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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Thinking locally, acting globally : human security and the new solidarism in international society Owens, Heather L.


Human security is a relatively new concept in the terminology of international relations, and yet it has become prominent relatively quickly in the pronouncements of both international organizations and a group of like-minded Northern states dedicated to human rights, humanitarian and human development agendas. Most significantly, the doctrine of human security was invoked during NATO's recent "humanitarian war" over Kosovo. Nevertheless, few have considered either the normative foundations of this new approach or the theoretical heritage of security more generally. After examining the contours of the human security approach, I will consider the "idea of security" in a historical and normative sense. It is possible to group approaches to the normative idea of security into three competing traditions in the political theory of international relations, based on the works of Hobbes, Kant and Grotius. Each of these thinkers will be studied and considered in the context of historical international association. It will be argued that at present, an international society in the Grotian sense prevails. This society can be described as an association of diverse states, based on the rule of law and interstate order rather than notions of universalist justice or cosmopolitan citizenship. This thesis will offer a critical examination of the concept and practice of human security as it has evolved to date, with particular emphasis placed on the Kantian/ cosmopolitan foundations of human security and how these conflict with the international rule of law. In particular, I will argue that where the provision of human security translates into forcible humanitarian intervention, the legal foundations of international society are undermined, and the certainty which the existing rules of international society created, diminished. In this way, human security presents considerable moral, practical, and prudential problems.

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