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Comments on the human security aspect of the poverty reduction guidelines

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  • 1. Comments on the Human Security Aspect of the Poverty Reduction Guidelines By J. ‘Kayode Fayemi, Ph.D, Centre for Democracy & Development, (Lagos & London)I have been asked to make my intervention on the human security dimension of theGuidelines, focusing on operational value of the concept and relevance of thesuggested levers for policy making. The concept of human security began to gain prominence after the collapse ofthe cold war. It argues for a broader conception of security that does not limitsecurity to its narrowly defined, state-centric military notions hitherto dominant insecurity studies and practice in the cold war era. This broader conception seeks toarticulate security in a manner that the individual, the group as well as the state mayrelate to its fundamental objectives of promoting and ensuring the right to life andlivelihood. As the United Nations Development Programme admits as far back as1994,“For most people today, a feeling of insecurity arises more from worries aboutthe daily life than from the dread of a cataclysmic world event. Job security, incomesecurity, health security, environmental security, security from crime, these are theemerging concerns of human security all over the world.” Although one recognises the dangers that might also accompany too broad aconception of security which altogether dismisses the legitimate need for the military– and this is already evident in the carte blanche demand for the reduction of militaryexpenditure in some development circles – even the concept of human security shouldrecognise an objective need on the part of states and individuals to want to protecttheir own. Acknowledging this fact should not be seen as a negation of theimportance of a human-centred development and security framework. The guidelineis therefore right to talk about a human security approach that “seeks to address thesources of risk that affect poor people in a co-ordinated fashion, breaking out of theincreasingly artificial separation between conflict resolution, post-conflictreconstruction, natural disaster preparedness and relief and rights-based governancework”. (Guideline Document) 1
  • 2. Based on the acknowledged relevance of the need to focus on the humansecurity approach, it is important to examine the policy levers that are being suggestedwithin the poverty reduction framework whilst questioning the assumptions thatundergird them.Four typical policy levers for actions in moving towards a human security approachwere identified:1. Support for peace building and reconstruction2. Support for state monopoly of means of coercion3. Promoting social coherence through civil society development and multicultural tolerance4. Building assets that provide security against disasters and economic shocksThese typical policy levers were derived from a number of assumptions – that:a) poor people rate insecurity as a major dimension and a principal cause of poverty;b) the contribution of war and intra-state conflict to poverty is on the increase, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa;c) the evidence of poverty as a cause of armed conflict is generally weak but conflict causes and amplifies poverty…destroys social capital and can deepen governance failure to the point of state collapse. In the Africa context, how useful have these assumptions been for policymakers and development specialists in intervening in security sector reform andpoverty reduction strategies. Our ability to respond to the question would go someway in ensuring that policy analysis incorporates the fundamentals of the humansecurity approach which ostensibly guides these policy levers. How should this bedone? The basic assumption that undergirds a human security approach is the needto adopt a broader conception of security and development, breaking away from state-centric notions of security which allowed the conflation of regime security with state 2
  • 3. security with scant regard to the basic needs of the people since security was not seenas a public good – which ought to be the concern of all citizens. The above raises a fundamental problem in a region where efforts to buildhomogenous nation-states on the basis of artificially constructed boundaries haveresulted in forced unity through the promotion of the principle of “non-interference”.To the extent that sovereignty of the nation-state is regarded as sacrosanct and non-derogable, states that have ceased to function as states in the traditional sense ofproviding basic needs for the citizens still enjoy support and assistance indevelopment circles even when it is known that these states are nothing but privatisedentities. So, when the guideline document argues on the one hand that poor people rateinsecurity as a key cause of poverty and states in the same breath that the evidence forseeing poverty as a cause of armed conflict is generally weak, it is reasonable to arguethat this is tantamount to being caught in a cold-war time warp. While it is true thatpoverty is not the only cause of conflict, it can also not be conclusively argued thatavailability of basic needs or economic opportunities lead to conflict. Instead, it isimportant to take a far more complex view of the causes of conflict in their economic,political, environmental and cultural dimensions. When the above is linked to thepolicy lever that supports state monopoly of the means of coercion, the assumptionthat the state is the provider of security for its people is taken for granted with noserious admission that the State might actually be undermining human security andtriggering conflict. In this vein, it is important for policy makers to ask if there aresituations in which war might be deemed necessary, especially in circumstanceswhere all peaceful avenues for removing despotic regimes had been exhausted. This leads to another assumption caused by the reluctance to acknowledge thegrowing illegitimacy of the State in Africa among its people. The Guideline documentstates unequivocally that the contribution of intra-state conflict to poverty is on theincrease even as evidence of poverty as a cause of conflict is said to be thin. Thisassumption of course represents one of the ways development specialists and policyanalysts ignore the big picture that the international political economy of conflictsbrings into clear relief. Whilst agreeing with the prevalence of internal conflicts in sub-SaharanAfrica, policy makers need a more nuanced understanding of the complexitiessurrounding these conflicts. Although the theatre of conflict is usually local, many of 3
