. 1930–1976. Chilean Uniformed Police Force Annual Police
Statistics. National Institute of Statistics-Uniformed Police Force, 1977–1994. Population Estimates and Projections 1950–2050. INECELADE, 1996.
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Violence and Insecurity in Modern Chile
Hugo Frühling
Appendix 4
Growth rate of financing for components
of the criminal justice system
1986–96 (base 100 = 1986)
Services Guards
National Minors Uniformed
Source: Prepared by author based on Budget Law for each year.
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The terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 have generated multiple
consequences in the life and interrelations of the world’s nations. It is still
difficult to evaluate the full extent of these consequences, but the least
that can be said is that several dimensions of the concept of security have
been affected – international security associated with multilateralism, state
security linked to national sovereignty and human security related to
governance (Rojas Aravena, 2000).
In this context, the implications of the human security concept in
general, and in the Latin American and Caribbean region in particular,
have become more relevant and urgent. We outline below some of the
challenges posed for this region by human security, starting with an
examination of the relatively novel concept itself.
The paper is divided into two parts. The first analyses the concept of
human security, and the second examines the challenges to human security
as applied to the Latin American and Caribbean region, keyed to the issues
and questions used as a framework of reference for the seminar.
1. Researcher, Instituto de Estudios Superiores de Administración, Universidad Central
de Venezuela.
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Definition of human security
Although the following is not a complete definition of the human
security concept, it none the less presents some of the elements that
comprise it.2
• The notions of human development and human security put forward
by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) began to
take shape at the beginning of the 1990s. They were born at a
moment in human history when real socialism was falling apart, the
welfare state was in crisis and doubt was beginning to be cast on
the concept of development that has been termed neoliberal. They
are associated with the communications revolution, the new wave
of democracy around the world and globalization.
• The human security concept was used for the first time in 1994 in the
UNDP Human Development Report, of which it was the main subject.
Human security emphasizes the social milieu that makes possible stable,
secure exercising of the options created by human development.
• It is a concept in a transitional stage associated with new paradigms
based on persuasion, cooperation, international regimes and global
public goods as formulae to meet human needs and prevent and
settle conflicts. It is a wide-ranging category that transcends the
military and involves non-military aspects.
Wide-ranging definition
• According to the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and
International Trade, human security means ‘safety for people from
both violent and non-violent threats’. The definition presupposes
people’s right to live, work and participate without fear in social,
political and economic structures that affect their lives.
• The core concept of human security is the person. The essence of
human security is the expectation that individuals may go to sleep
or walk down a street without the real threat of being assaulted or
murdered. The focus or goal of any human security doctrine must
be the physical and psychological security of individuals in the
framework of nation-state structures.
2. The following documents were consulted for this analysis of the concept: FLACSOChile (s.a.); Goucha (2001); Human Security Network (2001); Smith and Stohl (2000);
UNDP (1998); Rojas Aravena (2000).
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Human Security: Definition and Challenges ...
Miriam Kornblith
• The purpose of strengthening human security is to create a more
humane world where people can live with security and dignity, free
from want and fear, from physical and/or psychological intimidation,
with equal opportunities to fully develop their human potential.
• The wide-ranging concept of human security includes the whole
range of international relations, from prevention of conflicts to taking
care of the after-effects of a conflict. A conceptual concatenation
needs to be established from human security to international security,
passing through state security.
• When human security is discussed, emphasis is placed on the
necessary search for an equilibrium or complementarity between
the opportunities that every change brings with it and security
requirements that human beings require in order to continue taking
on new risks and challenges. Human security must be distributed
equally in society.
Human security and modernity
• The human security concept explains the dynamic nature of security
in modern society by stressing conditions for people to be able to
access the opportunities created by modernization. The human
security concept seeks to emphasize the nature of the simultaneous
means and ends posed by security for an effectively modern society.
• Security is a product of society. At any given time one can have a
strong degree of security in the face of existing opportunities and
threats, but weak response capability in the face of new threats and
opportunities. Society’s capacity for self-reflection forms a substantial
part of its capacity to respond to new challenges and correct
modernization’s course towards modernity.
• Security in the modern age can be defined as people’s ability to take
advantage of the opportunities for fulfilment furnished by the
process of modernization and neutralize the threats that it holds
for them.
• Human security fosters the search for a point of equilibrium and
complementarity between modernization and subjectivity. What
happens in the life of a country, the objectives and transformations
undertaken, must pass through the daily life of its people as
opportunities, risks or threats that are known and assumed in a
reflexive manner.
• The relationship between human security and modernization
emphasizes the natural tension between transforming society,
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economy, nature and institutions and the subjectivity of actors
involved in that transformation.
• Human security as a social objective implies recognizing the ‘other’
as an individual in the process of modernization.
Human development and human security
• Human security is centred on human beings. It is concerned with
the way in which people breathe in society, the freedom with which
they can exercise various options, their degree of access to the
market and to social opportunities and to a life in conflict or peace.
Human security means that people can exercise these options freely
and securely and that they can be relatively confident that the
opportunities they enjoy today will not totally disappear tomorrow
(UNDP, Human Development Report 1994).
• What is the link between human development and human security?
Human development consists of expanding people’s opportunities,
whereas human security has to do with the possibility of enjoying
these abilities in a stable fashion, in other words, that today’s
opportunities do not vanish over time (UNDP, 1994).
• Human development is the process of expanding the range of
opportunities available to people to become subjects and beneficiaries
of development. It is a constant effort to deepen and explain the
perspective of people-centred development.
• Human security is not something that people can wait for and receive
passively from social institutions. Active participation by people and
their ability to take on risks form a consubstantial part of it.
• The concept of human security stresses that increasing opportunities
aimed at people, such as income, longevity, education, is not enough,
unless it takes place in a social milieu that allows people to access
them and enjoy them. It emphasizes the social milieu that makes
possible human development. Without social peace, equality,
solidarity and confidence, opportunities created for development
cease to be such, for they are no longer available to all in secure,
stable, equal conditions.
Indivisibility of human security
• This notion has two connotations. In the first place it refers to the
impact that any sudden, profound change in one aspect has on the
whole. It also has a spatial connotation for the effects of a lack of
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Human Security: Definition and Challenges ...
Miriam Kornblith
human security in a given region, country or territory generally
expand to other territories.
• Recognizing the multidimensional nature of human security from
this theoretical point of view, one can define seven dimensions:
economic security, food security, health security, environmental
security, personal security, community security, political security.
• The dimensions chosen are not only the most relevant, but also the
easiest to deal with from an empirical perspective and with a possible
impact at public policy level. It is important to stress that, even
though one can separate them in an analysis, all these dimensions
form part of a single issue – human security. This concept is ‘indivisible’, and insecurities affecting one of its dimensions will also affect
the whole.
Objective and subjective human security
• In an objective sense, human security refers to the mechanisms,
networks or links that prevent the emergence of any alteration in
the course of action of individuals, society or both, or, when one
does emerge, allow the course of action to achieve its purpose to a
reasonable degree. In a subjective sense, human security refers to a
psychological state and provisions for action resulting from the
perceptions of individuals regarding available mechanisms, networks
or links. Objective mechanisms and subjective perceptions of human
security are mutually conditioned and form an indivisible whole.
• Social human security mechanisms are not only aimed at limiting
threats. They are also human security instruments designed to
enhance the ability to take advantage of new opportunities for which
there are no pre-established methods of behaviour. Security may
be of enablement or fulfilment. The former refers to preventing a
threat that could hinder somebody from participating fully in the
development of society or fully restoring their participation if it has
been interrupted. The latter refers to mechanisms that allow new
social opportunities to be taken advantage of.
• Both securities are indivisible. Somebody who is not enabled to
participate in society cannot take advantage of new opportunities
created by it, and repeated inability to take advantage of new
opportunities eventually produces social exclusion.
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Variations in human security
• Threats against human security and the resources available to deal
with them vary considerably from one region and country to another
and within each region and country. Human security must be
understood in its socio-historical, cultural and geographical context.
• Society and its members recognize, name, explain and prioritize
threats. Recognition and explanations – in other words, coding the
threats – are socially relative. Be that as it may, there is no possible
security mechanism for socially unrecognized or non-coded threats.
• Certainties, dangers and risks, as well as their respective security
mechanisms, are distributed unequally. Society favours certain
threats, certain dangers and certain risks when it designates
securities. Thus, it protects some social groups and functions more
than others.
• Many social conflicts originate in social groups’ search for public
recognition and institutional regulation of their uncertainties. This
security conflict may be erected against other groups, which see
this recognition as a threat to their own securities. Conflicts may
also arise in the face of the typical inertia of traditional coding and
consensus that govern the political order, which may make it difficult
to recognize new uncertainties and threats.
Human security requirements and promotion
• Promoting human security also requires stimulating respect for
human rights and international humanitarian law and strengthening
democracies and good governance, reinforcing a culture of peace,
which includes peaceful settlement of conflicts, controlling
instruments of violence and putting an end to impunity in cases of
violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.
• The human security agenda is associated with the ability to prevent,
act and react to humanitarian emergencies, with the preventive
capacity to protect the life and security of people and with creating
the ability to move ahead of events and prevent crises that affect
people’s security.
• Collective and coordinated efforts of international agencies,
governments, the private sector and civil society are required in
order to increase the level of human security based on global
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Human Security: Definition and Challenges ...
Miriam Kornblith
• Without inter-state security, people’s security runs even higher
risks. Without multilateralism, force prevails, opportunities for
cooperation are reduced and the costs of human security and
violation of humanitarian law increase.
• An international system that places the values of human beings at
the centre and promotes peaceful settlement of disputes and
demilitarization of inter-state links needs to be designed and
Links and actors
• There is an inexorable link between individual, national and
international security. Individual freedoms are interrelated in such
a way that security is increasingly related to achieving security on
the international scene by implementing reciprocal policies derived
from national priorities.
• Police, judiciary and other branches of public authorities, political
parties and special interest groups are essential for creating a
favourable atmosphere for sustainable human security.
• International security is linked to the concept of multilateralism,
state security to that of national sovereignty and human security to
that of governance and development.
• The concept of human security is associated with the use of force,
due to the absence of state monopoly of violence or to the inability
to build a demilitarized order.
Associated issues
• Natural disasters, racism, education for peace, refugees, human rights
and humanitarian law, cooperation for development, natural
resources, sustainable development, equality, small arms, children
at war, exploitation of children, security for personnel on
humanitarian missions, prevention of conflicts, transnational criminal organizations, anti-personnel mines, International Criminal Court,
environmental sustainability, etc.
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Hypothesis, indicators and operationalization of human
• The 3rd meeting of the Human Security Network (Petra, Jordan,
May 2001) set forth the need to develop human security indicators
by analysing the causes and consequences of human insecurity.
• The main questions posed were: How are human security
achievements distributed inside a society? What dimensions most
influence the security circumstances of different groups or are
associated with them? Where are the biggest gaps between objective
and subjective human security situations?
• The main hypotheses on human security maintain that certainties,
dangers and risks are distributed unequally inside each society. When
different social groups are compared, their perceptions of security
may be very different to the amount of objective security resources
to which they have access.
• The human security concept needs to be defined from two
perspectives – objective and subjective – because both are different
spheres of action that structure a person’s overall security situation.
Thus, perceptions of insecurity or threats may cause behaviours
that lead to objective insecurity situations.
Objective Human Security Index (OHSI)
• Preparation of the Objective Human Security Index aims to measure
the availability of security mechanisms for each person. In other
words, instruments, rights or abilities, which constitute means for
people (and those who depend on them) to carry out their life
projects and deal with their problems, making the most important
course of action for the daily life of individuals viable.
• Variables chosen are social security contributions, health
contributions, average school attendance, skills development, job
stability, occupation, housing ownership, quality of housing, presence
of health clinics, presence of police stations, trade unionization,
3. This section is based on the UNDP National Report on Human Development for
Chile, 1998, and its applications and conclusions are applicable to Chilean circumstances.
None the less, it can be an interesting contribution to the empirical study of human
security problems in other circumstances.
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Human Security: Definition and Challenges ...
Miriam Kornblith
• Human development in general, and the Human Development Index
(HDI) in particular, belong rather to the family of results indices.
They highlight situations that show levels of satisfaction or privation
regarding a valued good in comparison with a desired goal. In contrast,
the characteristics of the OHSI comply rather with an index that
combines the logic of access indicators. These represent people’s
actual use of socially available means or resources to obtain a result,
such as, for example, human development.
• This distinction puts both concepts in a special relationship, which
shows that human security is a necessary condition for human
development. In general, existing opportunities may only be taken
advantage of by those who have the proper mechanisms; in this
regard, some social groups enjoy a greater degree of human
development. Consequently, and given this close conceptual and
empirical link, it would be possible to assert that human development
cannot be achieved nor maintained without human security.
Human security, economic performance and poverty
• One can evaluate the quality of the opportunities generated by the
economy by relating the OHSI to the economic characteristics of a
region. The number of opportunities is not always related to their
quality. Not every economic growth or every level of income is
suitable for giving people the necessary security mechanisms for
managing their daily lives. What is required is one that allows workers
to increase their resources, accumulate abilities, in short, achieve
full development.
• Poverty is a condition of shortage or lack where, by definition, there
is no human security. As is known, large numbers of people
considered to be poor are people who work. Their precarious job
situation and the insecurity of their job opportunities, however,
prevent them from accumulating the necessary abilities to overcome
their condition of poverty in a stable manner. In short, it seems
clear that without human security it is very difficult to achieve any
significant progress in overcoming poverty.
Subjective Human Security Index (SHSI)
• The aim is to compile a set of indicators of people’s opinions and
perceptions of the efficiency of available security mechanisms in a
combined index. Everyone must evaluate positively or negatively
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whether or not they have efficient security mechanisms available to
cope with the different situations of insecurity presented.
Dimensions: sociability, social security, job integration, information,
health, crime.
Integrated view of objective and subjective human security
• An integrated view of the main aspects making up a person’s security
situation is required. This is made up by the quantity of objective
resources available to cope with situations of insecurity, and the
psychological conviction that these resources are within reach and
are indeed effective solutions.
• The main hypothesis consists of presuming the existence of a ‘gap’
or ‘dissonance’ between objective situations of security and
subjective perceptions. This dissociation could be the symptom of
a malaise caused by the lack of complementarity between
development or modernization of operational systems and
development of people’s subjective perceptions.
• It seems plausible to presume that whatever group has more objective
security mechanisms should feel subjectively more secure. There
is a degree of dissociation, however, that can be interpreted as a
criticism of the efficiency of those objective mechanisms and
satisfaction with them.
• There may exist a gap between objective and subjective achievements
in people’s security, or they may be out of tune one with one another.
In this respect, it is socially desirable for objective security resources,
their rationality, their inclusiveness, the logic on which they are
founded, and the type of social relations that they structure, to be
internalized by people so as to be built up into subjective appraisals of
security. Hence the existence of ‘gaps’ between one area and the
other, or the fact that they are out of tune with one another, causes
a lack of complementarity between systems and people that could
eventually produce a marked malaise in society.
Examining the various facets of the human security concept reveals
its richness and the wide-ranging research and action programme that
arises from its use. This is true both for spheres where political decisions
are made and public policies for national, regional and international
situations are designed and implemented as well as for institutions
dedicated to academic reflection. The holistic nature of the concept
leads to the need to complement views from different disciplines and
different sources of initiatives.
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Human Security: Definition and Challenges ...
Miriam Kornblith
Human security challenges in Latin America and the
Using the examination of the human security concept as a guide,
we develop below some of the issues and problems proposed for this
Human security in the Andean subregion
There has been a recent increase in the number of meetings of an
academic nature or associated with multilateral agencies where the
focus of attention has been the problems which are affecting some of
the region’s countries, particularly some countries in the Andean region,
such as Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela.4 Grounds for
concern are related to the political instability of those countries, the
probable collapse of democracy, growing deficiencies in terms of
economic growth, difficulty in acceding advantageously to the challenges
of globalization, limitations of state structures in meeting the
population’s demands for basic services, institutional erosion generated
by actions of international mafias linked to terrorism and drug trafficking,
and deficiencies in governance. Some of the considerations outlined
below have arisen from reflection rather more focused on these
nations, although they could be extended to the rest of the region.
