Human security: Japan’s lightning rod to advance sustainable development


The COVID-19 pandemic is still with us, devastating lives and livelihoods in many corners of the globe. At the same time, the highest number of violent conflicts since 1946 results in a record number of people forcibly displaced from their homes. This includes the war against Ukraine, which not only causes immense human suffering, but also plays a role in precipitating a global food, energy and financial crisis. As a result, the world is now facing its worst cost of living crisis in a generation.

A new UNDP report has revealed that 71 million people have been pushed into poverty in just three months as a direct result of soaring global food and energy prices. Meanwhile, the climate emergency is intensifying. “Our world faces a perfect storm of escalating crises, but the concept of human security – defined as the absence of fear; freedom of will; and the freedom to live with dignity – can help the world weather these multiple crises and move towards all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said in meetings with Prime Minister Fumio. Kishida of Japan and several government and private. industry partners in Tokyo, Japan this week.

UNDP’s Special Report on Human Security, released earlier in 2022, warned that even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, six out of seven people – in both low-income and high-income countries – felt not secure despite skyrocketing human development and some of the highest levels of health, wealth and education in history. “When we use the human security approach to highlight the ‘blind spots’ of development, it shows how countries’ quest for GDP growth alone fails. It also highlights how our dominant economic and financial systems are failing by fueling climate change and driving the destruction of our natural world,” Steiner said.

The human security approach, first outlined in the 1994 UNDP Human Development Report, is far from being a theoretical concept. It has long been championed by Japan as the backbone of its foreign policy and in its engagement with UNDP globally.

Japan has taken the lead lately with its rapid aid to crisis-torn countries, as Steiner noted during his meeting with Japanese Foreign Minister HE Hayashi Yoshimasa. At all of his meetings, Steiner offered his heartfelt condolences on the tragic death of former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, emphasizing his deep commitment to development, especially human security.

For decades, Japan has been putting the concept of human security into practice around the world. This includes Afghanistan, where Japan has been actively engaged in rebuilding the country since 2002. This includes prioritizing human security as part of its support for UNDP’s ABADEI strategy, which is currently helping vulnerable Afghans to meet daily needs and services such as water and energy; revitalize local markets; and provide new livelihood opportunities.

After Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, Japan immediately responded to the appeal for humanitarian aid, providing $4.5 million as the first donor for the emergency operation of the UNDP to clear explosive ordnance and remove debris. This assistance has enhanced human security by allowing safe access to essential humanitarian supplies such as food and medicine. At the same time, it helps to address the threat posed to local communities by the increasing number of damaged and unstable buildings, including the possibility of uncontrolled collapses.

Recognizing that health is at the heart of human security, Japan is working in particular to advance universal health coverage. Or consider the partnership between UNDP, the Global Fund for Innovative Health Technologies and Japan, which invests in research and development and innovative health technologies to fight neglected tropical diseases, tuberculosis and malaria. Japan’s support to UNDP also helps developing countries adopt advanced digital tools to boost the deployment of vaccines and mobile health services, while improving access to health information.

The next 8e The Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD8) provides another opportunity to see how human security can drive action where it is needed most. “At this very moment, nearly 250,000 people in Somalia are at risk of starvation, to give just one stark example. Increasingly, countries with the most limited means to cope bear the heaviest burdens,” Steiner said during a speech at the UNDP/JICA Special Forum on TICAD8. “With TICAD8 and Japan’s G7 Presidency looming on the horizon, the UNDP’s forthcoming Human Development Report, to be released later in 2022, will explore how to further leverage the concept of human security – helping the world to identify development gaps while building global solidarity in key areas such as climate action,” added Steiner.

Japan is also opening new horizons on the global approach to sustainable development. Prime Minister Kishida launched his “new form of capitalism” based on increased cooperation between the public and private sectors to create a “virtuous cycle of growth and distribution and the development of a new post-COVID-19 society”.

In line with this thinking, Administrator Steiner launched a first-of-its-kind training course on SDG Impact Standards for Business with Japanese politicians and private sector leaders. This ‘train the trainer’ course is the latest step in the groundbreaking work of UNDP’s SDG Impact initiative, which gives investors new ideas and tools to achieve the SDGs. The Japanese private sector is helping to demonstrate the immense benefits of placing sustainability and impact-based management at the heart of business purpose and decision-making: from an “add-on” to what the company does, at How? ‘Or’ What all business is done.

“To achieve the SDGs, we need a fit-for-purpose development model that recognizes the true value of nature: a model that relies on decarbonization, climate action, restoring our environment and new opportunities for all,” Steiner said at the Nikkei TICAD x Human Security event.


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