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New security index

Somalia scores worst

by Peter Hauff

In brief

Refugee camp in August: Somalis trekked 300 km to Koorsan Camp for aid

Refugee camp in August: Somalis trekked 300 km to Koorsan Camp for aid

Security means more than the absence of war. In a study completed shortly before the famine was proclaimed in eastern Africa, researchers at Duisburg/Essen University rated Somalia the least secure country in the world.

In August, the guns were largely silent in Mogadishu. The main reason was probably the general hunger crisis. Terrorist groups have withdrawn from the capital, but nonetheless, there is no peace – nor is there any real chance of development in Somalia. Insecurity persists at many levels.

In a “human security” ranking of 209 countries recently drawn up by the Institute for Development and Peace (INEF) at Duisburg/Essen University, Somalia scores worst – worse even than Afghanistan and Eritrea. The authors point out that human rights violations, migration, international terrorism, epidemics such as HIV/AIDS, drug trafficking and natural disasters endanger human security as much as do armed conflicts. Therefore, they assessed security in the six dimensions that the UNDP uses for its Human Development Reports. They concern
– the economy,
– food,
– health,
– the natural environment,
– personal as well as community safety and
– political security.

For each dimension the INEF authors chose two indicators, on the basis of which a “Human (In)Security Index” was created, ranking all countries and regions.
– To assess economic security, the report relies on the World Bank’s calculation of GDP per capita at purchasing power parities and the Bertelsmann Transformation Index, which takes into account social security nets and equal opportunity.
– Food security is measured on the basis of WHO figures on undernourished young children as well as on FAOSTAT percentages of people suffering from
– In the area of health security, the indicators are the WHO disease statistics and the child mortality rate according to the International Database of the US Census Bureau.
– To quantify environmental security, the report uses the percentage of the people affected by disasters according to the WHO database EMDA as well as the percentage of those with access to water and sanitation according to UNICEF/WHO monitoring in 2006.
– The indicators to assess personal and community safety are the number of persons assisted by the UNHCR and the Political Terror Scale of the US State Department and Amnesty International.
– In the area of political security, the report relies on five indicators in the Cingranelli-Richards human rights dataset (CIRI) (disappearances, extrajudicial killings, political imprisonment, torture, and assassination), as well as on the Reporters Without Borders index for press freedom.

The Duisburg researchers are in favour of measuring what makes people vulner­able rather than defining the dimensions of security in some positive sense. In their view, political threats are typical of Asian countries, while health threats are more characteristic of Africa. All over the world, they argue, the greatest general problem is economic insecurity, partly because it is closely related to health and food issues. The recent INEF report considers security “limited” in one way or another in 59 % of the world. According to statistics, security is greatest in Western Europe, especially in Scandinavia.

Many-layered security

It is widely accepted that human security depends first on freedom from hunger, disease and oppression – but second on protection from sudden misfortune. The INEF authors refer to the UNDP definition in the HDR of 1994: “In the final analysis, human security is a child who did not die, a disease that did not spread, a job that was not cut, an ethnic tension that did not explode in violence, a dissident who was not silenced. Human security is not a concern with weapons – it is a concern with human life and dignity.” The INEF authors concede that, despite vigorous international debate, the broad definition of security is controversial. They insist that human insecurity is based on experience; it is determined by perceptions which are subjective and shaped by cultural attitudes. There is no way to define the term in an objective way. Another issue of controversy is whether the state is the sovereign guarantor of security. Recent research, moreover, shows that in contemporary conflicts, weapons cause fewer deaths than does the concomitant spread of disease and malnutrition.

Weapons and diseases

In sub-Saharan Africa, under-five mortality rates have decreased even in times of war. This surprising discovery was published in “The shrinking costs of war”, a study by the Vancouver-based Human ­Security Report Project. Researchers from different nations examined child mortality in 18 countries that were affected by war between 1970 and 2007. Surprisingly, child mortality actually went down in 14 countries in times of strife. The study’s conclusion was – once more – that security has multiple, independent layers.

The international debate is increasingly moving towards an understanding of “human security” that is neither too broad nor too narrow. The German government, for example, speaks of “networked security” to emphasise various dimensions. The EU Commission takes a similarly inclusive line. EU Commissioner Andris Piebalgs said in a recent D+C/E+Z interview (2011/7–8, p. 303 f.): “Today, our strategy is to pay a peace dividend by supporting local administrations that are committed to peace and stability and willing to provide basic services to the population.” Security beyond mere ceasefires has become a core issue for EU decision making on financial and technical assistance as well as humanitarian aid.

At a meeting with the Development Committee of the European Parliament in July, Piebalgs even questioned EU partnerships with African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states beyond 2020, unless human security issues are addressed. In his view, ACP governments must take seriously criticism of human rights violations and governance in general. Security is obviously a key requirement for relief work too.

Protecting relief agencies

In southern Somalia, where the UN has declared a famine in a number of regions, the EU and international aid agencies fear that the public situation is deteriorating in spite of the liberation of Mogadishu, the capital city. World Vision, a relief agency, that has been active for years in a number of the areas affected, is calling on the international community to provide better protection for its workers – especially in Somalia’s south.

World Vision’s regional director for eastern Africa, Charles Owubah, says: “When those who are in most need, like so many children in the worst parts of Somalia, live in places we cannot safely access, we are unable to assist them.”

Peter Hauff