In the last few decades, Latin America has experienced the influx
and reciprocal consequences of two fundamental processes –
redefinition of economic models associated with programmes of
readjustment and globalization, and processes of political liberalization
linked to the establishment of democratic regimes. Every country in
the region has experienced these processes at different times, with
different intensities and different consequences. It is important to
examine the scope and limits of these processes from the perspective
of human security and contribute a critical dimension to evaluating
good decisions and errors in approaches associated with setting in
motion programmes of economic readjustment and establishing
democracy in these countries.
4. See, for example: Paul Drake and Eric Hershberg, ‘Crises in the Andes’, paper
presented at the International Seminar on Crisis in the Andes sponsored by the Social
Science Research Council (SSRC) and the Duke-North Carolina Consortium in Latin
America, in Chapel Hill, N.C., 10–11 September 2001. A new version of the conference
was held in Quito, sponsored by FLACSO-Ecuador, on 4–5 October 2001.
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Finally, an unavoidable issue in examining current circumstances in
Latin America, especially in the Andean region, is the fight against drug
trafficking and guerrillas in the Colombian context and setting into
motion the so-called Plan Colombia, combined with efforts to promote
political initiatives to generate negotiated solutions to the conflict. The
combination of individual, national and international dimensions of
human security stands out at once in the Colombian case and its
multiple, complex implications, which clearly extend beyond that
particular country’s sphere of action.
Readjustment programmes, modernization of the economy
and human security
Economic readjustment programmes were set in motion
throughout Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s. In very general
terms, the aim was to rethink the central role of the state in the model
of economic growth by encouraging, in contrast, greater pre-eminence
of the private sector in boosting the region’s economies and inserting
Latin American economies in international markets by fostering the
competitiveness of the region’s products. These programmes included
wide-ranging measures and policies covering all areas of economic
activity. In the field of social policies, the region’s traditional welfare
approach was replaced by programmes geared towards taking care of
deficiencies and problems generated by the programmes of
readjustment, as well as dealing with more deep-rooted problems based
on new approaches in which civil society and the communities affected
acquired greater pre-eminence. Currently, the need is being put forward
to complete the first generation of measures by implementing what
has been called ‘second-generation’ measures that stress the need to
deepen reforms of structures and institutions where decisions are
made and their compliance is enforced.
There has been a mixed evaluation of the impact of these structural
reform programmes, and it is still ongoing. One can say, however, that
they created tremendous uncertainties among the population in several
countries in the region, as key aspects in normal management of the
economy and relations between it and other spheres of societal life,
such as politics, were severely criticized in both discourse and practice.
Economic discourse and practice in Latin America are not associated
with an emphasis on human beings as is typified in the human security
concept. The late establishment of programmes of readjustment that
stress individual efforts and competition between individuals or units
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Human Security: Definition and Challenges ...
Miriam Kornblith
of production is in stark contrast to the normal conception of the
region’s economic activity, which puts the emphasis on the state. In
turn, readjustment programmes were also accompanied by rhetoric
and practice that avoided important aspects related to people and
their needs. Programmes of readjustment emphasized language and
operations arising from market and other types of institutions, incentives
and mechanisms. Thus, the human security perspective can contribute
to redefining the emphases of programmes of readjustment and
modernization in the region, incorporating an emphasis on human
beings and their objective and subjective security needs.
Resistance generated by the programmes of readjustment and
possible resistance to any attempt to transform deep-rooted key
aspects that order societal life must be taken into account. From the
experiences of this last decade, the need arises to incorporate
participation as an intrinsic variable in designing and putting into motion
new programmes of economic development – or programmes affecting
any other dimension of collective living. Similarly, the considerations
set forth in treating the concept of human security, which differentiate
objective from subjective security, acquire tremendous importance.
‘Every process of transformation requires space for human security.
This implies legal and practical acceptance that people are capable of
being actors in this change. Reforms, such as health, education, and
rural or community and regional institutional frameworks, may be founded
on the social capital present in society. Too many historical evidences
show that, regardless of how consensual political, technical or business
establishment decisions may seem, elitist methods of modernization can
generate processes of passive and active resistance, or social malaise.
The goodness of the reforms cannot be defined only by elites; they must
win adherence from all of society. This will help in the effort to create
Human Security for all actors and subjects’ (UNDP, 1998, Introduction,
p. 4).
Human security, economic development and poverty
When discussing the issue of programmes of readjustment and
redefinition of models of economic development, one cannot avoid
the issue of poverty in the Latin American region and the Andean
region in particular. This issue has probably received the most attention
and research, and there are a number of accumulated studies and
empirical evidences regarding the difficulty – or impossibility, as the
case may be – of acceding to human security when minimum conditions
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of participation in collective well-being do not exist. Thus, just to
emphasize once again, proper treatment of the problem of overcoming
poverty is a necessary condition for achieving individual, national and
international human security.
Democracy and human security
The region faces a fundamental ongoing challenge resulting from
the relatively late establishment of democracy in some cases, and the
vicissitudes which its full consolidation still has to cope with. These
pose a similar challenge to the validity of the concept of human security,
maintaining, of course, the significant differences between the various
countries of the region.
Predictability of political processes
Democracy is associated with stable, trustworthy, shared rules of
the game, which define the interactions, duties and rights of the various
actors and individuals that make up society and the framework through
which collective disputes are settled. The existence of rules with these
characteristics is the foundation for the predictability of a socio-political
order, which does not mean that the result of the collective interactions
can or should be predetermined.
In contrast, rules of the game in autocratic orders, or in orders
based on the discretion of those who hold positions of authority, may
be defined capriciously and accommodatingly and do not offer any
security in terms of the regularity and fairness of collective interactions,
but rather are conceived to obtain pre-established results according
to univocal wills.
Updating the concept of human security requires a democratic
order that promotes deep, wide-ranging levels of political, legal and
economic certainty and security, while at the same time generating
extensive spaces for expressing individual and collective preferences
and abilities.
Close examination of the group of nations that make up the Andean
subregion draws attention to the dangers caused by democracy’s
precarious institutional framework, or by recent threats to its
deinstitutionalization in countries that previously had a fairly
longstanding history of democracy.
The presence of personalistic leaderships, and the lack of political
party systems capable of representing and aggregating interests
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Human Security: Definition and Challenges ...
Miriam Kornblith
efficiently and legitimately, make for a dangerous combination. This
combination gives rise to socio-political orders that depend enormously
on the quality and intensity of the relationship between personalistic
leader and dismantled masses. This is a movement which puts sociopolitical life in order (or perhaps disorder) and profoundly weakens
the democratic institutional framework and basic key aspects of an
order founded on respect for the state. In these circumstances, the
military can acquire a threatening pre-eminence, becoming the
institution that holds effective control and has the power to veto and
directly intervene in managing the life of the community.
Poor quality democracies and weak institutional frameworks
The late institutionalization of democracy in many countries in the
region, together with the vicissitudes in establishing it, such as the
need to set up pacts of governance that maintain special privileges for
sectors capable of threatening the stability of a political order, or weak
separation of government authorities with exaggerated pre-eminence
of the executive over the other branches of government, has led to
poor quality democracies or democracies with weak institutional
frameworks, considered as whole or keyed to specific areas of sociopolitical activity.
These democratic deficiencies lead to human security deficiencies,
such as the threat to use force to settle collective disputes, capricious
definition of the rules of the game in social, economic or political spheres
of action or limited awareness of the need to respect the human rights
of minorities.
The poor quality of democracy or weak institutional framework of
these regimes is expressed with particular strength in the difficulty of
structuring reliable, efficient authorities for collective arbitration, such
as courts of law, electoral agencies, or authorities for controlling public
management, such as comptrollerships or the legislative. In an efficient
democracy, biases and the varied distribution of power resources that
naturally exist in any society and are used by interested parties to
promote or affect specific interests must also have containment
barriers, including institutional provisions that suitably channel conflicts
and efficiently control any possible abuse of power in the use of public
Otherwise, the institutional weakness of these authorities for
arbitration and control generates legal and political insecurity, allows
and promotes abusive, unilateral use of public resources and inclines
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the balance of decisions to those who are best able to promote their
own interests.
These conditions restrict people’s human security. Such a
precarious order does not guarantee that individuals can carry out
their normal activities free from fear of violent and non-violent threats
to their integrity; nor does it guarantee equal opportunities for all
individuals. It does not allow individuals to enjoy the advantages of
economic, political, social, cultural, etc. development with stability and
in conditions of equality.
Cooperative multilateralism has tremendous potential as a
counterpart to situations of poor quality democracies and democracies
with weak institutional frameworks, and, in fact, its benefits have already
been in evidence. Missions of observers for elections with the
participation of international agencies can become a barrier to control
fraudulent electoral processes. The Inter-American Human Rights
Court is an authority to which individuals and organizations appeal
when national judicial authorities are unable to hand down fair decisions
in accordance with the law. Similarly, inclusion of the democracy clause
in Organization of American States (OAS) countries is a resource
conceived to dissuade or punish those regimes which threaten the
democratic institutional framework.
From a human security point of view, an attempt should be made
to reinforce these mechanisms, and/or create new ones, based on an
evaluation of their efficiency to compensate for deficiencies in the
democratic institutional framework and generate incentives to
overcome them in the countries in the region.
Socio-cultural diversity and human security
The issue of international terrorism has highlighted the potential
human conflict inherent in the existence of marked socio-cultural,
religious, linguistic, political or any other type of differences between
large groups of people throughout the world and within specific nations
or regions. These differences are evident in the Andean region, and
coexistence between different sectors is marked by various degrees
of cooperation and/or conflict. Recognition of the potential for conflict
and insecurity inherent in this coexistence, together with recognition
of the legitimacy of the existence of these differences and their peaceful
expression, are a condition for bringing human security to fruition.
Modernization and modernity bring with them the homogenization
of patterns of life, values and behaviour. This is stated as an empirical
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Human Security: Definition and Challenges ...
Miriam Kornblith
fact, but it is sometimes used as a governing criterion against which
sizeable communities, defending their right to be different and live in a
world in which their security is associated with the permanence of
guidelines and values that are known to, but not necessarily shared by,
all sectors that make up a nation, can rebel by different means.
Peace and prevention of conflict require proper understanding of
diversity, sincere acceptance of its legitimacy and the design of
institutional mechanisms to process tensions, which may arise naturally
from the existence of marked diversity in society.
Guerrillas, drug trafficking, Plan Colombia and human
An inevitable issue when one examines the current circumstances
of the Andean subregion is the problem associated with the fight against
drug trafficking and guerrillas, particularly the case of Colombia,
together with its possible consequences for Colombia’s neighbouring
countries and implementation of Plan Colombia. In this context, several
issues associated with human security emerge from these critical
situations. These include political and economic refugees and refugees
from threats to life and property, trafficking of small arms and personal
weapons, security for personnel on humanitarian missions, and
inclusion of minors in actions of war. Systematic, efficient initiatives to
prevent the negative consequences of these issues need to be
reinforced or brought forward, as the case may be, for each of them.
The ideal for every democratic society is to be able to settle its
disputes peacefully. The basic condition for achieving this ideal is the
willingness of the parties. A problem that comes clearly to mind in
situations in which such actors as guerrillas, drug trafficking and
paramilitary groups are involved is the lack of incentives for them to
generate and accept these peaceful solutions. Threats to all dimensions
and expressions of human security arising from the action of these
agents are serious, current and massive. They are extremely able to
penetrate and erode institutional structures, and generate violence
and desolation. Their actions are marked by the presence of governing
frameworks that contradict the democratic order and respect for
human rights. Similarly, the resources that make their existence possible
are traded outside established market rules, so regulating them is very
difficult indeed. One could hope, however, that recent experience in
combating international terrorism and the new conceptualization of
the problem will contribute to designing more efficient formulae to
combat these evils so deep-rooted in the subregion.
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Cooperative multilateralism is very valid in this regard, because the
actions of drug traffickers and guerrillas transcend Colombia’s border
and, at the very least, adversely affect neighbouring Andean countries.
Countries such as Peru and Bolivia have significant experience in
handling these issues, which are also acquiring increasing importance
in Venezuela. One could hope, in the current international context
characterized by the definition of terrorism as a threat to the human
security, that this situation could be treated and dealt with in a more
energetic fashion, as is actually happening.
Initiatives are currently taking place both to deal with the war in
Colombia and to start political negotiations. There is a possibility,
however, that the war dimension could overflow and acquire preeminence, thereby generating consequences that would require the
design of conflict and disaster prevention mechanisms associated with
threats to the security of people in geographical areas linked to the
zones of conflict.
A priority in the human security agenda: cooperative
A wide-ranging, rich agenda for academic reflection and institutional
practice can be derived from this examination of the problems and
challenges related to the human security concept and its multiple,
analytical, regulatory, disciplinary and institutional implications. Designing
this programme of reflection and action would be a task for several
teams and projects. Restricting myself to only one aspect of this wideranging programme, however, I would like to emphasize the potential
of cooperative multilateralism in human security.
This is presented as an especially useful resource and condition for
promoting greater levels of human security, weakening factors that
threaten it and generating a favourable context that is able to influence
reinforcement of achievements in this area. The weaknesses, lacks,
threats, achievements and scopes in human security issues that are
distributed unequally throughout the various countries of Latin
America and the Caribbean – and the world, of course – could be
‘compensated’ somehow through efficient formulae of multilateral
interaction aimed at maximizing achievements, minimizing threats and
deficiencies, and generating conditions that encourage individuals,
organizations and nations to act in a cooperative fashion. In a positive
sense, its acceptance would attempt to foster suitable conditions to
improve the quality of human security in the region and, in a negative
sense, it would attempt to prevent and avoid threats to it.
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Human Security: Definition and Challenges ...
Miriam Kornblith
Consequently, the necessary conditions to encourage and improve
cooperative multilateralism, making it more efficient, must occupy a
prominent position on the agenda of issues to be examined.
Cooperative multilateralism must be understood in its inter-state
dimension, in the dimension of the interaction of the region’s NGOs
and of the interactions between both groups of actors. This cooperation
is not limited to the spheres of action of the region’s countries, but
extends considerably beyond, as is demonstrated by the experience
of the Human Security Network.
It is important to properly evaluate and consider the recent, rich
experience of Latin America and the Caribbean in matters of multilateral
cooperation in different areas, in order to learn lessons that contribute
to detecting the region’s weaknesses and strengths in this area. Similarly,
it is important to design efficient formulae that allow the world’s existing
experience to be shared and taken advantage of in order to strengthen
and promote this dimension.
DRAKE, P.; HERSCHBERG , E. 2001. Crises in the Andes. International Seminar
on Crisis in the Andes, sponsored by the Social Science Research
Council (SSRC) and Duke-North Carolina Consortium in Latin America,
Chapel Hill, N.C., 10–11 September 2001. (Mimeo)
FLACSO-Chile, Red de seguridad humana, Document prepared by
FLACSO-Chile for the Expert meeting on Peace, Human Security,
and Conflict Prevention in Latin America and the Caribbean, 26-27
november 2001.
GOUCHA, M. 2001. Address on the occasion of the Expert Meeting on
Peace, Human Security and Conflict Prevention in Africa, Pretoria, South
Africa. (Mimeo)
HUMAN SECURITY NETWORK. 2001. Principles. Approaches. Commitments.
ROJAS ARAVENA, F. 2000. Seguridad humana: Una perspectiva académica
desde América Latina. In: Chile 1999–2000. Nuevo gobierno: Desafíos
de la reconciliación . Santiago, FLACSO-Chile.
SMITH, D. (Ret. Colonel); STOHL, R. 2000. The Evolving Role of the Military
Forces in Human Security. Washington. Center for Defense
Information. (Mimeo)
UNDP. 1994. Human Development Report 1994: New Dimensions of
Human Security. New York, United Nations Development Programme.