  • 4. these wars are ‘glocal’, as they involve a range of different actors: national, sub-national and trans-national interests. They have international and regional dimensionsand the dialectics of globalisation and localisation of contemporary conflicts remainsa key factor in understanding the political and economic causes of conflict, theintertwined connections between warlords and mercenaries, between the plunderers ofAfrican mineral and natural wealth, small arms proliferators and narco-drug dealers. The nature and extent of this linkage goes to the very root of understanding theprivatisation of the nation-state and its inability to organise and control power as acommon good. In its most worrying impact, this erosion of state power has resultedin the rise of shadow economies which basically cause poverty in these countrieswhilst creating a fractured state system in which existing basis of political co-operation among states can no longer be assumed as states shift loyalties between sub-regional initiatives and personal projects. Since the dominant state-centric approach gives a very partial picture of whatobtains in much of Africa, the human security approach thus require non-state criteriaif it is to serve policy makers and development specialists well. Studies like theUNDP Human Development Report have improved on the concentration on statisticalindices and aggregates. By shifting emphasis of indicators towards the HumanDevelopment Index (HDI) which measures the quality of life through aggregates suchas longevity, status of women, literacy level and mortality level, not only is this stilldone from a state-centric perspective, such early warning index about a State’s healthhas not led to the narrowing of the gap between warning and action, hence reaction ofthe international community has been more reactive than proactive. Hence, thenumber of elections held in a country and the years of military withdrawal frompolitics are often seen as evidence of democratic consolidation and little attention ispaid to the culture of militarism that has grown in the absence of consensus based ruleor rights based governance. What the above underscores in a clear and consistent manner is the increasingillegitimacy of the African state, accentuated by the deepening chasm between urbanand rural communities, a factor standing at the base of many of the internal conflictsnow prevalent on the continent. Although the urban/rural divide has been a constantfeature of post-independence Africa’s political economy, the post-Cold War processesof globalisation and trade integration have seriously deepened economic problems innew democracies, weakened the nation state and exacerbated the privatisation of war 4
  • 5. and the state as a result. It would indeed appear that there is a direct correlationbetween the inability of the average African state to provide the basic means oflivelihood for ordinary citizens and its resultant loss of monopoly over the means ofcoercion within the territory it supposedly controls. Without a doubt, the capacity of governments to govern, can make a crucialdifference both to the trajectory of conflict and to its impact on equitable resourcedistribution. As Luckham, Ahmed and Muggah have shown most persuasively, “thedisappearance of governments in what has now become known as collapsed states isassociated with acute physical insecurity for ordinary individuals and communities,leads to the loss of basic services like health and education, destroys physical andsocial capital and produces widespread poverty and immiseration. On the other hand,where an appearance of state structures still exists, predatory ruling groups may havetheir own interests in proliferating armed groups and perpetuating instability.”(Luckham et-al, IDS Papers, 1999) Clearly, poverty remains the greatest threat to democratic consolidation inAfrica today and, at the broadest level, globalisation is resulting in deep polarisationbetween rich and poor throughout the continent. Whereas quantitative accounts of theproblems do not tell the whole story, even the available statistics for the Africancontinent paint a gory picture – especially in terms of the impact of conflict onpoverty on the continent. It is estimated that half of the African population will bepoorer by 2000. Almost all African states experienced some form of armed conflict inthe 1990s. In 1998, there were no less than eleven major conflicts in Africa, putting atrisk the lives and welfare of some eight million people, and giving the region adisproportionate share of refugees, an estimated eight million out of twenty twomillion globally. Children were particularly vulnerable: two million were lost inconflicts; over four million were disabled; twelve million became homeless and onemillion were displaced.(UNHCR – The State of the World Refugees 1998). In WestAfrica alone, at least ten of the sixteen countries experienced some or other kind ofpolitical upheaval, a figure notably comparable to that relating to countries undermilitary rule or just emerging from prolonged military rule. Acknowledging the fact that an exclusive focus on the nation state hasprevented an understanding of regional specific determinants in the poverty-securitycomplex might help policy makers and anti-poverty analysts to address some of thepolicy issues and possibilities that can make a difference. How might this be taken 5
