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Discussion Paper 3 in 2009
First published in ejcjs on 31 October 2009

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Japan and Human Security

A Powerful Discourse or a Useful Coping Mechanism?


Daniel Clausen

PhD Candidate
Florida International University

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The concept of human security has been gaining increasing currency in discussions over global security. Japan is considered a major contributor to both the intellectual mainstreaming of the concept and the implementation of human security through its financial support to the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security, the establishment of the Commission on Human Security, and revision of its Official Development Assistance (ODA) charter to meet human security guidelines. Japanís pursuit of human security, as well as the status the concept enjoys among policy-makers and academics has led some to describe human security within Japan as a discourse. However, the literature remains ambivalent as to whether human security is a Discourse in the sense that it is hegemonic in the kinds of policy and policy thinking that it allows, or merely an instrumental discourse deployed in the service of Japanese foreign policy. This essay argues that human security should be seen as an instrumental discourse, currently used by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), to help pursue a greater international contribution without aggravating lingering controversies over Japanese militarism, but also, without directly rejecting a future move toward military normalization.



Human security―the concept that conventional notions of security that hold the state as the ultimate (and sacred) object of protection should be reformulated to address issues of human health, development, and individual empowerment―has gained wider currency within the academic literature, foreign-policy circles, and especially within international bureaucracies like the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). The UNDPĀfs Human Development Report of 1994, which put the notion of human security at the center of its analysis, served as a catalyst for a host of independent and government sponsored scholarship and initiatives by national, international, and NGO development organizations to operationalize the concept (Ikeda, 2007; UNDP 1994; CHS 2003; Edson 2001; EdstrŲm 2008). However, in terms of how states have engaged with the concept, different governments have chosen to emphasize different aspects of human security in their foreign policies (Sato 2007); while both Canada and Japan have used human security as part of a 'middle power' foreign policy (Soeya 2004; Lam 2006: 146; Ikeda 2009; Feigenblatt 2007), Canada has emphasized the 'freedom from fear' aspect of human security in its peacekeeping diplomacy, while Japan has emphasized the 'freedom from want' aspect of the concept. As Sato (2007) writes, the use of the 'freedom from want' aspect of human security coincides with an already strong tendency in Japanese foreign policy to emphasize its development assistance as the main tool for international engagement (Sato 2007: 83-84).

Though international forums and discourse revolving around human security have frequently been derided as just another form of 'talk shop,' in the context of Japan's future security role the evolving relationship between Japan and human securityís practical and conceptual development is especially salient. At the center of much debate is the question: Why has a country well-known for its understated approach to foreign affairs pursued human security so aggressively? As current scholarship on the subject suggests, part of the answer lies in the confluence between conceptual aspects of human security and the challenges Japan currently faces in developing its security policy. The most frequent criticism of human security is that despite its normative appeal, the term is too vague to be analytically useful (Newman 2004; Shani 2007; Paris 2001; Ikeda 2007); though human security scholarship points to lingering issues in global health, development, and the protection of civilians and migrants, typically human security approaches have failed to prioritize these issues or to provide critical analysis on the proper role or limit of government interventions.[1] In the case of Japan, however, part of the appeal of the concept lies in its vagueness. Currently, Japan finds itself in the midst of contradictory pulls emanating from different levels of politics. On the one hand, the rising threats of a nuclear North Korea, an assertive China, and the fear of abandonment from the US creates a pull toward so-called military 'normalization,' often defined in terms of conventional rearmament and a more autonomous defense posture; as several authors note, the idea that Japan must increase military spending, reform its pacifist constitution, and rely less on the US bilateral security treaty has gained an increasingly ardent following, especially among policy elites in the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) (Envall 2008; Mochizuki 2007). On the other hand, the very current and reoccurring regional and domestic politics of Japanís militarist past tends to push Japanese foreign policy toward a middle power path that emphasizes the countryís role as a civilian humanitarian power, framed as a continuation of its UN-centered diplomacy, regional order-building, and leadership through its official development assistance (ODA).

