In the Name of Human Security:

UNESCO and the Pursuit of Global Governance

by James P. Kelly III*

Recently, the United Nations has been promoting a human security agenda. On January 1, 2001, in response to the outcome of the United Nations Millennium Summit, the government of Japan initiated the formation of an independent Commission on Human Security (the "Commission"). The over-arching mission of the Commission is to secure "freedom from fear" and "freedom from want."

On May 1, 2003, Mrs. Sadako Ogata, former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, and Professor Amartya Sen, Nobel laureate in economic science, presented the report of the Commission to the United Nations Secretary-General, Kofi Annan. The Commission's report is titled "Human Security Now: Protecting and Empowering People."1

The report proposes a new security framework that centers directly and specifically on people. The Commission concentrates on a number of distinct but interrelated issues concerning conflict and poverty: protecting people in conflict and post-conflict situations; shielding people forced to move; overcoming economic insecurities; guaranteeing essential health care; and ensuring universal education.2 In its report, the Commission formulates recommendations and follow-up activities.

In the Commission's opinion, although the state remains the primary source of security, it often fails to fulfill its security obligations and, at times, has even become a source of threat to its own people. In the Commission's view, human security complements state security by enhancing human rights and strengthening human development. By enhancing human rights, human security seeks to protect people against a broad range of threats to individuals and communities. By strengthening human development, human security seeks to empower them to act on their own behalf.3

The Commission's findings and recommendations regarding the pursuit and realization of human security raise important questions regarding the interplay between global governance and state sovereignty. To the extent that multilateral institutions and non-governmental organizations perceive that a state is not adequately meeting the human security needs of its citizens, what powers should they have to intervene in the situation?

In recent years, officials from the United Nations, World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development have become more focused on the human rights and development agendas of their client states. However, their efforts have been limited to improving the capacity of their client states to improve the lives of their citizens. By articulating an all-encompassing right to human security that focuses exclusively on the protection and empowerment of individuals and does not rely exclusively on the state for solutions, the Commission opens the door to a model of global governance that reserves the right to ignore state sovereignty.

This article will explain that, while the Commission's report merely opened the door to a new model of global governance, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization ("UNESCO") has walked through the door by implementing three programs designed to promote the UN's human security agenda. These programs include the Management of Social Transformations, the Coalition of Cities Against Racism, and the Ethics of Science and Technology. These UNESCO programs, the implementation of which has gone virtually unnoticed by globalization and global governance experts, will heighten the debate over whether multilateral organizations or states will have ultimate control over meeting the human security needs of individuals.


The Commission provides the following definition of human security:

To protect the vital core of all human lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and human fulfillment. Human security means protecting fundamental freedoms?freedoms that are the essence of life. It means protecting people from critical (severe) and pervasive (widespread) threats and situations. It means using processes that build on people's strengths and aspirations. It means creating political, social, environmental, economic, military and cultural systems that together give people the building blocks of survival, livelihood and dignity.4

In the opinion of the Commission, human security encompasses all human rights, including civil and political rights, which protect people, and economic, social and cultural rights, which empower people. Protection strategies, set up by states, international agencies, NGOs and the private sector, shield people from menace. Empowerment strategies enable people to develop their resilience to difficult conditions. According to the Commission, both strategies are required in nearly all situations of human insecurity, though their form and balance will vary tremendously.5

In May 2004, the United Nations established the Human Security Unit ("HSU") within the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The overall objective of the HSU is to place human security in the mainstream of UN activities. The HSU is also responsible for managing the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security ("UNTFHS"), which was initially funded by Japan. For the most part, the UNTFHS provides emergency relief and development assistance grants in war-torn or post-conflict areas.6

While the UNTFHS provides short-term human security through financial aid in emergency situations, the HSU attempts to promote long-term human security solutions through activities within the United Nations system. UNESCO is at the forefront of these HSU efforts.


UNESCO has pursued the UN human security agenda by sponsoring international conferences on human security in different regions, including the Arab, Latin America, and East Asia regions.

