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Lex Oostendorp: Human Security — Constructing a Framework for Human-Centered Security Thoughts

Lex Oostendorp

Adviseur/Bestuurslid, MKB Leidschendam-Voorburg

Chairman Of The Board, Human Security Collective

Gender: Male

Nation: Netherland

Workplace: Chairman Of The Board, Human Security Collective / Advisor/Member of the Board, MKB Leidschendam-Voorburg

Education: 1978 - 1982: Royal Military Academy (Breda) / 1995 - 1996: Interarmy Defence College (Paris)

Professional Filed: Human Security

Lex Oostendorp: Human Security — Constructing a Framework for Human-Centered Security Thoughts

During his career in the Royal Netherlands Army, Lex Oostendorp participated in military missions in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Europe), Iraq and Afghanistan in Asia, and a small scale operation in Chad on the African continent. The most important lesson he learned in all those missions is that you can never be successful with the sole use of military force. Military force is only a limited part of the solution and may become — sooner than expected — a big part of the problem. That’s why in the Netherlands they promoted an integrated approach in the planning of their missions, also known as the 3D-approach, Diplomacy, Development and Defence. Still, those integrated missions take a lot of time. Time that the international community is not always willing to spend. The sooner you involve the local community the better, they know what is best for their country.

Therefore, when after the end of his military career, Lex Oostendorp was asked by the management of the Human Security Collective (HSC) to join them as chair he did not have to hesitate, because they provide the means to help civil society organisations (CSO) in crisis areas to make their voices heard, they improve the skills of civil society leaders and provide young people and influencers with leadership programs. On a different level, they participate in the Financial Action Task Force to enable financial access for CSO to continue their work. All those capacities are of great importance to help solve the very difficult and complex situations in the world’s crises areas. For him, it feels good to be part of such a great team albeit from a distance, because the chair is not involved in the day to day activities. Meanwhile, HSC is able to conduct their work because of their independent position as a non-governmental organization. This allows the team to engage with a variety of public and private stakeholders in the development and security realm.

For HSC, human security is the practice whereby policymakers and practitioners working on issues of development, on humanitarian aid, human rights, peace building and security involve citizens in their communities and societies. They believe that the idea of Human Security with its focus on people, relationships and human rights provides an organizing frame for action. Central to their work is people and the way they experience and perceive insecurity, threats, vulnerabilities, and risks to their daily lives. The involvement of people and communities for the development of policy and programs that aim to contribute to security and safety is thus crucial. Traditional security paradigms put the onus of providing security and safety to citizens on the state and the government. This approach thus complements traditional security paradigms.

Based on the elements of trust-creation, local ownership, empowerment and collective action, they facilitate conversation between civil society, policymakers, and other actors to promote alternative/complementary approaches to current security practice. Civil society at local level that engages on security and human security issues need to sustain such dialogue to help ensure that people and communities are actively involved in policy and programs for security and safety. Civil society organizations are better placed to take on this role if they are supported by (international) networks and by government and/or state actors, and possibly private stakeholders that are responsible for security and safety related issues. These issues can cover food, health, social, economic, and physical security. HSC was founded to address security issues stemming from the impact of violent extremism and the (international and national) policies and actions to mitigate such extremism. We have developed three program areas or pillars: 1. Inclusive and youth leadership to address the root causes of (violent) extremism and polarisation, 2. Designing and implementing development programs in conflict zones that integrate a conflict transformation lens, and 3. Mitigating the impact of counter terrorism financing measures on civil society and civic space stemming from the FATF and the EU Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism rules, as well as UN sanctions, in order to prevent suppression of civil society organizations and their derisking by financial institutions.

The growing dominance of terrorism on the global security landscape has obtained a certain impact on the mainstreaming of human security principles. Through our engagement with UN Counter Terrorism (CT), EU CT, OSCE entities, and the Financial Action Task Force, we have experienced that human rights and human security have become notions that are being addressed in these multilateral bodies/organizations for the way they are impacted by counter terrorism (financing) measures. These organizations currently address the undue harms to the rights and security of citizens, caused by the interpretation of CT rules and measures by state entities. However, the securitisation of development and humanitarian aid stemming from the dominance of global security and global counter terrorism measures since 9/11 has caused and continues to cause harm to the work of frontline humanitarian and development workers and the communities they serve. To change this, (local) civil society active on human rights and human security needs to be able to engage with policymakers in the security realm to ensure that citizens’ voices are known, heard and respected. The mainstreaming of human security principles of which human rights is an intrinsic part still has a long way to go in the post 9/11 period, but due to the agency of civil society and their (government) supporters we can see that some strides have been made.

However, someone argues that human security is too nebulous and all-encompassing to be a meaningful paradigm for organising security policy. Lex Oostendorp believes that there may be some truth to it as human security as a notion or a paradigm encompasses topics that vary from food, water, energy, to health, social protection, work/employment, and physical security. Additionally, it can be applied to interventions in humanitarian crises caused by (violent) conflict, violent extremism, or natural disasters or both, and to interventions in less insecure or unsafe contexts. However, with regard to human security as an approach, it could say this is far from nebulous as the principle of involving people in their communities and societies in policies and programs that aim to achieve safety and security through development, humanitarian access and peace-building is applicable to any type of issue-based intervention, whether in conflict areas or areas which are more peaceful. Involving people requires an approach that is inclusive, whereby those that are often overlooked when it comes to voicing their knowledge, needs, expectations and aspirations, become active participants in addressing issues that are affecting their daily security and safety.


Contactor: Ali

Interviewer: Zihang Shi

Editor: Lingzhan Zhou



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