2007 Defense, Diplomacy and Development

Defense, Diplomacy and Development: Marriage or Living apart together?

When a military convoy, part of a peace mission in Sudan, Afghanistan or Congo, enters a town or a village it looks like this: (sheet 2).
When a diplomat enters the same town or village it looks like this: (sheet 3).
When an international NGO arrives there, you see this picture: sheet 4)\
When a local NGO enters that town or village this is the picture: (sheet5).

Any idea what kind of vehicle we have to build when we would ask them to go together? I tried to image but I didn’t succeed.

And it is precisely that challenge that we are facing these two days, reflecting on the three D concept. There is a an increasing acknowledgement of the interaction between the three D’s and of the necessity to develop new strategies for this interwove ness. But we are still searching and clear answers arte not yet there.  The debate on the cooperation (or is it better to use the term  integration, coordination, alignment) is lively and tense in the political arena, and in the development-sector itself. There are different opinions, those who look at it in a more pragmatic way, others who see it as a principal debate on mandate of organisations.

In this introduction I will try to bring together some of the parts of the vehicle to be build and I hope they will be useful and practical in the construction-process of these two days.

I will start to make comments on the identity of the three players: defence, diplomacy and development. Then I will reflect about the importance of the context. I will continue with some remarks on the mandate of organisations. I will proceed with some reflections on the position and role of development organisations in the 3-D concept before making some concluding remarks on the position where we as Cordaid are at this moment.

1. The three players: characters and identities
It’s is easy to call upon the three D’s to forget there differences and all that divides and to realise that they are there to realise a same goal: a stable and peaceful world in which there is freedom and justice, where good governance is the standard. Scrutinizing the different mandates, characters and identities is a prerequisite for understanding and good cooperation. I that process I mention a couple of important observations:

  • Diplomacy is by itself most of the time a hidden process. That is what diplomacy most of the time makes strong and effective: working, negotiating behind the screens. And diplomacy has perhaps strategic goals but not a very clear methodology: it needs room to manoeuvre, not a strict logical framework, it lives by improvisation, being able to respond to unexpected moves at the other side.
  • Military realises a lot of his objectives by its visibility. The mere presence of military forces, its striking power, its impressive weaponry and defence is an important part of its success. Military is always clear distinct from civil live, closed communities living in their compounds, a distinctive dress code. They are not merging into society.  And military lives by very strict and clearly defined procedures, where everybody knows when what to do and how. Without that military action would be a disaster.
  • Development lives by the fact that it is closely related to society. It can only be effective if it is able to get integrated into society, when individuals and communities are taking over development goals as theirs. The question of ownership and the need of local ownership limits the steering capacity of development organisations, whether they are international or local. Development processes are marked by a bottom-up process, where the interests and the ambitions of women and children, of small holder peasants and entrepreneurs in the informal sector are leading, whereas military and diplomacy always works from a top-down perspective.
  • And there is a important, different feature between these three actors. Development organisations are fundamentally open and transparent on their policy and operations. And with all endeavours of military and diplomats to strengthen their transparency, both are essentially based on secrecy. I don’t blame them for that, it is indispensable to be effective, but it is of importance when we talk about cooperation.

We should realise these differences before we are talking about cooperation. Acknowledging these differences makes our discussion about cooperation more realistic, it prevents us from disappointments and it prevents us from accusing each other.

2. The context
Last June Cordaid published a study on civil military cooperation. We had commissioned that study to a team of researchers asking them to combine a more conceptual research on this cooperation and at the same time to see how in practice this cooperation is getting shape. They visited Liberia and Afghanistan. And the main conclusion and recommendation of the team was that there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach on this civil military cooperation. In Liberia development organisations, local and international, were willing to cooperate with foreign peace-forces, without being backfired in their relation with the local community. They were making use of military logistic support to get there operations done. Local development organisations in Afghanistan found it much more sensible to do so. They were more reluctant to cooperate visibly, fearing that they would been perceived by local people as allies of the ISAF-forces. That could put the organisation, their staff and their operations at risk. The importance of the context should make us cautious to embark too easily on an all-encompassing approach of the cooperation between development and diplomacy.  What works in the DRC, doesn’t work in Afghanistan, What worked in Liberia, will probably not work in Darfur. If we acknowledge the importance of the context we should invest more effort in the analysis of that. And we know that we are always operating in a volatile context of states that are in a process of reconstruction or in failed states that have no longer an effective grip on their societies. Analysis of the situation means that we assess the situation: what are the main actors, where are opportunities, where are allies, where are opponents. Who are the still existing pillars in society. And, if we have done a mapping of societies, which approach, which mixture of approaches could work. If we look at the Dutch participation in the ISAF-mission in Aghanistan, we didn’t make such an analysis on beforehand, let alone that we did some discussion how the balance between military, diplomacy and defence could be. In fact we first decided to intervene military and after that talks started between military, defence and development on question of complementarity and cooperation. The last couple of months one of the returning issues is the lack of development strategies to address the development problems in South Afghanistan. Huge military forces have been deployed, whereas more and more people say that the struggle in Aghanistan can not be won on the military field. But for development, which is the key for a long-term solution, we are lacking a comprehensive approach.