Seguridad Humana inglés.P65
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UNDP. 1998. Desarrollo humano en Chile: Las paradojas de la modernización. National Report, Chile. New York, United Nations Development
Programme (
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The notion of human security for the Andean region
A human security agenda for the Andean region cannot fail to take
into account the fact that most of the permanent or structural threats
against the survival or well-being of people, as individuals, come from a
context in which the state is unable to institutionalize societal
relationships or efficiently process the conflict. In other words, even
though it seems paradoxical, the human security agenda in the Andean
region is linked to national security agendas.
Human security can be interpreted in the widest sense, in so far as
its object is the survival of people and to develop the necessary
conditions so that they can feel secure;2 but this does not obviate the
institutional architecture required to establish valid regulations that
govern relationships between them. Elements such as the validity of
the law, public order and legal proceedings to settle conflicts, as well
as legitimate punishment of criminal or violent conduct, presuppose a
scenario whereby, in democracy, people’s security3 is guaranteed.
1. Academic Subdirector, FLACSO-Ecuador.
2. This concept is comprehensively inferred from the classic UNDP Human Development
Report 1994: New Dimensions of Human Security.
3. Sverre Lodgaard, ‘Human Security: Concept and Operationalization’, United Nations University
for Peace, 2001 (
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This presupposes the idea of a state with regulatory authority over
the population. When the opposite is true, i.e. when the state is weak,
the possibilities of protecting people’s lives are rather more limited.
National security favours the state. Now, there is no theoretical
justification for the state in itself to be the entity that guarantees people’s
security. In order to be able to associate national security with human
security, one must postulate a normative view, which implies assessing
the state and its institutions. The theory is that only a democratic
state may be associated with human security, for three main reasons.
First of all, as a form of government democracy embodies the
constellation of values defined as the minimum programme of modernity
expressed in first-generation human rights.4 Secondly, state security
in democracy presupposes a series of mechanisms to guarantee the
identity of the population, its participation and representation. Finally,
in the liberal-inspired theory of democracy, sovereignty is a
consequence of the will of the community; the legitimacy of the state
becomes the representation of the interests of the community.
Sovereignty, as an objective of national security,5 is thus the
expression of a group of people given form in a regulated mandate to
its authorities, which automatically presupposes an efficient system of
accountability. Finally, the concept of human security subsumes that
of societal security, which links the economic, ecological and cultural
dimensions of people’s lives. This approach provides the foundation
for building second- and third-generation human rights, which can
only be executed through public policies emanating from the state.6
From a conventional United Nations point of view, the human
security agenda is widely linked to notions of development, and priorities
emerging from force-related issues, which are classic security themes,
could possibly disappear. Even though ideas such as economic security,
food security, health security, environmental security, personal security,
community security and citizen security7 could clarify such aspects as
equality or a comprehensive view of development, they might not be
the best instruments to apply at this particular moment to the evaluation
of public policies and social conduct in a region beset by transnational
illegal problems, chronic political instability and the use of violence in
the pursuit of political ends.
4. Hans Gregor Rader, ‘On Human Security’, working document, Munich, September 1990.
5. See debate on the concept in Barry Buzan, People, State and Fear, pp. 67–8, Boulder,
Colo., Lynne Rienner Publishers, 1991.
6. All United Nations literature on human development since 1994 points in this direction,
especially conventions against discrimination and those asserting collective and labour rights.
7. Human Development Report 1994: New Dimensions of Human Security, New York,
United Nations Development Programme, 1994.
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Human Security in the Andean Region
Adrián Bonilla
If the UNDP concept were applied to every country in the Andean
region, none of them would be able to display a propitious environment
for human security. This concept, without being fleshed out, would
simply reflect a series of hostile scenarios from Venezuela to Bolivia
that are related basically to the historical construction of these societies,
which were built on models of domination, inequality and exclusion.
The various different Andean societies can, however, be clearly
distinguished; human security and national security conditions in
Colombia, for example, are definitely not the same as in the other
countries. And the levels of development in terms of economic and
social security in Bolivia and Ecuador are also different to those of, for
example, Venezuela or Colombia.
It would seem necessary, therefore, to delimit or define the
boundaries of the UNDP concept in terms of horizons that contribute
to producing analytical and comparative criteria that can identify specific
problems as the origin of perceptions of insecurity. ‘Safety for people
from both violent and non-violent threats’8 could be a concept that
establishes threat perceptions in specific communities and identifies
specific social or political processes. This could imply, then, a
methodology that establishes the sense of security based on threat
perceptions, and it is precisely on the basis of that possibility that a
connection can also be made with the idea of national security.
With these elements, the concepts of national security and human
security are not necessarily dichotomous, which is what is postulated
in the 1994 UNDP document, but rather both categories may
supplement each other. In democracy, human security is contained in
national security. National security criticism refers to the context of
the Cold War and the systemic attribution of the idea of sovereignty
to the very existence of the state. In conventional national security
literature that predominated during the Cold War, sovereignty was
never considered in terms of the legitimacy of its origins, but was
rather an attribute of nation-states at an international level9 that
deliberately isolated itself from state and individual levels.10
8. Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Lloyd Axworthy, 1999, cited on Canada’s Human
Security website (
9. Classical realist and neo-realist literature on the theory of international relations is
based on these premises. See Sean M. Lynn-Jones and Steven Miller (eds.), Global
Dangers: Changing Dimensions of International Security, pp. 3–42, Cambridge, Mass.,
MIT Press, 1995; Barry Buzan and Ole Waever, Liberalism and Security: The
Contradictions of the Liberal Leviathan, Copenhagen, Peace Research Institute, 1998;
Marco Cepik, ‘Seguranca nacional e seguranca humana: Problemas concetuais e
consequencias políticas’, in Security and Defense Studies Review, 2001 (
10. Kenneth Waltz, Man, State and War, New York, Columbia University Press, 1959.
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Sovereignty was seen, then, as an attribute that implied the authority
of a state over a population and a territory and which, in its relationship
with other states, presupposed a dual dimension: independence in
formulating a foreign policy that responded to the interests of a community
reified in the state, and autonomy in conducting its domestic policy. In
other words, sovereignty presupposed a state’s ability to prevent other
states or societies from intervening in its internal affairs.
This approach to the idea of sovereignty inspired state alliances
during the Cold War and internationally legitimized domestic political
processes that devastated human rights and created extreme conditions
of human insecurity in several national societies.
In this concept, the state emerged as an entity that reified the
interests of society and, at an international level, as the embodiment of
the community’s power, without any reference to how that power
was transferred or to the community itself. As the state was the only
actor for national interests, its survival and the survival of its institutions
alienated people’s needs for survival. National security, then, ended
up rendering the needs of people and communities invisible.11
Perceptions of insecurity in the Andean region cannot be
understood without taking into account a theoretical approach that
can explain the proliferation of internal conflicts, which, while being a
consequence of the international system, also have a tremendous
impact on it. Issues such as building and consolidating the state, which
imply both the domestic situation and international legitimacy, as well
as the capacity of the community and political society to become
institutionalized, must be included in order to be able to develop an
orderly idea of human insecurity scenarios.
In terms of method, this analysis implies the following premises:
domestic and international issues are linked, especially in areas of
conflict; issues of a domestic political nature must be explained in light
of the state’s capabilities; these capabilities, in turn, are the result of
political and social processes that are also both international and local,
which ultimately explains the link between domestic political conflict
and international conflict.12
11. Makoto Iokibe, ‘Human and world security’, in Kentaro Serita and Takashi Inoguchi
(eds.), Our Planet and Human Security, Selected papers, United Nations University
Global Seminar ’96 Shonan Session, 1–4 October 1996.
12. Mohammed Ayoob, ‘Subaltern Realism: International relations theory myths the
Third World’, in Stephany Newman, International Relations Theory and the Third
World, New York, St Martins Press, 1998.
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Human Security in the Andean Region
Adrián Bonilla
Andean societies are beset by problems involving the consolidation
of the state and the presence of fragmented societies; economic and
financial problems of the economic agents of the respective states –
the result of the way in which they have entered into globalization;
crises in their political systems – participation, representation and
accountability; and erosion of governance.13
Building the state
Andean national identities and political crises
From an international political perspective, the Andean identity is
an edifice built on the image of its nation-states and their association in
institutional, bureaucratic networks that are based on a kind of
reconstruction of the past, which, in turn, has been erected on several
common signs and icons. The Andean Community of Nations is the
entity that, for now, reifies this idea – the idea of the Andes as a social
and political edifice.14
The founding logic of Andean nation-states is based on the preexistence of state institutions. Bolivianism or Ecuadorianism had to
have been subsequent to the foundation of Bolivia or Ecuador as a
result of the invasion by Venezuelan armies (at a time when the republic
of Venezuela did not even exist). In other words, in contrast to the
founding legends of some European nation-states, in Andean societies
the republican state, a direct continuance of colonialism, was prior to
the nation, which was deliberately developed based on state institutions
and the myths that they were able to generate.
Part of the explanation of the crisis of instability affecting the Andean
world can be found in the capacity of representation of its political
associations based on the core splits that are so common to all of
them. All Andean societies are beset by regional contradictions, by
ethnic and cultural antagonisms and by vast social gulfs typified by
concentration of income and exclusion.
13. These variables are mentioned repeatedly in various works. See, for example: Paul
Drake and Eric Hershberg, ‘Crises in the Andes’, paper presented at the International
Seminar on Crisis in the Andes, sponsored by the Social Science Research Council
(SSRC) and the Duke-North Carolina Consortium in Latin America, Chapel Hill, N.C.,
2001; Adrián Bonilla, ‘Vulnerabilidad internacional y fragilidad doméstica. La crisis andina
en perspectiva regional’, Nueva sociedad 173, Caracas, 2001.
14. This paper understands Andean societies to be those whose states form part of the
Andean Community of Nations.
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The Andean political crisis, and this is an initial hypothesis, is basically
a crisis of legitimacy caused by persistent practices of exclusion that
have their roots in history and are the result of building a republican
state illuminated by homogenizing ideas of modernity in the face of
societies that are marked, not only by cultural differences, but also by
the disruption caused by practices of domination that went hand in
hand with the processes of building ownership and political power.
Andean societies are racist, hierarchical and authoritarian, and their
state institutions are insufficient to process conflict and societal
demands in the complex, globalized context of civil society.
Since the mid-1990s, all Andean states have experienced a
permanent political crisis defined by a precarious legitimacy, the result
of a chronic lack of representation. This lack has at least three main
features. First of all, most people do not participate in national strategic
decision-making, nor in decision-making involving the particular affairs
of their own communities. Secondly, there are no efficient, legitimate
mechanisms of accountability – levels of impunity in civil society and
in the exercising of political power are extremely high – and, finally,
large portions of their societies do not qualify as citizens.
The fragility of the institutions and their precarious legitimacy mean
that politics is governed by relationships of patronage, which regulate
the exchange of services and resources by means of loyalties. This
practice is common to the whole political system, but it is also common
in private relationships of a social nature. Feather-bedding and
patrimonial methods are the immediate results of this particular way
of conducting politics, and, when it comes to processing conflict and
societal demands, they replace the regulatory capacity of the
An additional consequence of this method of building the state is
that, because societies are chronically under-represented, their
heterogeneity favours the emergence of national, local and regional
party bosses, whose ability to bring in the crowds is the basis for
organizing political movements and mechanisms of participation. Parties
then become electoral machines, rather than the means for
communicating the demands of political society and the instruments
for facilitating them.
All Andean societies have notable specificities in economic, ethnic,
cultural and political terms. But they also have many dynamics that are
common to all these aspects. Political turbulence and economic
deterioration are scenarios that all these societies share at the start of
the twenty-first century. Although, in general terms, quantitative
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Human Security in the Andean Region
Adrián Bonilla
indicators are different15 to the rest of Latin America and MERCOSUR,
growth in all Andean countries has declined since 1996.
Despite the fact that the problems are similar, governance scenarios
in the region are not the same. The conflict in Venezuela would seem
to be between a form of political management based on plebiscites
and the presidentialist system in force for the last thirty years, in the
context of a reform of the state institutional framework and the
collapse of the old order. This scenario is not the same as in Colombia,
where guerrilla violence, paramilitary groups, illegal drug-trafficking
organizations and competition between state actors put governmental
capacity in doubt. The political instability in Ecuador precludes stabilizing
the economy. The state is facing regional pressures and the need to
not only restructure its administrative environment in geographical
terms, but also its role as protector and promoter of social groups.
Pressures in Peru come from the state’s inability to open up the
political system, build mechanisms of transparency and accountability
and face up to the challenges of social violence and state responses to
it. Meanwhile, administrative weakness and lightweight institutions in
Bolivia contribute to exclusion dynamics.
All Andean societies have faced political problems that they have
not been able to resolve. These have arisen in contexts of structural
scarcity in societies with weak institutional frameworks, in some cases
with governments that fail to control the national space as a whole,
and are besieged by economic pressures from the international market
that force them to reform the state and restructure the economy.16
International context and local conflicts: The United States,
drug trafficking and the Colombian conflict
Drug trafficking as a transnational problem has probably been the
most important issue in Colombia’s international relations in the past
two decades. The agendas of presidential summits in the Hemisphere
deal with drug trafficking under the guise of democracy. These summits
15. Basically referring to gross domestic product and economic exchange. See
Indicadores mensuales de la comunidad andina, Secretaría General, 2001.
16. For political practices in the Andean region, one can consult Helena González and
Heidful Schmidt (eds.), Democracia para una nueva sociedad (Modelo para armar),
Caracas, Nueva Sociedad, 1997; Dieter Nohlen and Mario Fernández (eds.), El
Presidencialismo renovado, Caracas, Nueva Sociedad, 1998; Felipe Burbano de Lara
(ed.), El fantasma del populismo. Aproximación a un tema (siempre) actual, Caracas,
FLACSO-Ecuador/Nueva Sociedad, 1998.
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have taken up the basic issues of the US Agenda and may be considered
a demonstration of the new US hegemony in the Hemisphere.17
The strategic national objective of the United States in dealing with
drug trafficking is to reduce the supply of narcotics from Andean
societies. The strategy for source countries is aimed at policies of
interdiction, control and repression of illegal activities. Its goals are to
eradicate and break up the cartels and control money laundering. Drug
trafficking is considered to be a national security issue, and that means
deploying military resources and also the logic of giving this issue priority
over any other multilateral or bilateral agenda of the Andean countries.
Democracy in the Andean region involves a problem of stability with
security implications. Venezuela is observed with suspicion because
of the possibility of a hostile government. Colombia is struggling with a
civil war, and the United States has taken part in defending the elected
government and autonomously turning against guerrilla organizations,
which it accuses of being drug traffickers. Instability in Ecuador has
been dramatic, and Peru has opted to stop tolerating an authoritarian
government. The economic recession in Bolivia is a matter of concern.
Drug trafficking has in common the same agenda of interlocution –
i.e. the United States – but, as with democracy, its scenarios are
diametrically different.18 Bolivia is primarily a producer of coca leaf,
and the issue presupposes decisions that involve social policies.
Thousands of workers produce a crop that is illegal, but which, given
the value added by its illegal by-products in the industrialized northern
market, has not been able to be successfully replaced.19 Colombia,
where the coca leaf is grown, refined and exported, faces immediate
problems arising from the symbiosis between multiple violent actors,
including state agencies, and the political economics of drug trafficking.
Ecuador is a transit point and money-laundering centre. Peru also has
problems with drug-related violence and is a drug producer and
exporter. Venezuela could be a large money-laundering centre.
17. Peter H. Smith, ‘Strategic Options for Latin America’, in Joseph Tulchin and Ralph
Espach (eds.), Latin America in the New International System, p. 44, Boulder, Colo.,
Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2001.
18. Key texts for understanding drug trafficking were published in the 1990s. To the
extent that the anti-drugs strategy continues, the effects and suppositions of these
texts basically remain current. See Bruce Bagley and William Walker (eds.), Drug
Trafficking in the Americas, New Brunswick, Transaction Publishers, 1994; Peter H.
