Why Study International Development?

Posted on June 5, 2011

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Development that effectively prevents, mitigates and manages the causes and consequences of violent conflict, instability and extremism.

to identify and analyze sources of conflict; develop early responses to address the causes and consequences of instability and violent conflict

map out destabilizing patterns and trends in specific developing countries and recommend changes in development programs so that they can be structured to better address these trends.

Security Sector Reform
Developing countries face an enormous variety of challenges to their security environments. These include weak or ineffective police or military forces, lack of civilian or democratic systems of oversight, inequitable access to justice, the prevalence of arms in post-conflict settings, loose or no border controls, and threats from domestic and transnational criminal organizations and terrorist groups. Failed and failing security structures greatly contribute to instability and conflict – threatening lives and reversing gains from years of development.

The international community currently faces many challenges concerning reform of the security sector in countries with ongoing, major development projects. These issues span the full range of development activities, from the military and economic to the social and political. They include weak or ineffective police or military forces, lack of civilian or democratic systems of oversight, inequitable access to justice, the prevalence of arms in post-conflict settings, loose or no border controls, and threats from domestic and transnational criminal organizations and terrorist groups.

Democracy & Governance and Conflict
Countries with corrupt or unaccountable governments are more likely than others to descend into violent conflict and state failure.

Promoting peace and security is a fundamental pillar of development, and efforts to promote security sector reform are critical for achieving sustainable economic, social and political progress. The four sectors of security sector reform are police, small arms/light weapons; reintegration; and civil/military relations. Security sector reform means not only the protection of states from military threats but also efforts to improve judicial and penal systems, reorient police and similar bodies, and upgrade the ability of elected and appointed civil authorities, such as legislatures and the Executive and the Defense Ministries, to provide oversight and civilian control.

Strong, democratic institutions are the surest way to prevent civil conflict. However, the current reality is that many of the world’s democracies are new and remain extremely vulnerable to violent conflict. In many weak democracies, elites often use political, religious, or ethnic violence as a tool to mobilize a following and advance their own agenda.

Economic Growth and Conflict
Economic forces play a powerful role in shaping the potential for violence. Poverty, stagnant or negative economic growth, gross economic inequality, and widespread unemployment can all feed into a strong sense of social grievance. Deep poverty implies that governments will be unable to provide access to critical services such as infrastructure, education, and health care. Poverty also means that competition for the limited opportunities that exist will tend to be zero-sum. Competition for control of the state is likely to be intense, protracted, and deadly if economic opportunity is linked to political power through corruption and patronage.

Attention has also begun to focus on how a growing number of actors – loosely termed ‘conflict entrepreneurs’ – use instability and violence as a tool for amassing significant economic power. In Liberia, for example, Charles Taylor is estimated to have made more than U.S. $400 million per year from the war. Similarly, UNITA controlled roughly 70 percent of Angola’s diamond trade at the height of the conflict, generating an estimated U.S. $3.7 billion in revenue. Apart from the high stakes world of controlling valuable natural commodities, young people – particularly young, unemployed men – often see participation in violence as route to status and personal enrichment.

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