As this essay will argue, the Japanese commitment to human security can be seen as an assertive bureaucratic strategy by both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) and the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) to promote Japan's contributions to international and regional security without aggravating lingering fears of a revival of Japanese militarism, or directly rejecting a future move toward military normalization. Though human security within Japan has been referred to as a 'discourse,' the literature remains ambivalent as to whether human security is a discourse in the sense that it is hegemonic in the kinds of policy and policy thinking that it allows, or merely one of many discourses deployed instrumentally in the service of Japanese interests. My own readings of Japanese politics suggest that the material effects of human security discourse rarely add up to the net effect of a 'Discourse' in the sense that it restricts what can and cannot be imagined in its domain of influence. In short, while ideas of human security regularly influence the way policy bureaucrats and politicians think about acting in international politics, they do not constrain actorsí thoughts and control mindsets decisively the way hegemonic Discourses are often thought to. If anything, the opposite seems to be true. Within Japan, reports and scholarship on human security are regularly directed by foreign policy bureaucracies in ways that serve bureaucratic objectives, suggesting that contributions to human security can be understood better as an instrumental part of foreign policy.

This essay will begin by defining my own understanding of the term 'D/discourse.' I will then move on to examine Japanís intellectual and practical contributions to human security, followed by a point by point explanation of my rationale for characterizing Japanese human security discourse as instrumental rather than hegemonic. Finally, I will briefly review Ikedaís (2009) explanation of how the concept of human security, as a government-led intellectual product, functions within Japanese foreign policy debates and make some suggestions about the future course of research on Japan and human security.

Two Ways of Writing Discourse

The term discourse is often used to refer to any form of communicationóofficial writing, speeches, conversation, gesticulation, or other communicative performances that are instrumental, communicative, or constitutive (Katzenstein and Okawara 2004: 128; Gee 2005). However, discourse analysis is usually interested in discourse, not for its own sake, but often to understand how instances of discourse (lower case 'd') work within larger systems of meaning, what is referred to as Discourses (capital 'D') (Gee 2005: 27-28). For the purpose of this essay, it is important to make the distinction between these two kinds of discourse explicit: Discourse (capital 'D'), is a hegemonic (but often unstable) system, embedded deeply in institutional practices and literature, that permeates its subject, orders relationships, sets boundaries, and determines what can and cannot be thought in its domain of influence (Escobar 1995; Gee 2005); the other discourse (lower case 'd') works within larger systems of meaning and, as in the case of human security in the Japanese setting, is often used instrumentally.

In terms of analyzing D/discourse, however, the lines of demarcation are never completely clear. Much discourse analysis scholarship is in fact grounded in a careful consideration of how hegemonic structures and instrumental articulations interact. As Milliken writes, one commitment of discourse analysis is seeing Discourses 'as being unstable grids, requiring work to ďarticulateĒ and ďrearticulateĒ their knowledges and identities (to fix the 'regime of truth') and open-ended meshes, making discourses changeable and in fact historically contingent' (Milliken 1999: 230). When scholars (Ikeda 2009; Feigenblatt 2007) talk about human security as a discourse in the Japanese setting, then, what I believe they are referring to are these 'articulations' that help to constitute and reify larger orders of meaning; but in some instances they may actually be referring to human security as a Discourse, i.e. as a system of ordering relations, especially in the case of ODA policymaking. My own attempt to understand Japan's contributions to human security will pay close attention to the historically contingent and limited nature of Japan's human security contributions while attempting to situate them within the larger structures of Japanese security politics--what I have constructed as the contradictory pulls of a civilian humanitarian power and the military normalization agenda. Though the larger question of whether Japan's 'policy-academic complex' (Ikeda 2009) is either purposely or subconsciously feeding a larger hegemonic Discourse is for the moment beyond the scope of this paper, I hope also to point to a few productive avenues for interrogating the future influence of the human security concept within Japan. I do so through a cursory examination of theories of Japanese domestic power and a consideration of changing domestic political dynamics. For now, however, the main contention of this paper is that it is analytically useful to make a distinction between instrumental discourse and hegemonic Discourse. Rather than an overarching structuring force for Japanese politics, human security contributions help to smooth over contradictions within the larger structure of Japanese politics, leading to a very tenuous harmony of international, regional, and domestic concerns over the future direction of security policy.

