One and a half billion people live in areas affected by fragility, conflict, or large-scale, organized criminal violence, and no low-income fragile or conflict-affected country has yet to achieve a single United Nations Millennium Development Goal. Strengthening legitimate institutions with an aim to provide citizen security, justice, and jobs is crucial to break such cycles of violence, fragility, and weak development.
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Governance failures and shortcomings are a prime source of instability and violence as they contribute to state failure. Many international partners working with the UN, African Union, and non-governmental organizations are scaling up their capacity to deploy teams of wide-ranging civilian experts to assist states during such governance shortfalls in order to prevent crises and restore security and stability.
U.S. interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan have laid bare deficiencies in U.S. policies and capacities for fostering development and stabilization in conflict-affected contexts. This has led to greater integration of U.S. military and civilian efforts to overcome these challenges. While progress has been made, significant imbalances between development and security assistance remain.
Poor countries are more vulnerable to crisis, be it economic, humanitarian, or open conflict. Cross-national analysis, however, shows that the development performance of low-income democracies significantly outpaces that of autocracies – and do so with less volatility. Sustaining democratization, therefore, is a priority for attaining both development and security objectives.
The author examines nine cases in which the work of development agencies exacerbated or ameliorated the root causes of conflict. This permits some generalizations about the efficacy or deleterious effects of development programs on conflict — and of their futility when the conflict-prevention dimension of international assistance efforts is ignored.
Security Topics: Security and Development