  • 6. forward to improve current policy levers in the human security approach, dealing withthe practical dilemma of recognition to non-state actors in an attempt at incorporatingsecurity into development.Focusing on human security policy leversSupport for peace building and reconstruction: State rebuilding after state collapseoften requires a strong support for peace building and reconstruction measures. Peacein this context has often been interpreted as mere absence of war and state rebuildingis often seen only in terms of physical reconstruction. While physical reconstructionmay be a necessary departure point for state reuilding, the defining characteristic ofstate rebuilding from a human security approach is the presence of holistic securityand a model of conflict management which emphasises the fundamentals of militarysecurity, democratisation and consensus building, development, economic reform andhuman dignity for the citizens to engage their rulers. Therefore, although the conventional wisdom is to ignore it, the securityrequired in the immediate aftermath of conflict also requires higher rather than lowersecurity expenditure to enable the state and citizens cope with the impact of conflict –rehabilitating refugees and the internally displaced, providing for a secure, safe andenabling environment in which development initiatives can succeed and reintegratingformer combatants into society and economy. In situations where conditions ofpoverty prevail after post war conflict, it is reasonable to predict a correlation betweenthe lack of development opportunities in terms of direct income generation tosurvivors and an increase in criminality and conflict. For policy makers, especially international donors who just want to “move themoney” because of the domestic pressure from disaster management and reliefagencies, there is always the pressing need to construe their role in terms ofimmediate restoration of peace and stability, rather than security and developmentthrough the promotion of common values and the rule of law. The concentration onelections and elections monitoring in say Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria in recenttimes gave an impression that what mattered most was the election, not democracy orthat elections are enough to guarantee democracy and development. Experience hassince shown that while there are immediate tasks that must be addressed in terms ofpeace building and reconstruction in every conflict situation – disaster relief and 6
  • 7. management, repatriation and reintegration of refugees and reduction in theproliferation of small arms and landmine clearance, these are not the most successfulingredients of a successful peace building strategy. To promote sustainable security and peace building strategies therefore – antipoverty strategists and international development agencies must take a comprehensivelook at peace building and reconstruction strategies treating them as a continuum withshort term (relief and emergency aid and creating a secure and enabling environment);medium term (peace support operations) and long term (reconstruction, democracy &development) components in an integrated manner. Second, there is a need forstronger cooperation between the Bretton Woods institutions, the UN Systems andother multi and bi-lateral development agencies as well as independent developmentinstitutions to reduce the overzealous focus on achieving fiscal discipline and macro-economic stability at the expense of efforts to protect social spending. The impactthat structural adjustment reform programmes have had and how it continues toimapact on African states is a sad reflection of lack of coordination on the part ofthese institutions. Third, it is extremely important that international institutionsshould seize the momentum provided by the weak capacity of the state to alignexternal assistance with local needs and efforts, not an opportunity to impose receivedwisdom and new theories of development. Where state institutional capacity is weak,an immense burden of responsibility is placed on IFIs and development agencies inwhich real dialogue with the people and wide consultations underscore whateveractions are taken. Finally, international donors cannot ignore the international contextin their response to peace building and reconstruction efforts. How, for example, hasthe often convoluted linkage between trans-national corporations, proliferation ofarms and promotion of neo-liberal globalising trends by the industrial worldundermine the success of security and development reforms in countries emerging outof conflict, especially within the context of an unstable region in which domino effectis real rather than imagined. These are some of the issues that are central to any discussion of the policylever on peace building and reconstruction efforts and the extent to which theguideline document considers them critically would determine the possibilities ofsuccess that might accompany critical intervention. 7
  • 8. Support for State monopoly of means of coercion: As has been argued above, thisthinking itself is a product of the state-centric notions of security that dominatedtraditional thinking in the cold war era. Since the state is increasingly seen asunrepresentative and illegitimate in Africa, it would be useful for developmentspecialists and anti-poverty strategists to begin to consider seriously conditions underwhich conflict might be seen to be a legitimate means of removing regime types thatpromote conflicts and anti-poverty strategies in the way leading actors haveencroached upon common pool resources. To this end, some questions might sufficein any consideration of complex political situations rather than focus exclusively onstate monopoly of means of coercion. This is not to suggest that states do not havelegitimate needs for security which might necessitate legitimate procurement andmonopoly of means of coercion, but this has to be demonstrated in the mannersecurity is treated as common public good, not just asserted. It may therefore benecessary to consider:• Under which circumstances, if any, is war necessary to remove bad governments? That is how do we distinguish between justifiable rebellion and needless conflict?