For instance, the International Conference on Human Security in the Arab Region brought together experts from the Arab region and the international community, including ministers from Jordan; government officials from the Middle East and North Africa region; local and international civil society organizations, non-governmental organizations and academics; and members of United Nations agencies and programs.

The participants discussed the merits and the shortcomings of the human security concept in the Arab region and determined that:

1. At a minimum, every citizen should enjoy access to education, health services and income-generating activities. Citizens who are unable to meet their basic needs through their own efforts should have public support.
2. The concept of human security and its underlying values of solidarity, tolerance, openness, dialogue, transparency, accountability, justice and equity should be widely disseminated in societies. To that effect, human security should be incorporated at all levels of education.
3. Civil society should be mobilized to participate in the promotion of human security. Special efforts should be made to mobilize women's associations, academics, professional organizations and the private sector.
4. Human security should be achieved especially at the local and at the community levels. However, resources are not always available in sufficient amounts. Therefore, the State has a role to play in mobilizing resources and allocating them among those who need them.

5. Many aspects of human security are deeply rooted in the Arab culture and Islam. Therefore,there should be no difficulty in adopting or implementing them in the Arab region.7

At the end of the meeting, the HSU agreed to continue to work in partnership with UNESCO and to promote a broader acceptance for human security among the member states of the League of Arab States.

In addition to convening regional conferences for the specific discussion of human security, UNESCO is implementing several programs that advance a UNESCO Human Security Paradigm that the author of this article has constructed in the form of Exhibit 1. The UNESCO Human Security Paradigm consists of a brief narrative that shows how a series of independent terms and phrases adopted by UNESCO Member States or officials, in fact, form part of a coherent programmatic roadmap for the pursuit of human security. The UNESCO Management of Social Transformations ("MOST") Program, Cities Against Racism Program, and Ethics of Science and Technology Program implement different parts of the UNESCO Human Security Paradigm.


HUMAN RIGHTS are understood through PHILOSOPHICAL DIALOGUES which shape HUMAN RIGHTS EDUCATION which prepares people for DIALOGUES AMONG PEOPLES which give rise to a GLOBAL CONSCIOUSNESS which inspires ETHICAL VALUES which serve as a foundation for UNIVERSAL NORMS which include SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY which prompts SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH which produces KNOWLEDGE which generates POLICY and INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY which are disseminated through the SHARING OF BENEFITS which encourages CAPACITY BUILDING which enables SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT which produces SOCIAL TRANSFORMATIONS which further HUMAN SECURITY which leads to a CULTURE OF PEACE.


Created in 1994, the UNESCO MOST Program was established to promote international, comparative and policy relevant research on contemporary social transformations and issues of global importance 8.

To achieve its goals, the MOST Program aims to:
1. Promote a further understanding of social transformations,
2. Establish sustainable links between social science researchers and decision-makers,
3. Strengthen scientific, professional and institutional capacities, particularly in developing countries, and
4. Encourage the design of research-anchored policy.

MOST National Liaison Committees are active in fifty nine countries. The MOST Program also incorporates seventeen international research networks.

The priority areas of the MOST Program are:

1. Globalization and governance
2. Multicultural and multi-ethic society
3. Urban development and governance
4. Poverty eradication
5. Sustainable development and governance and
6. International migration.

UNESCO has a goal to make the MOST Program an acknowledged and respected international resource for improving the relation between policy-making and social science in identified regions of the world and by serving as a clearinghouse for the undertaking of social science research that enhances the activities in policy areas relating to the themes of the UNESCO Social and Human Sciences sector.

In short, the unstated goal for the MOST Program is to spread the influence of the UNESCO Social and Human Sciences sector throughout the world by having it identify areas of social transformation concern and having it convene and coordinate the work of cooperative regional social science research institutions and policy think-tanks.

In February 2006, UNESCO sponsored a MOST conference in Buenos Aires, Argentina the purpose of which was to bring together social scientists from around the world to help the UNESCO Social and Human Sciences Sector ("UNESCO SHS") develop an online clearinghouse of evidence-based social science research that can be relied upon by UNESCO SHS in promoting policies that produce "social transformations."