Japan's Contribution to Human Security

Since the mid-1990s, Japan has been at the forefront of both the conceptual and practical development of human security. The trauma of the first Gulf War, where Japan was labeled a 'pay-check ally' after failing to send troops to Iraq and making only a large financial contribution, served as a catalyst for the reconsideration of its role in international security. The trauma of the first Gulf War would lead to the International Peacekeeping Law (PKO Law) of 1992, and contributions to multilateral peacekeeping operations in Cambodia, Zaire, Mozambique, the Golan Heights, and East Timor. Japan's larger role in peacekeeping would serve as a prelude to its support of the concept of human security, which had been garnering both support and criticism since the publication of the 1994 UNDP Human Development Report. In 1995, Prime Minister Murayama Tomiichiís speech in support of human security, at a Special Commemorative Meeting of the General Assembly to celebrate its 50th anniversary, would make him one of the first heads of states to endorse the idea (EdstrŲm 2008: 77-78). The more explicit incorporation of human security into Japanese foreign policy would occur in 1998, as first Foreign Minister and then later Prime Minister Obuchi Keizo would use the concept in the backdrop of the Asian financial crisis to elucidate his vision for responding to the dilemmas associated with globalization and rapid economic development (Obuchi 1998; MOFA 2009).[2] By personally identifying with the cause of human security, Prime Minister Obuchi was critical in pushing the concept to the forefront of Japanese foreign policy (EdstrŲm 2008: 84-88). Obuchi would respond to the Asian financial crisis by pledging some USD30 billion in aid to countries hit by the crisis (EdstrŲm 2008: 98). Following Obuchiís stroke and subsequent death, Prime Minister Mori Yoshiro would continue the progress made by Obuchi by establishing and financing a joint project with the UN secretariat, the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security (UNTFHS), the main instrument to date for the actualization of human security projects. As of February 2007, the fund had sponsored some 170 projects with financial contributions of USD297 million (Saito and Gomez 2007; MOFA, 2007: 5; Lam 2006: 148). UNTFHS programs typically focus on the Lowest of the Least Developed Countries and help fill the gap between humanitarian and development assistance (Saito and Gomez 2007). In addition to the UNTFHS, Japan also helped establish the Commission on Human Security in 2001, co-chaired by Ms. Ogata Sadako and Professor Amartya Sen, to help further develop the human security concept and recommend techniques for its practical application; the commission submitted its final report in 2003 (MOFA 2009; CHS 2003).

Beyond the UNTFHS, Japanese implementation of its human security doctrine can be seen in its response to the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis, its peacemaking in Cambodia and Aceh, its peacebuilding in Aceh and Mindanao, and in its response to the tsunami-stricken Aceh, where Japan sent the largest contingent of Japanese troops since the end of World War II for humanitarian assistance in 2005 (Lam 2006). However, while Japan's foreign policy draws from the well of human security thinking, much of its policies are also inextricably tied with concepts and practices that predate the human security concept. Even though the establishment of the United Nations Trust Fund for Human Security (UNTFHS) and the Commission on Human Security (CHS) can be viewed as firmly rooted in the desire to mainstream the human security concept, other measures like increased contributions to peacekeeping (for example in Cambodia) and ODA assistance to help develop a larger sphere of economic prosperity in Asia, predate Japan's adoption of a human security framework. In the case of ODA assistance, the human security concept can be said to have helped refine, reinvigorate, and repackage assistance to focus more on the neediest countries, especially in Africa; however, some of this repackaging has also been geared toward creating a more vibrant public diplomacy to offset views that Japan is not living up to its great power potential. Even more difficult to justify in terms of human security are measures to support US-driven interests in Iraq and the Global War on Terror (GWOT). Though the dispatch of Japan Self Defense Forces (JSDF) for humanitarian assistance to Iraq ostensibly falls within a human security framework, it is hard to conceptualize their deployment in these terms given the war's unpopularity at home and its failure to gain UN backing. In the backdrop of September 11th, the second Iraq War, and the rise of an administration not particularly enamored with human security, the concept took a back seat to the larger exigencies of US alliance maintenance (EdstrŲm 2008: 141).

