Security-Development Nexus – A New Direction?

The European Union is keen to increase the effectiveness of its security policy by using development assistance as a tool to reduce conflict. It is important to pause to think about the challenges that arise from this coupling of security and development policies.

Over the past decades, since the Common Foreign and Security Policy was created in the early 1990s and the Common Security and Defence Policy was formalised through the Lisbon Treaty, the EU has strengthened its security policy profile.

In particular, since the Athena Mechanism was created in 2004 as a way to fund operations with a military dimension, military operations have been deployed in Africa and the Balkans.

In parallel to these political developments, the perceptions of security threats and thus the concept of security itself have evolved. What many regard as the most significant threats to our security are no longer the same as when the EU started building up its security tools. In addition to the more traditional kinds of security threats, international terrorism and uncontrolled migration are now often perceived as some of the most immediate threats to the security of the EU member states and their citizens.

The changed threat picture naturally affects the way we understand the concept of security. Security is now thought of in a much wider sense. The argument that traditional military policy alone cannot address today’s security threats has become even more prevalent than it was before.

The focus of security policy has shifted from how to deal with the external policies of powerful states to how to influence the internal situation in unstable countries. Mark Duffield, a scholar of international politics, has aptly written that “[t]he question of security has almost gone a full circle from being concerned with the biggest economies and war machines in the world to an interest in some of its smallest.”

In other words, internal instability and conflict in countries outside the EU are perceived as fuelling terrorism and migration and thus seen as an immediate security threats to the EU. Internal instability and conflict in poorer countries are in turn explained by unemployment, marginalisation, a lack of future prospects, dysfunctional governance and so on.  These are not traditional security threats which can be met with traditional security means. As a result, security thinking has spilled over to development policy.

This can clearly be seen in the security policy of the EU. In the words of the head of EU foreign policy, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, “the best way of building security for our own citizens is investing in development in the rest of the world”.  

Although the EU has used development instruments for peace-building, conflict resolution and prevention, as well as justice and security sector reform in the past, recent developments have reignited the debates about security versus development in the EU. As a way to bridge the two worlds of security and development the EU has adopted the phrase “the security-development nexus” which has become commonplace in guidelines, speeches and programming.  

This has been followed by an initiative called “Capacity Building in Support of Security and Development” that argues that the EU needs to step up its efforts to “better address the security-development nexus”.

This initiative has resulted in a proposal to alter the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace, which is the key funding instrument for the security-development nexus. It complements larger EU development cooperation instruments by intervening in conditions where normal assistance is impossible. The instrument has committed 2,338.72 million euros to funding projects in developing countries in the period of 2014-2020.

The aim of the proposal is to lift the limitations for providing financial support for capacity building in the military sector that the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace has been subject to, so that “in exceptional circumstances” funding could go to supporting the military of developing countries.  The proposal states that activities that may be supported are i.e. ”capacity building programmes in support of security and development, including training, mentoring and advice, as well as the provision of equipment, infrastructure improvements and provision of other services.”

The linking of development policy to the EU’s security goals has not been welcomed by all development actors, EU member states or members of the European Parliament.

Of particular political and legal concern is the channelling of development funds to a military purpose. Because the Lisbon Treaty prohibits any operation having military or defence implications from being financed from the EU budget, the funding of such operations previously came exclusively from outside the EU budget through the Athena Mechanism. According to the new proposal, the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace, which as a development instrument is a part of the EU budget, would become central to channelling funds to operations with military implications.

Legally, just as the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace, the proposal to alter it is based on the development cooperation provisions of the Lisbon Treaty. However, according to the Lisbon Treaty, the primary objective of the EU’s development cooperation policy is the reduction and, in the long term, the eradication of poverty. The doubts as to the legality are accompanied by political criticism.

There are four general issues that arise from coupling of security and development issues. One is the fact itself that aid could be made dependent on security considerations. The second concerns the choice of countries that receive aid. The third issue relates to the timelines the policies normally operate with. The fourth issue concerns the causal link between development and stable conditions.

The first issue has to do with the rather different values and means of development and security policy. Development policy has a much longer tradition in the EU than security policy with the framework for development assistance created in the 1960s. Since the 1960s, the aim of the EU’s development assistance has been poverty eradication. Some who work in development ask how a militarisation of aid will support poverty eradication. Others are concerned that the development of third countries is being subjected to Western security interests and aid is thus being politicised. In other words, aid is not offered only because it is the good or the right thing to do or because it can improve the lives of others, but because it will help ourselves.

The second issue has to do with the receiving countries. This development may further decrease the funding that is directed to least developed countries. Instead, in the form of training, equipment and infrastructure, more assistance will be directed to those middle income countries where our security interests are at stake. In effect, the aid will not necessarily reach those who need it the most.

The third issue that is difficult to consolidate are the timelines the policies normally operate with. Development policy normally looks to the long term, recognising that lasting change can take generations. Security policies are often more short-sighted. In the field of security, there is no “Agenda 2030”.

Finally, no automatic causal link between development and security has been found by those who have studied it. In fact, the provided aid can in some conditions even be detrimental to the overall security situation. For example, in a context where political power is not considered legitimate by the citizens, reducing poverty, promoting fundamental rights and empowering people through development assistance can sometimes actually undermine stability, especially in the short term.

In conclusion, even if what is on the table for now is amending a rather small EU instrument, it will be interesting to see whether this represents the beginning of a new direction in the EU’s development policy entirely. The debate will continue as we wait for the proposal to be approved by the European Parliament and the Council of the EU.

TEKSTI Eleonoora Väänänen

KUVA Euroopan parlamentti

The writer holds an MA in International Relations from the University of St. Andrews and an MA in EU International Relations and Diplomacy from the College of Europe. She previously worked for DG DEVCO at the European Commission and is currently employed as a Project Coordinator at the Regional Council of Lapland.

Tagit: development aid, security Kategoriat: Artikkelit, Nostot, Puolustus ja turvallisuus
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