As the first Secretary of State for International Development, Clare Short outlines her priorities early on in her time at the department.
I want to start by expressing my appreciation to King’s College and the Centre for Defence Studies for hosting this event. My Department has recently established a close relationship with the Centre on security issues, which makes this venue particularly appropriate for today’s speech.
This morning we published a detailed policy statement on security sector reform. Copies of this statement are available, as are copies of our paper, Conflict reduction and humanitarian assistance, that we published last month.
We have been working to establish stronger collaboration across Whitehall on security sector reform and both policy statements have been produced in collaboration with other government departments, particularly the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence. Co-operation is essential in this area of policy, as in others such as trade or debt, to ensure that our Government’s influence is used coherently in international affairs. This is especially true in this case in relation to the FCO’s programme of Assistance to Support Stability with In-Service Training – ASSIST for short – and the MoD’s Defence Diplomacy programme. All three Departments have started to work together closely on these issues because whilst our contributions to conflict prevention and security sector reform are different they should obviously be complementary and coherent.
My prime focus is on the link between the security sector and the development agenda. My aim in this speech is to set out the core argument contained in the paper and to explain why I see security sector reform as an important interest for my Department. I also set out a number of priority areas for future action.
By security sector, I mean those who are responsible, or should be responsible, for protecting the state and communities within the state. This includes the military, paramilitary and intelligence services, as well as those civilian structures responsible for oversight and control of the security forces. I am not today discussing the police or the wider criminal justice system. We are actively involved with these sectors in many developing countries, and I have spoken about them in detail elsewhere.
Development organisations have in the past tended to shy away from the issue of security sector reform. However, we are much clearer now that conflict prevention and resolution are key to successful development. Twenty of the 34 poorest countries are either involved in conflict or have recently emerged from conflict. I believe that a security sector of appropriate size, properly tasked and managed, is a key issue. We are therefore entering this new area of security sector reform in order to strengthen our contribution to development.
Any DFID activity in this area will, of course, need to be consistent with the Overseas Development Act, which requires that the primary purpose of our aid programme should be the promotion of development in poorer countries. There is obviously no question, for example, of development resources being used to strengthen the aggressive capability of military forces or being linked to arms sales. Our interest is in helping to secure a security sector of appropriate scale that is properly accountable to democratic, civilian authorities.
As many of you will know, since our election 21 months ago, we have greatly strengthened Britain’s commitment to international development. In November 1997 we published a White Paper – the first White Paper on development for 22 years. The central focus of our new policy is a commitment to mobilise support for the internationally agreed target to halve the proportion of the world’s population living in abject poverty by 2015. There are associated targets – including the aim of universal primary education and basic health care provision for all – again to be achieved by 2015.
These targets are not plucked from the air. They are projections of what can be achieved if we generate the necessary political will, mobilise the resources required, and adopt the appropriate policies, nationally and internationally. The UK Government is committed to using its influence within the international system in support of these targets and the measures necessary to achieve them.
But to secure these goals we clearly need to address one of the principal obstacles to progress in development and poverty reduction which is the existence of bloated, secretive, repressive, undemocratic and poorly structured security sectors in many developing countries.
All countries obviously have legitimate security needs. The appropriate allocation of resources to the security sector is therefore essential. A security sector that is well tasked and managed serves the interests of all, by providing security and stability – against both external and internal security threats. And obviously security is an essential prerequisite for sustainable development and poverty reduction.
Security is also a priority concern of the poor themselves. Our participative poverty assessments – which are studies that ask the poor in the poorest countries to tell us their needs and priorities – put safety and security, both in the home and in society, high on their agenda. The poorest people often live with terrible insecurity and violence. They need security to be able to improve their income, get their children to school and get access to health care for their families. This is another reason why security issues feature as a high priority in our new development agenda.
In too many countries, a bloated security sector soaks up resources that would be better used elsewhere. And resources spent on excessive procurement and perks for the military mean the denial of essential public services for the poor.
In many developing countries, parts of the military own or have major economic and financial interests in the economy. This can lead to gross inefficiency, distort economic development and feed patronage, cronyism and corruption. And where corruption is pervasive there is waste and inefficiency, a disincentive for foreign investors and therefore poor economic growth and growing poverty.
