EU and OSCE as Regional 'Human Security' Providers

The Case of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

Scientific Essay 2010 13 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Topic: Peace and Conflict Studies, Security


Abstract: The aim of this research paper is to describe the shift towards the concept of “Human Security”. Firstly, an overview of the literature regarding this topic will be provided, in order to point out what “Human Security” refers to. Then, the “Human Security” paradigm will be considered on regional scale, investigating if the European Union (EU) and especially the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), can be considered as “Human Security” providers. The analysis will substantiate through a specific case-study: the Nagorno-Karabach conflict will be studied in the light of EU and OSCE Minsk Group’s peace-keeping and stabilyzing measures. The final part will evaluate the OSCE Minsk Group’s effectiveness in Nagorno-Karabach conflict’s resolution and assess whether or not EU and OSCE align with the “Human Security” paradigm.


Current dynamics in international relations imply a re-definition of the concept of security. State-sovreignity is undergoing a process of de-construction: it is often yielded to supra-national institutions or devoluted to sub-national entities. Post-modernity is characterized by a higher degree of interconnection and flows of people, capitals, knowledge, information structure every-day reality.

In such an interdependent context, conceiving security in terms of state concerns does not allow to capture the wider image. Threats are now more pervasive and difficult to detect, and due to the process of globalization, their effect is multiplied. Bearing in mind these highly accepted considerations, the concept of human security, conceived as an approach to security in which individuals and groups are the main focus of attention, has reached a considerable level of acceptance. The scope of this research paper is thus to provide a general outlook over the implementation of the human security concept on regional scale, narrowing the analysis to the wider European political space.

To start with, the literature review about the notion of human security will aim to spell out meaning and characters of the concept. Then, the analysis will move to two regional international organizations, namely the European Union (EU) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The goal is to demostrate that a. both international organizations have throrougly embraced the concept of human security; b. their international identity, which refers to the principles shaping their conducts and stances in international fora and guiding their actions in conflict prevention and resolution, is based on the imperatives of the human security approach; c. in so doing, they contribute to strengthen at the international level the degree of acceptance of specific measures and methods included in the notion of human security. In order to substantiate the over-mentioned points, a case- study is analyzed.

The war in Nagorno-Karabakh, a remote region in Southern Caucasus, is the typical example of post-Soviet Union ethnic conflict. The EU and especially the OSCE committed themselves towards a peaceful settlement of the dispute through a set of measures demostrating the alignment with the concept of human security. The second part of the research paper will thus offer the historical background of the conflict and the current situation, focusing on the reported violation of human rights occurred during the conflict. Finally particular attention will be given to the OSCE Minsk Group and to the EU limited involvement.

In the final remarks, the author will assess EU and OSCE’s shift towards the adoption of the human security approach, stressing positive achievements and explaining negative results.

Conceptualization of “ Human Security ”

The concept of “Human Security” (HS), despite the fact of having its roots into the Cold War period’s concepts of “common security” and “stable peace”1, can be at first defined as the individual and societal dimension of security , developed in the post-Cold War era2 (Bilgin, 2003). Individuals and also, sub- or supra-national groups become the first referents of security, thus turning the attention away from the state and its territorial boundaries. Secondly, the HS concept is not just a negative definition of scecurity - absence of threats, mainly war or the threat of it - but it is rather a positive definition of security, since it stresses the need to eradicate social and economic constraints preventing human beings from the emancipation of their physical, psycological and intellectual potentialities and skills, situation defined by Galtung (1969) as structural violance . Human emancipation (Booth, 1991) thus, is at the core of the HS concept and indeed explains the absolute primacy of individual and group’ human rights promotion and enforcement. In the matter of fact, “ freedom, justice and peace are prerequisites for the expression of human dignity ” (Gruiters, 2008: 55), beign human dignity closely intertwined with the idea of emancipation.

The cornerstone of the HS concept is therefore having individuals and groups as primary referents of security, so going beyond the assumption that ensuring national security - the security of the state as unitarian actor - is the only way to ensure the security of those living within the state. As a consequence the state, which is supposed to be the first and foremost security provider for its citizens, has often been recognized as the primary source of insecurity, since the measures adopted in order to ensure its survival may constitute gross violations of individual or minority’s rights. Hence, HS is also a vertical conception of security because it does not refer to security among equal agents, like states in the international arena, but it deals with actors having lower stances and weaker capabilities to protect themselves from external threats.

