Combating or contributing to militarism? Human security and Women, Peace and Security (WPS)

As noted briefly in the introduction, the concept of human security, as well as the WPS agenda, have an awkward relationship with militarism. Human security' takes the analyst to the level of analysis of the individual or human being and her community in pursuit of a complex understanding of how security is perceived and how it operates from the bottom up. In other words, the concept of human security is intended to draw attention to the security dynamics taking place at the level of civilians, noncombatants, or nonstate actors (UNDP, 1994; Hoogensen and Rottem, 2004; Tadjbakhsh and Chenoy, 2007; Wibben, 2008). The focus on individuals has been both liberating and problematic. On the one hand, security’ analysts could break free of a restricted and narrow analytical approach rooted in abstract assumptions regarding the nature of states and, in turn, what threatens states and how states respond (Walt, 1991; Williams and McDonald, 2018). This narrow “traditional” security approach is difficult to reconcile with contradicting realities among civilians, where state-based concerns about nuclear confrontation (for example) are far less relevant than “everyday security” matters such as economic, health, personal, and food insecurities. The recognition of such everyday insecurities through the popularisation of the human security’ concept in the 1994 Human Development Report of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), was therefore a welcome breakthrough. At the same time, however, human security has often been burdened with its liberal heritage, universalising, and quantifying what it is to be human, often predicated upon Western ideals and imaginaries to the political benefit of Western or minority-world interests (Duffield, 2007; Hoogensen Gjorv, 2014). These same interests and norms have been in part imposed on global south actors, often for the purpose of controlling security’ “over there” to ensure Western security' (Hoogensen Gjorv, 2014b).

In 2000, the United Nations Security Council passed UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), a groundbreaking resolution that explicitly’ recognised the linkages between human security’ “on the ground” and state-based and international security initiatives that focussed on military’ behavior and attitudes towards women (see Basu and Nagar, this volume). It outlined an understanding of what security for women means in conflict and postconflict situations. UNSCR 1325 framed the meaning of security broadly and in complex terms; it not only put in place provisions to protect civilians (particularly women) from harm but also established a framework of norms towards preventing violence against women in conflict and emphasised the crucial role of including women in peacemaking processes. The resolution explicitly emphasises the importance of mainstreaming gender perspectives in peacekeeping/intemational operations through increased recruitment and involvement of women in operations as well as overall training. Combined, these processes were designed to reshape, expand, and greatly improve the understanding of security in conflict zones that takes gendered violence in conflict situations seriously. Not unlike the human security agenda however, the WPS agenda embodies assumptions about the global south as a recipient for the norms it promotes, with little engagement with global south scholarship and experience to further deepen the relevance and applicability of this move to include women’s perspectives in peace and conflict issues (Parashar, 2019).

Since the Cold War, militaries have been increasingly asked to reenvision missions and operational planning, to respect and engage practically with civilian communities, and to bring a gendered analysis and praxis into their operations. The 2001 intervention into Afghanistan became a testing ground for assumptions around how to deliver comprehensive (as opposed to just military) security, and integrate gender perspectives. The initiatives that resulted were military-driven and had civilians, and civilian women in particular, in focus, for the purpose of providing support to the local civilian environment. Such initiatives were not uncontroversial. Many international (and some local/national) humanitarian and development organisations opposed the blurring of lines of responsibility between military and civilian actors in part maintaining the “innocence” narratives connected to civilians. At the same time, physical security challenges hindered a lot of civilian efforts to support local communities (Gompelman, 2011; Godal, Hoogensen Gjorv et al., 2016). Some policymakers, civilian and military actors, and scholars studying the process, welcomed the attempt to coordinate civilian and military efforts to provide peace and security. Gender perspectives and gender-informed initiatives became an important part of that process, and fostered the civilising of the military (Kronsell, 2012). There were also many civilian and military actors who disagreed, believing that humanitarian and development initiatives became unnecessarily politicised and militarised. At the same time, a number of military actors also did not want to have anything to do with this “civilising” project, and would rather stick to military matters.

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