What are safety, security and justice?

The importance of personal safety for citizens is linked to the need to establish human security, a people-centred notion of security, which recognises that ‘all individuals, in particular vulnerable people, are entitled to freedom from fear and freedom from want, with an equal opportunity to enjoy all their rights and fully develop their human potential’ (UNGA, 2005, p. 31).

Security and justice are partially overlapping concepts, which are often understood differently by different stakeholders, including citizens, representatives of civil society, national governments and donors (GFN-SSR, 2010).

DFID provides the following definition:

Security and justice … refer to values and goals (e.g. freedom, fairness, personal safety) as well as to the various institutions established to deliver them (e.g. defence forces, police, courts). An environment where the rule of law is respected and security bodies are under the control of civilian authorities will help people feel safe and secure and encourage them to claim their rights as citizens. Conversely, where there is no effective and accountable national security structure, violence can permeate society and injustice can prevail. (DFID, 2007, p. 10)

Safety, security and justice are linked as part of the rule of law, which may be seen as an overarching principle to guide security and justice programming (van Veen and Derks, 2012). The rule of law contributes to a number of outcomes, including personal safety and security, justice, equality and peaceful conflict management (DFID, 2013b). Safety, security and justice are incorporated in the World Justice Project’s (WJP) definition of the rule of law:

  • The government and its officials and agents as well as individuals and private entities are accountable under the law.
  • The laws are clear, publicised, stable, and just, are applied evenly, and protect fundamental rights, including the security of persons and property.
  • The process by which the laws are enacted, administered, and enforced is accessible, fair, and efficient.
  • Justice is delivered timely by competent, ethical, and independent representatives and neutrals who are of sufficient number, have adequate resources, and reflect the makeup of the communities they serve (Agrast et al, 2013, p. 3).
  • Agrast, M.D., Carlos Botero, J., Martinez, J., Ponce, A., & Pratt, C.S. (2013). The World Justice Project: Rule of Law Index 2012-2013. Washington D.C.: The World Justice Project.
    See document online
  • DFID. (2007). Explanatory Note of Security and Access to Justice for the Poor. DFID Briefing April 2007. London: DFID.
  • DFID. (2013b). Rule of Law policy approach. London: Department for International Development.
  • GFN-SSR. (2010). Mapping of Southern Security and Justice Civil Society Organisations and Networks. Birmingham: Global Facilitation Network for Security Sector Reform, University of Birmingham.
    See document online
  • UNGA. (2005). Resolution Adopted by the General Assembly: 2005 World Summit Outcome. New York: United Nations General Assembly.
    See document online
  • Van Veen, E. & Derks, M. (2012). The Deaf, the Blind and the Politician: The Troubles of Justice and Security Interventions in Fragile States. Hague Journal on the Rule of Law, 4, 76-97.
    See document online