Moreover, in many developing countries, elements within the security sector are a major source of insecurity and human rights abuse. This can encourage the militarisation of whole societies. And it makes it less likely that existing tensions within a society will be resolved non-violently. Where repressive security sectors trigger violence and armed conflict, the human and development costs can he enormous. It is important to note that most of today’s wars are taking place in the developing world – and within countries rather than between them. And civilians, particularly women and children, are the principal victims. We also have higher numbers of refugees than ever before. Obviously this causes great suffering and is a further obstacle to development and poverty reduction.
The security sector also tends to pose particular problems in post-conflict societies – societies which have undergone a long period of civil war or intra-state conflict. In these circumstances there are often large numbers of ex-soldiers, without employment or the prospects of employment, marooned in demobilisation camps, waiting – often for long periods – for the chance to return to a normal, civilian life.
Where action is not taken to address this problem – and to assist their reintegration into civilian society – there is a very real prospect that demobilised soldiers will resort to violent crime, that the underlying causes of conflict will be reactivated, and that full-scale civil war will recur.
This, in part, is the story of Sierra Leone, from which we have much to learn. The first failure in Sierra Leone followed the election of President Kabbah in March 1996. One of the proposals in the peace deal signed between Kabbah and Sankoh was for a programme to restructure the security sector, including the demobilisation of combatants. However, the national and international response to this proposal was very limited -and no real progress was made. This helped to create conditions in which the coup against the Kabbah government took place in May 1997.
The second failure in Sierra Leone followed President Kabbah’s return to power in March 1998. While some steps were taken by the Government, supported by the international community, to demobilise and reintegrate the rebel forces, the overall response of the international community was too little, too late.
Implementation of a demobilisation plan had not got very far when the rebels attacked again last December, supported by units from the old army, with devastating human and development costs. The Government of President Kabbah has managed to retain power supported by ECOMOG – which is overwhelmingly staffed by Nigerian troops – and the UK Government has played an important role in supporting his government. But it is clear, with hindsight, that much bloodshed and suffering, and much damage to infrastructure, could have been avoided by quicker and more determined action to restructure the security forces. We believe the lessons of past failure in Sierra Leone must be learned and we plan this time to implement a programme of security sector reform with the Government of Sierra Leone. Last week the Government made available a further £10 million of assistance for ECOMOG and training of the new Sierra Leone army. A DFID, MoD, FCO mission has just returned from Freetown and we hope to move forward soon with a co-ordinated programme.
The example of Sierra Leone illustrates the costs of not engaging -sufficiently early and sufficiently proactively – with this issue. And it shows clearly the development rationale for security sector reform. Of course not all of the activities classified as security sector reform are appropriate to DFID. The Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence have complementary roles. Our work is focused on the issues of governance, conflict prevention, human rights promotion and post-conflict reconstruction. This might include:
• Providing support to establish structures of proper civilian control over the military,
• providing international humanitarian law and human rights training to members of the military,
• strengthening national parliaments to exercise oversight over the security apparatus of the state and ensure their accountability to the wider public,
• supporting organisations within civil society able to play a watchdog function over the performance of the security sector,
• support for the demobilisation and reintegration of ex-combatants in post-conflict situations.
Our policy proposals and analysis in this area draws heavily on work done over recent years in the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation Development (OECD) through its Task Force on Conflict, Peace and Development Co-operation. More recently, we have also been able to draw on the report produced by Saferworld, which was commissioned by my Department.
To support our security sector work, we have taken steps to strengthen the Department’s capacity to analyse security issues and to plan and implement effective programmes.
We have expanded our central Conflict and Humanitarian Affairs department and recruited an experienced former army officer. In addition, a three-year programme has been agreed with the Centre for Defence Studies here in King’s College. The Centre will help DFID with analysis and advice, as well as training and the planning and implementation of programmes in the field.
We intend to draw on this new capacity to play a growing role in this area. The overall objective is to help to promote stability and peace through making the security sector more transparent, accountable and subject to proper civilian control. Our aim is to make the security sector better able to play their legitimate role – defending against internal and external threats – in a way which complements our development and poverty reduction objectives.
I want to highlight seven priority areas for future action:
First, we want increasingly to integrate a security sector reform perspective into our country programmes and into the thinking of other donors and multilateral development institutions, such as the European Union and the international financial institutions. The specifics of these programmes will differ from country to country; but the broad objective is the same – to support and encourage a strengthening of democratic accountability and transparency in the security sector, and to reshape the security sectors so that they complement our poverty reduction objectives.
