Illustrating the Value of Human Security Analysis

By Jennifer Bert (PhD student & MPIA '10)

On Sept. 21, 2015, the Ford Institute for Human Security welcomed Dr. Des Gasper to give this year’s Saul M. Katz Lecture titled “Human Security and Human Rights: Competitive or Complementary?” Dr. Gasper is a professor at the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) in The Hague, part of Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands. He delivered a talk to a standing-room only crowd based his current paper-in-progress responding to a recent article by Rhoda E. Howard-Hassmann entitled “Human Security, Undermining Human Rights?” that draws also on two recent studies for the UN Development Programme and on research projects exploring human security approaches to migration and climate change.

The distinction between human rights and human security can be blurry, and while Hassmann argues that the field of human security may often undermine the study and practice of human rights, Gasper argues that they are strongly complementary.  Gasper explained to students that human security thinking fills a void between the international development and human rights literatures, and human security approaches help to reorient the security literature from armed conflict to a broader understanding of what it means to be secure. 

After presenting the case for human security approaches and how they can strengthen our understanding and application of human rights ideals, Dr. Gasper accepted questions from the audience and continued a dialog about the roles and importance of human security studies. 

The Professor Saul M. Katz International Lectureship on Economic and Social Development was established in 1994.  Dr. Saul M. Katz joined the small group of founding faculty at GSPIA in 1960 and was an international authority on economic and social development with a special interest in the implementation of development policies, programs and projects. He was also an international authority in agriculture and rural development.  Dr. Katz had a lifelong interest in how society can benefit from the interaction between economic policies and politics.  Dr. Katz served in World War II, enlisting and rising to captain and participating in the Normandy landings where he was wounded and received a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart. Later, he went on to earn two master’s degrees and a doctorate at Harvard University, and bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Cornell. During much of Dr. Katz’s tenure at GSPIA, he served as the Director of Programs in Economic and Social Development (now the Master’s in International Development degree) and was credited with putting to use 20 years of government and Army experience to prepare international students in development policies that would foster growth and self-sufficiency.  A colleague said that Dr. Katz, during his time at GSPIA, “must have educated and personally related to hundreds of students.” Dr. Katz was frequently enlisted on advisory missions to foreign countries by the United Nations and other international organizations.  He became Professor Emeritus in 1986 and passed away a year after he established this lecture series.  


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