Militarisation should not trump development criteria in battle for EU funds


Peace, Security & Defence

Picture of Heidi Hautala
Heidi Hautala

Member of the European Parliament Committee on Development

It is widely accepted that development and security are interlinked. There is a close connection between poverty and conflict; for example, studies show that poverty makes countries more prone to civil war.

Unfortunately the coexistence of these two conditions will become more widespread in the future. It is estimated that by 2030, almost half of those living in extreme poverty will be in countries with a high risk of violence. Climate change will exacerbate the vicious circle of poverty and conflict, especially in the most fragile countries and regions. The poor and marginalised are always the hardest hit, driven from their homes and deprived of services and opportunities such as healthcare and education.

The importance of conflict prevention, peace mediation and peacebuilding to alleviate these situations is undeniable. But investment in strengthening democracy and building accountable institutions is also crucial in supporting vulnerable societies. The prevention of conflict and violence must be key, using both security and development measures as appropriate.

One issue that would benefit from a more comprehensive European strategy on the intersection of security and development is that of internal displacement. It receives little attention but right now forced displacement is one of the biggest crises in developing countries. For every refugee there are now two internally displaced people (IDPs), but financial support for the resettlement of refugees in donor countries is greater than that given to countries dealing with IDPs. Forty million people are internally displaced due to conflict, and an additional 24 million because of natural disasters. Currently, the European Union hosts a mere six per cent of the world’s displaced people.

It receives little attention but right now forced displacement is one of the biggest crises in developing countries

The aggravated displacement figures have not appeared overnight, but the EU reacted only once refugees started crossing Europe’s own borders in great numbers. Moreover, this reaction has hardly been responsible or sustainable, focussing on protecting the short-term security interests of its member states rather than resolving the situation’s underlying causes.

The EU has done its best to close its borders by striking a deal with Turkey, but also diverting development funds aimed at poverty reduction towards security-related expenditure. A growing trend has been the conditionality of Official Development Assistance on returns, readmissions and border control. This is an alarming change that leads us to question the EU’s willingness to address the root causes of global poverty and conflict.

Recently the European Parliament’s role in safeguarding the proper and lawful use of EU development funds has become more important than ever, as member states and the External Action Service (EEAS) have shifted their focus towards combatting migration and supporting military capacity-building. It is regrettable that this interpretation of the security and development nexus has started to ignore the comprehensive notion of human security.

A concrete example of the efforts to divert development funds to security-related costs is the proposal to amend the Instrument contributing to Stability and Peace (IcSP).The European Commission tabled this proposal in July 2016, following a request by ten member states, with the aim of contributing to capacity-building for security and development in third countries. If passed, the amended instrument could open the way to use development funds to support the activities of armed forces in third countries. The legal basis of this amendment was disputed from the outset, even by the institutions’ own legal services.

Member states and the EEAS have shifted their focus from development towards combatting migration and supporting military capacity-building

There is a case for creating a dedicated instrument with corresponding financing, as was done for the African Peace Facility. Instead the Commission proposed that funds be diverted from an already under-resourced development budget that should be spent on alleviating poverty and its underlying causes. The argument given for this process is the urgency of the need for capacity-building.

The proposal highlights conflicting approaches within the EU itself. The European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs wants to reformulate the instrument almost exclusively for military capacity-building in third countries. On the other hand, the Committee on Development rightly emphasises poverty eradication and adherence to the official development assistance criteria. Well aware of the proposal’s shortcomings, the Council suggested strengthening the development aspect by defining its aim as “capacity-building in support of development and security for development in third countries”. It seems the EU institutions’ different stances are close to irreconcilable.

EU actions on the nexus of security and development at present are not based on a cool analysis of the issues and therefore the strategy simply does not work. While there is a case for a dedicated instrument for military capacity-building in third countries with a correct legal basis and appropriate funding, we should address the reasons for global poverty, internal displacement and the situation of refugees by improving our development policies and strengthening instruments.

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.

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