In response to the growing financial crisis one might have expected the concept to come to the fore again, especially since Japan's own use of the term came about during the Asian financial crisis. However, since the scaling down of human security rhetoric during the Koizumi administration, and partially because of the lack of personal attention Koizumi himself gave to the subject (EdstrŲm 2008: 131-135), the initiative has largely passed to the foreign policy bureaucracies MOFA and JICA, which continue to circulate and emphasize the term in their official white papers, conferences, and practically in ODA policy. Though the early personal attention of Prime Ministers Obuchi and Mori was essential for beginning the drive to mainstream human security discourse, it seems now that MOFA and JICA have become the de facto owners of Japanís initiatives to promote the concept. In this backdrop, it should be noted that while the concept has been given increasingly little political attention, as a bureaucratically-led scholarly movement, the concept continues to grow and become part of an elite foreign policy-making culture. This is partially a result of its incorporation into academic programs like Tokyo University and Tohoku University's graduate programs in human security (Ikeda 2009). Especially important in this regard are the efforts of Ogata Sadako―the former head of the UNHCR, the co-chair of the Commission on Human Security, and now head of JICA―as a figurehead for the human security movement. Ms. Ogata's respected position both within international and domestic politics makes her endorsement of the concept especially important for the future influence of human security discourse.

Given the distinction I have made between instrumental and hegemonic discourse, I will now discuss why Japan's active support of human security should be considered instrumental. First, at the most superficial level, Japanese support for human security is still relatively new, only a little more than a decade old. Commentators on Japanese politics often note that typically policy change happens at a glacial pace. Though the trauma of the first Gulf War, and the label of being a 'paycheck ally,' may have given some impetus for pursuing a more assertive foreign policy, typically the formation of hegemonic Discourses are the result of a long process of accretion at the institutional level. Second, the discourse of human security has been left conveniently vague by Japanese officials; in the absence of concrete principles for actualization, discourses are more likely to be instrumental than constitutive. Three, human security discourse is typically directed outward; while human security has some resonance with domestic policy, conflicting discourses in domestic politics demonstrates just how restricted human security discourse is within Japan. Four, even within the limited sphere of MOFA, JICA, and ODA policymaking―where human security would be expected to have the most influence―the human security concept is penetrated by a bevy of competing concepts and interests. Finally, human security discourse seems to have little to no impact on the main pillar of Japanese defense policy, the US-Japan bilateral security agreement. The best case that can be made for human security is that it has had a dampening influence on pressures to reform or reinterpret Article 9 of the constitution, increase defense spending, and to formally commit to a robust collective security role.

Human Security as an 'instrumental discourse'

One reason to suggest that human security is not ideologically hegemonic is that the concept is too new and often seems to augment or repackage long-standing policies, what EdstrِŲm (2008: 151-2) calls 'old wine in new bottles. Though an understanding and acknowledgment of non-military aspects of security can be traced back to The Comprehensive Security Report of 1980 (which broadened threats beyond states to include issues of energy, food security, and defense against earthquakes), the pursuit of human security did not begin to appear in speeches and official MOFA documents until the mid-1990s in the backdrop of the Asian financial crisis. Though by no means a necessary requirement for the formation of hegemonic discourses, typically longer incubation processes help inculcate concepts and practices into the institutions and organizations that use them. Japan is well recognized for the glacial pace at which it implements policy changes. Even taking into account the impetus of the first Gulf War, which gave MOFA and Japan's political establishment reason to implement bold policy changes like the enactment of the 1992 PKO Law, the relatively short history of human security's influence in MOFA and JICA should give pause to those who would consider human security a major driver of foreign policy, even in the restricted realm of ODA. For Japan the concept of human security has been instrumental in reemphasizing its ODA contributions as part of a 'comprehensive security' (sōgō anzen hoshō) contribution. The concept of comprehensive security―which emphasizes contributions in ODA, debt forgiveness, and contributions to international and regional organizations as part of its security contribution―has been a pillar of Japanese security thinking since the oil shock of 1973 and has frequently been marshaled as a defense against claims that Japan is an international security free-rider (EdstrŲm 2008: 63). Thus, the popularity of the human security concept has made the discourse a useful tool for re-emphasizing its contributions to economic development and attempts at regional institutional building as a way of realizing its role as a unique civilian power.

