Human Security and Natural Disasters: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Human Security and Natural Disasters

1st Edition

Edited by Christopher Hobson, Paul Bacon, Robin Cameron


196 pages | 11 B/W Illus.

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"Human security" is an approach that rejects the traditional prioritization of state security, and instead identifies the individual as the primary referent of security. It offers a way of broadening our perspective, and recognizing that the most pressing threats to individuals do not come from interstate war, but from the emergencies that affect people every day, such as famine, disease, displacement, civil conflict and environmental degradation. Human security is about people living their lives with dignity, being free from "fear" and "want". To date, there has been a strong tendency to focus on insecurity caused by civil conflict, with less attention on issues to do with environmental security. This volume addresses the threat posed by natural disasters, which represent an increasingly major human security threat to people everywhere.

In looking at natural disasters, this book also refines the human security approach. It does so through developing its previously unexplored interdisciplinary potential. This volume explicitly seeks to bring the human security approach into conversation with contributions from a range of disciplines: development, disaster sociology, gender studies, international law, international relations, philosophy, and public health. Collectively these scholars unpack the "human" element of "natural" disasters. In doing so, an emphasis is placed on how pre-existing vulnerabilities can be gravely worsened, as well as the interconnected nature of human security threats. The book presents a variety of case studies that include the Indian Ocean tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, the 2010 Haiti earthquake, and the 2011 "triple disasters" in Japan.


The human security concept compels us to question prevailing norms and institutions at every level in order to understand why certain individuals and communities fall victim to deprivation and abuse. This excellent collection takes the human security debate forward by focusing upon natural disasters, an area that has been very much under-explored. It is global in outlook and theoretically sophisticated, and it deserves to be read widely for its diverse and authoritative insights.

–Edward Newman, University of Leeds, UK

Freedom from want and freedom from fear, the basic tenets of human security, are never threatened more than when a disaster strikes. At a time when the UN has committed to mainstreaming human security across its policies, this book provides essential insights into how human security can help deal with natural disasters. Rich in their analyses and insightful in their conclusions, the contributions show clearly the potential of human security to shape state responses.

–Matthias C. Kettemann, University of Graz, Austria

A very important book that sheds new light on questions of human security and natural disasters, especially with regard to gender-related issues, public health responses and human rights issues. A wide range of case studies ranging from the Haiti earthquake, Indian Ocean tsunami to Hurricane Katrina bring the reader close to cutting edge critical research on how natural disasters severely affect human security.

–Geoff Wilson, University of Plymouth, UK

This important book, emerging in response to Japan's triple disasters of 2011, draws our attention to the relationship between natural disasters and human security. Aside from illustrating how disasters threaten human security, this volume points to the complex inter-relationship between disasters themselves, the international structural political and economic arrangements that worsen or complicate a response to them, and 'on-the-ground' dynamics of vulnerability, adaptive capacity and resilience within particular communities. This rich set of essays provides one of the more nuanced accounts of a broadened conception of human security, while challenging us to rethink key institutions and practices of 'security' more broadly. As natural disasters increase in intensity and frequency with dynamics of climate change, for example, making sense of how they might be incorporated and approached within current or new institutions will become an ever more urgent enterprise.

–Matt McDonald, The University of Queensland, Australia

Table of Contents

1. Incorporating Natural Disasters into the Human Security Agenda 2. Human Security after the shock: Vulnerability and Empowerment 3. Human Security and Disasters: What a Gender Lens Offers 4. The Ethics of Disaster and Hurricane Katrina: Human Security, Homeland Security, and Women’s Groups 5. Responding to chronic disease needs following disasters: A rethink using the Human Security approach 6. State Negligence before and after Natural Disasters as Human Rights Violations 7. Human Security in the Face of Dual Disasters 8. Linking disasters: human security, conflict and the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami 9. Exit Strategy: Human Security, the Social Contract and Liquid Governance in Haiti’s Post-Earthquake Reconstruction 10. A More "Human" Human Security: The Importance of Existential Security in Resilient Communities 11. Human Security and Fortuna: Preparing for Natural Disasters


About the Editors

Christopher Hobson is Assistant Professor, Waseda University, Japan, and Visiting Research Fellow, United Nations University.

Paul Bacon is Associate Professor of International Relations, School of International Liberal Studies, Waseda University, and Deputy Director of the European Union Institute, Waseda University, Japan.

Robin Cameron is Research Fellow in the School of Global, Urban and Social Sciences, RMIT University and Program Manager for Human Security & Disasters at RMIT Global Cities Research Institute, Australia.

About the Series

Routledge Humanitarian Studies

The Routledge Humanitarian Studies series in collaboration with the International Humanitarian Studies Association (IHSA) takes a comprehensive approach to the growing field of expertise that is humanitarian studies. This field is concerned with humanitarian crises caused by natural disaster, conflict or political instability and deals with the study of how humanitarian crises evolve, how they affect people and their institutions and societies, and the responses they trigger.

We invite book proposals that address, amongst other topics, questions of aid delivery, institutional aspects of service provision, the dynamics of rebel wars, state building after war, the international architecture of peacekeeping, the ways in which ordinary people continue to make a living throughout crises, and the effect of crises on gender relations.

This interdisciplinary series draws on and is relevant to a range of disciplines, including development studies, international relations, international law, anthropology, peace and conflict studies, public health and migration studies.

To submit proposals, please contact the Development Studies Editor, Helena Hurd ([email protected]).

Series Editors:

Alex de Waal, Tufts University, USA

Dorothea Hilhorst, Wageningen University, The Netherlands

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Economic Development
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Environmental Economics
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Policy / Environmental Policy