Smith (ed.), Drug Policy in the Americas, Boulder, Colo., Westview Press, 1992.
19. Coca has not been able to be replaced with another more profitable product in any
of the Andean countries. Products such as annatto achieved very high prices at given
moments, but the market was saturated and prices fell to their original level. Such is not
the case of the coca leaf, whose value depends on an illegal market for its by-products.
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Human Security in the Andean Region
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The perception of Andean states, especially Colombia, is that drug
trafficking is not an issue that can be handled on the basis of a foreign
policy or the simple capacity of the state. It is, rather, a global problem
requiring equally global policies. In this regard, the realistic approach
of the State Department’s anti-drug strategy practices, targeted on
interdiction and control, cannot be efficient because it presupposes
capabilities that Andean states in particular do not have.
Moreover, the only solution left to this strategy is to militarize antidrug police forces, and that means causing a distorting effect on Andean
social and political scenarios; it also fails to take into account the reduced
capacity of local entities of control, the confusion inherent in the
missions of various different security entities and exposure to the risk
of corruption and violence of the whole institutional framework of
Andean nations. This very quickly became obvious.20 The problem,
however, lies in implementing policies of cooperation, as the United
States, the most important political actor in the international drugtrafficking scenario, has opted to make what could be a simple public
health issue a national security one.
It must be pointed out that Andean states have come to share this
perception. They have been compliant, as in eradication in Bolivia, or
ultimately consensual, as in the case of Ecuador,21 which has ceded
part of its territory for an airbase and has supported Washington policy
without any major criticism for the past ten years. Andean governments
have admitted that growing, refining and selling psychotropics is a threat
to their own security. Seen in perspective, however, this policy
contains a strong reaction to a greater threat to government stability,
institutional continuity and the very presence of these nations in their
international setting, particularly in the series of regulations and
institutions that make up the inter-American system – the potential
hostility of the United States.
The possibility of diverging from the US anti-drug policy, and
especially its construction of drug trafficking as a national security issue,
is remote. The political and economic costs that an Andean nation
would suffer upon adopting an anti-hegemonic policy in this regard
would be much higher than the theoretical benefits in terms of stability
or control of internal violence. Maintaining harmonious relations with
the United States is more important for the national security of Andean
nations than the typical effects of the war on drugs.
20. See, for example, Bruce Bagley, ‘Myths of Militarization: Enlisting Armed Forces in
the War on Drugs’, in Peter H. Smith, op. cit.
21. Adrián Bonilla, ‘National Security Decision-Making in Ecuador: The Case of War on
Drugs’, Chap. IV, Ph.D. thesis, Miami University, 1994.
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Drug trafficking causes different problems in different societies, and
this makes it more difficult to draw up a common foreign policy, beyond
the rhetoric of collaboration. Each country processes this issue
differently in its dealings with the United States, just as each particular
government’s policies in dealing with its respective society are
Security policy agendas in the Andean region separate drug-related
issues from the behaviours that all Andean countries must adopt in
compliance with the United States. The system of preferential tariffs,
potential trade sanctions, direct reprisals against local elite (cancelling
visas, for example) have shaped behaviours that cooperate with the
US anti-drug strategy based on an asymmetrical relationship,23 but this
strategy, which is inspired by a regional view, can only be implemented
through bilateral security policies.
The purpose of this common regional agenda, which is in fact a
global policy, is to generate cooperative international regimes that
reinforce interdiction, destroy illegal organizations, arrest drug traffickers
and control illicit earnings. This gives rise to several areas of action:
eradicating crops, monitoring supplies and precursors used in
processing, improving international legal cooperation, extradition, etc.,
and stopping drug running.24
This regional agenda meets the bilateral mechanism head-on in crude
accountability procedures, the most important of which in political
terms is certification. Each country’s performance relating to treaties
that have been signed separately is actually evaluated separately. Budgets
for cooperation against drug trafficking are also similarly
compartmentalized, which shows ultimately that the policy is
implemented separately for each particular country.
22. In Andrés Franco, Estados Unidos y los países andinos, 1993–1997: poder y
desintegración, Bogotá, Universidad Javeriana, 1998. Several papers by various authors
from different national perspectives are offered on the relations of Andean countries
with the United States. It is probably the most complete book on the subject published
in the 1990s.
23. The concept of compliance denotes a dependent relationship between the foreign
policies of two countries characterized by the symmetry of the actors. It presupposes
a system of rewards and punishments that operates by shaping the behaviour of the
weaker actor who finds it advantageous to ally himself to the interests of the other
country. See Bruce Moon, ‘Consensus or compliance? Foreign policy change and external
dependence’, in International Organization, Vol. 39, Spring 1983; Jeanne Hey, ‘Foreign
policy options under dependence: A theoretical evaluation with evidence from Ecuador’,
Journal of Latin American Studies, Vol. 25, 1993, pp. 543-574.
24. P. R. Rajeswari, ‘US counter-narcotics policy’, in Strategic Analysis, Vol. XXIII, No.
11, 2000, p. 5.
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Human Security in the Andean Region
Adrián Bonilla
Bilateralism, on the other hand, is an inevitable consequence of the
securitization of the drug-trafficking agenda, especially when one
considers that there is no cooperative security regime in the region;
there is nothing at all like an Andean army joint command. The bilateral
approach also means that the US agenda, which has militarized the
fight against drug trafficking, is imposed with no feedback that could
modify it, despite its evident failure over the last twenty years.
Militarization of the war on drugs has not only produced some of
the least friendly human rights scenarios in the Andean region in the
last few decades, but has also eroded the very foundations of
democracy as a political regime in the region, in addition to being a
threat to the regional security of several Latin American countries;25
but, above all, it has failed to accomplish even one of its strategic
objectives in breaking up the illegal drug market. In fact, while this
security approach continues, the probability of success using this
particular strategy is very low indeed.
The Colombian conflict is the very image of the Andean region as it
has developed as a result of US strategy and is a catalyst for the various
different foreign policies implemented by Andean countries.
Confrontations between guerrillas, paramilitary troops and regular
troops have direct implications for the domestic political processes of
countries that border on Colombia, especially at regional level and in
border zones. In contrast to what occurs with US foreign policy for
Ecuadorians, Venezuelans and Panamanians, drug trafficking is a
backdrop for the violence that threatens their own countries, but is
not necessarily the main scenario nor the danger that has to be
immediately neutralized. The armed conflict is, and the implications of
the latter mean that it is very much linked to, but differentiated from,
drug trafficking.
The perception of the threat that Colombia generates in the Andean
region is related to a fragmented civil society and a state that is unable
to exercise control over political actors or over all the country’s
territory. It is not the insecurity generated by aggressive or competitive
policies in a realistic, classical scenario. Colombian violence is a postCold War conflict that has trouble accepting cooperative mediation
from countries, because it involves a real, active threat whose nature
and sources vary depending on the region and actors with which it
interrelates. It reaches beyond the capacity of national states, which
25. Glen Segell, ‘The narcotics war and civil-military relations’, p. 14, paper presented
at the 41st International Studies Association Conference, 2000.
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they have been granted by the notion of being prominent actors in
the international system, and involves very diverse, subnational, political
actors from different countries: peasants, military, police, businessmen,
border settlements, local governments, human rights organizations,
smugglers, drug traffickers, suppliers and traders, to name but a few
examples of interests that do not necessarily work using violent
practices, but ultimately are interpreted by them.
Colombian governments have not been reluctant to internationalize
their conflict, and in this they are in agreement with Washington. The
Colombian State is betting on being able to call upon international civil
society and allied governments, under the principle of co-responsibility,
because it has envisioned its own institutional limits and abilities.26
The budget disparity between what the US Government provides
for fighting, interdiction and police reinforcements compared with social
investments means that, in spite of having been proposed as a
development strategy, Plan Colombia has in fact ended up becoming a
point of Colombian-US agreement to fight drug trafficking, under the
logic of interdiction and putting pressure on the supply and guerrillas
in a strategy that also involves the inter-American community, for three
First, it is impossible to assume that a US policy can isolate the
existing inter-American institutional framework and that it does not
accept responses, even by default, from the other Latin American
countries. A US security policy implies a regional approach, given the
asymmetry and degree of influence of the superpower in the Western
Second, the military conflict is taking place in a sector of the
Colombian jungle, which borders with three countries – Ecuador, Peru
and Brazil. One of these countries, Ecuador, is directly involved in the
conflict by having ceded an airbase to support operations in Colombia,
and the other two have militarized their frontiers.
Third, the argument that drug trafficking is a transnational problem
is correct and, as the US perspective links it to the guerrillas, it ends
up making the latter not only a domestic Colombian agent but also an
international one. America’s position is based on the belief that the
Colombian conflict affects international order and especially regional
security. Venezuela, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Panama, Mexico and the
Caribbean are in some way influenced by illicit activities linked to drug
26. Plan Colombia is a document by the Colombian government, which develops a tenpoint strategy for growth and peace. Its most important points concern eradicating
crops and the guerrilla peace plan.
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Human Security in the Andean Region
Adrián Bonilla
trafficking. US objectives in these South American countries are basically
to increase the capacity of the government to develop intelligence
activities, eradicate illegal plantations, maintain interdiction of narcotics
and strengthen Colombian entities of control and repression, as well
as its legal system.27
In addition, the US government starts from the hypothesis that
neither Colombia nor its neighbours are capable of carrying the burden
of the war on drugs on their own. In other words, American aid is
aimed at making up for the deficiencies of neighbouring countries to
Colombia and Colombia itself. Just as in Pastrana’s view, the United
States is betting on internationalization.28
The Colombian conflict is precisely a domestic political process
that generates international effects and has an impact on inter-state
relations. Four threats are perceived in the region as a result of the
international drug-trafficking conflict and the war in Colombia:
1. neighbouring countries will face a problem that might imply the
presence of any of the violent Colombian actors on foreign soil;29
2. a humanitarian disaster and social conflict detonated by mass
3. an ecological catastrophe;
4. dissemination of illegal crops in their territories.
Conclusion: The Human Security Agenda in the Andean
From a United Nations perspective, the Andes are a dramatic
scenario of human insecurity basically as a result of the structural nature
of the violence, conceived as ‘pressure by human beings on human
beings, which diminishes the possibilities of personal fulfilment of those
that have been subjected to this pressure’.30 Problems such as extreme
27. Gabriel Marcella and Donald Schulz, Colombia’s Three Wars: U.S. Strategy at the
Crossroads, pp. 19–29, Carlisle, US Army War College, 1999.
28. See Statement by the US President, the White House, 11 January 2000 (http://
29. The incursion of violent actors along the whole length of the Ecuadorian border in
2000 has led to the kidnapping of dozens of oil technicians. There have also been
clashes with Brazilian military forces, something that has been going on for several
years now in Venezuela.
30. This concept of structural violence was applied to the whole Andean region and is
conceived in the theoretical tradition of John Galtung. The idea comes from Felipe
MacGregor and Marcial Rubio Correa, Violencia en la región andina, p. 13, Lima,
Asociación Peruana de Estudios para la Paz (APEP), 1993.
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poverty, inequality, personal violence, environmental degradation,
cultural, ethnic and gender discrimination and political insecurity are
common to all these countries. An initial point of this agenda, then,
must involve the possibility of bringing to fruition development policies
that also structurally modify the constellation of societal and political
A second dimension related to patrimonial mechanisms of patronage,
feather-bedding and caudillos, which form the framework of support
for all political society in Andean countries, is to strengthen the
democratic institutions of the national states. The historical explanation
for the way in which Andean political systems have been developed is
relationships of domination based on racist, unequal and exclusive
societies. Changing the political systems depends largely on transforming
societies. State institutions will not be able to be strengthened, or at
least not efficiently, if societies themselves are not democratized. Political
conditions for human security include in particular the need to
‘citizenize’ political participation.31
A supplementary programme to the above two in human security
terms involves the consequences of contingent conflicts for specific
populations. It would be pertinent in this regard to observe how issues
perceived as national security threats and threats arising from Andean
conflicts affect the specific lives of people who are involved in the
dynamics of contemporary politics.
Drug trafficking is a common theme for the whole region. From
the perspective of populations linked to the production process, one
must think about:
• medical and environmental effects of spraying;
• consequences of human displacement due to forced eradication
• environmental effects of growing and processing illegal drugs;
• economic consequences of eradication;
• effects of illegality on daily living;
• impacts of criminal violence and police repression of trafficking and
• consequences of associating the illegality of drug production and
trafficking with conflictive, violent political processes.
31. See, for example, Chantal Mouffe, El retorno de lo político, Barcelona, Paidós,
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Human Security in the Andean Region
Adrián Bonilla
Specific dimensions of the Colombian conflict affect the Colombian
population in particular, but also neighbouring societies. First of all are
scenarios of constant violations of human rights by all the armed actors
in the conflict. Protecting people, however, requires reformulating not
only combat strategies, but also the foreign policies of states involved
in the conflict, especially the United States.32
The basic human security programme in the Colombian conflict is
geared towards implementing humanitarian rights and normalizing the
war in terms of such issues as directing it towards military and not
civilian targets, protecting recruitment of minors and the use of violence
against them, allowing and supporting humanitarian aid and developing
regimes liable to guarantee humane treatment of enemy prisoners.33
Another factor to be taken into account is that of displaced persons.
Thousands of people are constantly on the move as a result of armed
clashes in the conflict zones, but they are also displaced as they seek
economic refuge as a result of the collapse of crops and production in
drug-trafficking zones. Dramatic scenes can be witnessed in this
connection in Bolivia, Colombia and on the Colombian borders of
Venezuela and Ecuador.34
From this point of view, recurring United Nations human security
issues – small arms, anti-personnel mines, role of non-government
organizations – may be applicable, always provided that they are
associated with the political and social problems that cause them. In
themselves, insecurity instruments are not their cause, but rather one
of their consequences.
32. This is, for example, the point of view of Human Rights Watch, The Sixth Division,
Military-Paramilitary Ties and US Policy in Colombia, 2001, which establishes a link
between US foreign policy and the operational capacity of one of the armed groups.
33. Carlos Vicente de Roux, ‘Humanización del conflicto y proceso de paz’, in Alvaro
Camacho and Francisco Leal (comps.), Armar la paz es desarmar la guerra, CEREC-IEPRI
et al., 2000.
34. See 2000 and 2001 reports by Amnesty International (,
also Human Rights Watch publications (
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Security as a complex issue
An extraordinary concentration of events tends to be summed up
in the phrase ‘the fall of the Wall’. These include, among others, the
destruction of the Berlin Wall to which the phrase refers, dissolution
of the Soviet Union, deactivation of the Warsaw Pact and reunification
of Germany. All this also tends to be called the end of the Cold War,
which ended the cycle of confrontation between two mutually exclusive
economic, political and social systems.
As is well known, this confrontation in the field of international
security was based on the so-called ‘balance of terror’ – the mutual
assured destruction of both systems, even after having been the
recipients of a nuclear attack.
The end of the Cold War was concomitant with the definitive
consolidation of a series of world trends, which produced what is
now called globalization in the economic domain. To be concise, let
me summarize it thus: the collapse of the former Soviet Union and the
1. Director of the Armed Forces and Society Research Program (PIFAS) and ViceRector of Institutional Relations at the Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Buenos Aires,
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end of the East-West conflict freed the cumulus of trends favouring
the expansion of globalization from their restraints. In other words,
when the world scenario was freed from the constraints imposed on
economic growth by this security problem, globalizing trends were
given an exceptional boost.
As a result of both these macro-phenomena (end of Cold War and
globalization), enormously significant changes occurred in economic
and security and defence fields. The former included, among other
noteworthy events, the opening up of domestic markets, increase in
international flows of finance and trade, spatial reorganization of
production, widespread use of labour-saving technologies and welfare
state reforms. The result was (a) an increase in interdependence
between different countries and economies; (b) a process of intrastate and/or local fragmentation and differentiation; and (c) an evident
tendency to form regional economic poles.
