Human security and natural disasters

Christopher Hobson is a Research Associate in the Peace and Security section of the Institute for Sustainability and Peace, United Nations University. He previously worked as a Post-Doctoral Fellow in the Department of International Politics, Aberystwyth University. Christopher holds a PhD in Political Science and International Relations from the Australian National University. He is the co-editor of The Conceptual Politics of Democracy Promotion (Routledge, 2011), and has published articles in a range of journals, including AlternativesInternational RelationsMillennium, and Review of International Studies. He is currently editing a book on human security and natural disasters, due to published in 2013.

Abstract

When one thinks of 'human security', generally the context that comes to mind is war and conflict. Natural disasters have tended to be overlooked by this agenda, although they cause many of the same problems: widespread death, massive destruction, extensive displacement, and heightened vulnerability for people, especially for parts of the population already marginalised. Reflecting on this state of affairs, this seminar examines in more detail how natural disasters relate to the human security approach. It considers how natural disasters interact with, and considerably exacerbate, existing inequalities and forms of human insecurity. In so doing, an argument is made that human security can provide a valuable perspective that emphasises the 'human-ness' of 'natural' disasters: how people are impacted; how the way they are impacted differs based on biological and social categories; how they can become more vulnerable to these shocks, and the opportunities for empowerment that can still exist even in such dire circumstances. These issues are examined primarily in reference to the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami of March 2011.

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