At the same time that the field of security moves away from traditional state-centred perspectives towards a human-centred understanding of security, contemporary states seem to be incapable of protecting people from increasingly complex forms of insecurity. Inadequate and inefficient public responses have contributed to the erosion of the idea of security as a public good, especially in contexts of chronic violence. In this article, we suggest that in these contexts ‘security from below’ could help analytically and in practice to humanise security provision by focusing attention on the lived experiences of insecurity, by encouraging participation in debates about the local and universal values that should inform state responses and by enabling people to demand a people-centred but publicly delivered form of security.
Rethinking security from below is not a suggestion for replacing the state; it is instead an attempt to increase the capacity of communities and local level actors to articulate their demands for better security provision based on agreed norms and under democratic principles in which security must be at the heart of all struggles for equitable development and social justice.
Article first published March 2009, IDSB40.2.