Changes in security and defence, in turn, gave rise to new conditions
of development and new circumstances. Specifically, economic
interdependence boosted by globalization consolidated its propensity
– already pointed out several years ago by Keohane and Nye2 – to
cause significant changes in the international security field. The
increasingly frequent formation of coalitions to deal with conflicts in
the international arena – from the Gulf War to the 2001 war in
Afghanistan – and the increasing commitment of medium and small
countries to be included in peace-keeping missions, are examples of
this. Peace or war in scenarios that for some used to seem remote
and far from any kind of commitment are now cause for concern in
actors who at other times dismissed the international scene or were
reluctant to participate in it.
Furthermore, the question of security and defence has become
more complex and now moves on at least three different planes: (a)
changed relationship between national and international; (b)
multidimensional nature of security; and (c) multiplication of objects,
actors and scenarios.
One can clearly perceive today that the traditional way of relating
national and international affairs is in the process of changing. There is
an abundance of literature referring to the limits of nation-states and
their declining sovereignty, and to the development of a world
economy, a global society, etc.
2. R. Keohane and J. Nye, Poder e interdependencia, Buenos Aires, GEL, 1988. The first
English edition of this book was published in Boston by Little, Brown and Co. in 1977.
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Human Security Agenda: The Case of MERCOSUR
Ernesto López
To my way of thinking, the multidimensional problem of security is
clear in today’s so-called ‘new threats’. These ‘new’ threats are added
to classical or conventional threats arising from the possibility of external
military aggression, thereby configuring a novel, multifaceted picture.
The incidence of military factors, and also economic, social, political,
environmental, etc. factors, on the question of security has been
stressed on several occasions, but perhaps the most noteworthy in
recent times is NATO’s revised Strategic Concept, approved at the
Washington Summit on 23 April 1999.3
The multiplication of objects, actors and scenarios implies the
existence today of wide diversity in these fields. The object of security
may be, as it was exclusively before, the state. But it can also be any
group that is threatened in some way or other (for example, minorities
in multicultural or multinational states: Serbs, Bosnians, Kurds,
Yanomamis, Kamayuras, etc.). Focus must be placed on the individuals
of these groups precisely as individuals. Actors have also multiplied.
Together with the classical and still central state, societies, groups and
even individuals 4 have become protagonists in security issues. There
are also transnational actors (NATO, for example). Scenarios, in turn,
are supranational, national or subnational. The organization headed by
Osama Bin Laden, al-Qaeda, is a subnational actor. Its action is deployed
transnationally when it is on the offensive, and subnationally when it is
on the defensive. And the aims pursued by its actions would seem to
invoke a supranational and supraterritorial object – defending ‘true’ Islam.5
This hasty summary, however, does not round out – and not
because of its evident imperfection – the complex picture referred
to. It must be said that the classical or conventional – should we call it
‘old’ or ‘former’? – scenario, which understands security and/or defence
as being linked to the possibility of external aggression, understood
almost exclusively as military action, and which, consequently, gives
priority to self-sufficient defence managed in a predominantly unilateral
manner and to deterrence and balance of power as important objectives.
This still coexists within the new security context, but new factors
have been introduced as well.
3. A noteworthy milestone in the perception and conceptualization of the
multidimensional nature of security is the report of the Independent Commission on
Disarmament and Security Issues (United Nations, A/CN. 10/38, 8 April 1983), also
known as the Palme Report after the former Swedish Prime Minister who chaired the
4. Osama Bin Laden, for example, has been practically catapulted as an individual by the
United States Government to the position of enemy of state.
5. It should perhaps be said that, from the point of view of the object, the above
supraterritoriality and supranationality refer to individuals. Ultimately, the intention is
to protect individuals, whether living in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Palestine or Indonesia,
from the ‘Great Satan’ and lead them along the path of good Islam.
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In sum, the complexity of the security problem derives in part from the
appearance and development of a new security context whose salient traits
are interdependence and complexity, and in part from the coexistence of
this burgeoning context with the former one, which still persists.6
Human security
If this framework is accepted, in other words if one accepts the
complexity of the overall security problem, one must also accept that
the matter can be tackled from different angles. I agree to some extent
– perhaps more in a general sense than with his specific
conceptualization – with the approach set forth by Francisco Rojas
referring to the existence of different levels or dimensions of the
concept of security.7
To my mind, given the complex picture described, adopting the
perspective of human security means making individuals the cardinal
factor; to be even more precise, making people – and not states or
groups (societies) – the object of security. Several agents could act
with this object in mind – states, associations of states, NGOs,
individuals. Similarly, there can also be multiple scenarios – local,
international or national. Thus, what specifies this kind of security is
that its object is individuals.
Making people the cardinal factor does not mean negating the
importance of state security. It is certainly true, as Rojas states in the
document referred to above, that ‘without inter-state security, people’s
security runs the highest risks’.8 It is obvious, however, that focusing
concern on another object – human security – means associating
security with other, more wide-ranging issues than those to which
state security gives priority.
Within the framework of the United Nations, which was one of
the first organizations to discuss the matter, human security is
repeatedly linked to two great issues – development and peace. This
route has led to a conceptualization of security that links it to two
differentiated spheres of action – ‘freedom from danger’ and ‘freedom
6. This is expressed in Argentina, for example, in the need to control air space or in
problems with intruding fishing vessels around the 201 mile mark. In Brazil, it is expressed
in deployment in Amazonian areas and concern about the border with Colombia.
7. See Francisco Rojas Aravena, ‘Seguridad humana: Una perspectiva académica desde
América Latina’, in Chile 1999–2000. Nuevo gobierno: Desafíos de la reconciliación,
pp. 3–4, Santiago, FLACSO-Chile, 2000.
8. Op. cit., p. 4.
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Human Security Agenda: The Case of MERCOSUR
Ernesto López
from want’. The former has to do with issues that place people’s lives
and possessions at risk, as well as minimum thresholds that condition
the quality of life. War, crimes against people and property, various
forms of citizen insecurity and degradation of the environment are
some of its most frequent manifestations. Freedom from want is related
to chronic threats, such as hunger, disease, unemployment, social
exclusion, lack of opportunities in education and deterioration of rights.
It refers, in general, to all those problems contained in the old concept
of ‘social security’9 and in education and people’s rights. This probably
most strongly links the problem of human security with that of human
development and/or sustainable development – in the conceptual
context generated by the production and circulation of ideas within
the United Nations.
The wide range of problems embraced by this way of looking at
things has been criticized, and not without reason, because it
enormously expands the domain of the concept of security; it
‘securitizes’ areas of the real world that are not normally associated
with the concept.10 Without losing sight of the danger, I give priority
below to human security as it relates to ‘freedom from danger’, but I
also make some unavoidable references to the question of ‘freedom
from want’.
Human security in MERCOSUR
The members of MERCOSUR – particularly Brazil and Argentina,
on which this paper focuses – have undergone a socio-economic
process that, in general terms, could be characterized as prototypical
in relation to the growth of globalization.
Economic growth and social problems do not mix very well in
globalized contexts in general and in the so-called emerging nations in
particular.11 Economic development tends to go hand in hand with a
process of social destructuring, exclusion and disintegration, with
9. Without detracting from progress made in this regard by social democrat experiences
in Northern Europe, the beginning of a normalization of social security could perhaps
be considered to date back to 1935 and the appearance of the Social Security Law
promoted by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the United States.
10. See, for example, Bjørn Møller, ‘Seguridad nacional, societal y humana: El marco
general y el caso de los balcanes’, Fuerzas armadas y sociedad, Santiago, Vol. 15, No. 4,
11. I have discussed this problem quite extensively in ‘Globalización y democracia:
Esbozos’, Revista de ciencias sociales, Universidad Nacional de Quilmes, Buenos Aires,
Nos. 7–8, April 1998.
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extremely harmful consequences. Economic ‘success’ is not
accompanied by a corresponding success in social areas. Economy
and society remain at a distance from each another, to such an extent
that one can even speak of a break between them.
One could simplify this by saying that two demands –
competitiveness and exclusion, one economic and the other social –
are operating simultaneously. Globalization, with its requirement to
open up national markets and significantly increase flows of international
trade, imposes a high demand for competitiveness. Simultaneously,
the dismantling of the welfare state, the prevalence of capital-intensive
models of production – whose aim is plainly and simply automation –
with the subsequent reduction in job supply and increase in
unemployment, and the difficulties on the cost side – vis-à-vis demands
for fiscal discipline and competitiveness (which leads to reduced
contributions from the private sector) – and the maintenance of state
networks of social protection, among other factors, cause the onset
of social exclusion.12 The widespread image of the contemporary battle
between market and state, usually resolved in favour of the former, is
nothing less than a manifestation of what has just been said.
As a result of all this, a perverse force has been making inroads
everywhere – especially in countries such as Argentina and Brazil, which
have few possibilities of influencing the progress of this globalizing
process – bringing pressure to bear, on the one hand, from pretty
well implacable economic demands and, on the other, from unfortunate
social consequences. Thus, a unique antinomy between
competitiveness and inclusion is born, igniting particular societies of
what today are called emerging nations. The search for competitiveness
breeds exclusion, while defence of social inclusion obstructs
competitiveness (and, therefore, any possibility of acceptable
performance in the globalized world).
Brazil and Argentina are suffering from the problems described
above, with their own particular traits and characteristics derived from
their respective historical processes.
From the point of view of human security considered in relation to
‘freedom from want’, this obviously has clearly negative repercussions
in terms of employment, social welfare, food possibilities, health welfare,
education, rights and environmental living conditions, among other
significant aspects.
12. Destructuring, disaster, lack of solidarity, fragmentation and hanging out to dry have
been some of the phrases also used to describe this problem. See, among others, R.
Castel, Las metamorfosis de la cuestión social, Buenos Aires, Editorial Paidós, 1997; J.
Fitoussi and P. Rosanvallon, La nueva era de las desigualdades, Buenos Aires, Manantial,
1997; P. Rosanvallon, La nueva cuestión social, Buenos Aires, Manantial, 1995.
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Human Security Agenda: The Case of MERCOSUR
Ernesto López
The ‘freedom from danger’ aspect can be observed from the two
points of view referred to above – exclusion and prevalence of market
over state. Social exclusion has an immediate impact on the increase
in crime and citizen insecurity. In both cases, there is a concrete
increase in crimes against people and property. Likewise, one can
perceive an increased participation in criminal activities by sectors of
the population who have no other alternative, and that criminals tend
to be increasingly younger.13
The existence of a situation that can be defined as ‘more market
less state’ has also given rise in both countries to an increase in
corruption and white-collar crimes, with a subsequent deleterious
influence on state institutions directly linked to security, such as the
courts and police.
Thus, one can assert that the break between economy and society,
evidenced by the competitiveness/inclusion antinomy, has a direct
impact on the increase in human insecurity, both by threatening needs
and by placing people in danger.
Other new problems closely linked to globalization also have a
negative impact on human security. Among the most notable are drugrelated activities, such as trafficking, money laundering and chemical
precursors (used for processing cocaine in clandestine laboratories),
other forms of international organized crime, such as arms running,
money laundering of proceeds from political corruption and tax evasion,
and international terrorism. All these problems have been of concern
in either Brazil or Argentina.
The magnitude of drug trafficking in Brazil and its impact on human
security is evident, for example, in the presence of drug traffickers in
the favelas of Rio de Janeiro, which practically escape police control.
There are no situations as flagrant as this in Argentina, but there the
consumption of marijuana and cocaine has certainly increased in the
last five years – as it has in Brazil. Both countries also continue to be
significant links and transit zones in the drug trafficking chain.
The ‘First MERCOSUR Specialized Meeting of Officers for Drug
Enforcement, Prevention of Drug Abuse and Rehabilitation of DrugAddicts’ was held in April 2000 in Buenos Aires. The meeting included
countries from the enlarged MERCOSUR, as it is called (full members
Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay plus associated members Bolivia
and Chile), and its purpose was to examine the problems from the
point of view of demand and supply. It was the first interesting project
13. See, for example, Varella Márcio, ‘A banalizacao da violencia’, UNB Revista, Vol. I,
No. 2, April–June 2001, Universidad de Brasilia, Brasilia.
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of its kind to take a common look at problems and seek suitable forms
of cooperation to tackle them. Unfortunately, no other meeting has
yet been called, and none of the ideas proposed at the first meeting
have been implemented.
Very little progress has been made in either country in controlling
chemical precursors and no joint action has been taken. This is not a
minor problem, because both Argentina and Brazil are the exclusive
suppliers of the Bolivian ‘industry’, which is the second-largest supplier
of the European market. These products are legally purchased and
used by the chemical industry, and buying and selling them are not
crimes in themselves. Their use could be traced, however, to prevent
them from being employed in illegal, clandestine activities.
Brazil and Argentina are significant markets in South America for
money laundering (money from drug trafficking, as well as from other
criminal activities such as arms running, political corruption or tax
evasion). Informal estimates circulating in these spheres of activity
indicate that Brazil launders about US$50,000 million per year on
average, and Argentina about US$10,000 million. These data obviously
have to be taken with a pinch of salt, but they none the less indicate
the magnitude of the problem.
As has been said, the cost paid in terms of human security in this
case is mediate in relation to the original crimes – especially drug
trafficking and arms running – but in itself money laundering does not
adversely affect ‘need’ nor generate ‘danger’. It is necessary, however,
to complete the original crimes, to bring them to final fruition. Money
laundering of funds from tax evasion, however, has an immediate impact
on ‘freedom from want’, for it diminishes resources available to the
state. Finally, all the types of money laundering briefly examined above
have a poisonous effect whose repercussions are immediate in terms
of the negative influence they spread by infesting sectors of the courts
and police.
In June 2000, Brazil and Argentina simultaneously joined the Financial
Action Task Force on Money Laundering (FATF), an international
agency that seeks to coordinate efforts and consolidate cooperation
in the fight against money laundering. In December 2000, a South
American force (GAFI) was set up as a joint project by Brazil and
Argentina, sponsored by Spain. Both are interesting projects whose
continued development will have to be observed closely.
There is rather fragmentary information available on arms running,
both in terms of large-scale deals – such as Argentine operations with
Croatia and Peru, both widely known – and of small-arms traffic. This
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information is enough, however, to recognize that the problem is a
sizeable one. There is no joint action against this traffic, and government
activity would seem to be limited to what security and control services
can do in each particular case.
International terrorism is also a perceptible threat to human security
in both countries. As is well known, Argentina has suffered two brutal
attacks in the recent past – attacks on the Israeli Embassy and on the
Jewish mutual aid fund, AMIA – which caused dozens of deaths and
hundreds of wounded. More recently, and as a result of investigations
undertaken after the attacks on New York and Washington on 11
September, the support being given to several fundamentalist Arab
groups on the Triple Border of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay has
become evident. The three countries share a so-called Triple Border
Command, from which attempts are made to develop concerted actions
to cope with the problems in evidence there. More generally,
responding to a recommendation from the Second Summit of the
Americas, held in Chile in 1998, the General Assembly of the
Organization of American States created the Inter-American
Committee Against Terrorism on 7 June 1999 and entrusted it with
tasks and responsibilities involving concert and cooperation in regional
anti-terrorism activities. Argentina and Brazil form part of this
In summary, one could say that the most significant human security
issues affecting Brazil and Argentina – observing the distinction that
has been made throughout this paper between problems affecting
‘freedom from want’ and problems affecting ‘freedom from danger’ –
are as follows:
Main problems affecting ‘freedom from want’:
• social exclusion and marginality;
• precarious job and unemployment situation;
• non-existence of social welfare networks or their deterioration and
even disappearance;
• chronic food insufficiency and/or diminished food possibilities;
• non-existence, deterioration or disappearance of health welfare;
• poor environmental conditions or their degradation;
• insufficient education;
• non-existence or loss of elementary rights;
Main problems affecting ‘freedom from danger’:
• increase in common crime (crimes against people and property);
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• increase in insecurity in towns (not just increase in common crime,
but also deficient policing and, in some cases, deficiency of the
• increase in corruption and white-collar crimes;
• drug trafficking;
• supplying chemical precursors;
• different kinds of money laundering;
• arms running (macro-business and small arms);
• international terrorism.
