Right of Each Human Being to Enjoy Peace, Security and Welfare

Submitted by Arthur Dahl on 27. October 2012 - 1:11
Dahl, Arthur Lyon

Right of Each Human Being to Enjoy Peace, Security and Welfare

Arthur Lyon Dahl
International Environment Forum
Geneva, Switzerland

ECPD Eighth Session on Reconciliation, Tolerance and Human Security in the Balkans
New Balkans in a Changing World with a Changing Europe
Belgrade, Serbia, 20 October 2012

When we think of human security, we usually think of physical security from violence, armed conflict or disasters. Yet in a broader sense, it can refer to protection of all those dimensions of life that allow the complete well-being and fulfillment of each individual human being over their lifetime.

What should be included in this broader concept of human security? Security can be expressed at many levels: physical, social, cultural, psychological, spiritual, etc. Security in this sense is a necessary condition for human development. Insecurity can interfere with individual development in many ways, such as by limiting the capacity to create wealth, to innovate, to collaborate, to manage an enterprise, or to build strong families and communities. It often threatens or removes human rights. The ultimate purpose of development should not be just to raise some economic statistic like GDP, but to improve the prosperity and well-being of individual people. Security should enable every human being to fulfill his or her potential in life both in cultivating individual qualities, personality and capacities and in contributing to the advancement of society. This should be a central purpose of all the states and communities in new Balkans.

As part of recent work to formulate a new index of development at the individual level, the following conceptual framework of dimensions of individual development was developed. It fits well into the larger framework of efforts by a number of countries and organizations to go beyond GDP (Stiglitz 2009) and to measure well-being and happiness, such as the pioneering work in the Kingdom of Bhutan (Ura et al. 2012) and the recent World Happiness Report (Helliwell et al. 2012). The aim is to map out the multiple levels at which each individual can develop his or her potential and cultivate qualities from the basic requirements common to all animal life up to the more abstract cultural and spiritual values that are for many the real purpose of human existance. Once such dimensions are defined, it becomes possible to measure them, either directly or through the ways they are expressed in human behaviour (Dahl, in press; Harder et al., in press). Policies can then be put into place to facilitate or encourage the efforts of each person to acquire them and to use them for the benefit of society. This listing also helps to define all the ways in which government has a responsibility to create the legal framework and enabling environment for individual human development.

Dimensions of Individual Development

Physical growth and health

Obviously, any impediments to the physical growth and health of a person reduce their capacity and may stunt their body. Requirements at this level include adequate food and nutrition, a sufficient standard of living, access to physical and mental health care, access to energy, adequate shelter and clothing, a clean and unpolluted environment, possibilities for rest and recreation to maintain physical fitness, special care for motherhood and childhood, assistance with disabilities and handicaps, and care for the elderly.

Security and safety

Even a healthy person can be threatened by outside factors, and the stress of insecurity is itself a significant handicap. It is necessary to ensure for every individual their life, liberty and security of person, protecting them from slavery, torture, arbitrary detention, military action, violent repression, and terrorism. It is also important to ensure the security of home and family and protection from domestic violence, to provide safety from disasters and excessive risks of physical harm, and freedom from crime and corruption in everyday life.


Education is fundamental to individual development, with widely recognized right to literacy and access to knowledge. This means provision for formal, informal and continuing education up to each person's highest potential, allowing the full development of each human personality. Education should also have a social dimension leading to understanding and friendship among all groups, and providing work skills. In the modern world, everyone should have access to and participation in scientific advancement and technology development, and to information and communications technologies.


Human beings are social organisms, and this includes both the right and responsibility to contribute in some way to society. Development is about each individual contributing to wealth creation. This implies the right to work, whether in paid employment, the informal sector, a subsistence activity, or through entrepreneurship. It means a just remuneration under favorable work conditions, with equal pay for equal work, providing the ability to meet one's own needs and provide for a family, with a social safety net if necessary. There should be reasonable working hours, with time for rest and leisure. Other supportive measures should include protection of a creator's rights to scientific, literary or artistic production, provision of extension services, technical advice, business management advice, legal advice, and accounting services, and an effective process for litigation, dispute settlement, and legal assistance.