Another reason that Japanese contributions to human security should be labeled as instrumental, and not hegemonic, is that the human security concept itself is vague; this vagueness provides Japanese officials with the opportunity to interpret the concept in ways that fit their own interests. As stated earlier, numerous authors have pointed to the analytical weakness of the term human security and the difficulties in operationalizing the concept. This vagueness has provided opportunities for countries to interpret and use human security in ways that augment their already established security or development niches. While Canada has stressed the human rights and civilian protection aspect of the concept, Japan is careful to avoid issues of military intervention and to stress the development aspects of human security (Sato 2007: 84; EdstrِŲm 2008: 111). This has allowed Japan to retain soft policies on human rights abuses in Asia, most conspicuously with Myanmar and China. Regional sensitivities, intensified by the active politics of remembering Japanís militarist past in many Asian nations, are a major contributing factor to the difference in perspective with Canada. Thus, in order to emphasize the non-military aspects of human security, the Japanese government has consistently emphasized the non-interventionist character of human security, even going as far as to decline participation in Canadian initiatives such as meetings of the Human Security Network on several occasions (EdstrِŲm 2008: 111-112).

In addition to exploiting the vagueness of the human security concept, Japanese human security discourse is also largely outwardly directed. As Sato (2007) observes, human security is often written in ways that construct people in developing countries as the object of human security, with the Japanese state as the agent of rescue for the largely helpless people of the developing world. In this way, the human security framework largely ignores domestic Japanese (Sato 2007: 90). The relatively limited narrative hold that human security has in domestic politics, for example, can be seen in the paradoxical relationship it has with another kind of public rhetoric, 'self-responsibility' (jiko sekinin) (Hook and Takeda 2007). This discourse, begun under the Koizumi administration, asks Japanese citizens to take on more risk and greater vulnerability in the wake of economic structural reform, and thus, contradicts research on human security that emphasizes the greater vulnerabilities that globalization and economic development has created. Even as Japan continues to push the logic of human security through its diplomatic discourse, domestically economic structural adjustments are pushing more of the risks of economic liberalization onto Japanese citizens. This trend can be seen in the increased risk faced by young people of irregular employment due to the unwinding of the Japanese cultural practice of lifetime employment (Hook and Takeda 207: 95). Fundamental changes in the domestic labor market and domestic labor laws have made irregular employment a common phenomenon. The inside/outside incongruities in human security discourse can be read as a relative weakness of the term outside of the specific purview of foreign policy, and especially outside of the MOFA and JICA bureaucracies. The fact that the promotion of human security by Japanese officials rarely amounts to a challenge of the fundamental aspects of globalization or the liberal state demonstrates just how limited the discourse has been in the service of foreign policy.