After the end of the Cold War, patterns of interaction at international level have changed dramatically. The concept of threat has shifted from a state- and military-based nature to a non-statal and social, political or natural characterization. Wars have been replaced with short ethnic and religious conflicts, clashes among armies have now given space to guerrilla fightings, sudden events such terrorist attacks, earthquakes, tsunami, financial crisis, ecological disasters, can have even bigger and more catastrophic effects than armed conflicts. Given the post-Cold War multi-faceted nature of threats, HS concept offers indeed a multidimensional approach to security3. According to 2003 UN Commission on Human Security’s Report “ Human Security Now ”, violent conflicts and illegal movemement of people are today the threats which most affect the notion of human security. Concerning people caught up in violent conflicts, the HS approach emphasizes the recovering from violent conflicts by ensuring public safety, meeting immediate humanitarian needs, launching rehabilitation and reconstruction, emphasizing reconciliation and coexistence, promoting governance and empowerment. As regard to illegal movement of people, the UN Commission on Human Security’s Report shares Galtung’s idea of structural constraints and points out poverty, economic inequality, social marginalization, lack of democratic institutions, education and health as major threats to human security, especially in developing or underdeveloped countries. Summerizing the wide range of measures and stances adopted by the 2003 Report, Robert Uvin defines human security as “[the] intersection between the field of humanitarianism, development, human rights and conflict resolutions ” (cited in Amouyel, 2006: 13).

A third feature of the HS concept is the holistic (Acharya, 2004) or integrated character. Both adjectives aim to describe the HS nature in terms of actors involved and actions developed. On the one hand, HS approach requires a “ network of multiple actors … at multiple levels, local, national, regional or global ” (Amouyel, 2006: 17) including states, international organizations, civil society, NGOs and other active groups. On the other hand, these actors should co-ordinate their actions so as to provide a “ framework for co-operation and complementation ” (Amouyel, 2006: 18) with policies carried out by multilateral institutions and governments. Politically speaking, the human security understanding could be seen as a bottom-up step towards a global governance, where states are not by-passed but encompassed in a co-operative frame for human rights’ protection and enforcement.

So defined, the HS agenda is closely related to the concept of intervention, which in turn leads to the notion of “responsability to protect”. This paradigm, initially supported by the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignity and then pushed forward by UN General Assembly in October 2006 (Amouyel, 2006), focuses on “ the responsability to use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means … to help to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity4. Collective action, led by the UN in cooperation with regional organizations and non-governmental actors, is thus the actual way by which human security can be (re-)established and maintained.

However, the concept of HS has attracted several criticisms. As Paris (2001) points out, “ the concept lacks a precise definition ” (p. 88), due to its broad and all-encompassing character. Furthermore, because of vagueness and inclusiveness “ human security does not appear to offer a particularly useful framework of analysis for scholars or policymakers ” (p. 96). Yet Ewan (2007) stresses similar criticisms related to the HS concept. “Delimiter” stance firstly emphasizes how the analytical and explanatory power tends to decrease when such diverse phenomena, like poverty, violence or social inequality are altogether regarded as causes of insecurity. Secondly, a holistic conception of security has the drawback to overload security policy agenda and prevent policy-makers from setting priorities.

In conclusion, according to Homan (2008) human security’s main characters can be summerized as follows:

- Individual citizens and communities, rather than states, are the main referents of security;
- People-centred approach “ as an integral element of international peace and security ” (p.73);
- State-security is the necessary but not sufficent condition to ensure people’s security;
- State sovreignity cannot prevent from direct intervention when gross human rights violations are reported;
- “Responsability to protect” as new internationally recognized principle;
- Emphasis on multi-dimensional threats to human emancipation and dignity;
- Security is thoroughly achieved by conflict prevention, intervention and resolution; the “responsability to protect” is the normative basis for such actions.

The second section of this essay will examine the shift towards the HS paradigm on regional scale, analyzing and comparing measures and policies adopted by the EU and the OSCE in order to assess their alignment with HS principles and their actual involvement in conflict management.

Human Security on Regional Scale: European Human Security providers European Union

The EU is undoubtedly the most powerful European regional organization and it is also one the most remarkable economic and political international actor. Especially after 1992 Treaty of the European Union (TEU), the EU started to assume an even greater role in the international arena thanks to the creation of the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). Although the Yugoslavian Wars have proved lack of effectiveness and scarce ability to implement co-ordinated actions, they made possible further developments of the EU international actorness. In the matter of fact, in 1998 at St. Malò Summit two major European military power like France and United Kingdom agreed upon the necessity to provide the EU with autonomous military capabilities in order to create the basis for a more effective involvement in conflict prevention and crisis management.


1 The first concept refers to the importance of a multilateral and coordinate approach in dealing with security issues, while the second (Boulding, 1978) focuses on how to make peace durable, which means enhancing mutual trust and reliability among opposing parts (Bilgin, 2003).

2 According to Gruiters (2008), especially between 1989 Berlin Wall’s fall and 9/11 events “ a surge in the human-centred approach to security and development ” (p.56) occurred. Three are the main reasons: 1. a growing and independent civil society actively involved in freedom and development issues; 2. new human development approach, focusing on human opportunity rather than economic growth; 3. raise in local violent conflicts and terrorist activities.

3 United Nations Development Program (UNDP) points out seven key-dimensions of security: economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political security (UNDP, 1994: 23- 25 cited in Paris, 2001; Ewan, 2007: 184).

4 United Nations A/RES/60/1 General Assembly: Resolution adopted by the General Assembly 60/1. 2005 World Summit Outcome. 24 October 2006, 60th session.


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osce regional human security providers case nagorno-karabakh




Title: EU and OSCE as Regional 'Human Security' Providers