The Securitisation of Foreign Aid – Working Group Report

By Stephen Brown and Jörn Grävingholt

The panel featured four papers. The first one, ‘Peacebuilding and “Human Securitization” of Japan’s Foreign Aid’, by Pedro Miguel Amakasu Raposo de Medeiros Carvalho and David M. Potter, addresses the case of Japan. Japan is notable for its constitutional provision that restricts the activities of its security forces, a legacy of the World War II settlement. Carvalho and Potter trace how the government’s aid agency, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Self-Defence Forces increasingly worked in tandem to bring together elements of security and development. They analyse the simultaneous rise of peacebuilding and human security approaches, starting in the mid-1990s, alongside increased concern with terrorism and other non-military security threats abroad, especially after 9/11. They combine an examination of overall aid flows with case studies of Japanese assistance to specific African and Asian countries, finding differing degrees of subjugation of development goals to security ones.

The second paper, ‘State Fragility, Security and German Foreign Aid’, by Jörn Grävingholt, argues that the debate on security concerns as part of a post-Cold War development agenda evolved in four stages driven by changes in government and external events. It examines each period in turn and finds that they left their marks in German development policy in the areas of official development discourse, development infrastructure and aid allocation patterns. At the discourse level, it analyses references to the peace and security ‘dividend’ of aid and its framing as an indirect, but potentially superior, contribution towards security not only for developing countries, but also for the industrialised world. Subsequently, the paper argues that in institutional terms, despite the establishment of a whole set of new organisations, policy coherence at the intersection of development and security was achieved (to a degree) only in singular cases, such as Afghanistan. Finally the paper turns to German aid allocation and finds that partner selection was relatively unaffected by security concerns, though the programming of aid increasingly addressed issues of peace and conflict since the early 2000s. The chapter concludes that the traditional departmentalisation of German government as compared to other Western countries combined with the country’s self-image of a “civilian power” may have shielded development policy against becoming overly instrumentalised for non-development-related security interests.

In the third paper, ‘From Ottawa to Kandahar and Back: The Securitization of Canadian Foreign Aid’, Stephen Brown argues that since the mid-2000s the terminology of ‘failed and fragile states’ and ‘whole-of-government approach’ helped the Canadian government  increasingly instrumentalise CIDA, its international development agency, and use foreign aid for non-development-related purposes. Nowhere did this become more obvious than in the case of Afghanistan, consistently one of Canada’s top-three aid recipients between 2002 and 2011 and a major location of Canadian military involvement. However, the military utility of using aid for military objectives has remained doubtful and the developmental impact negative. More recently, with the departure of Canadian combat troops from Afghanistan, the securitisation of Canadian aid has begun to be reversed, giving way instead to another problematic trend: commercialisation.

The fourth paper, ‘The European Union’s Development Policy: a Balancing Act between “Comprehensive Approach” and Creeping Securitisation’, by Mark Furness and Stefan Gänzle, analyses to what extent securitisation has affected the European Union’s foreign aid. They find that there is evidence for a certain degree of securitisation of EU development policy but that these trends should be understood as part of a general effort to progress towards ‘coherence’ across the EU’s external policies. They argue that policy documents, institutional changes and instruments of external action confirm the notion that security and development became more closely interrelated in the EU’s international engagement. Yet rather than a deliberate securitisation agenda, they see the emergence during the 2000s of the EU as an international actor in its own right and with its own security interests as a major driving force behind these efforts to increase external policy coherence. Furness and Gänzle conclude that the EU member states’ interest in treating security as a national, rather than supranational, policy field may prevent the EU from turning into a more relevant security actor and thus prevent security interests from trumping developmental concerns.

A lively discussion ensued, in which audience members asked questions about:

  • the extent to which the protection of populations in developed countries has been used to justify foreign aid;
  • the relative importance of individual political figures, political parties and structural conditions;
  • the impact of discourse on how foreign aid plays out in developing countries;
  • the impact of development ideas on the military (‘developmentalisation’ of the military);
  • the role of commercial interests and investments;
  • the framing of development in ministerial portfolios;
  • the concept of human security.

Stephen Brown, University of Ottawa, and Jörn Grävingholt, German Development Institute