Languages of Security in the Asia-Pacific

College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University

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Japanese – Ningen no anzen hoshou | Hyuumansekyuritii

May 27th, 2011 · No Comments · Human Security, Japanese

人間の安全保障 (にんげん・の・あんぜん・ほしょう)

ningen no anzen hoshou

The term is comprised of the following kanji:

“人間” ningen – human being; man; person
“安全保障” anzen hoshou – safety guarantee; security guarantee
“安全” – safety; security
“保障”– guarantee; assurance; pledge; warranty
(“の” no indicates the possessive case)



from the English words “human security” (katakana)


Relates to human security

Interestingly, these phrases are both used exclusively to talk about human security when it refers to nations other than Japan: Doshisha University in Kyoto, for instance, has a Research Centre for Human Security Studies, 同志社大学, ヒューマンセキュリティー研究センター[1], and casts its research area in terms of what happens to others, and not what happens in Japan.

The concept of human security, in particular ‘人間の安全保障’, is much stressed in Japanese foreign policy, but it is not really discussed on the street within Japan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a brochure[2], for example, full of ideas about human security replete with pictures of smiling non-Japanese people enjoying life free of land mines, having clean drinking water, and access to education. Japan’s role in human security is the provision and management of money and knowledge to help these people attain these goals.

Some decades ago there was much reference in Japanese security thinking to ‘comprehensive security’, 総合安全保障 sougou-anzenhoshou, but this expression has a very broad reference: it can refer, for instance, to the right to police trade routes, or to carry out a pre-emptive strike against North Korea. It is also perceived as carrying pre-World War II connotations. An emphasis on human security is seen to be more consistent with the critically important Article 9 of the country’s constitution – the article that renounces war “as the sovereign right of the nation”. The emphasis on human security captures Japan’s global role in respect to their sponsorship of aid programs, economic development and the promotion of social rights.

In Canada, where the idea of ‘human security’ is prominent, the term conveys the idea of a right to intervene in the affairs of another country, where human suffering requires this. In Japan this aspect is not prominent; human security is primarily about development. In 2001, the Commission on Human Security (CHS), 人間の安全保障委員会, ningen no anzenhoshou iinkai, was established with the initiative of the Government of Japan, in response to the UN secretariat’s call at the 2000 Millennium Summit for a world “free of want” and “free of fear.” The Japanese diplomat Sadako Ogata, who has served as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and is Co-Chair of the CHS, has become for many the personification of a Japanese concern for human security. It is largely among Japanese diplomatic and academic circles that the notion of human security is prevalent.

Ningen no anzen hoshoo’ is considered by MOFA as one of the major pillars of Japan’s foreign policy, and endorses it as a concept for international cooperation in the 21st century.[3] The words used in the MOFA brochure to refer to Japan and the Japanese in relation to human security are the out-group words (外 soto): 日本 Nihon ‘Japan’ 日本人 nihonjin ‘Japanese people’ rather than the in group words (内 uchi): 我が国  wagakuni ‘our country’ and 我々 wareware ‘us (Japanese)’. Therefore, the document projects Japan as an actor in the world rather than an inward-looking nation. That is, the Japanese government is concerned with the security of all peoples and not just the security of the Japanese people.

The use of the term ‘人間の安全保障’ suggests that while ‘human security’  refers to foreign situations, the term ‘comprehensive security’ is employed with reference to Japan and has in fact always covered a broad range of concerns, including many concerns that come under the heading human security in other societies (or in English).



[1] Doshisha University Graduate School of Policy and Management, Human Security Research:

[2]Ministry of Foreign Affairs Japan, ‘Human Security Foundation’:

[3] Global Issues Cooperation Division, The Trust Fund for Human Security: For the Human-centred 21st century, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, p. 2 []



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