Human security can only be manifested in real terms when grounded in a renewed understanding of security as viewed from the standpoint of shared human dignity, human rights, and human needs.
Last year, the Japanese government changed hands, and the country's new political leader, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, addressed the sixty-fourth United Nations General Assembly on September 24, 2009. In his speech, he pledged Japan's proactive support for the civil administration in Afghanistan in order to promote stability and reconstruction in that country. Also, in addressing the need to achieve reconciliation and reintegration with anti-government forces, he declared: "The path forward that will save humanity is one which can bring about 'shared security.'"
The phrase "shared security" quoted by Mr. Hatoyama in his speech was coined at the Eighth World Assembly of the World Conference of Religions for Peace held August 26-29, 2006, in Kyoto, the birthplace of that international multireligious organization. The theme of this conference was "Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security," and shared security was the key concept discussed.
More than eight hundred religious leaders from more than one hundred countries representing the world's major faiths and religious traditions attended the conference. These religious leaders used the above-mentioned theme as the main topic of their discussions, which attested to the global proliferation of violence in the form of military disputes and the spread of genocide, terrorism, poverty, hunger, disease, the human slave trade, environmental destruction, and more. They also talked about the need to confront and find ways to put an end to these various forms of violence and inhumanity. Participants drew up and presented a practical vision and mutually pledged to carry out action to implement their vision in practical ways.
Competitive military buildups are accelerating in today's world. Although it is true that nuclear-armed countries like the United States and Russia are moving toward an overall reduction in the number of their nuclear weapons, the trend toward nuclear proliferation outside the five major nuclear-armed countries is growing. In fact, one Asian military leader, General Deepak Kapoor, the chief of staff of the Indian army, said at a seminar in New Delhi on November 23 last year, "The possibility of a limited war under a nuclear overhang is still very much a reality, at least on the Indian subcontinent."
In the context of this kind of international nuclear military buildup and its hidden dangers, I was very heartened to hear Prime Minister Hatoyama espousing the concept of shared security as advocated by the representatives of the world's religions who gathered in Kyoto and calling on the world's political leaders gathered at the United Nations to recognize that "the path forward that will save humanity is one which can bring about 'shared security.'" I would like to express my wholehearted respect for the courage and wisdom shown by Mr. Hatoyama in his role as a government leader.
From Human Security to Shared Security
The United Nations and other international organizations are now being confronted with provocative issues related to the attempt to achieve world peace and security. As was widely reported, in 1994 the United Nations published its Human Development Report, which dealt with this issue and introduced the then new concept of "human security."
Naturally, the discussions at the Religions for Peace meeting also encompassed this concept. Representatives of the many faiths gathered at the Sixth World Assembly of Religions for Peace held in November 1994 at the Vatican and Riva del Garda in Italy, and also at the Seventh World Assembly in November 1999 in Amman, Jordan, mutually pledged to work toward "common human security."
In 2006, this concept evolved into the idea of shared security as expressed in the Kyoto Declaration on Confronting Violence and Advancing Shared Security.
A clear-cut delineation of the shared security concept cannot be found in the Kyoto Declaration, but its meaning can be inferred from the following quotation from that document:
War, poverty, disease, and the destruction of the environment have direct or indirect impacts on all of us. Individuals and communities deceive themselves if they believe they are secure while others are suffering. Walls can never be high enough to insulate us from the impacts of the genuine needs and vulnerabilities of others. No nation can be secure while other nations are threatened. We are no safer than the most vulnerable among us.
It is widely understood that the security provided by nation-states does not necessarily guarantee peace; human history testifies to this fact. As can be seen from how the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States occurred and how those incidents led to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an integral aspect of today's global reality is the constant danger that violence will erupt, leading to a still more unstable world. The concept of human security can only be properly manifested in real terms when it is grounded in a renewed understanding of security as viewed from the standpoint of human dignity, human rights, and human needs that is based on the sharing of the values common to all of humanity, involving compassion, consideration for others, and respect and reverence for the dignity of life, as well as the awareness of the spiritual solidarity that is shared by the entire human family.
