‘Freedom from fear’ and ‘freedom from want’ have become the catch phrases of an approach to security called human security. Often referred to as ‘people-centred security’ or ‘security with a human face’, human security places human beings—rather than states—at the focal point of security considerations. Although some would claim that this approach is nothing new, human security is becoming mainstream. Today all security discussions demand incorporation of the human dimension.

Perhaps there is no region that teeters more on the brink between human security and insecurity than Latin America. Although the region as a whole has made significant steps towards democratization and regional cooperation, in many countries the security of individuals has seen little, if any, improvement. The conflicts of the region are internal ones, economic crises abound, and governments struggle to combat violence. Latin America is also at the centre of many illicit activities, including drug production, money laundering and arms trafficking; civilian populations are often caught in the crossfire—both figuratively and literally. Critics would go as far as to say that some national and regional initiatives, including military training and the ‘war on drugs’, have been at the expense of the security of individuals. As Latin America faces numerous human security challenges, from small arms circulation to narco-trafficking, from human rights abuses to difficult civil-military relations, perhaps this region should be at the forefront of our thinking about human security.

The concept of human security offers us a new lens to examine Latin American security. In this issue of Disarmament Forum, our authors look at several of elements detracting from or contributing to human security, including small arms, external military influences and a case study of Colombia.

Citation: Kerstin Vignard (ed.) (2002). "Disarmament Forum: Human Security in Latin America", UNIDIR, Geneva.

Disponible aussi en français.


  • Editor’s note, Kerstin Vignard
  • Special Comment, Oscar Arias
  • Human security: emerging concept of security in the twenty-first century, Francisco Rojas Aravena
  • Civilians and the military in Latin American democracies, Rut Diamint
  • Colombia’s human security crisis, Adam Isacson
  • U.S. military programmes with Latin America and their impact on human security, Joy Olson
  • A regional perspective on the problem of small arms and light weapons, Luis Alfonso de Alba
  • Resources concerning human security in Latin America, compiled by Jennifer Flament
  • UNIDIR Activities