Press Releases

    9 October 1999

    UNOV Director-General Pino Arlacchi Addresses
    Panel on Human Security Marking 20th Anniversary of the VIC

    VIENNA, 9 October (UN Information Service) -- Following is the statement by the Director-General of the United Nations Office at Vienna (UNOV) to a high-level panel discussion on the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Vienna International Centre (VIC).

    It is a privilege to be here and share with you some thoughts and concerns about "human security".

    The new concept of "human security" has gained a place next to other security concepts such as "global security", "international security" and "common security". These concepts all try to supplement the traditional concept of "national security" which was based on the idea of protecting territorial integrity and political sovereignty.

    When the Security Council came into being it was meant to avert international conflicts and thus to protect "national security". Today, however, most conflicts are internal conflicts. This means that "internal security" has become extremely important. Yet this shift in conflict location has not been accompanied by a commensurate shift in our thinking, let alone in our resource allocation.

    Contemporary Armed Conflict: Latest Figures

    Let me illustrate this.

    It is estimated that there are at present 250 ongoing armed conflicts in the world of varying nature and intensity. Fewer than 30 of these are international conflicts.

    In other words, if one considers armed conflicts on all three levels together -- high-intensity conflicts, low-intensity conflicts and violent political conflicts -- less than 30 out of 250 ongoing armed conflicts in the world are international conflicts.

    These 220 ongoing internal conflicts -- among them 17 civil wars -- are a serious threat to human security at the end of the 20th century.

    The Task for the 21st Century: Strengthening the Rule of Law and Creating a Culture of Lawfulness.

    Now, turning to the future -- what role could and should international organizations in the 21st century assume toward human security?

    This precise question is at the core of the current General Assembly debate in New York. The Secretary-General opened this year’s session by urging delegates to be more ready to intervene in troubled regions. He pointed out that at the founding of the UN back in 1945 many countries had national interests that overrode those of their own populations. But now it was clear that, in the view of the peoples of the world, governments can no longer hide behind "sovereign rights" when they are committing abuses against their citizens. While his call for more active intervention has met resistance by some countries, it has received a great deal of support by many more.


    As far as the United Nations Office for Drug Control and Crime Prevention Programme is concerned, human security has to do with the personal physical insecurity of the individual caused by criminal and political violence. It also has to do with the deterioration of the quality of health because of the impact of illicit drugs. When people do not enjoy physical security on the streets due to the impact of drugs, organized crime and terrorist violence, they cannot develop their human potential.We also use the concept of "public security" to express our concern for safety of citizens from crime in their daily lives.

    For most countries today, and for the individual human beings who live in them, the primary security concerns are internal. Our main worry is no longer national security and the defence of borders and territory. Rather, we have to defend the public space in our own countries against criminals, terrorists, street gangs, drug dealers, arms smugglers, kidnappers, hostage-takers, armed robbers and others endangering the well-being of our citizens.

    Vienna is the centre of the UN’s efforts against the uncivil elements of society. Crime, drug trafficking and terrorism are currently among the UN "priority" issues.

    At the core of our work is the strengthening of criminal justice systems and the Rule of Law.

    If the law cannot be fully enforced, our inner defences crumble. If a state cannot provide protection to its people and its residents, it is well on its way to becoming a failed state. If the erosion of public security cannot be stopped, vigilante movements and in the end military strongmen or, in some parts of the world, war lords will take power in their own hands. State failure is a clear and present danger in some parts of the world. Some states face half a dozen violent challenges simultaneously, some political, some criminal, all violent. In some places, states have not only lost the monopoly of violence but are at risk of being infiltrated by criminal elements. In such states drug production and consumption, kidnapping and the illegal trade in firearms are the order of the day.

    To re-establish law and order in failing states and in states in transition to democracy requires major investments by the international community. Some of these weak states can no longer escape from the downward spiral of violence and lawlessness without the help of international organizations – regional ones like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and global ones like the United Nations.

    We cannot afford a situation as in some countries in transition where drug traffickers and traffickers in human beings become, with their flashy life-styles, models for part of the impressionable youth. We cannot afford to leave 300,000 child soldiers to their fate but must help to bring them back to school.

    For many years the international community has invested in poverty eradication. In fact, the United Nations has recently begun a new campaign to that effect. However, without freedom from fear-- human security -- there can be no development -- no freedom from want. Fearful people do not invest in their future. They have to survive from one day to the next. This is the basis of our work at the United Nations in Vienna.

    In the twentieth century the United Nations emphasized the strengthening of collective security to reduce the likelihood of inter-state war. In the next century the United Nations will, I am sure, be called on to develop and implement new strategies to strengthen human security.

    I hope you will support us in our efforts.

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