• How is regional economic and political co-operation built between and among states to address the pathology of militarism ?• How can state-centric definitions of security be de-emphasised, and the role of civil society in peace building increased?• How is democratic control of the military to be built in states undergoing political transition or moving from war to peace – through parliamentary oversight, effective institutions of governance and genuine interaction between the military and the rest of society?Acknowledging the need to ask these questions should help to address some of thepolicy challenges posed for conflict transformation and security sector reform withinthe poverty reduction context and subject state monopoly of violence to internationaland regional checks and food disaster. Although there is evidence to suggest that IFIsand development agencies now accept the arguments about broadening policyframework, but the commitment to the mutually reinforcing interaction between thevalues of democracy, equity and sustainability still remain subordinate to the coreneed for macro-economic stability and integration into the international political 8
  • 9. economy. This is why many are still suspicious of the IFIs’ commitment to a humansecurity approach in spite of the new rhetoric about local ownership and social capital.Promoting social coherence through civil society development and multi-culturaltolerance: If peace-building is taken as the sum total of activities that will support peacemaking and conflict transformation: demobilisation, re-structuring of the localsecurity system – police and the military; resettlement of refugees and the internallydisplaced persons; removal of dangerous weapons – mines and other unexplodedfirearms, reconstruction of shattered infrastructure and humanitarian and disasterrelief – very few still advocate that this could be done with the exclusion of civilsociety. Indeed, even IFIs and development agencies now see civil society as key tothe successful implementation of these various aspects of post-conflict peace buildingprocess. In discussing rights based approach to governance and poverty reduction,local ownership and development of social capital rests with the civil society, but it isimportant to place this within the context of developing institutional mechanisms forthe management of diversity and difference and incorporating international humanrights framework into domestic law. Hence, the rights of the people to their resourcesshould not be compromised at the altar of encouraging foreign direct investment,especially where this undermines environmental security. Since states are usually products of war and rampage, it might sound far-fetched to base the quest for tolerance on the notion of reclaiming the militarisedmind through the creation of structures capable of mediating conflict betweenbelligerent parties. Perhaps, an explanation of this construction is necessary here.It is suggested that the military option now prevalent in several parts of theAfrican continent is the inevitable consequence of the acute nature of internalcontradictions and the almost total absence of democratic institutions that canassist in the management of deep rooted conflicts. It was assumed in policy and development circles that support for neo-liberaldemocracy will help achieve this objective, hence there was the enthusiasm fordemocracy assistance and ‘good governance’ in the early 1990s and donor countriesmade some efforts to move economic assistance away from former concerns about 9
  • 10. stimulating economic growth to an emphasis on political objectives, including supportfor processes of democratisation and building of civil society. Although the above represented a shift from the days of the super-powerideological rivalry, even this shift in development agencies and IFIs’ assistance hasconcentrated primarily on the reform of the public sector and involvement of the civilsociety to the extent that it promotes the neo-liberal paradigm, not on an alternativevision of bottom-up reforms based driven by societal consensus. The fact that manyof the transitions of the last decade in Africa now approximate to - at best electoraldemocracies and at worst elected dictatorships, has raised new questions on how todeepen the democratic content of current reforms in a process oriented, participatoryand accountable manner. At every level, the idea of constitutionalisingdemocratising polities that have largely functioned as ‘virtual’ democracies alongmultifaceted lines is taking shape. Today, the fact that the the struggle for reconstituting the African state istaking place in no fewer than fifteen African states in Angola, Kenya, Nigeria,Zimbabwe, Cote d’Ivoire, Swaziland and Lesotho, to mention but a few, underscoresa paradigmatic shift from constitutionality to constitutionalism, a situation whereconstitutions are now seen as tools for building bridges between the state and civilsociety, a social compact based upon a foundation of consensus among the constituentelements within the polity and between them and the state. What has to be emphasisedhowever for the purpose of poverty reduction and human security in reconstitutingAfrican polities is the importance of an organic link between the constitution as a ruleof law instrument incorporating international human rights framework and primarilyconcerned with restraining government excesses, and the constitution as alegitimisation of power structures and relations based on a broad social consensus indiverse societies. In short, if it is to promote the mutually reinforcing role ofpromoting development, security and democracy, the task today is largely betweenbridging the gap between “juristic constitutionalism” and “political and socio-economic constitutionalism” if the reconstituted state is to have meaning and beaccountable to its citizens.Building assets that provide security against disasters and economic shocks: 10
