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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Susan Willett, "Global Security, the Liberal Peace and Human Security," Economists for Peace and Security,

The end of the Cold War expanded the reach of international institutions and brought to the fore the possibility of achieving a Kantian Peace. Through a mixture of coercion and consent, the contemporary liberal peace project has endeavored to spread democracy, the rule of law, human rights, global economic integration, free markets and neo-liberal reforms, in an attempt to secure global peace. It contains different interpretations that include emancipatory, orthodox and conservative tendencies.

Emancipatory model of liberal peace

Based on custodianship, consent and local ownership, the emancipatory model adopts a bottom-up approach to peace-building and security. It seeks to challenge the traditional power relations between the global North and South, prioritizing social justice across the economic, political, cultural and security spectrum. This model has given rise to the human security paradigm. A rights-based response to the "new security threats" of poverty, economic inequality, pandemic diseases, human rights abuses, environmental degradation, and natural disasters has emerged within the emancipatory model of the liberal peace. The concept of human security is premised on "freedom from fear" and "freedom from want" and has seven distinct but interrelated aspects of security (UNDP 1994);

Economic security: an assured basic income either through employment or through the provision of social safety nets. Just under 20% of the population of the developing world lives in extreme poverty (less than $1 a day) In sub-Saharan Africa 44% of the regional population live in extreme poverty. High unemployment of male youth has been identified as an important factor underlying political tensions and ethnic violence in Africa.

Food security: access to basic nutrition. In 2004, 28% of the population of the developing world suffered from hunger.

Health Security: a minimum of protection from diseases and unhealthy lifestyles. In developing countries, infections and parasitic diseases are the major cause of death killing 17 million people per annum. Most of these deaths are linked to poor nutrition and lack of access to clean water. AIDS has become the greatest threat to health security.

Environmental security: protection from the effects of the deterioration of the natural environment.

Personal Security: guarantees protection from physical violence, whether from state or non-state actors, from domestic abuse or from crime.

Community Security: protection from the loss of traditional relationships and values and from sectarian and ethnic violence.

Political Security aims to honor people's basic human rights. Enables people to live in societies free of political repression and torture

Rooted in a needs and rights-based policy discourse, the human security paradigm seeks to eradicate the root causes of conflict in the world. It challenges traditional state-centric models of both security and development.

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are an attempt to redress the problems of underdevelopment associated with human insecurity. The MDGs aim to halve income poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education and gender equality, reduce under-5 mortality by two thirds and maternal mortality by three quarters, reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS, halve the proportion of people who live without access to clean water, and address environmental degradation, by the year 2015. The main problem is the lack of adequate Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) funding (see Table 1).

Debt relief accounts for over half of the ODA increase, but debt relief is no guarantee that resources will be released into poverty reduction. Emergency aid and disaster relief form another large component of the increase, which, although necessary, do not address the long-term development needs of the world's poorest countries.

Donors' lack of commitment to the MDGs in general and to the emancipatory notion of human security in particular reflects a reluctance to relinquish control over development and security discourse and practice.

The orthodox or institutional model of the liberal peace

The orthodox or institutional liberal peace is based on widespread consent between donors - multilateral agencies including the UN, EU, international financial institutions (IFIs), and NGOs - that conflict resolution in the South can be achieved through a number of interconnected processes involving the economic, social and political transformation of chaotic or collapsed states. Its methodologies, objectives and norms seek to impose the liberal peace through a series of interventions, including peacekeeping, peace building and state reconstruction. The IFIs and major donors assume that "free markets" and global integration will resolve economic marginalization, inequality, grievance and social injustice, despite the fact that there is no tangible evidence to suggest that free markets alone do anything other than exacerbate inequalities and feed social tensions in the world's poorest and most conflict prone countries.

Peace-building and post conflict reconstruction policies attempt to reproduce an idealized type of Western democratic peace via good governance reforms, which seek to control, rather than empower citizens. The adoption of a "one model fits all" methodology pays little attention to the particularities of local history, politics, custom, grievances or economic reality. Externally imposed peace-as-governance is presented as a transitional phase, but in most cases peace without external governance is unsustainable. Evaluations of failure rarely if ever question methods or goals. Blame is apportioned to local actors, lack of political will, greed or corruption. The adoption of "greed" as a causal explanation for conflict in the developing world deflects attention from the structural causes of conflict, which may implicate the existing system of global governance. Belief in the superiority, universality and infallibility of the liberal peace prevents any objective assessment or alternative discourse on peace and security from being heard.