The key outcome of the final document adopted at the Buenos Aires MOST conference was a call for the creation of sustainable networks at the national and regional level to link social science research efforts with policy outcomes desired by UNESCO SHS:

With due respect for the autonomy of social science research, we encourage the establishment of new networks and the strengthening of existing ones at the national and regional level to bring together social scientists, policy-makers, and non-governmental and grassroots organizations around their shared concern for the urgent demands of social and economic development.
We call attention to the existence of fora of Ministers for Social Development at regional as well as subregional levels in developing countries and suggest the creation and consolidation of permanent nexuses between the latter and the above-mentioned networks.

We therefore suggest that the International Forum on the Social Science Policy Nexus, otherwise known as the Buenos Aires Process, be organized regularly in order to formalize and promote this linkage between both types of networks at the international level.9

In evaluating the impact of the Buenos Aires MOST conference on the economic development aspect of human security, one needs to appreciate that there are critics of the first two phases of global capital development: neoliberalism and Washington Plus. The neoliberal policy framework (a.k.a. the Washington Consensus) prescribes that the contemporary growth of global relations should be approached with laissez-faire market economics through privatization, liberalization, and deregulation. In the second, Washington Plus phase, "core neoliberal policies are undertaken in tandem with more measures that address corruption, transparency, financial codes and standards, unsustainable debt burdens, the timing and sequencing of capital control removal, social safety nets, poverty reduction, corporation citizenship and so on." 10 The World Bank and IMF are viewed as the primary sponsors of these two phases of global capital development.

During the Buenos Aires MOST conference, critics of neoliberalism and Washington Plus expressed their desire for a reorientation away from neo-liberalism in the direction of a "reformist" re-distributive global social democracy that promotes economic human security.

In essence, without expressly stating its intentions or the evidence upon which it is basing its actions, UNESCO SHS has unilaterally rejected the neo-liberal or Washington Plus approach to global capital development in favor of a reformist re distributive global social democracy. By forming and relying upon a network of regional experts who share UNESCO's enthusiasm for social democracy and wealth redistribution, UNESCO SHS will be able to solicit and secure research that will support re-distributive economic policies and legislative proposals. UNESCO SHS will partner with international civil society and non-governmental organizations to lobby for the adoption of such policies and proposals in representative countries, with or without the cooperation of government officials.


The International Coalition of Cities against Racism is an initiative launched by UNESCO SHS in March 2004 to establish a network of cities interested in sharing experiences in order to improve their policies to fight racism, discrimination and xenophobia.11

In its practical manifestations, racism includes "racist ideologies, prejudiced attitudes, discriminatory behavior, structural arrangements and institutionalized practices resulting in racial inequality . . . it is reflected in discriminatory provisions in legislation or regulations and discriminatory practices as well as in anti-social beliefs and acts."12

The ultimate objective is to involve the interested cities in a common struggle against racism through an international Coalition. In order to take into account the specificities and priorities of each region of the world, regional Coalitions are being created with their respective programs of action (i.e., Africa, North America, Latin America and the Caribbean, Arab States, Asia-Pacific and Europe). Under the coordination of a "Lead City" which is to be identified, each regional coalition will have its own Action Plan. The cities that become signatories to the Coalition agree to integrate the Action Plan into their municipal strategies and policies.13

The European Coalition of Cities against Racism was announced in a common Declaration, adopted at the closure of the Fourth European Conference of Cities for Human Rights, which was held in Nuremberg in December 2004.

The Coalition already has some of Europe's major cities among its initial membership: Barcelona, London, Lyon, Nuremberg, Paris, and Stockholm.

The procedure for becoming a Coalition City is a two stage process that takes into account the requirements of the decision-making processes of the various municipalities:

1. Signature of a Declaration of Intent conveyingthe strong interest of the municipality in membership of the Coalition and its Ten-Point Plan of Action; and

2. Signature of an Act of Accession and Commitment by which the municipality fully adheres to the Coalition and its Ten-Point Plan of Action. Signing municipalities agree to implement the Plan of Action by incorporating the Plan into their municipal policies and strategies and to allocate the financial and human resources necessary to accomplish the contemplated actions.

