The idea of “human security” is gaining attention among policy-makers and security analysts. Little scholarly attention has been given to the questions of why states accept (or reject) a human security agenda or how such an agenda is incorporated into policy practices. The article suggests that a human security approach is most likely to be applied when both humanitarian and national interests combine. Yet when states or organisations adopt a human security approach, they often misjudge the complex and long-term commitment required of such an approach. There is also the potential for such an agenda to be manipulated to justify questionable courses of action. These issues frame an analysis of six recent case studies.