Second, DFID will look to secure partnership programmes with the United Nations and regional and sub-regional organisations, willing to co-operate with us on conflict and security issues. Last month the first such programme was agreed with the Organisation of African Unity. In coming months, we hope to conclude a second such agreement with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to help strengthen its organisational capacity. I hope that by pushing this agenda regionally and multilaterally we can secure more substantive progress.
A third priority area is to expand our provision of training in international humanitarian law and international human rights law for members of the military in developing countries. Training in human rights law and the laws of war is not a guarantee that human rights violations will not occur. But it makes it more likely that soldiers will act professionally in conflict situations, and uphold basic humanitarian norms.
Priority area number four concerns the use of child soldiers. It is terrible that children – some of them as young as nine or ten years old -are forcibly recruited into the military and made to kill and commit atrocities. We believe that by working internationally we can significantly reduce this number. In collaboration with the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict and with the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), we have committed ourselves to work internationally to try to reduce the number of children involved in armed conflicts over the next three years. We have asked UNICEF to set clear targets for helping to reduce the number of child soldiers from an estimated 200,000. A range of national and international initiatives will be needed to achieve this goal. This will include working with warring parties, encouraging them to adhere to basic humanitarian norms. It means giving priority to children in demobilisation programmes. And it means providing alternative livelihoods for child soldiers, to allow them to return to a normal, civilian life.
Fifth, DFID will work increasingly at a country and regional level to reduce the proliferation of small arms and light weapons. Today there are an estimated 100 million light weapons in Africa alone. A high proportion of these weapons are recycled from conflict to conflict. My Department has commissioned work in this area, to look at how we might curb arms and ammunition flows in conflict-prone regions and strengthen customs controls.
One promising regional initiative that we are supporting through the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is the recently declared West African moratorium on small arms. The UK contribution seeks to help build the local, national and regional capacity to translate this moratorium into a working arrangement. We are also supporting a UNDP weapons for development project in Northern Albania, where DFID is providing technical support to assist a weapons hand-in programme.
Another specific project with the countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region is currently being planned. This will consist of practical steps to strengthen regional co-operation, in the area of customs controls, illicit trafficking and the destruction of surplus weaponry. We hope to learn lessons from this programme which can be built into further programmes in other regions.
Priority area six relates to reducing excessive or inappropriate military expenditure. I propose to convene a seminar on military expenditure within the next year. This will build on work already done in this field by the Canadians and others. We will bring together experts from the international financial institutions, governments, NGOs, academics and other interested parties. The aim would be to discuss how we can help countries and regions to make reasonable judgements about the extent of the security threats they face, and the appropriate level of defence spending required to meet it. In most – though not all – cases this should lead to a lower level of defence spending than at present – freeing up resources for essential investments in anti-poverty programmes. We should also aim to support greater transparency over the level of military spending, so that more informed judgements can be made on what is an acceptable and what is an excessive level of spending.
In this area it is also important that developed countries – such as the UK – do not encourage excessive levels of military spending, either by an irresponsible approach to the export of arms or by irresponsible use of export credits. In the context of international debt relief, the UK Government has already taken a lead in arguing that no export credits should be extended to heavily indebted poor countries, for unproductive expenditure – that is, excessive military spending or prestige projects. I believe that there is a strong case for extending this principle to more developing countries, not just those countries which are heavily indebted.
The final priority area – number seven – is to expand our support for building up the peacekeeping and peace support capacity of the armed forces of developing countries. The MoD and the FCO have a more direct role here in strengthening military capabilities. DFID’s role is to ensure effective co-ordination with the civilian components of a peacekeeping force. And we are committed to working with the UN Department for Peacekeeping Operations on these issues.
There is a growing trend towards the regionalisation of peacekeeping. And most of the regions in which peacekeeping and peace support operations are needed are in poor countries. We hope to help strengthen their capacity to tackle security crises in their own regions. This should help to build trust and co-operation between countries and regions and thus contribute to regional security and peace-building.
In conclusion, I have set out today the context for our new policy, and seven areas for future action.
Security sector reform is now firmly on our development agenda. But I do not pretend that it is a panacea, or that the operationalisation of this policy is easy or straightforward. It is not.
We will face tough challenges, real difficulties and dilemmas. We will need all the help we can get. We are very open to good ideas and good analysis. And I want to end by asking you to help us to get this right. I know that there is a wealth of expertise and experience in this hall. And I would welcome the opportunity to hear your thoughts on how we can take this agenda forward – so that security sector reform can make a truly effective contribution to our common goals of security, peace-building and poverty eradication.