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Human Security




Admission Requirements

Similarly tagged 100-level and 200-level courses. Students that do not meet this prerequisite should contact the instructor regarding the required competencies before course allocation.


Human Security will focus on the contemporary debate on “security” and the role of the United Nations. By critically reflecting on historical and contemporary thoughts about what is to be “secured”, the course will discern the strength and weaknesses on the evolving ideas about human security since the end of the Cold-War through the extension of the notion of security to include development, economy, environment, health, organized crime and criminal violence, militarized conflict and peace-building, and other emerging issues. Emphasis will be given to cross-border migration as a reality to encourage students to engage critically with the literature on human security.

After an introduction to the main approaches to security and the theoretical premises underpinning them, the course will bring into focus different types of migration and their transformation since the end of the Cold-War (refugees and asylum-seekers, trafficking and organized crime, labour migration). The course will highlight the value of the concept of transnational migration in explaining the links between migration and other policy areas, such as demography, security, trade, development and aid, among others. It will will use case-studies to analyse and discuss different, and often conflicting, interests between stakeholders in the field of human security as related to migration, and to understand the discrepancy between the normative framework of human security and migration policy.

The course will draw on a multidisciplinary literature, with a focus on international relations and transnational studies, comparative politics, development and migration studies. Students will apply concepts and theoretical frameworks in class discussion, presentations, individual research projects and take-home exam essays.

Course Objectives

By the end of the course students will:

  • Understand the concept of human security, the challenges posed to ensuring “human security” in the fields of cross-border migration management.

  • Understand different types of migration and corresponding policy approaches as applied in selected parts of the world.

  • Show knowledge of the following aspects of human security related to migration: refugees and asylum-seekers, transnational labour migration, human trafficking and organized crime, the role and responsibilities of institutions (be it national, international or non-governmental).

  • Appreciate the merits of different approaches and methods.

  • Apply learned concepts and relevant literature to working on their own research project.

  • Report on their findings orally and in written form.

Mode of Instruction

The course is taught through two two-hour seminars. It will include both short lectures and class discussions of the readings and key aspects of the topics. The formal readings and lectures are complemented by classroom discussions, which encourage active participation and help students to articulate ideas. Students will apply the learned concepts by writing a research report and presenting in different forms in class.


Interactive engagement with course material: assessed through In-class participation (15% of final grade): Ongoing Weeks 1 – 7

Understanding of course content: assessed through Presentation/s (15% of final grade): Weeks 1-7

Expression of holistic understanding of the course: assessed through Individual research project (3,000 words; 40% of final grade): Short outline due Week 4, Final report due Week 7

Individual engagement with course readings: assessed through Individual take-home exam essays (3,000 words; 30% of final grade): Week 8 (Friday, 1 June 2012)


Required Readings:

S. Neil MacFarlane and Yuen Foong Khong (2006) Human Security and the United Nations: A Critical History, Indianapolis: Indiana University Press.

Thanh-Dam Truong and Des Gasper (Eds) (2011) Transnational Migration and Human Security: The Migration-Development-Security Nexus, Heidelberg/Dordrecht/London/NewYork: Springer)

Recommended Readings:

A set of recommended readings will be compile as a reader and will be made available through the course webside

Contact Information

truong@iss.nl, hintjens@iss.nl

Weekly Overview

Week 1: What is Human Security?
Week 2: Overview of main theoretical premises underpinning the human security debate
Week 3: Transnational Migration and Human Security
Week 4: Refugees and Asylum-Seeking
Week 5: Merchants of Labour in Transnational Migration
Week 6: Human Trafficking and Organized Crime: Whose security counts?
Week 7: Institutional roles and responsibilities
Week 8: Reading week

Preparation for first session