Even within the very narrow realm of ODA policy, the dominant influence of human security discourse is questionable. Just as in other facets of Japan's approach to human security, with ODA foreign policy human security discourse is permeated with ideas that predate or were concurrent with the human security concept. Though human security figures prominently in the revised ODA charter of 2003, the concept of human security is placed alongside the ideas of self-help, fairness, and the utilization of Japanís expertise as basic principles of development assistance (MOFA 2003). Because these principles remain at least as ambiguous as the human security concept, Japanís ODA charter remains constructed in such a way as to allow for a great deal of diplomatic maneuverability (Strefford 2006: 158-159; Strefford 2007: 68). Thus, as might be expected, ODA continues to play a number of non-human security roles from providing 'seed money' for overseas Japanese business investments, to export promotion, to regional political integration. In terms of Japan's contribution through the UNTFHS, what may be considered Japanís main (and purest) contribution to human security, expenditures on this and other projects such as Grant Assistance for Human Security Projects is miniscule in comparison with total ODA grant figures (MOFA 2008: 161). In addition, the UNTFHS remains a largely joint UN-Japan project, with Tokyo retaining the ability to reject projects at its discretion (EdstrِŲm 2008: 161). Thus, UNTFHS projects and regular ODA funded projects are often difficult to distinguish (EdstrِŲm 2008: 164) and noticeably have sidestepped issues of human rights in their projects (EdstrِŲm 2008: 165; Fujioka 2003). EdstrِŲm (2008: 162) suggests that the perception that the UNTFHS remains a largely Japanese project, with no other countries offering additional support, has undermined the ability of the fund to attract other donors, thus limiting the fundís ability to help mainstream the human security concept.

Despite the deliberate ambiguity that besets Japanís ODA charter, however, the circulation of human security discourse can be said to have had some ordering effects; from 2000 to 2007 the amount of aid directed to Africa as a percentage of total ODA has risen from 8.7 to 29.4, while the amount of aid to Asian countries has fallen from 54.8 per cent to 28.3 (MOFA 2008: 47; Trinidad 2007: 108). This change in aid priority can be seen as legitimate shift by the Japanese government toward the use of ODA to help reach its commitment of becoming a model civilian humanitarian power; in this sense, Trinidad (2007) suggests that aid dispersal is moving closer to the MOFA discourse of promoting humanitarian objectives and further away from the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industryís (METI) mercantilist objectives. Still, at the project planning level, the vagueness of the human security concept has made it difficult to distinguish between human security ideas and other popular development ideas in circulation, such as sustainable, participatory, and grass-root development (Feigneblatt 2007: 9; EdstrِŲm 2008: 154-55). Through an examination of JICA project proposals, Feigenblatt (2007) concludes that some projects were clearly developed with a participatory development and sustainable development framework in mind, but were then justified through the language of human security.

Finally, human security has failed to have any significant impact on the most important aspect of Japanese security policy: the Japan-US bilateral security treaty. Despite Japan's aggressive promotion of human security, a great deal of effort still goes into maintaining the US-Japanese alliance based on very narrow state security interests. The most that can be said of human security discourse is that Japanese officials hope to use human security to bolster their traditional 'comprehensive security' argument. The concept of comprehensive security is commonly used as a rationale to blunt US pressure for Japan to become 'normal,' usually framed as increased defense spending and a commitment to collective security on behalf of the US. Though the subject is still under debate, many politicians and constitutional scholars argue that collective defense, the attack of a country in defense of an ally, is prohibited under the Japanese constitution (Ishibashi 2007: 772). In the wake of the September 11th attacks on the United States, Japanese efforts to mainstream human security largely took a backseat, restricted to a continuation of the initiatives begun during Prime Minister Obuchiís term. This was partly due to Prime Minister Koizumiís lack of interest in the subject, but was also to some degree predicated on the need to reemphasize alliance maintenance. For Sato (2007), Japanese assistance to the US in the Iraq war is a symbol of the ambiguity and incongruity that highlights human security discourse and its relationship to the US-Japan security treaty. Though Japanese support of US operations in Iraq (authorized under the Law Concerning the Special Measures on Humanitarian and Reconstruction Assistance in Iraq) restricts the JSDF forces to humanitarian assistance, the war is nevertheless hard to characterize in human security terms. The Iraq war, opposed by a large portion of the Japanese public (Ishibashi 2007) and fought without the support of the UN, hardly fits within a human security framework as defined by anyone. The dissonance between Japan's contributions to US operations in Iraq and its own contributions to human security is even harder to reconcile when juxtaposed with Japanís practice of only dispatching JSDF forces for overseas missions that have the support of the UN Security Council. Thus, Japan's contributions make sense only in terms of alliance maintenance, a goal that fits with Japan's state security needs and is rooted in its fear of abandonment by the US. Japan's human security discourse has had no significant impact on Japan-US security arrangements other than to restrict Japanese contributions to roles that are seen as largely innocuous to Article 9 of the Japanese constitution. In doing so, Sato (2007: 96) suggests that Japan is accomplishing little more than adding a mild human security component to US state security measures.

