Around two billion people worldwide suffer from malnutrition. More than 800 million face starvation. It is well-known that this is not due to the lack of food in general, but rather the uneven distribution of food. But how did the uneven distribution come about? What are the obstacles to fair distribution?

Armed conflict is one major impediment. It does not allow space for just development that benefits all members of society. Likewise, without development and social justice, there is no stable, sustainable peace. For both peace and development, prevention is key.

The United Nations has agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that target poverty eradication by tackling all contributing factors, including climate change, armed conflict, access to justice and inclusion of all political stakeholders. It is often possible to break the conflict cycle by stepping in early enough to address the root causes. But frequently, despite warning signs, preventative measures are taken much too late.

The first paragraph of the German constitution stresses that Germany must strive for peace worldwide, and the connection between peace and development plays a prominent role in debates in the German parliament. I serve as Chair of a permanent Subcommittee for Civilian Crisis Prevention, which is a connecting point for all relevant government ministries and MPs from various committees who work on these issues. All stakeholders are invited to speak about even uncomfortable issues where foreign policy and development may have opposing goals. This platform leads to interaction between different sectors, providing an invaluable tool to enhance communication and cooperation and reach joint policy decisions that address problems in their full complexity.

“It is often possible to break the conflict cycle by stepping in early enough to address the root causes”

But we need a similar forum at the executive level that ensures that all German government policies and decisions – whether on foreign affairs, development, economics, finance, climate, trade or migration – contribute to global peace. That is why the Greens propose to create a National Council for Peace and Sustainability.

In addition, we support putting the focus of German crisis prevention policy on four dimensions. First, the expansion and promotion of mediation measures to settle conflicts as early as possible. Second, the support of rule of law for peaceful unity based on reliable rules. Third, security sector reform to enforce those rules in a fair and transparent way. And fourth, truth and justice, as well as reconciliation, to heal the pain and prevent future repetition.

One key to sustainable and peaceful development is the inclusion of women, who are frequently excluded from peace talks and peace-building measures even though women and girls are often unequally affected by armed conflicts (for instance, through rape). UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on the inclusion of women in peace and security should finally be implemented in German foreign policy – not just on paper, but also in practice.

The UN is the most important platform for international coordination and it is making a remarkable effort. But the Security Council is often blocked and the General Assembly cannot agree on measures. This is where regional actors can join forces and bridge the gap.

The European Union is an incredible peace project that aims to support peaceful development around the world. However, current proposals put forward by both the European Commission and the External Action Service (EEAS) aim to divert funds from existing civilian conflict prevention and development instruments and budget-lines towards military capacity-building programmes for armed forces in fragile countries.

While support for such actors may be important under some circumstances, they should be funded by appropriate foreign and security funds. This step shows that under the umbrella of the security-development nexus, risky and misguided concepts are currently being promoted. Civilian conflict prevention (known in EU circles as IcSP – the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace) and development funds are already extensively used for supporting migration control instruments, and I believe it is a strategic mistake to also divert money from these funds for military ends. While there is an increase of armed conflict in developing countries, we should not conclude that development aid now needs to be spent on security measures.

“It would make sense to better link long-term development programmes to short- and medium-term peace-building and conflict prevention measures”

As stated by the Greens in the European Parliament last year, it would make more sense to better link long-term development programmes to short- and medium-term peace-building and conflict prevention measures. Often there is no proper follow-up of the latter and positive developments are not maintained. Instead of diverting funds to military security, a promising approach would be to boost investment in budgets, staff and other resources for transitional justice, demobilisation, re-integration of former combatants, mediation, dialogue and reconciliation efforts.

EU member states should also jointly tackle security sector reform in fragile countries. People will only regain trust in local police and armed forces if they are effective, transparent, free of corruption and accountable to both citizens and parliaments. It is very important that development policies build on these preventive approaches and make positive short-term developments sustainable.

Finally, we need a comprehensive approach – nationally, at the EU level and globally – to security and development. This would ideally encompass a very restrictive export policy on harmful technology, be it cyber-surveillance technology or conventional weapons. Criterion 8 of the EU Common Position on arms exports rightly demands that EU member states assess whether the proposed arms export “would seriously hamper the sustainable development of the recipient country”. As we all know, this criterion is not implemented. Just as we try to promote coherence at the national level, we need it at the European level too.

It is especially important that all states join forces and tackle the challenges jointly while giving the benefit of their different expertise, resources and geographic advantages. We need to share responsibility: no one single country can maintain focus on all countries that deserve attention. The EU could be wonderfully placed to respond to this challenge: the EEAS could combine efforts with member states that pledge support and monetary aid to a given country for a decade. In this way, we could enhance our long-term impact for peace and development.

Global justice, peace and development go hand in hand. Let’s walk together on all levels of the democratic decision-making process: within parties, across communities, beyond regional and state borders. And let’s overcome short-sighted quarrels that have hindered civilian conflict prevention measures.

This article is from Friends of Europe’s upcoming discussion paper  ‘Investing in Sustainable Peace and Development’, in which international experts in these fields consider how policymakers can address the security-development nexus to build peaceful and inclusive societies. This discussion paper complements the Friends of Europe Policy Insight debate ‘To achieve Agenda 2030, give peace a chance’, held as part of the 2017 European Development Days.

IMAGE CREDIT: CC/Flickr – European Commission DG ECHO