Human Security and Science & Technology

HUMAN SECURITY AND SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY

Presentation at the seminar on
“Human Security and Science & Technology”
sponsored by the Human Security Network
Vienna, 10 October 2001

Dr. Walter Dorn

Royal Military College of Canada
Human Security Fellow, DFAIT Canada 2001/02

1. Introduction

I would like to thank our moderator, Ambassador Gonzales, most sincerely and most gratefully for the opportunity to speak this morning. I acknowledge his personal creativity and initiative for proposing and designing a seminar, the first ever to my knowledge, on the theme of Human Security and Science & Technology. We can also be thankful for the hard work of the Chilean Mission and the generosity of the Austrian and UN sponsors, as well to IIASA as host. The eagerness of the Canadian Foreign Ministry to send me to Vienna for this seminar is, I think, an indication of the Canadian government’s support for this effort.

For me personally (and my remarks this morning are made in a personal capacity), it is an important event because it brings together two parts of my life, past and present. I was trained as a physical scientist but I now work as a political scientist. My doctoral work was in physical chemistry but now I am research issues of peace and security, most recently as a Human Security Fellow of the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Indeed, this seminar is helping me to bring the two halves of my life together. And I think this applies to the world: how to find the happy medium between the technical and human aspects of life.

2. Definition and Scope of Human Security

Since this is a session on the concept of human security, I will gladly offer some remarks on that theme. In the path-breaking 1994 Human Development Report that brought the concept of human security to the world’s attention, human security was described as people’s “safety from chronic threats and protection from sudden hurtful disruptions in the patterns of daily life.” Seven types of security were listed as components of human security: economic, food, health, environmental, personal (physical), community and political security. [Ambassador Walther Lichem has listed two more recent additions.] The Canadian government, which has made human security one of the hallmarks of its foreign policy has adopted a similar definition: “Human security means freedom from pervasive threats to people’s rights, safety and lives.”

Depending on how one defines “people’s rights”, the Canadian definition of human security can be viewed as either narrow or broad. If rights include all those covered by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (including the right to work, education, food, to an adequate standard of living, etc.), it would be a broad definition of human security. If the more common concept of human rights, as used in most UN discussions to cover “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment”, is used then the human security concept would be correspondingly narrower and more focused. In practice, the Canadian government focuses on the latter, ie. physical security.

Early criticisms and tensions arose between some who took the broad and narrow approaches to human security but these views are being largely replaced by a more flexible and holistic approach, in which it is recognized that “the threats to human security experienced in different regions of the world differ, as do the resources available to address those threats.” Thus the broad and narrow approaches are not competitive but complementary, and completely in harmony with each other.

In practice, the Canadian government chose to focus its Human Security Agenda on the personal (physical) security dimension, in part to make it distinct from the concept of human development and to permit a sharper concentration on issues that seemed to cry out for international attention.

In the post-Cold War world, a series of horrendous internal conflicts have claimed the lives of millions of people in regions like Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. The spectre of genocide, ethnic cleansing, failed and lawless states, massive refugee flows and now catastrophic terrorism begs a coordinated international response. In an age of global communications around a shrinking global village, governments could no longer turn a blind eye to human atrocities in hotspots elsewhere in the world. The world’s troubles are our troubles. Ignoring problems far away invariably come back to haunt all of us who inhabit this small planet. The international media, aided by technological advances of real time broadcasting from conflict zones, contributed to an emerging global conscience through the transmission of live images of brutal conflict and concomitant human suffering. The resulting “humanitarian imperative” (sometimes called the CNN effect when it is based on media reports) pressured nations as well as individuals to develop new initiatives and policy responses to save lives and alleviate human suffering. In the human security domain, where the sanctity of human life is paramount, the most pressing desire is to find effective means and mechanisms to protect human beings, especially the innocent victims of armed attacks. This means engaging actively in early warning, conflict prevention, peacekeeping and peacebuilding-the entire spectrum of activities on the conflict timeline.

3. Science and Technology

The opening quote of my doctoral thesis was from the great scientist-sage Albert Einstein. While speaking to students at Princeton University in the 1930s, he said:

“Concern for man [humanity] and his [its] fate must form the chief interest of all technical endeavours. Never forget this amongst your diagrams and equations.”

While I must admit that I have forgotten many of my diagram and equations, I have always tried to keep Einstein’s wise words in my mind and heart.

Einstein was a visionary for his time and for all time. He knew that science had in its power the ability to transform human life. But this could be a power for good and for evil. The potential existed, and exists today, to cause the end of civilization or its upliftment to freedom from the bondage of poverty and deprivation.

