Coping with Insecurity in Fragile Situations

Background paper to the ERD2009


Pascal Vennesson – ERD Team member, European University Institute
Christian Büger – European University Institute


Paper prepared for the Conference on “Moving Towards the European Report on Development 2009”, organised by the European Report of Development in Florence, Italy, 21-23 June, 2009


In this paper, we explore the security dimension of development in fragile situations, and address how the EU can better focus on the security dimension of its policies towards countries facing fragility. We stress development sequences in which economic, political and security factors interact, pointing to the linkages, and, at times, the trade-offs, between these problem-solving activities. Our guiding hypothesis throughout this paper is that societies facing fragile situations can begin to change in the security and development domains “as they are, in spite of what they are, and because of what they are” (Hirschman), and that the EU, both as it is, and in spite of what it is, can help them to do so. We draw two implications from this starting point. First, the EU should be guided by “possibilism” in its policy choices regarding the potential reforms and changes in the security-development nexus. Second, policy-makers and analysts should remain attentive to the possibilities of linkages and transversality, meaning that, instead of assessing only the possible effect of one single reform measure in the security-development nexus, it is more fruitful to seek out the inter-connections and external effects that are likely to emerge when several reforms are implemented either simultaneously or sequentially. It is both the combination and the process by which one thing leads to another that matters. First, we identify the security dimension of fragility situations and emphasise the wide range of instruments that the EU, as a global civilian power, has at its disposal to address these situations. Second, we present and discuss the four major ways to approach the security-development nexus from a policy standpoint: state-building, peace-building, human security, and the responsibility to protect. We argue that these frameworks should not be seen as competing with each other, but as making valuable points to be considered in any development strategy. Third, focusing upon problem-solving dynamics from a qualitative perspective, we explore the twists and turns of the relationship between security and development, highlighting, along the way, some of the unsuspected and unorthodox opportunities for change and reform in dire circumstances.

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