A second remark on the context is the geopolitical aspect. Interventions in failed states of states under reconstruction have a strong international dimension. It is not merely to help national government and nation population . The intervention in Afghanistan is clearly linked tot the war on terror is perceived by a lot of people in the Islamic world as part of the struggle between the West and Islam. Whether we like it or not, also that is part of the context. That is different from the situation in DRC or Liberia of Haiti, where this geopolitical aspect is not so visible, and if it is there it is more from an economic perspective than from a religious or clash of civilizations perspective. For diplomacy and military this geopolitical aspect is part and parcel of their thinking and doing. Development organisations whit their strong emphasis on ownership and empowerment, by their very nature, don’t want to approach reconstruction from this geopolitical perspective. I’m concerned on this aspect when I look to the near future. I fear that we, seventeen years after the ending of the cold war, are entering into a new era where geopolitical strategies will prevail in our diplomacy and military thinking and increasingly will influence our development policies. Not only related to religion and culture, but also related to interests in energy and natural resources.

3. The mandate of development organizations
D-organizations are already for a couple of years discussing their role in this 3-D concept. Since the Dutch minister formulated international peace and stability as the third pillar of the mandate of military forces, it is a growing reality that organisations who are active in  humanitarian aid and reconstruction meet military forces in the countries like Afghanistan, DRC, Sudan. And it is quite understandable that politicians and media are questioning what the relation is between these two sectors of society,  both Dutch, both funded by taxpayers money. So there is a challenge for development-organizations to respond to the question of cooperation and coordination. And there is no univocal response.  I think it is reasonable to make a distinction between humanitarian organisations and reconstruction and development organisations. The latter ones are always operating on a the basis of a political analysis of the country: in which direction should this society develop itself, which social actors will we support based on their analysis of society. Especially in states under reconstruction development organisations have or to my opinion must have a view on state and nation building, on the values and the institutions. Humanitarian organisations could limit themselves to a victim-approach, which doesn’t need a political vision on society. Humanitarian organisations are therefore, understandably, strict in their opinion to stay away from cooperation with military. They don’t want to be part of a state or nation building policy, that is not their mandate.

Development organisations cannot withdraw themselves from a stance on this issue of nation building and are therefore could cooperate with military whose mandate it is to contribute to that process. But development organisations referring to my earlier remarks on their identity, will always make sure that there engagement doesn’t hamper their necessary merging into society. They must be sure that their cooperation doesn’t hamper their goal to make development a process owned by local people and local organisations. The policy of donor-organisations on cooperation with military and diplomacy, is not only depending on the discussions in the Hague. The experiences and opinions  of their partners plays an important role and that is correct. Cordaid derives its licence to operate in Congo, Sudan and Afghanistan from its partners, from local ngo’s and cbo’s. This strong relationship with locally rooted organizations makes it also almost impossible to formulate a policy that encompasses all different situations. Cordaid’s Cimic-study I referred to earlier, underlines this ability to be responsive and flexible to different situations. That’s not always easy to accept by politicians and media, who like to have a clear-cut and always applicable answer from development organisations.

