Financing Stabilization: Achieving a Common Vision for Security and Development

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UN troops patrol the airport grounds in Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are followed closely by children who were able to sneak into the airport without much trouble. © Vincent Tremeau/ World Bank

Deciphering the nexus between security and development has become one of today’s most pressing global challenges. Just look at recent news: In the past few weeks, more than 5,000 people have been marching from Central America to the United States to flee criminal violence and poverty. In Afghanistan, 4 million people have voted in parliamentary elections amid growing violent attacks that have taken almost 30 lives, including that of a powerful a police chief. In Nigeria, insecurity is a major development challenge due to the militant group Boko Haram, as well as because of the growing intercommunal violence between herders and pastoralists.

Despite their many differences, countries affected by fragility, conflict, and violence often face a dual impediment — the difficulty of providing their citizens with both sustainable livelihoods and sustainable security. This challenge has been on the minds of policymakers especially in the past decade. For example, the World Bank’s 2011 World Development Report (WDR) on Conflict, Security, and Development argued that investments in citizen security were essential to breaking cycles of violence. The WDR 2017 on Governance and the Law explored how institutions can deter violence and incentivize peace. Most recently, the joint United Nations-World Bank study Pathways for Peace argued for effective security sector reform (SSR) as an instrument for preventing violent conflict. But while experts share a policy consensus, they still struggle to find ways in which security and development interventions can reinforce each other. How, then, can we overcome this obstacle?

One way to begin is to break the silos between two communities with different priorities and — at times — radically different worldviews: security and development experts. In most fragile states, finance ministry officials are to a significant extent unaware of the rationale behind defense and police expenditures. Security budgets are often not integrated in the regular budget cycle, which means expenditures lack policy-based rationales, the allocation of resources is not subject to debate, and there is little transparency in acquisitions. On the security side, police and defense officials often struggle with effective public-sector management issues, such as human resources and payroll, as well as with sustaining the cost of deployment of police officers and soldiers. Security is thus a black box for development practitioners whose skills and analysis could improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability of security sector organizations.

These are some of the main lessons emerging from Securing Development: Public Finance and the Security Sector, a methodology developed by a joint team of UN and World Bank experts in order to facilitate policy dialogue between development and security officials. Based on more than 20 public expenditure reviews of security institutions from Afghanistan to Somalia and El Salvador, the book proposes a framework for analyzing budget planning, public financial management, financial accountability, and oversight of defense, police, and criminal justice systems. Security sector public expenditure reviews can help officials in both disciplines develop a shared vision for the economics of security sector reform. Rather than adopting top-down international best practices, the pillars of this vision are data and context-driven estimates that cost-out security strategies and plans developed by national authorities.

This approach to the security-development nexus can help countries fill a critical gap in global governance. While international and bilateral finance institutions have developed principles of aid effectiveness, there are no equivalent rules to govern how donors manage security assistance. For this reason, security and development aid are often disjointed, leading to incoherent stabilization efforts that work at cross-purposes. With fragile states paying a high price in blood and treasure, it’s high time to implement more integrated strategies.

Views expressed in this publication are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Paris Peace Forum.

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Paul M. Bisca is a conflict and security consultant with the World Bank’s Fragility, Conflict, and Violence Group. He specializes in the interplay between security and development in fragile states. Paul is the co-editor of Securing Development: Public Finance and the Security Sector, a joint United Nations-World Bank methodology to assess public expenditures of defense and security institutions. He has also contributed to Effective, Legitimate, Secure: Insights for Defense Institution Building, a book published by National Defense University in Washington, DC. Paul has supported World Bank social development and governance projects in Indonesia, Mexico, El Salvador, Liberia, and Rwanda. He has also worked on managing the State and Peacebuilding Fund, the Word Bank’s financing instrument for piloting innovative projects in fragile states. The views expressed are his own.

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