Conflict Trends 2004/3

From Warfare To Welfare

Book Review

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Undoubtedly, the question of security in Southern of security in Southern Africa will continue to be one of the main issues for discussion around regional cooperation among member states that belong to the Southern African Development Community (SADC). This is the case for a number of reasons. These include the fact that the sub-region does not seem to have been able to define in clear and concrete terms what approach it ought to take when it comes to its security. Or, where attempts have been made to define that approach, the responsible policy makers and other relevant actors have not been able to take the necessary steps to ensure implementation. This reviewer has argued elsewhere that, among other challenges that exist around the discourse on security in Southern Africa, there seems to be a gap between the academic thinking on the one hand and the policy approaches and decisions on the other. To put the matter differently, there is a plethora of academic thinking about a need for an alternative approach to security in the region. Such a gap is found specifically within the concept which has come to be known as human security.

The maxims that it is the people and not a state that ought to be protected; that the idea of security involves protection from want; and that poverty and economic destitution lead to insecurity, need to filter from the academic to the policy level. To be sure, a great number of statements have been made by policy makers about such an approach to security; however, it would appear that not much has been done to translate such statements into policy.

It is perhaps for this reason, and because of this apparent gap, that the academic thinking has not yet ceased about a need to entrench a human security idea for and in the sub-region. Therefore, this edited book is seen as a contribution to this ongoing attempt to further explain, expand upon and advocate a human-centred approach to security.

It does this through different articles by some of the foremost thinkers on security in Southern Africa. It contains articles that seek to clarify and simplify the concept of human security and those that seek to link it with other equally important issues such as development and human rights. It has articles that reflect on how the concept is applicable to Southern Africa and how it could be operationalised. It features thought-provoking information about the glaring divisions between the developed and the developing world; of how commitments are made on paper without any evident political will to implement them. It contains analysis on the evolution of the concept of security in the region and how state actors, and primarily SADC as a regional body, have attempted to adapt themselves to the changing international political context. In this sense, the book offers another interesting glance not just at the challenges facing SADC on security matters, but also at the means and possibilities for creating an environment conducive to human security in Southern Africa. To this extent, the book makes an important contribution to this ongoing discourse.

For those who are interested in anything new about the issue of human security in Southern African then there would a need to look elsewhere, since this book does not bring anything new to the debate. However, it serves to reinforce the concepts of human security and the necessity to make it practically applicable in Southern Africa. Seeing that the book was preceded by a workshop where the articles were first presented as papers, it would be fair to state that one would have expected more policy-relevant and concrete recommendations on how such ideas and arguments as contained in the book could find themselves implemented in the policy corridors of the regional security apparatus.

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