Human Security as a 'Manufactured Discourse' and Future Research into Japan's Human Security Discourse

Thus far, this essay has characterized Japan's human security discourse as instrumental in that it allows Japanese officials to cope with larger contradictory pulls toward military normalization and a peaceful civilian middle power course. However, my exclusive focus on the deficits of human security as a Discourse has thus far neglected just how effective and well-constructed human security has been as a discourse. Human security discourse has given the Japanese government a new forum for renewing ideas of comprehensive security and pursuing a greater international contribution that does not infringe upon Article 9 of its constitution, while at the same time leaving volatile issues such as the resurgence of the Japanese military largely untouched. Indeed, as several scholars (Lam 2006, Ikeda 2009, Sato 2007) point out, Japanese human security discourse, by purposely avoiding the 'freedom from fear' aspects of the concept, has been specifically tailored to accomplish these goals. Along this line of thinking, one must ask: Whose discourse is it and how was/is it constructed? What functions does it serve? And how is human security discourse likely to impact the future of Japanese security policy?

In describing how human security works as a discourse in Japanese foreign policy, Ikeda (2009) argues that human security can be thought of as product of the Japanese 'policy-academic complex.' Just as revisionist economists have characterized Japan's economic policy during the development years as bureaucratically-led, Ikeda (2009) argues that Japanese human security discourse should similarly be conceptualized as a bureaucratically-led initiative. Ikeda (2009) states that the production of human security discourse can be seen as an 'assembly line' process where foreign ideas are first imported and relevant parts are then collected, put together, and constructed in ways that fit particularly Japanese needs. Thus, since Prime Minister Obuchi popularized the concept of human security, MOFA and the JICA have played a crucial role not only in defining Japan's contributions and use of the term, but also, setting the agenda for policy research in academic programs and think tanks. Since the drive to mainstream the concept, graduate schools in Tokyo and Tohoku Universities have created degree programs in human security that feature a basic human security 'core' which students then supplement with their own unique focuses in human health, agriculture, economics, or peace-building. This change in the academic landscape of Japan is significant, as it corresponds with larger graduate school reforms directed largely by the changing needs of government bureaucracies (Ikeda 2009).

However, one implication of Ikeda's work is that in order to understand the future evolution of human security and its impact on Japanese foreign policy, one must understand the institutional culture of MOFA and JICA and how both institutions function within larger streams of Japanese politics. Currently, the scholarly literature is deeply ambivalent about where true foreign policy decision-making power lies within Japan. Though some scholars highlight the unusually strong influence of the bureaucracies in drafting legislation, setting policy agendas, and maintaining continuity from one cabinet to the next, popular and charismatic Prime Ministers have from time to time been able to wrestle power away from the bureaucracies. Others, in stressing the great deal of continuity between administrations and leaders note that decision-makers among the LDP, bureaucracies, and business elites largely share similar upper-middle class backgrounds and education. In this sense, the diffusion of human security education into graduate schools may serve to embed human security discourse in the future leaders of Japan. Thus, human security could become a useful tool for promoting what has typically been thought of as the MOFA preference for Japan to become an influential civilian humanitarian power; this would contrast with heavy nationalist strains within the conservative wing of the LDP that promote the military normalization agenda. As the newly formed Ministry of Defense rises to the rank of a full-fledged foreign policy ministry, and as the JSDF continues to gain acceptance by the Japanese public, one also has to wonder what influence, if any, human security discourse will have outside of MOFA and JICA, and whether a bureaucratic rivalry will develop on par with rivalries of other countriesí foreign and defense ministries.


