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Securitising Development or Developing Security?

The events of last Thursday are already serving to reinforce the renewed emphasis on the links between the security and development agendas. Aid is being (again) explicitly linked to security objectives in the EU and US. But whether this is a threat or an opportunity for the development community and developing countries is unclear.

1. Like all really useful words in this world, the terms security and development mean very different things to different people and constituencies. Whose security? Londoners, Brits, Americans, Afghans, the population of Freetown, the world as a whole? The group selected gives entirely different course of action and policy response. International terrorism, safety from militia or state violence, or broader concepts such as food security and human security are very different. Is development part being secure or security a part of development? Insecurity, conflict, violence are an aspect of being poor as an individual or underdevelopment at a country level. Which is very different to the idea that reducing poverty will reduce the threat of insecurity both in a country as well as between states or globally.

2. What is the link between western security and development? The evidence base for this version of the link is limited. The poorest countries in the world are not major ‘exporters’ of terrorist. Why people become terrorists is much more complicated and difficult. Additionally there is no clear link between the weakness of a state and terrorist activities. 9/11 was planned in Hamburg, and Spain is the largest exporter of organised crime to the UK. It wasn’t‘weakness’ of the Taliban state that resulted in training camps being established.

There is a clearly attraction to invoking the powerful imperative of western security to get attention and engagement in poverty striken parts of the world and their oft forgotton populations. But this has been done before. During the cold war era aid was used to support a different form of a western security agenda. It did not result in particularly good or effective developmental interventions. From a development perspective the clear concerns is that invoking‘western security’ may not result in the kind of engagement that makes development more likely to happen. It may be possible to square this circle, but it will take a lot better understanding of what each of the different objectives are, what the trade offs between them are, and how to achieve them effectively.