Financial system

The financial system is not often thought of when it comes to individual development, but any economic activity by individuals as well as businesses depends on a reliable and adequate money supply, with means of exchange and convertibility, and the protection of the real value of income, savings, capital and pensions from inflation. In addition, any level of activity beyond a barter economy requires some access to financial services (payments, savings, credit and insurance), as well as protection from banking failures, fraud and undisclosed risks, and security from theft, identity theft, unlawful dispossession, kidnapping, piracy and extortion.

Justice and fairness

The foundation of all sustainable social organization is justice, including recognition and equal protection before the law, effective legal remedy with a fair and public hearing, and a presumption of innocence. Social justice also includes a low level of income inequality, the fair distribution of wealth, the possibility of upward mobility with effort, fair taxation, and the equitable sharing of responsibility for the cost of public goods.

Human rights and freedoms

Another way of looking at the dimensions of individual human development is through the recognized human rights and freedoms. The denial of any human right is damaging to human development. Apart from other dimensions described here, these rights include:
- the right to personal freedom and initiative, equality in dignity and rights, and the free development of one's personality;
- freedom of speech, the right to hold and express opinions, and to receive and impart information and ideas through all media regardless of frontiers;
- the right to peaceful assembly and association;
- freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and to change religion or belief;
- freedom to explore reality and to investigate the purpose of existence;
- the right to privacy of person, family, home, and correspondence;
- protection of one's reputation and honor;
- the right to own property;
- free movement and choice of place of residence;
- the right to a nationality, and to change nationality;
- protection from all sorts of discrimination including gender, etc.;
- equal access to public services, and the right to social security; and
- the right to take part in government, to vote, and to participate in political life.

Place in the community

The social development of each individual requires a number of factors that determine and ensure a place in the community where that person lives, starting with personal status and dignity, as well as social networks and friends to count on. The possibility of marriage and founding a family should be ensured, including the right to procreation and to raising children, support for a united family circle, protection of the family, and if necessary the possibility of divorce. Other community qualities important for the individual include respect for public order and morality, trust, reciprocity, resilience, and facilitating participation and empowerment. Such practical arrangements as mobility, public transport, and access to markets also enable individuals. There should be security in the event of incapacity, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other unavoidable lack of livelihood.

Cultural and spiritual identity

Among the intangible dimensions of individual fulfillment, there are the right to a cultural identity, heritage and cultural diversity; a sense of belonging (having and retaining cultural roots and knowledge); having a value system, beliefs, ethics and morals; and the ability to develop the potential latent in human consciousness. It is important for a person to have a vision and purpose in life, and hope for a better life and a better world. These qualities are facilitated by opportunities to participate in culture and the arts, and by access to beauty and to nature. And ultimate integrated measure of all these dimensions could be overall evaluative well-being or life satisfaction.


This framework for human development at the individual level can serve as a guide for policy-makers in creating the enabling conditions for real progress in their countries and societies. Ideally, each of these dimensions should be captured in appropriate indicators (Dahl 2012) so that their evolution can be monitored over time and policy decisions and implementation actions taken accordingly. The vision of success in the new Balkans should be that each citizen is secure in all these dimensions of his or her development.


Dahl, Arthur Lyon. 2012. “Achievements and gaps in indicators for sustainability.” Ecological Indicators, vol. 17, p. 14-19. June 2012. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2011.04.032

Dahl, Arthur Lyon. (in press). Values Education for SCP: From Knowledge to Action. In Proceedings: Global Research Forum on Sustainable Consumption and Production Workshop, 13-15 June 2012, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Harder, Marie K, Gemma Burford, et al. (in press). Can values be measured? Significant contributions from a small civil society organisation through action research. Action Research Journal.

Helliwell, John, Richard Layard and Jeffrey Sachs. 2012. World Happiness Report. Earth Institute, Columbia University. http://www.earth.columbia.edu/articles/view/2960

Stiglitz, Joseph E., Amartya Sen and Jean-Paul Fitoussi. (2009). Report by the Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress. http://www.stiglitz-sen-fitoussi.fr

Ura, Karma, Sabina Alkire, Tshoki Zangmo and Karma Wangdi. 2012. An Extensive Analysis of GNH Index. May 2012. Thimphu, Bhutan: Centre for Bhutan Studies. 213 p. Available from Bhutan Gross National Happiness Commission. http://www.gnhc.gov.bt/

Last updated 1 November 2012