A fundamental tension exists within the concept of human security. This tension emanates from what the United Nations General Assembly calls ‘the mutually reinforcing pillars of protection and empowerment’ (United Nations General Assembly 2012: 7). Specifically, this refers to the combination of a ‘bottomup’ dynamic, where people at the grassroots level are empowered as actors to participate in endeavours to improve their quality of life and secure their human rights; and a ‘top-down’ dynamic, where governments and states are expected to protect people, and actively provide human rights assurance and facilitation. The coherence and compatibility of these two aspects exists in theory, but how do they play out in practice? What happens to human security when governments are seen to fail in their human security role as protector? Does failure in one sphere fatally compromise the integrity of the human security concept as a whole? In answering these questions we can gauge whether civil society and government are actually co-dependent and complementary actors, especially when human security challenges arise within the borders of a sovereign nation-state in the aftermath of disaster.