In March of this year, the (OECD) decided to alter definition of official development assistance to include costs of certain defense and security programs, including ways of preventing violent extremism. Some writers have suggested that this has expanded the relationship between development and security.
Although the changes were modest and the impact mostly in the area of International Governmental Organizations and their programs, it is indeed a start.
Much of late has been written on the so-called “militarization” of international aid, some of it justified, such as expending valuable and scarce resources on security related programs and military forces, draining funds away from development programs. Some commentary is not relevant as traditional budgetary and operational “silos” of development (broadly defined), health programs (such as the administration’s Global Health Security Agenda which contains a significant security element), climate change, terrorism, economic (stopping illegal commerce such as illicit trade in tobacco, weapons, drugs, IUU fishing, etc.), security sector reform as part of rule of law, and more, cross boundaries, intersecting country/regional engagement, program design and implementation, monitoring and evaluation, reports to Congress, and communication with the public.
Setting aside outright conventional war zones such as in Iraq and Syria, let us examine a set of typical cases: fragile and failing states. Where does one start addressing the many and multilayered problems of states such as Somalia, Mali, Afghanistan, as sterling examples of conflict ridden geopolitical crises, and Haiti, Laos, with a mixture of non-traditional security challenges in addition to development challenges, just to name a few.
Significant energy and resources are necessary just to achieve a modest level of stability. Before health and education infrastructure, gender equality and human rights development can be addressed, stability achievement efforts will drain most of the funding. One can’t build schools, clinics, infrastructure in under-governed states when beset with a multitude of insurgency, terrorism and extremist problems.
Although much has been written lately on the question of moving developing countries along the path of democracy and rule of law, if most of a country’s resources go toward security just to maintain status quo, little progress will be made on improving governance. Development and aid experts are not trained military specialists and have great difficulty executing development programs when they and their organizations are the target of destruction.
Smart security and targeted approaches to stabilizing the environment hardly militarizes aid. The real issue, it seems, is the ratio of international resources (program funding, intervention, UN attention, etc.) allocated to defense/security versus development. These fields/programs should be integrated and managed together, especially in states plagued by decades of conflict. If different results are needed, doing things the same old way doesn’t work. The UK has promoted “Joined-Up Government” for years, for example, mandating agencies and programs must demonstrate how they will work together before the Exchequer will provide funding.
Fresh ideas and fresh thinking are called for and it is nigh time futurists weigh in and conceive a new approach in a field conceived in the 1960’s. What is needed is a recognition that a paradigm shift has occurred. We need program and organizational innovation, new players in the field, and we should start with the creation of new and better ways to cooperate with and use the expertise of the private sector.