  • 11. Conventionally, the way most development agencies have promoted thebuilding of assets against disasters and economic shocks has been to focus on macro-economic stability strategies like Structural adjustment reforms, electoral democraciesand support of measures that seek to provide the enabling environment for foreigndirect investment and the global integration of the economy – a mutual pursuit ofpolitical and economic liberalisation. So far, the logic of trickle down economics hasfailed to produce an integrated world economy in which all zones are winners.Indeed, as Caroline Thomas and Peter Wilkin argue, In the process of globalisation, the continent (Africa) has quite literally been left behind in terms of the distribution of the spoils of the process. The promised advantages of economic restructuring, as hailed by the IMF, World Bank and individual developed countries, have not been borne out. Foreign investment fails to flow in; debt burdens continue; commodity prices fluctuate; environmental degradation proceeds…and industrialisation fails to occur. (Thomas & Wilkin: 1998).This clearly contradicts the core assumption of globalization that wealth wouldautomatically be created when the free market gains universal acceptance in theworld. By arguing that the way to build assets against shocks is not via the creation oflocal self sufficiency, but national economies should concentrate on what they cancontribute to the world economy, globalisation ignores the comparative advantage ofthe North, locks states of the global South into relative powerlessness by creatingconditions for conflict which further weakens the mediatory role of the states.Instead, it empowers those elites within the state who can form part of the convolutednetwork in business and government capable of acting independently of the juridicalstate. The fallout of this globalising trend is the unregulated trade in illicit mineralresources, proliferation of arms and narcotics and the illicit trade in narcotics whichall of which ultimately undermine food security, environmental security and thesecurity of the individual. It has also helped in deepening the rural-urban divide,fostered inter-generational strife occasioned by youth frustration and exacerbated thescourge of refugees and the internally displaced, all of which have moved the haplessbelow the poverty line and moved them closer to violence and conflict. 11
  • 12. The greatest assets against shocks and disasters ultimately lie with thedevelopment of human resources, better management of natural resource endowmentand respect for local ownership of the reform agenda whether in determining the roleof the State or in arriving at the most effective poverty inducing mechanisms. It isalso useful to examine and analyse individual situations on their merit, rather thanassume that the market is God. This is of course not to suggest that market has norole in reforming states structures. It is to say that there are no universal models ofthe market as providing the best assets against shocks and disasters, hence donoragencies must learn from their own experiences of the market, security and publicsector reforms in formulating realistic policies that are not driven by dogma even asthey admit that certain assumptions undergird their work based on their State valuesand principles.In search of security and policy coherence: Where do we go from here? Based on the above comments, a number of measures seem to suggestthemselves to policy makers and donor agencies in developing a human securityapproach to poverty reduction:1. There is a need for conceptual clarity through a comprehensive approach to security sector reform in policy and development circles;2. There is a need to adopt a regional approach to security sector reform;3. Policy instruments must recognise the need to reconcile economic and social development and enhance the input of non-state actors – in policy formulation to enhance social capital rather than entrench the leverage of IFIs and donor agencies on States;4. Recognition of legitimate security needs of nation-states must be factored into the human security approach to poverty reduction; 12
  • 13. 5. Policy instruments must problematise the link between globalisation and conflict, rather than assume that it is always going to be positive in the promotion of pro- poor growth;6. Policy instruments must locate the security agenda within the democracy and development framework and reflect the link between politics and economics, and between security and opportunities;7. There is the need for democratic control, not just civilian control of military and security establishments in democratising polities;8. Human security approach is a process, whose results will not necessarily be immediate, hence the need for a long term view by interested stakeholders and anti-poverty strategists.REFERENCESBarry Buzan et-al, Security: A New Framework for Analysis, (Boulder, Colorado:Lynne Rienner, 1998).Caroline Thomas & Peter Wilkin (eds), Globalisation, Human Security & the AfricanExperience, (Boulder, Colorado: Lynne Rienner, 1998)CODEP, Report on the outcomes of the consultation on globalisation and conflict forthe White Paper on International Development: Globalisation & Development(London, June 2000)DFID, Security Sector Reform and the Management of Military Expenditure: HigRisks for Donors, High Returns for Development, Report on an InternationalSymposium, February 14-16, 2000.Draft Guideline Chapter on Poverty Reduction for OECD/ETC InternationalConference. 13
  • 14. J. ‘Kayode Fayemi, “Security Challenges in Africa”, Seminar: Indian Journal ofOpinion, Special Issue on African Transitions 490, June 2000.R.Luckham, I.Ahmad and R.Muggah, The Impact of Conflict on Poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa. Background paper for World Bank poverty status assessment forSub-Saharan Africa, Institute of Development Studies, University of Sussex, May1999.Brendan Martin, New Leaf or Fig Leaf? The Challenge of the New WashingtonConsensus. Report prepared for Bretton Woods Project and Public ServiceInternational. 2000.UNDP, Human Development Report 1994UNHCR, The State of the World Refugees 1998. 14