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Human Security in South Asia: Challenges and Solution

New Delhi, Thu, 12 Jun 2008 Dhananjay Tripathi

Providing security to citizens is one of the primary duties of a state. Recently there is paradigm shift in understanding of security, traditional meaning of security identified with strategic affairs has undergone a change, and replaced by wider concept of human security. In contemporary world politics, state’s security will not be regarded as complete without incorporating concerns of individuals, which make them insecure in daily life.

According to the United Nations Development Report of 1994, seven components are basic to human security. These are economic security, food security, health security, environment security, personal security, community security, and political security.

Challenges to Human Security in South Asia

South Asia is the home of 23 percent of humanity, amongst them 31.7 percent are living in abject poverty; the figures ranges from 20 to 50 percent in different nations considering nationally defined poverty lines.

Chronic poverty coupled with unemployment leads to complete contradiction with economic security. Unemployment in the region has grown by 3 to 4 percent in last one decade and in some countries by the rate of 7 to 8 percent.

Education, a measure of human capital and critical determinant of economic progress has not crossed the figure of 50 percent of the population in many South Asian countries. According to World Bank between ‘2002 to 2005’, number of out-of-school children of primary school age in South Asia is 26 million. The pace of spreading education in South Asia is far from optimum requirements of globalisation where skilled labour force has its own advantages.

Health security in South Asia has dismal record and many lives are lost due to inaccessibility to health centres. According to WHO, 25 percent of people in Madhya Pradesh and Orissa could not access health care because of locational problems.

Similarly, in Nepal 15 percent of life’s equivalent healthy years are lost in diseases, many citizens could not get treatment, again due to lack of access to health center, as 85 percent of Nepali population lives in villages and in difficult terrains. In Pakistan problem of inadequate fund along with poverty in some regions like North West Frontier Province and Baluchistan are major worry. Taking Afghanistan, which recently included in SAARC a very appalling picture emerges. In war-ragged Afghanistan 70 percent of population is living in health vulnerability and a woman dies in every 27 minutes due to pregnancy related complications.

On the front of environment security, the picture is unsatisfactory, South Asia has 15 percent of known biological wealth of the world, but no country has stringent regulations to preserve it. Mostly assumed that environment is a domain of civil society and government limits to making regulations and no proper implementation take place at ground level.

Climate change is a disturbing phenomenon but most of South Asian governments are insensitive towards it. Community and personal security in the region is also under scanner. The growth of fundamentalist forces and terrorist organisations in the region has jeopardised personal and community security. This also includes ethnic conflicts, which crippled almost all major countries of South Asia, making life defenceless.

Coming to political security, South Asia has little to its credit. Democracy index of Economy Intelligence Unit of The Economist, consider no country in South Asia as complete democracy, it is flawed, or authoritarian, which comprise worlds’ largest democracy India.


Problem rests with the attitude of governments who are not discarding traditional idea of security, which consists of securing national boundary and amassing military power. Still in corridors of power special celebration take place with some strategic achievements like successful test of missile, acquiring military hardware from foreign country, etc. No serious thought on the positions these countries have in Human Development Report, expect Sri Lank no country comes under the list of top hundred countries.

Not even once it has come to public notice that our government or any other government in South Asia are ashamed of its position in Human Development Report and efforts ever have been taken to bring desire change. The love acquire to power is deep down to the individual level and this is one of the reason why still human life is very less valuable in these nations. Certain improvements are required to start from the top.

Lack of vision and inappropriate planning to achieve human security makes it more susceptible, and leave fewer scopes of convalescing. Prerequisite is to accept the value of human security particularly for bringing change in life of citizens. Priority can only be set once attaining human security becomes an agenda and sumptuous spending on strategic affairs is diverted to social sector.

Sooner governments realise the worth of human security the better for everyone. The ranking in development index is a lesson for all governments of the region. Still there is time for a new beginning or else we will engulf in problems with few achievements here and there to count and to be fallaciously proud of them.

-- The author of this article, Dhananjay Tripathi is a Research Scholar & Ex- Student Union President, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), writing for socio-political interest. He can be reached at dhananjayjnu@gmail.com --

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