The concept of human security, while recognized, is watered down by a donor community concerned with short-term conflict management policies. Focusing solely on freedom from fear, the concern is to protect individuals from violent conflict, hence the prioritization of humanitarian assistance, peacekeeping and conflict prevention. Where preventative measures fail, remedial action is undertaken, including disarmament, demobilization and reintegration, security sector reform, improving law and order, prohibiting child soldiers and banning illegal small arms and landmines. The UN, the main global institution tasked with humanitarian intervention and peace-building, is hard pressed to meet the ever-increasing demands placed upon it. The United Nations and its agencies (e.g., United Nations High Commission on Refugees; Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization; Food and Agricultural Organization; International Labor Organization; World Health Organization; United Nations Industrial Development Organization) spend about $20 billion per annum, or about $3 per capita of the world's population. Many member states fail to pay their dues in full and have reduced their donations to the UN's voluntary funds. Arrears to the regular Budget amounted to $1,206 million in May 2006, of which $675 million was owed by the United States. This represents 56% of the regular budget arrears. (see Figure 2)

The US, rather than support UN multilateral principles has been intent on bending UN policies to its own foreign and security agenda, circumscribed by a conservative approach to the liberal peace.

The conservative model of the liberal peace

The conservative model of the liberal peace dominates the global security system. It is informed by the unilateralist and exceptionalist policies of the United States. The use of force via cutting edge military technology such as the revolution in military affairs, over the horizon warfare, ballistic missile defenses, and tactical nuclear weapons is viewed as the only viable way to secure the "democratic peace" in an unpredictable and unstable world.

This form of liberal peace comes at high price. The US military budget reached $478 billion in 2005 (constant 2003 prices, SIPRI 2006). US military expenditure accounts for 48% of total global military spending and is a major factor accounting for the rise in global military expenditure between 1996 and 2005. According to SIPRI, world military expenditure reached $1001 billion in constant 2003 prices. This corresponds to 2.5% of global GDP, an average spend of $173 per capita. Advocates of high military spending in the US argue that it allows other nations to spend less. This contention supports the theory that a global hegemony is a stabilizing force for the world. (See Figure 3).

The vast sums spent on military hardware and the prosecution of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have done little to enhance global security. The US/UK "War on Terror" has resulted in an increase in support for jihad in the Muslim world. Far from enhancing the spread of democracy, the War on Terror has led human rights abuses, the erosion of the rule of law, and an increase in human insecurity across the globe. Washington and London deny that their policies have unhinged global security. In the economic sphere the conservative model is associated with neo-liberal economic strategies, particularly the structural adjustment policies of the IMF and World Bank. Despite the growing evidence of the destabilizing nature of neo-liberal policies in fragile states the US, IMF and World Bank continue to compel poor nations to adopt neo-liberal policies at inappropriate times, often with devastating impacts on human security. Unbridled market forces have increased inequality in wealth and power, fueled the sense of grievance and intensified societal tensions.

A durable disorder

Aspects of all three forms of the liberal peace are to be found operating in parallel in various conflict zones around the world. The high degree of incompatibility between them, particularly between the conservative and emancipatory models, contributes towards the friction and contradictions in conflict prevention and post conflict reconstruction policies. Strains exist between the processes of democratization and government reform, local ownership of development and neo-liberal reforms, crime and corruption and the establishment of the rule of law and the stabilization of a society and post-conflict justice.

Resources remain disproportionately allocated to the conservative model of the liberal peace. Allocations to global military expenditure are ten times larger than global allocations to the MDGs, reflecting the priorities of a global security system that puts war and destruction before development and human security.

These trends have produced what Duffield (2001) describes as a durable disorder - a system of international governance that, through constant crisis management, avoids systemic collapse in the face of new and continuous security threats, but singularly fails to resolve the root causes of global conflict.

Susan Willett is former Director of the Cost of Disarmament Programme at the United Nations Institute of Disarmament Research (UNIDIR) in Geneva. Currently she is an independent consultant specializing in development and security issues.


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Economists for Peace and Security

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