There are problems which can be read as human security, but
which more properly perhaps belong to the spheres of international
and state security. If they are left on one side, it becomes clear that a
human security agenda for MERCOSUR must be built on a
consideration of the typical problems that are thought to be the most
important at that level, i.e. those listed above.
Having made this first distinction, another must be made. Even at a
human security level per se, one must distinguish between issues
affecting ‘freedom from want’ and issues affecting ‘freedom from danger’.
The former cover such a wide-ranging field – see list – that they become
mixed up with politics, economics, social policies, etc. Precisely for
this reason, warnings have been given about the danger of excessive
‘securitization’ of problems that can normally be read as belonging to
other disciplines (as above). The fields of human security and
development are obviously interconnected. Not enough attention can
be called, however, to the centrality to human security of the problems
inherent in these fields. So much more so if one considers the perverse
force resulting from globalization and the competitiveness/inclusion
antinomy referred to above.
Everything done in this field will be too little during our lifetimes.
All minimally reasonable ideas must be encouraged in order to close
the gap between economy and society. The actions of NGOs and
other non-state institutions, such as foundations, neighbourhood
organizations, etc., must be supported. Similarly, the highest possible
level of state concern must be demanded. One must fight against
naturalization of state impotence (whether at federal, provincial or
municipal level), which tends to abound in times when ‘belts are
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tightened’ and fiscal discipline is enforced. And one must try to expand
the margins of accountability.
There are a series of issues affecting ‘freedom from danger’ to which
the above considerations also apply. Problems making up so-called
international organized crime (drug trafficking, chemical precursors,
money laundering and arms running in the above list), international
terrorism, corruption and white-collar crimes, are so complex and
have such international ramifications that state action is absolutely
essential. Once again, responsible state concern in this area, with
accountability at the highest possible level, must be demanded. As
mentioned in the previous section, there have been a series of incipient
ideas – such as the FATF, the South American GAFI and the InterAmerican Committee Against Terrorism – which must be observed
closely. If need be, all state action in these fields – not just that involving
international cooperation – should be monitored as far as possible by
public opinion in general and by civil society control organizations (such
as human rights agencies or Citizen Power in Argentina) willing to
keep an eye on these matters.
In addition to making demands on and controlling state institutions
responsible for tackling the increase in common crime and insecurity
in towns, the development of civil society agencies or institutions, which
can play an important role in improving the situation, must be
encouraged. Such is the case, for example, of neighbours who group
together to form a neighbourhood watch, set up warning systems,
organize a rapid connection to the police, etc. All these methods, if
developed in cooperation with the police, improve local security
conditions. These organizations can be helped by equipping them with
a better institutional framework, setting up networks, etc. The same
can be said of local or sectoral agencies that organize themselves to
prevent or control police abuse or deficiencies in the courts.
In short, it would seem that specific action on MERCOSUR’s
priorities as regards human security covers two major questions: (a)
demanding responsible concern, control and accountability from the
respective government agencies; and (b) encouraging the activities of
NGOs and other civil society agencies which contribute by cooperation
or control to the irreplaceable action of state institutions.
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Some background on human security
This ‘global village’, as our world has been called, is marked by
positive occurrences such as the internationalization of economies,
growth of democracy as a parameter of political legitimacy, greater
awareness of the value of basic rights and freedoms, positive impact of
new information technologies which shorten distances and change
our methods of communication, to name but its most widespread
and applauded ‘highlights’. But globalization also has a ‘dark side’, a
shadowy nature expressed in, for example, extreme poverty, terrorism,
epidemics, digital gap, transnational organized crime, financial crises
and degradation of the environment.
Thus, we are face to face with evils that know no boundaries and
which directly affect people. These are seen as ‘other’ causes of
insecurity. The most serious problems of our times, whatever their
nature, are neither seen nor felt to be remote. The dangers of our
times, as noted, are not limited to a given geographical area, for their
effects quickly and easily spread to the rest of the world.
1. Lawyer and Counsellor to the Chilean Embassy in the Holy See. This paper basically sets
forth ideas presented in 1999 in the XXVII Course on International Law, organized in Rio de
Janeiro by the Inter-American Juridical Committee and the Office of the Assistant Secretary
for Legal Affairs of the OAS. The opinions expressed are the author’s exclusive responsibility.
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Moreover, the current trend involves intra-state conflicts, not
international ones. These conflicts are not civilian and have been
aggravated, in turn, by the extensive use of small, light weaponry that
is easy to use, acquire, produce and transport. These characteristics
mean that these weapons cause the most loss of life and human suffering.
They are also factors of instability, which obstruct economic, social
and political development. Widespread use of small arms has become
a salient aspect of domestic wars. Stopping illicit possession and
trafficking of these arms is a particularly complex task, especially in
border areas where access is difficult. In these situations, the supply
of relatively cheap small arms follows the ebb and flow of conflicts
beyond the control of any one nation. As a result of all these elements,
irregular armed groups, paramilitary forces and criminal organizations
make frequent use of these small arms, and their availability and
proliferation have both increased considerably. As a result of their
projection into the political and institutional life of nations and the
establishment of a culture of violence and lack of respect for individual
guarantees, this issue has been included in security proposals and,
especially, in notions that examine security from a point of view that
focuses on human beings.2
The extremely serious occurrences in the former Yugoslavia,
Rwanda and Sierra Leone, which were condemned by international
society and gave rise to various ad hoc courts – the so-called ‘kangaroo
courts’ – contributed, among other reasons, of course, to the
concretion of a long-time human aspiration – the establishment of an
International Court designed to punish international crimes and enforce
respective individual criminal responsibilities, contributing in passing
to healing old wounds in post-conflict societies and, thereby,
contributing to processes of reconciliation and pacification.
It would be appropriate in this respect to mention a few additional
elements which explain the origin of this legal institution, for, in an era
of increasing interdependence, as we have seen, globalization is not
only evidenced in the trading of goods and services, but also in terms
of ethical values and principles. Thus, the International Criminal Court
is a clear instance of ‘globalized justice’ and the expansion of universal
2. I recommend Small Arms Control: Old Weapons, New Issues, edited by Lora Lumpe
and published for the United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) by
Ashgate Publishing, Aldershot (UK), 1999. I also suggest Péricles Gasparini Alves and
Daiana B. Cipollone (eds.), Curbing Illicit Trafficking in Small Arms and Sensitive
Technologies: An Action-Oriented Agenda, New York/Geneva, UNIDIR, 1998.
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jurisdiction. More than fifty years ago, the international military courts
of Nuremberg and Tokyo punished aggression, genocide, crimes against
humanity and mass war crimes committed during the Second World
War. The Nuremberg court stated: ‘It has been long recognized that
international law imposes duties and responsibilities on individuals and
states … Crimes against international law are committed by individuals,
not by abstract entities, and the provisions of international law can
only be enforced by punishing the individuals who commit such crimes
… Anyone who infringes the rules of war cannot claim immunity by
the simple fact of having acted in obedience to state authorities, when,
according to international law, the state has exceeded its own
competence by authorizing said action ... .’3 Later, the United Nations
approved the work of these courts, and the resulting principles of this
wealth of jurisprudence were crystallized in the principles of
international criminal law.
In 1948, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the
Crime of Genocide was adopted, coming into force three years later.
The Convention defines genocide as any act committed with intent to
destroy a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, by killing its
members, causing them serious bodily or mental harm, deliberately
inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its
physical destruction, imposing measures intended to prevent births
within the group or forcibly transferring children of the group to
another group, a crime which states promised to prevent and punish.
Those accused of genocide could be tried generally by a court holding
jurisdiction in the state where the crime was committed, or by an
international criminal court whose jurisdiction had been recognized
by the state concerned. Setting up the latter – primary precedent for
an international legal agency – took a long time. The Court was born in
1998 and is an extraordinary step taken by the international community
to ensure that the most serious crimes do not go unpunished. Its
sphere of competence includes genocide, crimes against humanity,
war crimes committed as a result of armed or international conflicts
and crimes of aggression, over which the Court holds jurisdiction only
from the moment that the nature of the crime is determined and
always provided that it has been committed after the court’s statutes
have come into force. One aspect that must be stressed is that the
Court does not replace national courts in their task of trying the above
3. International judge Shigeru Oda, ‘El individuo en el derecho internacional’, in Max
Sorensen (ed.), Manual of public international law, London, MacMillan, 1968.
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crimes; it simply supplements national courts when they are materially
prevented from exercising their duties, when they are incapable of
exercising efficient, independent or impartial justice or simply when a
denial of justice has occurred.
The concept of sovereignty – the external projection of internal
autonomy – proclaimed and defended in the past, has gradually lost
force and vigour. In modern international practice, different universal
or regional regimes, to which states have partially ceded their
sovereignty and jurisdiction in favour of an international action and
response that is considered legitimate, prevail.
In a complex, interdependent world, states more frequently resort
to adopting agreements that regulate such diverse, specific areas as
the use of nuclear power, changes in the weather, international trade
and finances, sea and ocean spaces, copyrights and human rights. These
are nothing less than express limitations on sovereignty.
International law, once considered a compilation of laws for and of
states, has been affected by the ‘winds of change’. Currently, individuals,
corporations, non-government organizations and civil society are actors
that coexist with states and have erupted with unprecedented strength
on the international scene, even participating actively in multilateral
conferences or treaty negotiations, as shown by the adoption of the
Rome Statute in 1998, and in processes involving the validation or
implementation of conventional instruments, such as occurred with
the Convention on Anti-Personnel Mines.
The freedom of action of states is undoubtedly more curtailed now.
This curtailment includes substantial restrictions on the ability of states
to sign treaties, previously unlimited, such as the incorporation of
peremptory norms or jus cogens into the Vienna Convention on Treaty
Rights, described as legal norms that are superior to the will of the
states, necessary for peaceful international coexistence and expressing
the noble interests of the international community as a whole and
which are, therefore, by nature provisions, for they cannot be ignored
or amended by agreements between states or by their unilateral
Security, understood in its classic sense of defending national
sovereignty and territorial integrity, is a precarious, insufficient concept
to properly respond to a series of threats which have begun to arise in
almost every region of the world and which, as never before, specifically
affect people. The nature and scope of these new threats mean that
concern for individual security is extended beyond internal boundaries.
‘Security stopped being a purely military concern, for the security
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agendas of individual countries and of the international system as a
whole include so-called new issues, such as good governance,
environment, drug trafficking, population growth and the re-emergence
of ethnic, religious and cultural tension … .’4
With regard to Latin America and the Caribbean, Heraldo Muñoz, an
expert on inter-American relations, has written that the countries in
the region ‘traditionally … have defined security in terms of classical
concepts of national sovereignty … This concept of security, however,
seems to be insufficient to respond to a series of non-military dangers
and threats being faced by Latin American and Caribbean countries. (A)
revised concept of security must include those conditions that increase
or reduce countries’ individual ability to solve critical economic or social
problems and achieve a more egalitarian, democratic internal order’.5
The military factor, then, does not dominate modern security
schemes. Traditional threats have been replaced by challenges of
another nature and magnitude, so state security has stopped being an
end in itself, although peaceful relations between states are still
admittedly necessary requirements for human development and social
and economic growth. They are, after all, supplementary approaches.
Thus a new perspective – human security – has arisen. This is a
new term in the diplomatic lexicon, which appeared for the first time
in a section on ‘new concepts of human security’ in the UNDP Human
Development Report 1993. After stressing positively restrictions and
cutbacks in military spending, it encourages the use of these resources
for human development, for security in people’s food, employment
and environment. This vision, which fosters a society designed to meet
people’s specific needs – which must also be the core of any security
philosophy – was developed in detail in the 1994 UNDP report, New
Dimensions of Human Security, which states: ‘... For too long, security
has been equated to protecting a country’s borders against threats.
For too long, countries have tried to arm themselves in order to protect
their safety. Currently, for most people their sense of insecurity is
due more to concerns about daily living than fear of a world cataclysm.
Security in employment, security in the environment, security in
income, security in health, security against crime: these are human
security concerns emerging around the world’.6 In short, more than
4. Heraldo Muñoz, Política internacional de los nuevos tiempos, p. 77, Santiago, Chile,
Editorial Los Andes, 1996.
5. Heraldo Muñoz, ‘The environment in inter-American relations’, in Heraldo Muñoz
(comp.), Environment and Diplomacy in the Americas, p. 3, Boulder, Colo., Lynne
Rienner Publishers, 1992.
6. See the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) website at http:// for summaries of the reports referred to here.
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keeping the peace by military means, which continues to be necessary
and a must in the post-Cold War world, what is important is to
guarantee the security of human beings, with that being understood in
its very widest sense.
Consequently, the UNDP approach was well received. It suitably
combined the agenda for peace with the agenda for economic and
social development. Peace loomed as such a solitary feature that it had
to be associated with other features. In this logic, the absence of
outbreaks of war and increased stability would lead to less need for
military purchases, which, in turn, would produce greater social
development in the long term, reducing poverty and favouring respect
for personal rights and the establishment of true democratic
governments. There is a link between human rights, good governance,
security, disarmament and development. Coordinated work of
multilateral entities is essential in the pursuit of these objectives in
order to optimize their always limited resources. The security concept
set forth in the report was criticized for being too vast, for it covered
economic security, food security, health security, environmental
security, personal security, community security and political security.7
This reservation is a valid one, but it does not in any way prevent all
aspects of security from being highlighted. Moreover, the tragic events
in New York and Washington in September 2001, which have caused
people to wonder about the root causes of terrorism, make it advisable
to take, and justify taking, an all-embracing, comprehensive look at all
ingredients of security.
According to the above, then, the goals or aims of security must be
established and accomplished more in terms of human than state needs;
the agenda must be for and of the people. As Heraldo Muñoz so aptly
pointed out in his speech at Lucerne during the Second Ministerial
Meeting of the Human Security Network: ‘Human security entails the
need to ensure that people themselves experience a sense of security
in their daily lives, which is very often different to state security.’
In this respect, anti-personnel mines, which were always considered
weapons to defend a country’s territory regardless of the immense
cost that their production, sale and use has for the life, health and
physical integrity of civilian populations, is an apt illustration. By banning
them, the Ottawa Convention (1997) therefore gave priority to
people’s security over state security.
7. The term ‘human security’ was used in preparatory works for the World Summit for
Social Development (Copenhagen, 1995), but it is not mentioned in that Conference’s
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The renovating change represented by human security has become
increasingly more widespread in the region’s academic sector;8 it will
slowly be incorporated into multilateral diplomatic language; it was
proposed in speeches at Committees of the United Nations General
Assembly in 1999,9 as well as in official speeches at the Millennium
Summit;10 it was a primary issue at the 2000 General Assembly of the
OAS in Windsor (Canada, 2000), one of the points on the agenda of
the 14th Presidential Summit of the Rio Group, which took place in
Cartagena de Indias (Colombia, 2000);11 it was referred to – briefly,
one must admit – in the Political Declaration of the Third Summit of
the Americas (Quebec, April 2001), and will progressively become a
guiding issue in the foreign policy of such countries as Canada,12 Chile
and Norway.13
8. See, for example, Donald J. Puchala and Morris J. Blachman, ‘Las organizaciones
internacionales y la seguridad humana en América Latina’, in Olga Pellicer (comp.), La
seguridad internacional en América Latina y el Caribe, Mexico, Instituto Matías Romero
de Estudios Diplomáticos, first edition, 1995. There are not many books on the subject
in Spanish.
9. In the general debate of the Second Committee of the UN General Assembly on 6
October 1999, the Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, Ambassador
Yukio Satoh, said that his country ‘was fighting for the international community to
concentrate its attention more clearly on human security and, thereby, understand the
meaning of human security in its widest sense’ (press release from the Japanese Mission).