The finalized Ten-Point Plan of Action is composed of ten commitments covering the various areas of competence of city authorities such as education, housing, employment and cultural activities. In the case of the European Coalition of Cities Against Racism, the Ten-Point Plan of Action includes:

1. To set up a monitoring, vigilance and solidarity network against racism at city level;

2. To initiate, or develop further the collection of data on racism and discrimination, establish achievable objectives and set common indicators in order to assess the impact of municipal policies

3. To support victims and contribute to strengthening their capacity to defend themselves against racism and discrimination

4. To ensure better information for city dwellers on their rights and obligations, on protection and legal options and on the penalties for racist acts or behavior, by using a participatory approach, notably through consultations with service users and service providers;
5. To facilitate equal opportunities employment practices and support for diversity in the labor market through exercising the existing discretionary powers of the city authority;
6. The city commits itself to be an equal opportunities employer and equitable service provider, and to engage in monitoring, training and development to achieve this objective;
7. To take active steps to strengthen policies against housing discrimination within the city;
8. To strengthen measures against discrimination in access to, and enjoyment of, all forms of education; and to promote the provision of education in mutual tolerance and understanding, and intercultural dialogue;
9. To ensure fair representation and promotion for the diverse range of cultural expression and heritage of city dwellers in the cultural programs, collective memory and public space of the city authority and promote inter-culturality in city life; and
10. To support or establish mechanisms for dealing with hate crimes and conflict management.14

Every two years, Coalition members must send to UNESCO and the Coalition Secretariat a report on their implementation of the Ten-Point Plan of Action.

The UNESCO International Coalition of Cities Against Racism, Discrimination and Xenophobia enables UNESCO SHS to directly promote the UN human security agenda at the local level, with the assistance of mayors and city officials whose constituents may believe that government officials at the state and national level are not adequately providing for their human security needs.


The UNESCO SHS Ethics of Science and Technology Program addresses bioethics, particularly regarding genetics, as well as other forms of applied ethics. It aims to strengthen the ethical link between scientific advancement and the cultural, legal, philosophical and religious context in which it occurs. UNESCO's strategy in this area is to act as a standard-setter on emerging ethical issues, to disseminate information and knowledge and to help UNESCO member states build their human and institutional capacities.15

UNESCO's first major success in bioethical standardsetting was the Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights, adopted by UNESCO's General Conference in 1997 and subsequently endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly in 1998.16 The International Declaration on Human Genetic Data was adopted in 2003.17 On October 19, 2006, UNESCO's 33rd General Conference adopted a third standard-setting text, the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights.18

The International Bioethics Committee ("IBC"), the Intergovernmental Bioethics Committee, and the World Commission on the Ethics of Scientific Knowledge and Technology advise UNESCO's actions in ethics of science and technology. UNESCO provides the secretariat for these bodies as well as for the Inter-Agency Committee on Bioethics, established by the Secretary-General of the United Nations in 2001.

To a significant extent, UNESCO SHS staff and independent experts on the IBC, not representatives of UNESCO member states, produced the three UNESCO standards-setting documents in the field of bioethics. Additionally, at the behest of UNESCO SHS, independent experts will be providing interpretative commentary on the articles contained in the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights. Finally, UNESCO SHS staff and independent experts, not representatives of UNESCO member states, will be responsible for drafting model legislation based on the provisions contained in the three standards-setting instruments.

The emphasis on UNESCO staff and independent experts, rather than UNESCO member state representatives, in drafting and implementing the provisions of the standards-setting declarations in the field of bioethics dilutes national sovereignty. Considering the scope of the provisions of the declarations, especially in connection with "social responsibility" and the "sharing of benefits," this is a dramatic human security development with far-reaching implications for global governance.