Einstein did provide the world with keys to unlock the nuclear secrets. And this weighed heavy on him.Once the nuclear genie was released from its bottle, Einstein said that “everything has changed”, that “we shall require a substantially new way of thinking if mankind is to survive” and in the Einstein-Russell manifesto he asked: “shall we put an end to the human race or shall mankind renounce war?” Other scientists came to the same conclusion but later in life and after contributing much to the arms race. One such man was Andrei Sakarov, the father of the Soviet thermonuclear bomb.

Forty years ago this month, in October 1961, the Soviet Union tested a nuclear bomb in the arctic that had a yield of 50 Megatons. The total explosive yield of all bombs dropped in World War II was 5 megatones. This one bomb had the explosive power ten times larger! Once during a discussion with Sakaraov, a pointed question was heard: “Why do we need to make a ‘cannabilistic’ weapon like this.” The young Sakarov smiled and said” “Nikita Khruschev said: ‘Let this device had over the heads of the capitalists, like a sword of Damocles’.

Later in life, Sakarov realized that this sword was hanging over all of humanity on a slender thread. Human security was threatened with doomsday by his creations. He devoted himself to nuclear disarmament, democracy and the progress in the rule of law among nations.

4. Inspiration and Applications from Science

For me, science contributes much to the vision of a common humanity. Science creates a sense of awe in me regarding the order of nature and the vastness of the universe. Science tells us that we are an integral part of the web of life. It tells us that we and all that is around us are made of star dust, that the elements beyond hydrogen in the periodic table that make our world, indeed our very bodies, were produced in the furnaces of stars and spread galactically through immense (almost inconceivable) events in space. On our traveling planet, Spaceship Earth, hurdles through space at 28 kilometres a second. On this green and blue planet, looking so whole and healthy form space, we share the natural wonders, as well as the common air that we breath, and the environment that we cherish. Science tells us that the genetic code (with its four building blocks, the base pairs) and our gene pool are so similar not only to each other but to all forms of life. When I look at the order of the physical universe revealed by science, I feel impelled to seek a commensurate higher order in our human affairs.

In addition, there are many practical dimensions of science applied to human security. I would like to highlight one here: technology for peace monitoring. These technological tools can be used for early warning, preventive action, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and peace enforcement. The technologies include night vision equipment, radar (both ground and airspace surveillance), chemical and biological sensors. Since it is at night when most criminal activities take place in violation of international law or agreements, the capacity to observe at night is essential. Similarly, the need for aerial and satellite observation is a key to effective international monitoring. Many UN missions have been less effective because of the lack of these capacities. The UN has found itself “deaf and blind” because of the inability to gather information about conditions in the field. As Ambassador Gonzalez, who chaired the UN committee that developed the fifteen principles of remote sensing, will tell you: observation from outer space is a freedom which holds great benefits for strengthening peace.

But the UN is an organization that is under-equipped, under-resourced and under-funded. For too long the most sophisticated piece of observation hardware in the field was the human eyeball, sometimes aided with binoculars. Modern science and technology holds out the possibility for vast improvements in the effectiveness of modern peacekeepers. Only a “technophobia” arising from a lack of awareness and familiarity holds the peacekeeping managers back from investing in a better capability. In many cases, technologies are cost-effective as well as mission-effective.

I would like to see revived the proposal made by President Eisenhower in 1961 for an Open Skies regime under the United Nations. He proposed that UN planes be available to carry out inspections in areas where there are concerns. This proposal was made subsequent to his more generally known proposal in 1955 for a bilateral open skies regime. Furthermore, I would like to see a treaty regime developed to allow the UN to send fact-finding teams to a country of concern at short notice without right of refusal. This would bring the progressive developments in thought and practice of arms control to the broader subject of human security. The UN can start by purchasing commercially available satellite imagery for photo-reconnaissance in areas of its peacekeeping operations and for early warning.

I would also like to see UN technologies used in peace enforcement. This would be to catch sanctions busters, including terrorists, and to allow sanctions to be more specifically targeted against certain places and individuals. Furthermore, the UN should also monitor the actions taken by nations who act under UN mandate for peace enforcement. If “all necessary means” are used then those means need to observed by the UN to make sure they really are necessary.

5. Conclusion

This high tech vision of peace is tempered by the belief that technological progress must be accompanied by progress in the moral and spiritual evolution of human beings. By bringing us together here, by discussing S&T and human security, by promoting a dialogue that transcends regions and even nationality, the organizers of this seminar have made a step in that direction. That direction was clearly enunciated by Albert Einstein in 1945 when he said:

Not until the creation and maintenance of decent conditions of life for all people are recognized and accepted as a common obligation of all people and all countries—not until then shall we, with a certain degree of justification, be able to speak of humankind as civilized.