10. Speaking at the opening of the Millennium Summit on 6 September 2000, President
Clinton, without mentioning human security, referred to new challenges when he
stated ‘... the UN was formed “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war”
... but now we must find ways to protect people as well as borders. We must also work
… to prevent conflict, recognizing the iron link between deprivation and war. … Too
many nations face a tidal wave of infectious diseases like malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS,
which cause one quarter of all deaths in the world ...’ (
11. In her work on ‘Los pueblos del Grupo de Río ante la cumbre del milenio’, María
Soledad Alvear states, ‘We had the opportunity as a country to expound to Heads of
State and Government the concept of human security, which pushes public policies
towards a central concern for human beings. The best thing about this approach … is
that it puts the targets of public actions on the same wavelength as the leaders … human
security assumes and is committed to the clamour of people who want a suitable quality
of life that meets their aspirations and resolves their uncertainties …’, in Revista
diplomacia, No. 83, April–June 2000, p. 14.
12. One can read the declaration by Lloyd Axworthy on soft power, which he typifies
as ‘a kind of touchy feely approach to international relations that emphasizes negotiation
over confrontation, ‘human security’ over national security and the power of ideas
over the power of weapons’, in the International Herald Tribune, 22 February 1999, in
an article entitled ‘Ottawa’s new age diplomacy ruffles many feathers in Washington’.
13. Speech by Aslaug Marie Haga, Norway’s State Secretary for Foreign Affairs, at the
plenary session of the Conference on Disarmament, 18 February 1999, where she
stated: ‘The issues of land mines and small arms demonstrate how important it is to
address human security. This fact does not exclude the continued relevance of state
security questions. Indeed, human security and state security are interrelated ... .’
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Chile and the Human Security Network
Chile, together with another twelve nations,14 make up the Human
Security Network, an association which to date has held four ministerial
meetings – in Bergen, Norway (1999), Lucerne, Switzerland (2000),
Petra, Jordan (2001) and Santiago, Chile (2002). Austria will be the
host country in 2003.
In May 1998, the governments of Canada and Norway signed the
‘Lysøen Declaration’, in which their foreign ministers agreed to establish
a framework for concerted consultation and action (ministerial
meetings at least once a year, bilateral teams to develop and implement
joint ministerial projects, parallel meetings in traditional or usual
international conferences) and identified the following projects as being
typical of a human security agenda: human rights, humanitarian
international law, anti-personnel mines, International Criminal Court,
child soldiers, child labour and small, light weaponry.
At the 1998 General Assembly of the United Nations, the foreign
ministers of Norway and Canada invited the foreign ministers of Austria,
Chile, Ireland, Jordan, the Netherlands, Slovenia, South Africa,
Switzerland and Thailand to set up an informal partnership to promote
human security; this involved a group of like-minded countries. Other
methodological agreements of interest, such as the absence of a fixed
agenda, search for points of consensus and promotion of practical
actions based on them, were also set up. The Network also encourages
dialogue and cooperation with international organizations and nongovernment agencies with know-how and experience in specific human
security issues.
It must be specified that this is not an institutionalized referent.
Until now, the host country for the ministerial meeting has assumed a
kind of pro-tempore secretaryship, making known its preferred subject
matters prior to the conference. Its foreign minister chairs the event
and is responsible for drawing up the main document known as the
‘Chairman’s Summary’. Foreign ministers or vice-ministers participate
in the proceedings, which normally last two days and are conducted
in English. The ministerial meeting is preceded by preparatory sessions,
which may take place in the host country or elsewhere. The UN
General Assembly has also been a meeting point for the Network’s
ministers – or top foreign office officials – so far showing tremendous
practical usefulness and efficiency.
14. Austria, Canada, Chile, Greece, Ireland, Jordan, Mali, the Netherlands, Norway,
Slovenia, Switzerland and Thailand. South Africa participated as an observer. (Greece
and Mali were not part of the Network until 1999).
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As is well known, the interaction with NGOs of the countries making
up the Network is one of its distinctive qualities. These entities are
granted partner status and, hence, participate in ministerial and
preparatory meetings via papers and research and work done with
governments and international organizations. In this respect, Amnesty
International, International Committee of the Red Cross, International
Campaign to Ban Landmines, Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers,
International Action Network on Small Arms, Arias Foundation for
Peace and Human Progress, Henry Dunant Centre for Humanitarian
Dialogue, International Council on Human Rights Policy, Geneva
Graduate Institute of International Studies, among others, may be
mentioned. Through its director, Francisco Rojas, FLACSO-Chile has
participated outstandingly in the ministerial meetings in Lucerne and
Petra, and performed the same function of support and cooperation
at the meeting in Chile.
In Bergen, the Head of the Chilean Delegation, Ambassador
Raimundo González, stated: ‘the decline of the bipolar scenario and
the fall of ideological walls have fuelled a growing demand from people,
citizens, for their governments and authorities to establish conditions
that favour sustainable, integral development, for their security
problems and need for dialogue and peace to be met, for their basic
rights and guarantees to be respected and properly safeguarded. The
vision of human security has emphasized a series of problems that all
involve the vulnerability faced by man in our day and time, especially
in violent situations. The common denominator in complex, apparently
totally dissimilar issues, such as, for example, anti-personnel mines,
illicit drug trafficking, terrorism, transnational organized crime, children
in wars and the International Criminal Court, is precisely the person,
not the state … .’ He goes on to refer to work in the non-government,
private world: ‘In accordance with this spirit of giving the individual
more space, Chile considers it essential to strengthen and improve
channels of communication between the public sector and civil society
organizations in order to receive the latter’s contributions.
Consequently, a wide field for closer, more wide-ranging mutual
cooperation is opened … .’
Ambassador González made a methodological point in this speech,
which must be remembered because it was reiterated by our
representatives at the meetings in Lucerne and Petra. The point in
question is this: ‘We do not want the subject matters included in
human security to be so ambitious, covering so many issues, that they
cannot be dealt with efficiently. Thus, we would prefer to concentrate
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on a few more pressing issues, following them up properly, so we
would suggest realistic tasks and activities that can feasibly be carried
out within flexible temporary frameworks.’
In Lucerne, in turn, Heraldo Muñoz, Under-Secretary for Foreign
Affairs, who headed the Chilean delegation, stated: ‘human security
does not replace traditional security; rather it supplements it, adding
the missing element as its primary concern. During the Cold War,
addressing security issues meant referring to state security. There was
an implicit premise, whereby a secure state presupposed secure
citizens, a secure population. The concept of human security, however,
now denotes that people’s security depends on factors that transcend
states. The antithesis of security is insecurity, and insecurity threatens
people from dimensions that are beyond the state’s effective control
– such as transnational organized crime, large population displacements,
etc.’ He added, ‘There is a different sense of insecurity that may seem
less dramatic, but is no less important, given its human consequences.
In fact, most people experience insecurity at a domestic level, at work,
in their neighbourhoods, in their communities … . This type of
insecurity does not receive much international attention … . We should
acknowledge that these insignificant episodes of fear and insecurity,
which affect our everyday lives, are the origin of the large-scale
insecurity problems being experienced in our day and time. We have
to tackle the small insecurities of everyday living. By doing so, we will
prevent and definitively solve more serious cases of insecurity.’ He
went on to say that Network members should actively lobby for
human security within their own regional groups. (In this respect, Chile
has spread the idea in the Rio Group.) He then stated that the Network
should comment on specific serious situations that endangered the
rights of people and contributed to a gradual deterioration of the basic
freedoms of populations.
He also said that, for the group to be more efficient, it would be
appropriate to consider expanding it to include one or two states per
region.15 The ideal size of the Network should be a subject for future
reflection, as its success and dissemination would surely lead to
pressure from states to join it. An initial agreement was reached that
15. It should be mentioned that, in his 1999 speech in Bergen, Ambassador González
disclosed this criterion when he stated: ‘Chile … believes that, given the magnitude and
seriousness of the challenges that lie before us, we should consider and, if applicable,
agree to open up and expand our association to other members of the international
community, which, sharing our ethical and legal values and principles, wish to cooperate
and support the undertaking that we began in Norway.’
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Latin America, Asia and Africa should have one more representative.
Even though the Human Security Network was not born as a regionally
balanced group, but rather as a like-minded group where doctrinal
issues were concerned, the obvious imbalance between North and
South is evident, so Southern presence should be strengthened. In
any case, one must bear in mind that a group with many members
makes discussion and decision-making much more difficult.
One of the points made by Ambassador Mario Artaza, DirectorGeneral of Foreign Policy, who headed the Chilean delegation at the
Third Ministerial Meeting in Petra, was the following: ‘We recognize
the importance of continuing to focus our attention on existing links
and opportunities between human security and human development.
We believe that discussions should be geared towards developing
action programmes for the Human Security Network in specific areas.
From this point of view, we must continue with our talks on the
importance of efforts to enhance the profile of human security issues
by developing human security indicators or indices similar to those
used for human development and by encouraging proper evaluations
of the causes and consequences of human insecurity. We believe that
human security and human development are different concepts and
that a narrower definition of human security is conceptually and
analytically more useful that a wider one.’
It is pertinent to highlight what President Ricardo Lagos stated in
his article, ‘Chile in a changing world’, published in the first Spanish
issue of Foreign Affairs (Spring 2001), to wit that ‘Chile is striving to
take on its international responsibilities in a world marked by increasing
interdependence, because there are tasks that are beyond the
organizational capabilities of a single country, vast global goals that are
now being set by humanity … Chile has joined the Human Security
Network, in which our country, together with a small group of nations,
is devoted to proposing measures that improve the world’s security
conditions, not just for states but also very especially for people ...’ .
Finally, and in order to ensure that the coherence of Chile’s position
on this doctrine, which has been reasserted after the events in the
United States in September 2001, is noted, the following was stated in
the most recent plenary session of the United Nations General
Assembly by Juan Gabriel Valdés, former Chilean Foreign Minister and
current Ambassador to the United Nations: ‘… There will not be any
solution to the problems that we face until we come to understand
that terrorism dwells in the most dislocated spaces of our societies
and kills from there.’
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This means that our concept of global security, mainly expressed in
undoubtedly indispensable disarmament agreements, must of necessity
also turn decisively to examining what we have termed ‘human
Some points for future Ministerial Meetings of the Network
The main merit of the notion of human security is that it has made
the needs, concerns and respect for the worth of the individual part
of the international scenario. Consequently, foreign policy agendas
must bear this philosophy, this preferred option, in mind, for states
must protect and give security to their populations at all times and
everywhere. However, what protection and what security are we talking
about? An answer that delimits its boundaries and establishes its true
dimensions is essential. The more or less precise coordinates of human
security will have to be determined in the short or medium term.
Coevally, human security must be distinguished from other notions
and terms to which it is related, basically that of human development.
Where does one start and the other end? How are they joined together
or how could they be intertwined? These are just some of the questions
that arise.
Given the above, perhaps the first major conceptual effort that
must be made is to typify the concept with a view to adopting a Letter,
Commitment or Declaration of the Basic Principles of Human Security.
This document could be discussed and approved in future ministerial
meeting. The ultimate aim would be to take it to the UN General
Assembly for its proclamation via a resolution. This is a route that
must be explored carefully, because negotiating a text of that calibre
takes time.
Now, what form would it take? First of all, it would have to start by
defining the concept, saying that to receive protection is an inalienable
right of every human being, of his or her person, family and goods, as
well as every country. It would have to be drawn up in such a way that
it safeguarded human beings from traditional physical threats, as well
as from new dangers and causes of insecurity. The suitability of drawing
up a catalogue of the most frequent insecurity theories in the
contemporary world could be reflected on here. Then the importance
16. See full text of the speech in Session Document A/56/166, ‘Medidas para eliminar el
terrorismo internacional’ (
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Chile and Human Security
Juan Aníbal Barría
of people as the core subjects of security would have to be emphasized,
clearly and specifically pointing out their aspirations and demands in a
realistic, feasible framework. This would have to be done, of course,
without neglecting what we put forward about a right – perhaps
incipient in an initial phase – of the people. Some social groups or
sectors that are particularly vulnerable in emergency situations or
conflicts would have to be identified and paid more attention.
The commitments that states must assume in order to draw up
public policies and programmes geared towards human security would
have to be established. Internationally, states would have to encourage
cooperation with a view to mutual support in dealing with the challenges
of human security. Space would also have to be devoted to international
agencies, so that they could incorporate this perspective into their
agendas. The same would be true of NGOs and civil society, which
have much to contribute on human security initiatives.
That would be the first step. The next would be to create an index,
with its respective verification mechanisms. This has been done with
the ‘right to development’, which is a good paradigm for this purpose.
In fact, the UNDP launched its first annual Human Development Report
in 1990, introducing the Human Development Index, which was the
first international attempt to measure and evaluate the situation of
countries around the world based on additional parameters to simple
economic growth and, thereby, set up a method of measurement that
would evaluate a country’s level of development from a
multidimensional perspective. The index uses a ‘complex set of
indicators to create a single human development indicator per country
or region. Its novelty is that it measures socio-economic progress over
the years, thereby making it possible to evaluate, criticize and improve
government policies in those areas. The index establishes a minimum
and a maximum for each dimension and shows what sectors of
development are priority sectors for each country, as well as in terms
of the relationship between countries. Thus, the index makes it easier
to determine priorities of a particular state policy with regard to the
economy, social investments and evaluate them over the years …’ .17
Some suggestions on methodologies are presented below. The Human
Security Network is obviously responsible for taking care of the proliferation
of new problems connected to individual vulnerability, which have a very
high profile in world public opinion. It must be selective in making its choices,
however, preferably devoting its energies to those neglected segments that
require priority action.
17. Virgina Trimarco, ‘El aporte del PNUD a la promoción del derecho al desarrollo en América
Latina y el Caribe’, in El sistema interamericano de protección de los derechos humanos en el
umbral del siglo XXI, Corte Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Vol. 1, p. 648.
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Its proposed solutions and initiatives must then be both specific
and viable. An exhaustive catalogue of initiatives would lead nowhere
and could be frustrating when not all of them could be examined. Nor
would it be efficient to duplicate the work of multilateral agencies by
dealing with given issues on several fronts at the same time.
Thus, devoting a ministerial meeting to evaluating two or three issues
– and agreeing to tasks regarding them – is positive, because it provides
for more enriching dialogue and the fruit of this exchange of ideas and
observations can lead to specific expressions. Agreeing to a common
platform for working in multilateral contexts, which uses human
security profiles as a point of reference, is a methodology that should
be constant and paramount in the Network. This Network, we must
remember, was set up precisely to work and act efficiently.
It is important, finally, for the Network to achieve international
impact. In our opinion, it lacks presence in multilateral forums, which
are its natural framework and where by preference it should pour out
its proposals. The countries making up this Network should involve
international agencies, especially those of a financial nature, and commit
them to human security as an inspiration for their activities.
In these times when, as we stated at the outset, concern for human
beings is becoming increasingly more important and influential, human
security as a philosophy and working proposal seems both attractive
and appropriate. When it is understood that many of the roots of the
insecurity and vulnerability of people and societies are not exclusively
military in origin, then it is healthy to take a look at a kind of security
that has different ingredients and elements.
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I would like to thank FLACSO-Chile and UNESCO for their
willingness to work with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in organizing
this important seminar on ‘Peace, Human Security and Conflict
Prevention in Latin America and the Caribbean’. For our part, we
complied with our commitment to foster, together with nongovernmental actors, new policies and initiatives that would allow us
to approach international security issues with an emphasis on people.
This new focus has become particularly relevant in recent times,
when the so-called ‘new threats to security’ are riveting the attention
of the whole world.
Let us remember that in 1997 Canada and Norway launched the
idea of setting up a Human Security Network and an arrangement was
signed at Lysøen Island (Norway) in 1998; then in 1999 several
countries from different regions of the world – including Chile – were
invited to take part in a joint project. This Network has garnered a
great deal of success, such as international cooperation in the campaign
to eradicate landmines.
1. Opening statement by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Chile at the Expert Meeting
on 'Peace, Human Security and Conflict Prevention in Latin America and the Caribbean',
Santiago, Chile, 26-27 November 2001.
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As a member of the Network, Chile is attempting to apply the
same energy and commitment to a wide variety of situations that
threaten the right of individuals both to lead their lives free from fear
and to have their most elemental needs satisfied.
