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Rethinking Human Security: report of public meeting

Friday, 14 October 2016

About 60 people gathered round tables in Hebden Bridge Town Hall on Sunday Oct 9th to discuss what human security meant for them - as individuals, in our community, country and globally.

Rethinking human security

The discussions were introduced by Paul Rogers, Professor of Peace Studies at Bradford University and Celia McKeon who is working on a project on rethinking security.  Celia McKeon encouraged us to draw on our own experiences to address the issues of security and how the current discourse needs to change. 

Beyond the importance of our basic needs for food, housing, income, work and freedom to lead our own lives, we shared the need for good relationships with others, the ability to listen, connect and express our different experiences and views, and to be heard and accepted, which may at times need good facilitation.  

We recognised the importance of being willing to ask for help and to give help, the generosity of spirit which we have experienced in difficult times, for example in the floods, the realisation of our interdependence.  We also talked of the need to have confidence in authorities, in the police, in the law and in political processes, though many recognised a democratic deficit and an unwillingness in politics to address key issues, including insecurities regarding old age, sickness and disability and the increasing impact of climate disruption on our lives. 

Rethinking human security

Whilst it is easy to feel powerless, we encouraged each other to engage others in dialogue, including our politicians, to write personal letters, not to give.  We need to speak out against censorship, support academic freedoms and debate, join campaigns and action groups, work through political parties and voice culturally outrageous truths with confidence, challenging the status quo.

On a larger, community scale, resources need to be shared out to meet everyone's needs, as inequalities in meeting people's basic needs lead quickly to insecurity, crime and conflict. Our ideas included citizens' income and investment in our health, and social services, not cuts.  We keenly felt the problem of the dominant discourse being one of confrontation, which overrides relationship-building and conflict resolution - we need to challenge militarism in our schools and provide alternatives to help build a culture of peace. 

We have the difficult task of managing difference in our changing communities, of holding peace between us, of finding a new balance when new people join our communities.  We shared the need to build a culture of listening, acceptance and inclusion, where belonging and responsibility are fostered, including a responsibility to act in the face of violence or oppression.  We recognised the fear of change and loss of privilege, and how this can be triggered by views and actions seeking change.  The challenge of building equality can feel overwhelming and we need to think about how to protest effectively, how to reach ut across boundaries and communities, how to improve the way we communicate with and involve our politicians, how to create safe spaces for open dialogue, how to create alliances, connecting through our shared humanity. 

Global issues are similar in a larger scale - we felt we need to move towards greater equality of resources for all peoples, and to consider the impact on our global neighbours of all we do.  We need an ethical foreign policy and to move away from our national economic dependence on the arms trade to shore up our GDP. There was a theme throughout our discussions of the impact on our perceptions and our culture of the media, which focuses on conflict zones, on the extremes of affluence and suffering, fuelling insecurities, our sense of helplessness and our disempowerment. 

We all need to be able to trust in the accuracy, transparency and trustworthiness of the media. We need to demand more diversity of media sources from our media, including the BBC and Channel 4 and we need to support the positive use of the internet. 

This meeting was one of the first of many civic conversations expected to happen as part of the Rethinking Human Security project, which aims to engage people in thinking about how we can best build long-term security for people in the UK and worldwide - for more see www.rethinkingsecurity.org.uk.

See also

HebWeb News: Working together for a new vision of security 27 Sept