Unending wars?

Peace & Security20 May 2009Frans Bieckmann

Last week I attended an interesting lecture by Mark Duffield at the Centre for Conflict Studies (CCS) in Utrecht where my good friend – and coördinator of the conflict section of The Broker – Chris van der Borgh is associate professor. Duffield is an influential – although not at all uncontroversial – voice in the academic debate about current conflicts in the margins of global society. His critical analyses of the ‘development-security nexus’ are food for thought. I was interested in his lecture – about the ideas in his latest book ‘Development, Security and Unending War’ – because of the coming June issue of The Broker, which features a Special Report on the nature of current conflict by two other eminent scholars, Mary Kaldor and Stathys Kalyvas. And also because Sudan is one of the countries Duffield bases his analyses on; I am currently finishing a book about the international involvement with the conflict in Darfur.

Duffields thesis is that ‘development’ – he did not define it and seems not up to date with latest discussions on the topic and the different currents in this debate – and aid are strategic instruments of a project to control the people that live at the ‘global border lands’. This has been so for decades or longer, but what’s new since the 1990s – which showed an increase in humanitarian interventions, integrated peacekeeping missions, enforced peace deals and sometimes regime change – is that it is partly aimed at containment of the ‘undocumented’, those who want to migrate to the rich North. Much of the ‘integrated missions’ are in fact counter-insurgency operations, using age-old techniques of ‘winning the hearts and minds’.

Until this point I follow Duffield, but when he comes to including new concepts as ‘human security’ in this same strategy, I disagree. I think that human security – or human development – can be a counterforce to what he describes, if sustained by a global movement which is essentially political – in the sense that it is aware of the power structures that keep people where they are – be it in the possession of a great deal of the world’s wealth, or be it excluded. In this case his lecture was not satisfactory. Duffields analyses are useful for getting deeper insights in these power structures, but they do not offer enough room for realistic counter strategies and policy choices.