The Toyako Summit and Shared Security
The concept of shared security based on this type of understanding and awareness attained new strength at the World Religious Leaders Summit for Peace: On the Occasion of the G8 Hokkaido Toyako Summit held July 2-3, 2008 in Sapporo, Japan. This gathering, with most of the participants from Religions for Peace, was held to draw up a document of suggestions from the religious leaders to present at the international summit of top leaders from the G8 countries gathering in Hokkaido to discuss measures for dealing with global issues.
As representatives of the host country, the Japanese Committee of Religions for Peace convened several meetings to reach a deeper understanding of shared security - the key concept of the Religions for Peace Summit - and a unified consensus was attained. Our Japanese committee used a process of religious dialogue based on Japanese religious traditions to identify the following six factors and principles on which a theoretical construction of shared security could be built:
1. A shared, universal awareness that all people are members of a partnership encompassing the entire planet (a global community)
2. Mutual interdependence - recognizing that threats to others are threats to oneself and that the security of others is equal to one's own security
3. Reverence for the dignity of the life not only of human beings but of plants, animals, and all living things in nature
4. Special consideration and support for the most vulnerable
5. Awareness that the past, present, and future are linked in a single continuum and consciousness of our common responsibility to future generations
6. Cooperation among all entities, starting with religious organizations and the faithful and including national governments, international organizations, and the various organizations in civil society working for peace
The concepts in this summary of the wisdom of the representatives of Japan's religions fortunately found favor with the representatives of the world's religions gathered in Hokkaido and were included in the summit's declaration.
Toward Abolishing Nuclear Weapons
The idea of shared security has already moved from prayer to action, from concept to practice. On November 7, 2009, in Costa Rica, the Religions for Peace Global Youth Network launched the Arms Down! Campaign for Shared Security.
The campaign has proposed the following three main objectives toward its goal:
1. Abolition of nuclear weapons
2. Ending the proliferation and misuse of conventional weapons such as cluster bombs, land mines, and small-scale arms
3. Redirecting 10 percent of the world's military expenditures toward achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015
Young people in the Japanese Committee of Religions for Peace have joined hands with other youths of various faiths around the world in one of this movement's activities, a worldwide petition campaign. In order to make the concept of shared security a reality by extending its spirit to every country, they are aiming to collect the signatures of 50 million people around the globe, including 10 million in Japan. The petition will be submitted at the end of the campaign to the UN secretary-general, to member countries of the UN Security Council, and to heads of state and members of nationally elected representative bodies of all nations.
So far, human history has been a history of war. A review of this human history shows that lack of understanding and prejudice invite suspicion and mistrust among individuals as well as among peoples and nations. It must be obvious that such suspicion and mistrust have frequently led to war. We should learn from our unhappy history to recognize the need to talk with each other, to work to understand and trust one another, and to work together. The spiritual and moral solidarity of all the people of the world who seek lasting peace should be able to serve as the wellspring to move us to realize the importance of acting to make the world a better, more secure, and peaceful place.
The current competition in nuclear weapon possession occurring between India and Pakistan is symbolic of the way relations between nuclear-capable countries are progressing toward accelerated ownership of such weapons. The frightening degree to which this is taking place may be beyond remedying through nuclear nonproliferation agreements. We need to concentrate our thinking on the reality that the tragedy of Hiroshima could be repeated at any time. In order to prevent such a catastrophe from ever happening again, we must promote meaningful action for peace by raising our voices in protest against the continuation of such terrifying military weapons programs. The Arms Down! Campaign for Shared Security of young people representing the world's religions can go a long way toward strengthening the movement to realize the shared security of our planet.
Until March 2007, Yoshiaki Sanada served as a professor of law at Chuo University in Tokyo, where he is now professor emeritus. He has also been a guest professor at the Institute of Comparative Law of the China University of Politics and Law in Beijing. He is director of the Peace Research Institute of the Japanese Committee of the World Conference of Religions for Peace.
This article was originally published in the April-June 2010 issue of Dharma World.
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