In fact, human security for our country is not only linked to a
humanitarian view of conflicts but also to the outcry of people,
wherever they might live, for a decent quality of life that meets their
aspirations and provides a response to their uncertainties. Therefore,
our conviction is that peace is directly related to the opportunities
men and women have to lead a better life.
For this reason, we emphasize that for us the highest degree of
human security will be attained only when we seriously consider people
as the main beneficiaries of national and international public policies.
Action taken by the Human Security Network
During its short life, the Human Security Network has cooperated
with the United Nations in its efforts to foster and emphasize the
need to protect civilians, especially women and children, as well as in
other topics directly related to the prevention of international conflicts.
In this sense, then, during the three previous ministerial meetings in
Norway, Switzerland and Jordan, humanitarian considerations have
been examined from different perspectives. This approach will continue
during the Fourth Ministerial Meeting that will take place in our country
next July.
Chile has proposed contributing to the development of this topic,
addressing it from a regional point of view, thus making this seminar
particularly interesting for the future endeavours of the Network in
Latin America and the Caribbean.
Using a flexible, informal approach, we have been able to identify
specific areas for collective action and to attract international attention
to such emerging topics as respect for and compliance with the rules
of international humanitarian law and human rights within the present
international context, the latter aspects having come rapidly to the
forefront after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001 in the United
States and the ensuing international action in Afghanistan.
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Human Security: People as the Main...
H.E. Ms María Soledad Alvear Valenzuela
Links to specific topics
Chile, the sole Latin American member of this informal group, has
proposed an approach to international security issues that links them
to specific topics such as human development, human rights education,
humanitarian law and the elaboration of public security policies that
reflect a reinforced notion of international security, wherein human
security really prevails.
We are concerned about such serious problems as the
indiscriminate effects of anti-personnel mines or the illicit trade in small
arms and light weapons, as well as the participation of children in armed
These have been specifically addressed by the Human Security
Network in an effort to define clear-cut areas of action where solutions
are identified that confront the complex realities posed by such
In this respect, we deem that this objective may be achieved if
there is a bonding of academic, political and humanitarian points of
view, as has already taken place in the formation of a number of
coalitions of governments and of several non-governmental actors.
The challenge is particularly relevant when it comes to creating
international instruments that compel states to take concrete action.
One clear example of this is the Ottawa Convention banning landmines,
ratified by Chile on 10 September 2001.
The world scenario, after the terrorist attacks of 11 September
and the international reaction of unreserved condemnation and
counterattack that they produced, has shown the extreme insecurity
to which very different and distant places around the world are
submitted today.
Latin America and the Caribbean is a geographic reference point of
huge human, economic and cultural proportions with increasing
worldwide connections. Recently, an ever more homogeneous group
of countries has been coalescing which shares basic values and
principles, founded on democracy, respect for human rights and
mitigation of inequalities. In this context, human security underlies
any concept or system aiming to effectively build a more developed
and stable society.
This is so because, as mentioned previously, the security of nations
is far more than the absence of belligerent conflicts. Social peace
requires that the gap between rich and poor does not widen. We
cannot remain indifferent to the fact that, despite the efforts expended,
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between 1990 and 1999 those living below the poverty line in Latin
America increased by 11 million, as can be observed in the latest report
issued by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the
Caribbean (ECLAC). There are 211 million impoverished persons in
Latin America, of which somewhat more than 89 million are found to
be below the poverty line.
To this we must add that, between 1990 and 1999, the number of
unemployed persons in Latin America rose from 7.6 million to 18.1
million and job quality deteriorated. The danger we are facing now is
that the new international situation will cause these figures to rise to
new heights.
The concept of human security thus requires each country to
consistently aim to improve people’s quality of life, thus fostering a
series of elements in domestic policies that go beyond the traditional
concept of security.
In this area, our action should follow a dual course: on the one
hand, internally, care should be taken that state agents and bodies are
reliable, pervaded with the higher values of social co-existence and a
vocation for service and, on the other hand, internationally, action
must be taken to strengthen international systems for protecting basic
human rights and to increase solidarity, allowing those countries facing
the most serious problems to find a way out of their weakened
situations. The challenges, then, are enormous.
Recently, within the framework of the UN General Assembly in
New York, I had the opportunity of meeting the foreign affairs ministers
of the member countries of the Network. As host of the forthcoming
ministerial meeting, I coordinated an interesting debate that promises
a successful and fruitful outcome.
The endeavours that you are undertaking will without a doubt make
a significant contribution to our debates in July because, if there is one
thing that characterizes the Network, it is the joint work of governments
and organized civil society. For this reason, we look forward with great
interest to your contributions.
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Rómulo Aitken Hellec
Chilean Police
Chief Sub-Inspector
Organized Crime
General Mackenna 1314
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-6728026 / 5445048
E-mail:[email protected]
Gilberto Cristián Aranda
Ministry of the Interior
Public Security and Information
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-5555588
E-mail: [email protected]
Bernardo Arévalo de León
FLACSO-Guatemala / WSAP
International Area Coordinator
of Security Studies /
Latin American Representative
5ª Avenida 6-23, zona 9
Ciudad de Guatemala, 01009,
Guatemala, C.A.
Tel: +502-3629240
E-mail: [email protected]
Seguridad Humana inglés.P65
Carlos Basombrío
Ministry of the Interior
Special Coordinating Commission
on National Police Restructurization
Plaza 30 de Agosto s/n, 4° piso,
Corpec, San Isidro
Lima, Peru
Tel: +51-1-2244542 / 7501397
E-mail: [email protected]
Gustavo E. Basso
Academia Nacional de Estudios
Políticos y Estratégicos (ANEPE)
Head of Security and Defense
Eliodoro Yañez 2760, Providencia
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-2315021, ext. 23
Raúl Benítez Manaut
Torre II de Humanidades, Piso 9
Ciudad Universitaria 04510 DF,
Tel: +52-53-56230303
Fax: +52-53-52501255
E-mail: [email protected]
25/04/2003, 12:55
Adrián Bonilla
Academic Sub-Director
Paez N° 19-26 y Av. Patria
Quito, Ecuador
Tel: +59-3-22528200 / 99711669
E-mail: [email protected]
Claude Bruderlein
Harvard University, HPCR
Harvard Program
on Humanitarian Policy
and Conflict Research
1033 Massachusetts Ave. 4th
Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Tel: +1-617-4968640
E-mail: [email protected]
Laura Chinchilla
Public Security and Police
San José, Costa Rica
Tel: +506-2823111
Fax: +506-2432078
E-mail: [email protected]
Jorge Da Silva
Rua Luiz de Mattas 86-Fonesca
Niteroi-RJ 24120-220, Brazil
Tel: +55-21-26256462 / -8610
E-mail: [email protected]
Mireya Dávila
Presidency of the Republic
Public Policy Advisor
Alameda 1515, of. 92
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-6904770
E-mail: [email protected]
Enrique d’Etigny
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Scientific Advisor
Catedral 1143
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-6980301 / 6885137
E-mail: [email protected]
Raúl Elgueta González
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Sub-Director, DIPESP
Department CTO-CIE
Catedral 1143, 2 piso
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-6794452
E-mail: [email protected]
Renán Fuentealba
Ministry of Defense
International Advisor
Villavicencio 364
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-6322968
E-mail: [email protected]
Claudia Fuentes J.
Av. Dag Hammarskjöld 3269,
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-2900200
E-mail: [email protected]
Hugo Frühling
Centro de Estudios del Desarrollo
Area Coordinator of Citizen Safety
Nueva de Lyon 128, Providencia
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-2311953 / 2312723
Moufida Goucha
Chief, Section of Philosophy
and Human Sciences
Division of Foresight, Philosophy
and Human Sciences
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Participants at the Expert Meeting on ‘Peace, Human Security and Conflict...
1, rue Miollis
75732 Paris Cedex 15, France
Tel: +33-1-45684552
Fax: +33-1-45685552
E-mail: [email protected]
Eduardo Gutiérrez
Universidad para la Paz
Regional Advisor for Latin America
Plaza Libertad 1356 / 803
Montevideo, Uruguay
Tel: +598-2-9031443
E-mail: [email protected]
Carlos Gutiérrez Palacios
Universidad ARCIS
Center for Strategic Studies
Moneda 1490
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-3866515
E-mail: [email protected]
[email protected]
Alejandro Pablo Iturra
Universidad ARCIS
Center for Strategic Studies
Member Researcher /
Head of Defense-Security
Crisantemos 995, Providencia
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-3355767 / 3358011
E-mail: [email protected]
Alain Joxe
École des Hautes Études en Sciences
Director of Studies
54, boulevard Raspail
Paris, France
E-mail: [email protected]
Hal Klepak
Department of History
Department of History
Royal Military College of Canada
Kingston, Ontario, K7K 5LO,
Tel: +1-613-5416000, ext. 6615
E-mail: [email protected]
Miriam Kornblith
Universidad Central de Venezuela
Institute for Political Studies
Institute for Higher Studies of
Researcher and Professor
Edificio IESA, Calle IESA
San Bernardino
Caracas 1010, Venezuela
Tel: +58-212-5520056
E-mail: [email protected]
Margaret Kowalsky
Harvard University
Harvard Program on Humanitarian
and Conflict Research, HPCR
1033 Massachusetts Ave. 4th
Cambridge, MA 02138, USA
Tel: +1-617-3847407
E-mail: [email protected]
Thierry Lemaresquier
Residential Representative in Chile
of the United Nations Development
Av. Dag Hammarskjöld 3241,
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-3372400
E-mail: [email protected]
Alejandra V. Liriano
FLACSO-Dominican Republic
Area Coordinator of Security and
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International Relations
Santo Domingo, Dominican
Tel: +1-809-6863675
[email protected]
Tte. Coronel Sergio Lizana
Chilean Army (CESIM)
Head of Academic Extension
Bandera 52
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-4501916 / 4501918
E-mail: [email protected]
Elsa Llenderrozas
Universidad de Buenos Aires
Facultad de Ciencias Sociales
Libertad 471
1641 Acassuso
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tel: +54-11-47987014
Fax: +54-11-47987014
E-mail: [email protected]
Ernesto López
Universidad Nacional de Quilmes
Director of Armed Forces and
Society Research Program
Vice-Principal of Institutional
Roque Saenz Peña 180, (1876)
Prov. de Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tel: +54-11-43657100
E-mail: [email protected]
Jeffrey Marder
Canadian Embassy
Second Secretary
Nueva Tajamar 481, piso 12
Torre Norte, Edificio World Trade
Center, Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-3629660, ext. 3251
[email protected]
David R. Mares
University of California, San Diego
5018 Bristol Road
San Diego, CA 92116, USA
Tel: +1-858-5344205
E-mail: [email protected]
Claudia Maresia
Section of Philosophy and Human
Division of Foresight, Philosophy
and Human Sciences
1, rue Miollis
75732 Paris Cedex 15, France
Tel: +33-1-45684554
Fax: +33-1-45685552
E-mail: [email protected]
Manuela Mesa
Center for Peace Research (CIP)
Peace and Development
Duque de Sesto 40, Entreplanta
28009 Madrid, Spain
Tel: +34-91-7511789 / 5763299
E-mail: [email protected]
Paz V. Milet
Area Coordinator of International
Relations and Strategic Studies
Av. Dag Hammarskjöld 3269,
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-2900200
E-mail: [email protected]
M. Francisca Möller U.
Center for Strategic Studies
of the Chilean Navy
Av. Pedro León Gallo s/n
Valparaíso, Chile
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Participants at the Expert Meeting on ‘Peace, Human Security and Conflict...
Tel: +56-32-281981
E-mail: [email protected]
Tel: +55-21-22759903
E-mail: [email protected]
David Mutimer
Center for International and Security
Studies, York University
Acting Director / Assistant Professor
of Political Science
4700 Keele Sr. Toronto
Ontario M3J IP3, Canada
Tel: +1-416-7365156
E-mail: [email protected]
Juan Ramón Quintana
Ministry of Defense
Political Defense Analysis Unit
Calle Pedro Salazar 676
Sopocabli, La Paz, Bolivia
Tel: +591-2-2422589
E-mail: [email protected]
Cristóbal Ortiz
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Special Policy Division
Catedral 1147, piso 2
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-6792388
Fax: +56-2-6984722
E-mail: [email protected]
Hugo Ernesto Palma
Peruvian Center for International
Studies (CEPEI)
Av. J. Pezet 1165
Lima 27, Peru
Tel: +51-1-4427633 / 9423201
E-mail: [email protected]
Carlos Portales C.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Planning Director
Catedral 1158
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-67944221 / -2
E-mail: [email protected]
Domício Proença Júnior
Universidades do Brasil (UFRJ)
R. Barata Ribeira 184 AP 903
22011-000 Rio de Janiero RJ, Brazil
Ricardo G. Rojas
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Planning Division
First Secretary
Catedral 1158, of. 203
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-6794221
E-mail: [email protected]
Francisco Rojas Aravena
Av. Dag Hammarskjöld 3269,
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-2900200
E-mail: [email protected]
Víctor Rojas Martínez
Chilean Civil Defense
Vergara 135
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-6995304
E-mail: [email protected]
Marcelo Fabián Sain
Universidad Nacional de Quilmes
Roque Saenz Peña 180, (1876)
Prov. de Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tel: +54-11-43657100 / 47932853
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E-mail: [email protected]
[email protected]
Andrés Serbin
CRIES / Universidad de Belgrano
President / Director of CECRE
Montevideo 1488, 6° piso
Capital Federal 1018, Argentina
Tel: +54-11-4817458
E-mail: [email protected]
Patricio Silva
University of Leiden
Wassenaarseweg 52
PO Box 9555, 2300 RB Leiden
The Netherlands
Tel: +31-71-5273471 / 5273485
E-mail: [email protected]
Luís Guillermo Solís Rivera
Conflict, Cooperation and the
Programme Director
Apdo Postal 12835-1000
San José, Costa Rica
E-mail: [email protected]
Vera Lucia Teixeira Da Silva
Universidad do Estado do Rio de
Rua Luiz de Mattos
24.120.220, RJ, Brazil
Tel: +55-21-26256462 / 8610
E-mail: [email protected]
Francois Theron
South African Embassy
Av. 11 de septiembre 2353, p. 17
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-2312862
Arlene B. Tickner
Universidad de los Andes
Center for International Studies
Carrera 1 Este N°18 A-10
Bogotá, Colombia
Tel: +57-1-3394949, ext. 3348 /
E-mail: [email protected]
Juan Gabriel Tokatlian
Universidad de San Andrés
Director of Political Science and
International Relations
Vito Dumas 284, Victoria 1644
Prov. de Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tel: +54-11-47257091
E-mail: [email protected]
Paolo Tripodi
Pontificia Universidad Católica de
Professor, Defense Studies
Campus San Joaquín
Vicuña Mackenna 4860, Macul
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-3547818
E-mail: [email protected]
Tracy Tuplin
Project Management
Ayacucho 551, (1026) CF
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Tel: +54-11-47969583
E-mail: [email protected]
[email protected]
Joaquín Urzúa Ricke
Academic Secretary
La Cabaña 711, Las Condes
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-2159403
E-mail: [email protected]
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Participants at the Expert Meeting on ‘Peace, Human Security and Conflict...
Patricio Valdivieso
Pontificia Universidad Católica de
Institute for Political Science
Vicuña Mackenna 4860, Macul
Casilla 306, Correo 22
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-3547825 / 3547805
E-mail: [email protected]
Diego Velasco
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Special Policy Division
Catedral 1147, piso 2
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-6794393
Fax: +56-2-6794340
E-mail: [email protected]
Julio Von Chrismer Escuti
National Academy of Strategical
Political Studies (ANEPE)
Professor, Editor Política y Estrategia
Av. Eliodoro Yáñez 2760,
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-2315021
Luis Winter
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Special Policy Director
Catedral 1147, piso 2
Santiago, Chile
Tel: +56-2-6794374
E-mail: [email protected]
Seguridad Humana inglés.P65
25/04/2003, 12:55