Much has been learned from the experiences of both countries and international development partners working to achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) that were declared in 2000. In particular, country experience has revealed the importance of citizen security for achieving sustainable development, underscoring the importance of including armed violence prevention and reduction in the post-2015 MDGs framework.
In an effort to highlight perspectives on ways to reduce and prevent armed violence, IPI and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) co-hosted a policy forum on July 1st, in conjunction with UNDP’s Annual Meeting on Strengthening the Rule of Law in Crisis-Affected and Fragile Situations.
Luis Ramirez began the discussion by sharing his experiences as Special Adviser to the Attorney General of Guatemala. Guatemala, which went through thirty years of civil war, began its transformation towards democracy in 1995 after a peace agreement was established between the government and guerilla fighters.
Speaking with the aid of a translator, Mr. Ramirez said that the contributions of the international community and political will caused a decreased in violent crimes in the country during the last few years. He provided four variables which he believed helped to bring the numbers down: political will of institutions such as the police and judiciary; management of the institutions; the development of IT systems; and lastly, the working methodology of the institutions.
Iman El Hussien, Program Analyst, UNDP’s Bureau for Crisis Prevention and Recovery (BCPR), presented the case study of Sudan, making the connections to insecurity and development. She explained that the region of Sudan faces significant security and political challenges and in the local context, different dynamics are at play.
“The presence of armed groups and high levels of arms continues in communities in larger conflicts, in addition to other challenges that face certain groups in the community, like women [and] children, and therefore sexual violence becomes a reality of everyday to some of the communities and recruitment of child soldiers is the only source of living to certain households,” Ms. El Hussein said.
She noted, “It is important to know that these local challenges are also related to macro-level conflict dynamics, like the regional influx of arms. They are both fed into each other.”
In Darfur, Ms. El Hussein explained, poverty levels are among some of the highest in the country with almost two thirds of the population falling below the poverty line.
She argued that the complexity of the conflict and insecurity in Sudan requires responses at all levels in order to address immediate security challenges, providing four main practices to address the issue: fostering a political will at the macro-level; developing strategy and policy making at the national level; addressing the reasons why people resort to carrying arms; and focusing on improving service delivery of government institutions.
She contended that a major lesson drawn from Sudan is that it is important to know the different responses that are effective, depending on the local context of each community.
Discussing some of the paradoxes often faced when working on security and justice was Petter Bauck, Senior Adviser at the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, who shared some of his personal experience working in countries of conflict.
Mr. Bauck said, “We experience again and again that people turn to violence and armed struggle to end occupation, oppression, injustice and marginalization, often when other means have proven useless. Is all violence, therefore, to be condemned?”
Taking the example of Nepal, he asked, “Would the transformation process ongoing in Nepal been possible without ten years of armed struggle from the Maoist against the Nepal Royal army?”
“I say this to make us aware that sometimes human conclude that use of violence is necessary to change the political, social and economic context in a way more conducive for sustainable and inclusive development,” he argued. “We’re in need of a thorough understanding of the reasons and forces behind the conflicts and who are the connectors to work with and spoilers to neutralize or change.”
Sheelagh Stewart, Director of Governance and Rule of Law Group at UNDP’s BCPR, provided concluding remarks, reiterating some of the points made by the previous speakers.
“It’s very important to ask communities why they are arming themselves,” Ms. Stewart said. She asserted that taking on a holistic approach is important, not one that relies only on rules and laws, but on an approach of asking communities what they need to feel safe.
“Violence and conflict hold back development. According to the World Bank, no low-income country affected by conflict or high-level of violence has met a single MDG,” she noted.
One billion people live in poverty, Ms. Stewart explained, principally because they live in parts of the world affected by chronic violence and chronic insecurity. She described it as the development challenge of our time.
“So as a way forward, we consider the ongoing post-2015 discussions as a great opportunity to agree at the highest level,” she concluded, “that security, armed violence and development are interlinked and that there is a need to include a goal specifically targeting the reduction of violence.”