Engaging Armed Groups in Development Cooperation
"Engagement" with armed groups in development cooperation takes many forms.
Among concept developers and practitioners from the development, security and defence domains, it has become commonplace to emphasize the interfaces between security and development.
"No security without development and no development without security" has come to serve as an agreeable formula which is gaining ground not only in debates and essays, but also in policy papers and high level strategy documents. But why has the development community taken up this issue? How can we characterize the security-development nexus from a development point of view? And can security issues be an opportunity for development policy? This article provides an introductory framework for this issue of Digital Development Debates by depicting the dynamics that put security on the development agenda, illustrating the ways in which security issues affect development cooperation and reflecting on opportunities.
The term security has changed considerably over the past two decades. After the Cold War and its "domesticating" effect on many conflicts ended, new risks and security challenges emerged which resulted in a more diffuse, more fluent, and highly contingent security landscape. More than just the traditional compartmentalization of domestic security and external defence dissolved as a consequence. The boundaries between security policy and other policy arenas such as diplomacy, economics, social policy and development policy have also become blurred. In the early 1990s, the concept of human security introduced the dimension of individual needs to the debate, conceptualizing security as freedom from fear and want. Some proponents understood human security as a rejection of and an explicit alternative to the state-centric concept of security. It has had an enlightening influence on the latter concept instead, so that at least among EU member states, individual and civil society safety and security needs have become a fundamental element when thinking about security.
The notion of development has long been associated primarily with the issue of integrating weak economies into the global trade system. Economic issues, operationally realised as technical assistance, therefore predominated the concept of development for decades. Then, in the early 1990s, the question of whether and how domestic institutions matter came onto the agenda. This was brought about by disillusionment after two decades of unsuccessful macro-economic aid approaches. As attention to the flaws of domestic institutional and political processes in recipient countries grew, the way was paved for a broader approach to development policy. More emphasis was soon placed on long-term capacity building and the responsibility and ownership of recipients. The concept of good governance developed in the wake of this shift, introducing adherence to human rights, rule of law, democratic participation, transparency, effectiveness and efficiency, consistency, coherence, and sustainability as normative principles for development concepts and programs. Development cooperation grew more political as a result.
In the aftermath of the Cold War, these independent dynamics in the security and development arenas intersected at three distinct junctions:
First, development aid practitioners in many partner countries have been increasingly confronted with insecurity due to political instability, weak governance, and the multiple negative effects of violent conflicts, poverty, and/or natural catastrophes on security. Insecurity has hampered widespread day-project business and has often imperilled the fulfilment of long-term project objectives. Because it has become harder and harder to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants, between victims and offenders in the context of violent conflicts, development policy has often been forced to cooperate with actors whose roles were questionable.
Against this backdrop, the concept of human security offered a welcome lever, a way to embrace security issues without being too closely associated with traditional security interests. Moreover, the growing focus on institutions and governance issues has almost automatically brought development actors closer to security actors, such as the police or the military. Since 1990, the number of international military peacekeeping and stabilization missions has risen and there have been a growing number of direct encounters on the ground between development practitioners and soldiers. And last but not least, insecurity has required coping strategies for hitherto rather unfamiliar subjects, such as personnel and facility protection and in some cases abductions, trauma, and loss of life as well. All these factors have led to a growing awareness and acknowledgement of the evident need to tackle security issues in their various facets as an integral element of development cooperation in poor and conflict-prone countries.
Second, the establishment of peacebuilding in the late 1990s as the guiding concept of international conflict and crisis management provided a framework in which civilian and military instruments, presumed to be elements of a comprehensive, concerted effort, would have a common point of reference. In this context, the use of the military as an instrument of international conflict and crisis management has witnessed considerable change. While for decades traditional peacekeeping under the aegis of the UN had limited the military to monitoring cease-fire agreements, guarding borders, separating parties in conflict or simply observing the situation, the international interventions in former Yugoslavia introduced a dramatic extension of the military's role. Since then, military tasks in international conflict and crisis management range from various supporting roles in humanitarian aid or civilian reconstruction via quasi police functions all the way to the stabilisation of the security situation, counter insurgency, urban warfare, and offensive operations.
