Poor people need security in exactly the same way that they need access to clean water, shelter, food, healthcare and education. Security is a basic service and is the business of people, their governments and development programmes. When poor people are safer, then their countries are more peaceful and stable – and the world is safer too. Insecurity fuels the sense of economic, political and social marginalisation which fosters resentment towards an unequal world. Improved security is, therefore, a direct benefit poor and rich, African and European alike.

Peace keeping vs peace support

Peace keeping – an essentially military activity which seeks to protect, promote and enable the political process of making peace – is an expensive and difficult task.  Peace support – an integrated civilian-military task – integrates peace keeping into a number of linked activities designed to help ensure that fragile and conflict afflicted states sustainably emerge into peace and security.  These activities include humanitarian assistance, development, economic support as well as the development of a culture of rule of law.  All require security.  But security cannot be imposed or achieved in a vacuum.  Security and development are two sides of the same coin.

Human security

Ordinary people should be the main beneficiary of improved security.  It is an essential element in improving their human security.  Human security links integrates their physical safety with their welfare.  Only when people are both safe and well can the stability of their community, country or region be assured.  Investments in security which do not identify ordinary people as the ultimate beneficiary are unlikely to effective.

Improved security planning

In the same way that development programmes seek to assist the governments of poor countries to improve their economic planning, helping governments to plan the development and direction of their security sectors is key.  Indeed, improved and integrated security planning can also help countries emerging from conflict to get to grips important aspects of both state and nation building too.

An important military role but not a military lead

The military can play an important part in helping countries effect the transformation from conflict to peace and stability.  Soldiers can often talk to other soldiers (including those newly in power) in a way that diplomats and others cannot.  And the military strengths of clarity of mission and translating political direction into operational reality fit well in the post-conflict environment.  But the overall task of delivering security in concert with development is primarily a civilian one; and is overwhelmingly strategic.

An integrated approach

So if the UK is to spend more aid money on security and stabilisation, the military will often find themselves in the frontline of delivery but the goals towards which they are working must be set developmentally and politically.  In this respect, the suggestion that funds should be transferred from the Department for International Development (DFID) to the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is poorly conceived.  A better approach would be to increase HMG’s ability to plan and act in an integrated manner – for example through mechanisms like the Conflict Prevention Pool (CPP) and the UK Stabilisation Unit.  Competing for Whitehall funding between Departments does not have to be a winner takes all game.  Fragile and conflict afflicted states need the British Government to practice what it preaches and to keep an eye on the big picture.