Japan faces a dilemma regarding how to deal with the current impasse between the option of becoming a normal military power and the option of pursuing the path of a unique civilian humanitarian power. The discourse of human security gives Japan one tool for promoting the so-called 'middle power' ambition of reaching a 'unique and great' position among nations; thus, human security discourse in this context works side by side with other initiatives to improve regional integration through ASEAN and align Japanese foreign policy with the multilateral world politics of the UN. However, one of the main reasons human security has been permissible as a discourse is that it is largely innocuous to the agenda of military normalization, a pet project of the right wing of the LDP. As the recent deployment of JSDF forces to Iraq has shown, the vagueness of the human security concept makes it a permissible discourse for security actions that fall outside of the purview of Japanís typically UN/multilateral-centered policy.

Though this essay has argued that human security discourse should be seen as an instrumental discourse, and has provided some cursory examinations of how human security discourse interacts with larger foreign policy politics, I have not systematically examined how instrumental human security 'articulations' work within larger political discursive structures of meaning, or Discourses. Even though this essay has used the disparate pulls of military normalization and the course toward a unique civilian power as useful stand-ins, this quick and easy structural analysis leaves out other equally plausible overarching structures, including: policies of UN-centrism, US-centrism, bilateralism, emergent regionalism, the Yoshida Doctrine, and anti-militarism. Most prominent of all, perhaps, is the political desire to do away with foreign policy (and especially security) debates altogether and focus on Japanís domestic economic woes. In an environment where oneís political fortunes are linked to the ability to hold out hope of resurrecting the ailing economy, or alleviating the problems of market liberalism, politicians have an incentive to deemphasize foreign policy issues.

In the context of a lack of interest from the Prime Minister's office, one has to wonder, however, how successful or even sustainable Japan's current efforts at human security discourse can be. Though the Japanese policy elite continue to take pride in the country's status as an aid great power 'enjo taikoku,' ODA contributions may continue to drop as the Japanese public begins to experience aid fatigue (EdstrِŲm 2008: 146-47; MOFA 2008: 47), and the Japanese government looks to trim their ballooning deficits. Even as aid begins to be redirected away from regional interests in Asia toward Africa, overall ODA has fallen from 0.28 percentage of Gross National Income in 1998 to 0.17 in 2007 (MOFA 2008).[3] Though a lack of political attention has not disrupted the basic policy continuity of human security advocacy, one has to wonder how motivated the bureaucracies will be to continue to fuel efforts to mainstream human security discourse. At the very least it seems as if the discourse of human security has been successful at securing firmer roots at the grassroots level of international scholarship and in domestic foreign policy education. This may produce some form of parochial discursive hegemony in MOFA and JICA; however, one has to wonder how the rise of the Ministry of Defense will bode for the overall policy influence of human security beyond ODA.

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[1] For one especially insightful article into how human security discourse threatens to include all aspects biological life under the purview of national security, see Berman (2007) .

[2] For an official accounting of Japan's contribution to human security, please visit the MOFA website.

[3] For detailed trend analysis and breakdown of Japanís ODA spending for fiscal year 2007, see MOFAís ODA White Paper for 2008.

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Berman, J. (2007) The 'Vital Core': from Bare Life to the Biopolitics of Human Security, in Giorgio Shani, Makoto Sato and Mustapha Kamal Pasha (eds.) Protecting Human Security in a Post 9/11 World: Critical and Global Insights, London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Commission on Human Security (CHS) (2003) Human Security Now.

Edson, S. (2001) Human Security: An Extended and Annotated International Bibliography, Common Security Forum, Cambridge: Centre for History and Economics, Kings College, University of Cambridge.

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About the author

Daniel Clausen is currently a PhD student in International Relations at Florida International University. He is a graduate from the University of Miami with a BA in English and American Studies. He completed an MA degree in Strategic Studies from American Public University System-AMU while teaching English in Japan. His current research focuses on the domestic political dynamics of Japanese defense policy, Japanís pursuit of human security, and the relationship between development aid and conflict.

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Copyright: Daniel Clausen
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31 October 2009.

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