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21 February 2013

Spending aid money on security

Poor people need security in exactly the same way that they need access to clean water, shelter, food, healthcare and education.  Security is a basic service and is the business of people, their governments and development programmes.  When poor people are safer, then their countries are more peaceful and stable – and the world is safer too.  Insecurity fuels the sense of economic, political and social marginalisation which fosters resentment towards an unequal world.  Improved security is, therefore, a direct benefit poor and rich, African and European alike.

Peace keeping vs peace support

Peace keeping – an essentially military activity which seeks to protect, promote and enable the political process of making peace – is an expensive and difficult task.  Peace support – an integrated civilian-military task – integrates peace keeping into a number of linked activities designed to help ensure that fragile and conflict afflicted states sustainably emerge into peace and security.  These activities include humanitarian assistance, development, economic support as well as the development of a culture of rule of law.  All require security.  But security cannot be imposed or achieved in a vacuum.  Security and development are two sides of the same coin.

Human security

Ordinary people should be the main beneficiary of improved security.  It is an essential element in improving their human security.  Human security links integrates their physical safety with their welfare.  Only when people are both safe and well can the stability of their community, country or region be assured.  Investments in security which do not identify ordinary people as the ultimate beneficiary are unlikely to effective.

Improved security planning

In the same way that development programmes seek to assist the governments of poor countries to improve their economic planning, helping governments to plan the development and direction of their security sectors is key.  Indeed, improved and integrated security planning can also help countries emerging from conflict to get to grips important aspects of both state and nation building too.

An important military role but not a military lead

The military can play an important part in helping countries effect the transformation from conflict to peace and stability.  Soldiers can often talk to other soldiers (including those newly in power) in a way that diplomats and others cannot.  And the military strengths of clarity of mission and translating political direction into operational reality fit well in the post-conflict environment.  But the overall task of delivering security in concert with development is primarily a civilian one; and is overwhelmingly strategic. 

An integrated approach

So if the UK is to spend more aid money on security and stabilisation, the military will often find themselves in the frontline of delivery but the goals towards which they are working must be set developmentally and politically.  In this respect, the suggestion that funds should be transferred from the Department for International Development (DFID) to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is poorly conceived.  A better approach would be to increase HMG’s ability to plan and act in an integrated manner – for example through mechanisms like the Conflict Prevention Pool (CPP) and the UK Stabilisation Unit.  Competing for Whitehall funding between Departments does not have to be a winner takes all game.  Fragile and conflict afflicted states need the British Government to practice what it preaches and to keep an eye on the big picture.

20 February 2013

Global security and security sector development in Africa

Insecurity in Africa is increasingly acknowledged as a threat to global security. But tackling it often prioritises the interests of the international community at the expense of people in Africa and the Continent’s long-term stability. The nature of the threat is rarely traditional and military in nature, but has its roots in governance weakness. Narrowly focussed security-led interventions in Africa can lead to uneven development of African security sector capabilities. As a consequence, fragile and conflict afflicted states in Africa are at risk of becoming brittle – apparently strong but in fact inflexible and unresponsive to the needs of citizens.

Threats from Africa vs threats to Africa

Africa generates a number of threats to the wider world. These include migration driven by poverty, conflict and natural disaster; trans-national organised crime facilitated by lack of effective governance; terrorism; and piracy. These threats do not lend themselves to traditional military-security responses and the extent to which Africa itself is threatened by them is debatable. Few are actually the stuff of day to day security concern amongst ordinary Africans who are more likely to prioritise safety and security in their communities and the effects of corruption. Clearly international and African concerns share common roots. But the extent to which this is recognised by international security practitioners is limited.

Narrowly focussed security led responses

International efforts to counter insecurity from Africa often involve targeted interventions to address proximate threats. International concerns about terrorism often lead to the development of operational police and military units designed solely to partner international security agencies. The global impact of piracy often leads to the development of coast guard and naval capacities which characterise the maritime domain only as a source of threat to be controlled rather than as an economic resource to be regulated, policed and sustainably exploited.

Uneven security sector development

This narrow focus risks leading to the uneven development of African security sector agencies. Those agencies thought to be vital to tackling international security concerns receive the lion’s share of international support, whilst others – those more associated with the delivery of security as a basic service to ordinary people - receive little or no attention. This inevitably leads to a crisis of legitimacy for the security agencies in receipt of international support who are at risk of becoming increasingly capable but increasingly less accountable.

Integrated approach

Tackling insecurity in Africa in such a way as to address proximate global security concerns and the longer term developmental needs of African states requires an integrated approach. Security partnerships with Africa need to identify, enlarge and be built upon areas of genuine common interest. Building niche security sector capacities designed to counter a narrow spectrum of insecurity leads to uneven development of security sector capabilities and the inevitable de-prioritisation of the security needs of ordinary people. The international community – especially its donor agencies – needs to understand the links between development and security; and the need to work with African governments to make their security sector agencies accountable, adequate, affordable and appropriate. Security interventions in Africa which simply build the capacity of the governments to act robustly risk converting fragile and conflict afflicted states into brittle ones.