DEVELOPMENT : THE MILITARY BEGINS TO LISTEN


September 23, 2005.  

BONN (IPS) - When is the last time military generals spent days together talking to people from the world of development? The answer might well be, in Bonn this week.

 

The world of development is packed with conferences, but a conference on 'Insecurity and Development' Sep. 21-24 brought members of unusually diverse, and often directly opposed worlds together to see how the one impacts the other.

 

The delegates included confirmed military officers from the Netherlands, Britain, the United States, Germany and Spain. But it could be more because "they don't identify themselves as military because they do not come here in uniform," Thomas Lawo, executive secretary of the European Association of Developmnent Research and Training Institutes (EADI) told IPS.

 

EADI is an umbrella group covering about 150 development institutes and think tanks, which organised the conference with the backing of the German Development Institute.

 

The military and the world of development come together because the link at the most obvious level is about "the threat of terrorism, of weapons of mass destruction that gets people worried in the western world," Juergen Wiemann, deputy director of the German Development Institute told IPS Thursday. The institute is government-funded but independently run.

 

"Some of the weak states, failing states can be breeding ground for terrorists and some of these states even threaten us with having biological weapons and nuclear weapons, as we have with North Korea and Iran," Wiemann said. "So this is the hardcore link between security and development."

 

But security means more, he said. "Poor people living in developing countries always have this insecurity feeling, not knowing how they can earn their living tomorrow, becoming victims of natural disasters, or victims of corrupt governments. They are facing many threats every day."

 

Development cooperation is about improving their standard of living "and thus reducing this feeling of insecurity," he said.

 

Now a third aspect of insecurity is creeping in developed societies, Wiemannn said. The New Orleans experience had shown that "developed countries are facing some of the risks we thought only developing counties would face."

 

And there is a new economic insecurity within developed countries. Take Germany," Wiemann said. "The world is changing fast, new competitors are coming up. India, China, other East Asian countries are undermining the industrial leadership of Germany so to speak. And this is bringing a sense of insecurity, and people want the government to protect them from this insecurity."

 

But is the very concept of 'security' being stretched too wide if it must include all these things?

 

"It is stretched wide, but this is the outcome of the UN commission on human security that has argued that security is not just threatened through violent action," Wiemann said. "That is normally the perception in the developed world. They want to keep the problems of developing countries far away."

 

You can put a lot of things under this security cloak, "but we wanted it like that because EADI is a group of researchers and research institutes on development who are not just concentrating on terrorism and working how to counter terrorism by military or civil action, but who are covering a wide range of themes." Wiemann is also vice-president of EADI.

 

The aim of the conference is that "the development community gets closer to other research communities like peace research and conflict research communities, so we get to know each other," Wiemann said.

 

"We as traditional research institutes have come to realise that there is a certain divide in the foreign policy debate," Lawo said. "The foreign policy and security experts are well organised in debating their concerns and themes while the traditional development community has only lately come to realise that more bridges need to be built between the security and foreign policy debate and the development debate."

 

The whole notion of the millennium development goals (MDGs) and development requires a certain framework conditions, Lawo said. "If the framework conditions are governed by war and insecurity, you have to have a situation which is conducive for development, so you need to talk to the military, you need to address issues like governance or fragile states or war situations. These man-made disasters have not been very high on the agenda of development experts."

 

The debate, Lawo said, has been triggered off by the war on terrorism and the attacks on Sep. 11, the al-Qaeda threat and the debate around the Iraq war. "We have realised that it is imperative to address these questions in order to be in a position to achieve at least a part of the MDGs."

 

But could this exercise turn out to be just a polite way of telling development countries that they had better behave if they want support for development?

 

"No, it's just the opposite," Lawo said. "It's more a call to order of the Western countries to really put an end to pledges only, and to start delivering. That is also why we are a bit concerned bout this Millennium plus five summit. We are disappointed to see that the more than 400 amendments introduced by our big brother in North America has led to a situation where we had all hoped to achieve much more."

 

Through the new network "we are trying to organise the European voice more systematically than before," Lawo said.

(END)

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An article from IPS, civil society's leading news agency, is an independent voice from the South and for development, delving into globalisation for the stories underneath. Another communication is possible.



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