Without the skills, assets and experience to assume the responsibilities of the police, humanitarian aid and development organisations, a strong impetus has emerged from the military to more systematically tackle the interface between civil and military actors. The military has realised that post-conflict reconstruction and sustainable development are the only exit strategy out of long-term military stabilisation and peace support missions.
Third, in the context of the so-called Global War on Terror, more attention has been drawn to the causes and the conditions that give rise to terrorism. Based on concern for the security of the highly industrialized states and the global stability needed for international trade, the anti-terrorist campaign launched by the US after the attacks of 11 September 2001 emphasized another aspect of the security-development nexus, which, up to then, had focussed more on the stability of developing countries. Anti-terrorism stresses the risks and threats that emanate from developing countries for our own societies, thereby rendering development policy a more key element of governmental power instruments. Peacebuilding and anti-terrorism coincide in the field more and more, though they originate from different contexts. Against this background, development cooperation has moved towards "typical" security topics such as border security, military reform, policing, the fight against organised crime, and even technical aspects of security like cyber security, detection techniques, etc.
Although the dynamics described above seem compelling, we can still detect certain reservations in parts of the development community about becoming too closely entangled with security issues. We should therefore go into the details of the interfaces between development cooperation and security in its various facets.
Development cooperation and security issues in poor and conflict-prone countries and/or peacebuilding contexts.
With regard to work in poor and conflict-prone countries and/or peacebuilding contexts, insecurity has a far-reaching impact on...
a) ...the individual dimension of development since it negatively affects
b) ...the socio-structural dimension of development since it negatively affects
c) ...the governance dimension of development since it negatively affects
d) ...the international dimension of development since it negatively affects
Since insecurity affects all dimensions of societal development, it affects development cooperation in poor countries and/or peacebuilding contexts in three aspects:
Terrorism is a highly complex phenomenon which would lead us too far astray from the focus of this article. However, a brief mention of its root causes - poverty, lack of education, democratic deficits, the fragility of state institutions, social deprivation, problems of identity - makes clear that there is much overlap with traditional fields of development cooperation. In this context, experience, concepts, methods, approaches and instruments of development cooperation have attracted the attention of those who conceived of the fight against terrorism in more than just military terms. Seen from the angle of the development community, this resulted in an ambivalent dynamic. On the one hand, political attention and acceptance for development cooperation as a foreign policy instrument grew and with it the readiness to raise the budget. Development activities that hitherto had been perceived by large parts of the security community as peripherally important at best suddenly gained importance in the light of the anti-terror framework. On the other hand, recognizing the potential of development cooperation in the context of the fight against terrorism also implied a desire to embed development policy in the strategic community, though only as a junior partner and/or a disposable instrument.
The so-called "Global War on Terror" as such does not directly affect the conditions for development cooperation nor does it per se require adaptations to the ways and means in which development cooperation is being delivered. But as it often coincides with peacebuilding activities, it affects development cooperation at three levels. At the politico-strategic level, it affects the self-conception of development cooperation as a policy field sui generis. The dilemma for development policy makers in playing an active role in anti-terrorism is having to choose between the benefits of more political visibility and influence on the one hand and the risk of being instrumentalized by the strategic community and thus losing credibility or sacrificing basic principles on the other. At the level of programming, an active part in anti-terrorist policies may force development actors to subsume their objectives and activities to the ultimate objective of the fight against terrorism, possibly at the expense of long-term development goals. At the field level, development actors run the risk of being associated with foreign security interests. Moreover, coherence between development and security actors requires adequate formats for information exchange and coordination, accompanied by all the inherent challenges of civil-military interactions.
Against the backdrop of the intersections between security and development policy mentioned above, we can conclude that – assuming we adhere to a self-conception of development cooperation as a policy instrument in its own right with specialised methods and approaches – it is not a question of whether development policy should, but how it can tackle the challenges of the complex security-development nexus best. In addition to the many inherent risks and perils, some of which were described above, a proactive examination and addressing of security issues from a development perspective can also open considerable opportunities:
The assertion of Willy Brandt, Nobel Peace Prize laureate and former German Chancellor, that development policy is the peace policy of the 21st century, can gain further momentum if the development community is ready to tackle security issues with self-confidence.