Article 14 of the Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights, titled "Social Responsibility and Health," sets a high standard for governments with respect to the promotion of health and social development and articulates the purposes to which scientific and technological progress should be directed.

Article 14 contains two important principles. First, that the promotion of health and social development for their people is a central purpose of governments for which all sectors of society share responsibility. Second, that progress in science and technology should advance:

1. Access to quality health care and essential medicines, especially for the health of women and children;

2. Access to adequate nutrition and water;

3. Improvement of living conditions and the environment;

4. Elimination of the marginalization and the exclusion of persons on the basis of any grounds; and

5. Reduction of poverty and illiteracy.19

Together, the two principles expressed in Article 14 set the foundation for compelling states and their corporate citizens to prioritize scientific research and development in a manner that promotes human security. Although, unlike a binding treaty, the Declaration is non-binding, the adoption of the Declaration by UNESCO member states and its promotion through commentary and model legislation convey an international interest in ensuring that the human security, rather than commercial, aspects of scientific research and development should take priority.

The Declaration's Article 15, titled "Sharing of Benefits," is similarly demanding. The core principle of the Sharing of Benefits clause is that benefits resulting from any scientific research and its applications should be shared with society as a whole and within the international community, in particular with developing countries. According to the Declaration, benefits may take any of the following forms:

1. Special and sustainable assistance to, and acknowledgement of, the persons and groups that have taken part in the research;
2. Access to quality health care;
3.Provision of new diagnostic and therapeutic modalities or products stemming from research;
4. Support for health services;
5.Access to scientific and technological knowledge; and
6.Capacity-building facilities for research purposes.20

In the interest of human security, Article 14 subjects states and their corporate citizens to international standards regarding the development and ownership of scientific research and products. Although non-binding, these standards encourage the production of commentary and model legislation that could have the effect of discouraging scientific research and product development.


UNESCO's pursuit of the United Nations human security agenda raises important considerations regarding global governance in an age where globalization makes it possible for multilateral institutions to direct their efforts at individuals with minimum regard for state sovereignty. Through its human security paradigm, which includes the creation of regional social science research and policy networks, the promotion of human rights education and dialogues at the local municipality level, and the adoption and promotion of bioethical standards that call for social responsibility and the sharing of benefits, UNESCO has created a mechanism for pursuing human security, regardless of the competencies or desires of individual states.

*James P. Kelly III is the Director of International Affairs with the Federalist Society.


1. "Human Security Now: Protecting and Empowering People." 1 May 2003. Commission on Human Security. 3 Sept. 2006, available at
2. "Press Release." 1 May 2003. Commission on Human Security. 3 Sept. 2006, at

3. "Human Security Now: Protecting and Empowering People," p. 2.

4. Id. at 4.
5. Id. at 10.
6. "Assistances Through the Trust Fund for Human Security." The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. 3 Sept. 2006, available at
7. "International Conference on Human Security in the Arab Region." United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. 3 Sept. 2006, available at Page=1957.
8. "Management of Social Transformations Programme." United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 3 Sept. 2006, available at
9. "International Forum on the Social Science-Policy Nexus Final Document." United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 3 Sept. 2006, available at
10. Scholte, Jan Aart, "The Sources of Neoliberal Globalization." 1 Oct. 2005. United Nations Research Institute for Social Development. 3 Sept. 2006.
11. "International Coalition of Cities Against Racism." United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 3 Sept. 2006,available at
12. "Declaration on Race and Racial Prejudice." 27 Nov. 1978. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 3 Sept.2006, available at
13. "International Coalition of Cities Against Racism." United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 3 Sept. 2006.
14. "Implementation of the Ten-Point Plan of Action." United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 3 Sept 2006,available at
15. Ethics." United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 3 Sept. 2006, available at
16. "The Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Human Rights." United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 3 Sept. 2006, available at
17. "International Declaration on Human Genetic Data." United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 3 Sept. 2006, available at

18. "Universal Declaration on Bioethics and Human Rights." United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. 3 Sept.2006, available at

19. Id.
20. Id.