Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Connecting security and development cooperation: Opportunities and risks

Austrian soldiers recently participated in the EU Mission in Chad. Although this was hotly debated in neutral Austria, there was little reflection of the implications of such a mission from a development and humanitarian viewpoint.

The Austrian Journal for Development Policy recently (JEP) devoted a recent issue to the Security-Development Nexus and asked whether the relationship between security and development is better described as coherence or rivalry.

At an event organised around these themes, Clemens Six from ÖFSE stressed that the increased discussion of security questions should be understood as an opportunity to challenge current concepts and strategies of development cooperation.

Jan Pospisil (Austrian Institute for International Affairs) discussed the inter-connectivity of security and development. The argument that "development needs security" and "security needs development" should not be taken as an uncritical truth.

Gudrun Kramer (Institute for Integrative Conflict Transformation and Peacebuilding) commented on the opportunities and constrains of a closer cooperation between security and development actors. While security defines a threat by looking on the actors and asking who is threatening someone and how can this be stopped, developmental and conflict sensible approaches bring more attention to the causes of a conflict, which has usually a societal and socio-economic background.

Kramer pointed out that development policy must not stop by deconstructing the current security-development debate but has to offer alternatives. That's why one should ask how Austrian development cooperation can develop a more conflict sensitive approach to security issues.

Martina Schloffer (Austrian Red Cross) presented some insights from her practical experience of humanitarian aid actors dealing with the security sector. In her view, it is important to know about each others objectives and mandates. One needs to find a way to work in complementary ways, as no organization alone can offer a solution for a complex conflict situation. It is important to keep the overall perspective and to engage in constant dialogue with all relevant actors. Schloffer noted that private companies constitute a new power which cannot be ignored.

This last point drew comments from the audience where it was pointed out that in Iraq, for example, private security companies already take over development tasks in areas with a high security threats level. This makes it difficult for the local population to distinguish between humanitarian aid and military personnel.

See Euforic newsfeed on security; dossier on Austria; and recent news from ÖFSE

by Martin Behrens