This reference by development-organisations to their partnerorganizations is not exclusive.  Defence and diplomacy will also refer to their local counterparts. The licence to operate has been given to them by the international community, with consent of the national governments.  So there is a legitimacy at the side of military missions like KFOR, MONUC and ISAF. That is important and a necessary prerequisite for every peacekeeping or peace-enforcing intervention. But the local legitimacy of development-organizations and foreign peace-missions is not the same. We all know that especially in countries under reconstruction, the legitimacy of the state is weak. And it is quite understandable that people are reluctant to trust the state that in a lot of cases has done so much damage to the population and at least could not fulfil its base obligation to protect them. Especially in these countries there is no unanimity among the people on processes of state and nation-building, there is no unanimity on the road ahead. And whereas military and diplomacy have a clear direction that derives from the national government and therefore the ruling parties, the policy of development-organizations is much more a reflection of the diversity within the national society of Congo, Liberia and Sudan and the way forward to the future. When we stress the importance of democracy and we do so in urging for elections based on multiparty systems and different political programs, we should also accept the diversity. The discussions between development organizations, military forces and diplomats reflects to some extend the discussions that are there in the national society. Development organizations are not the subcontractors od national governments, not in the Netherlands, not in Afghanistan or Congo.

At the same time there is an urgent need for a common and joint effort of all actors in the reconstruction of these countries. Democracy should not legitimate an endless process of debates and discussions in a situation where stated are fragile, state is most of the time badly equipped and resourced and where people are desperately longing for more security and a better life. There is a high responsibility to contribute and I don’t run away from that and Cordaid didn’t run away in the debate on Afghanistan. But I don’t believe in putting aside the fundamental differences between the actors (diplomacy, development, military). Reconstruction of failed states requires a long term commitment and engagement and for that long term commitment the basic features of development organizations are indispensable. Is doesn’t make sense to blur these features for a short term operation.

4. Cordaid, Afghanistan and the 3-D concept
In the discussion on the PRT-mission to Afghanistan Cordaid took position by supporting the mission stressing the importance (some like to say conditions but perhaps we are not in a position to set conditions for such a mission) of a strict distinction, even separation of ISAF and OEF, of a real Dutch approach that mainly builds trust with local population instead of deterring them and developing a strategy that should not put together ethnic, economic, religious and clan aspirations under one single insurgent denouncement. And we took that position based on the discussions with our local partners, who saw the need for security as a basic condition for any development.

But it is far to easy to talk about a joint operational effort of military, diplomats and development organizations in Afghanistan. I don’t believe in embedded development-work. The dutch military mission is just a short presence in a much longer development process. Development organizations where there before the Dutch entered and they will continue after they leave. The experience in Baghlan, where political and alliance-interests limited  the dutch stay for less than two years, underlines the importance for development organizations to keep an independent position during this intervention period.

The different time-line and the bottom-up approach of development organizations that we are keen on engaging in small initiatives as a base for long term commitment. No quick fixes, no large scale and highly visible things. And we as development organizations don’t confine ourselves to the inkspots cleared by the military and accessible for PRT-activities. Sometimes it’s more effective to work outside that area because tensions are lower. And I can’t see why that is less effective and less contributing to the overall goal of stability and development. I think we should overcome a to narrow approach of complementary approach in which complementarity means an operational working together in the same area on the same programs and projects.

And there is concern on the balance between military and development. There is still missing a comprehensive development-strategy for the south, which makes clear that the Afghan government and the ISAF-allies want to invest heavily and urgently in the southern part of the country. Without that, there is no attractiveness for local people to embark on the state and nation building process. There is no clear strategy to take care for the victims of air-strikes. There is no organized aid-program for the increasing number of IDP’s in that part of the country. More emphasis and a more aggressive strategy to tackle the poverty and direct needs is necessary to get a better balance between the 3 D’s.

Almost 8 month later it is too early to make an assessment of the Dutch contribution to the ISAF-mission in Southern Afghanistan, although a lot of people wants to know whether we are successful and effective. It is also too early to assess the cooperation although people are pushing for more alignment of development and military.

5. Some concluding remarks on the 3-D concept
The 3-D concept is the reflection of a new reality of the last decade. Untill that time the Dutch military took responsibility for the North German plain (laagvlakte??) and development organizations took responsibility for the rest of the world. That distinction of labour is over. We have entered a new reality with blurring boundaries, and grey areas. It seems to me that we need much more thinking, study and analysis on the 3-d concept. It is too much trial and error. We should analyse more profoundly what the differences in roles and identities of the three actors mean for cooperation and coordination.

There is no question that we need eachother. In recent month there is an increasing conviction that the struggle in Afghanistan will not be won on the military battlefield but in the political and developmental arena. Defeating the insurgents is only possible if we can convince the people to embark on the nation and state-building process, offering them enough ownership to make the Afghan state theirs and to offer them enough daily-life benefits to invest in that social and economic process. But to translate this conviction of mutual relationship into a workable program where there is a balance between joint efforts and separate responsibilities is not so easy