Global Development and Human Security - Book launch and discussion

11 July 2007 12:00 - 13:30 GMT+00
Public event

Prof Robert Picciotto, Co-author and Visiting Professor, King's College, London (presentation)

Funmi Olonisakin, Co-author and Head, Conflict, Security and Development Group, King's College, London

Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, Visiting Professor, The New School, New York (presentation)

Simon Maxwell
, Director, ODI


Global Development and Human Security, co-authored by Robert Picciotto, Funmi Olonisakin and Michael Clarke of King's College, London explores the complex intersection between security and development policies.

In a world beset by "problems without passport" (infectious diseases, environmental pollution, international crime, conflict spill-over, etc), the publication proposes a new human security paradigm to supplant the outdated consensus that currently shapes development cooperation and neglects frail and failing states - the weak links of an interconnected global system.

At this ODI event, two of the co-authors presented the highlights of the book and Sakiko Fukuda-Parr drew out the aid policy implications.

Order a copy of the book


1. Simon Maxwell introduced the co-authors, Prof Robert Picciotto, Funmi Olonisakin, and the discussant, Sakiko Fukuda-Parr, to discuss the book, Global Development and Human Security.

2. Robert Picciotto began his presentation by focusing on the issue of policy coherence. This, he stressed, is crucial when dealing with issues ranging from trade to violent conflict, and must be taken seriously by government leaders and policy advocates.

3. Picciotto stated that more attention needs to be focused on human security for a number of reasons:
a. Seismic changes in geo-politics have threatened international security.
b. The illegal trafficking of arms, drugs and people have all increased as a result.
c. The control of global criminal networks has become less effective.
d. Infectious diseases spread more easily across borders.

4. He then moved to the issue of poverty reduction, and gave the following reasons for the failure of anti-poverty measures:
a. Financial crises hurt the poor disproportionately more.
b. Trade liberalisation brought on by rapid globalisation has lowered the price of commodities, of which poor countries are major producers.
c. Natural disasters also affect the poor disproportionately.

5. Next, he stated that half of all violent conflicts relapse into violence briefly even after a peace settlement has been established. This has ramifications for the inhabitants of conflict countries because civilians are almost always victimised more than combatants.

6. Picciotto then discussed the security equation, an issue explored in depth in the book. Security in modern times is very different to during the Cold War era and much more unpredictable. Security is now jeopardised by non-state threats, such as terrorist organisations, which operate in an irregular, asymmetric way. Such threats must be addressed in order to protect human security, which is broadly defined as:
a. A public good in which the enjoyment by one party does not reduce the availability or benefits from that good for others.
b. Goods that would otherwise be undersupplied if left to market forces only.

7. Picciotto lamented that different countries define security in different ways. Specifically, security can be defined using either a “hard” or “soft” definition:
a. UNDP/Japanese 'Soft' Security: Freedom from want, i.e. the natural dignity of men, education, freedom to migrate, development rights, etc.
b. Canadian 'Hard' Security: Freedom from fear, i.e. the safety of individuals and groups, core human rights, the responsibility to protect, etc.

8. Picciotto asserted that the differences between these definitions must be resolved before any lasting impact for conflict countries can be attempted. There is also a need for the different UN bodies involved with conflict resolution to converge and establish concurrent goals.

9. Kofi Annan’s stated concerns about nations prone to violent conflict were also outlined as follows:
a. Environmental stress breeds insecurity.
b. Competition for access to natural resources can ignite conflict.
c. State weakness often leads to violent conflict, and many developing states around the world are partially if not wholly unstable.

10. These factors all point to the importance of UN engagement with fragile states before conflict erupts. Combined with coherent policy-making, this strategy would then have the potential to successfully avoid conflict in the first place.

11. Funmi Olonisakin opened her presentation by addressing the issue of regional management in conflict countries. She suggested that the UN should do more to include local leaders in its strategic visions for dealing with such problems. Too often, local leaders are alienated from UN decision making, and are thus less willing to comply with a strategy when attempts are made to operationalise it at the local level.

12. Olonisakin also stressed the importance of innovative thinking and that the UN should re-think its current policy of refusing to deal with non-state actors. Though she stopped short of advocating such a shift, she did suggest that non-state actors might be able to provide stability, and shouldn’t be automatically dismissed.

13. The issue of the recurrence of violence in conflict countries was also brought back into the discussion. Olonisakin stressed the importance of addressing the root causes of violence in conflict countries. Without dealing with the root of the problem, recurrence of violence is very likely.

14. Lastly, Olonisakin posited that the UN often exits conflict zones too soon, typically using elections as a cue to pack up and leave. Olonisakin stressed that elections must not be viewed as the final chapter in effective conflict resolution, but rather as a vital middle step in the reconciliation process.

15. Sakiko Fukuda-Parr offered a brief commentary on the book, focusing on the differences that exist in the UN between understandings of security and development. Since WWII, these two entities have been kept separate in international institutions. Now however, security and development must go hand in hand. Bringing them together in international bodies like the UN however, has proven difficult. The book therefore offers a worthy strategy in bringing the two concepts together without sacrificing their independent strengths.

16. Fukuda-Parr also claimed however, that not all development strategies are good for preventing conflict. Aid is critical because it influences development policies as well as the actions of the different parties who might shape conflict dynamics.


Comments and questions raised in the discussion included:

• The ineffectiveness of MDGs to adequately measure individual security.
• The wavering legitimacy of external intervention, as evidenced not just in Iraq but also in Lebanon.
• How the different UN bodies involved with aid, development and security often do not share the same strategic priorities.
• The vital role played by the private sector in eliminating poverty and unemployment in many developing nations. A stronger partnership should be established between civil society groups and private firms in order for real progress to be made in development and poverty alleviation.