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The concept of development in international relations

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The idea of moving from humanitarian to development is that humanitarian remains a matter for the practitioner while development has its own theory.

Humanitarian aid[edit | edit source]

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A distinction must be made between humanitarian action and humanitarian action. Has emerged through a nebula where a humanitarian order of extremely diverse actors with diverse approaches. There is also a distinction between Dunkirk and Wilsonian organisations, which are totally different approaches to humanitarian aid, with one aimed at guaranteeing the integrity of a humanitarian space based on the principles of neutrality and independence in particular, and another, more transformist approach aimed at transforming the societies in which we operate.

One possible distinction is that between a needs-based and a rights-based approach:

  • a needs-based approach is an approach whose purpose of humanitarian aid is first and foremost to provide some kind of relief, direct assistance to people who are the object of humanitarian aid and who need it, whether in natural disasters or armed conflicts;
  • a rights-based approach is much more ambitious since the aim is to ensure respect for human rights. For some, we are opening the Pandora's box since we are beginning to touch on the sovereignty of States, which is the great taboo of international relations, particularly around the notion of the responsibility to protect, which is important and symptomatic of the tension around action vs. humanitarian intervention.

In a way, having an intervention approach will automatically mobilize much more resources. Need-based humanitarian action aims to alleviate people's suffering without distinction. The problem is relatively simple. The other interventionist or Wilsonian approach requires the mobilization of many actors because the aim is to transform and improve societies, to transform the international system, it is a global project. Coordination is open to many actors raising many questions.

The most complicated cooperation will be between humanitarian and military personnel. In the context of Somalia, the question at some point will be who works for whom. In other words, questions are raised on the ground, in particular as to who is being involved, for the well-being of the population and for the strategic interest of a State. In the humanitarian space, we are faced with two trends that disagree on the meaning of their profession. The second, more interventionist approach will automatically open up to development.

Humanitarian aid in a rather intuitive way was considered as short-term aid. When we seek to transform a country and improve its infrastructure, we are looking at a long-term perspective involving the mobilization of other actors and other issues.

In a more purist approach, we are reluctant to deal with problems that are simple problems of funding, independence from the state, autonomy of decision-making in order to respect humanitarian space. While the Wilsonian interventionist approach, the interventionist space makes no sense, because it is a much more political project, whereas the humanitarian in its desire for independence and creating an autonomous space, the idea is to put itself outside the political stakes. On the one hand, we are in each other's midst to relieve people's suffering and the goal is that the work should not be called into question or short-circuited by political issues, whether by belligerents on the ground or in the Ethiopian context. On the other hand, the challenge is to be able to connect a range of agents in the most effective way possible on a political agenda described as liberal, on which they agree to transform a state so that it can develop.

The other danger in the logic of space is that States are very present in humanitarian aid. The fact that states themselves may have humanitarian agencies may seem contradictory to purists. If we take to the extreme that foreign policy is the same as foreign policy and that the development and humanitarian objectives are the same, this is problematic as in Iraq or Afghanistan. The objective was to do nation-building, but this raises the problem that, for example, an NGO working in well rehabilitation in a remote region of Afghanistan is not only working to develop Afghanistan, but ultimately contributes to making Afghanistan safer because a developed Afghanistan is a safer Afghanistan that would host fewer terrorists so it would be less of a threat to the West.

There are chains and pooling of actors that seem relatively coherent, but which are extremely problematic from an ethical point of view, but which are also extremely problematic from the point of view of the practitioners themselves.

In Humanitarianism transformed[9], Mickael Barnett highlights two transformations that would be politicization on the one hand and institutionalization on the other:

  • politicisation: it is the fact that there are more and more actors and more and more challenges facing humanitarian actors who must necessarily take a position in relation to political actors, but they choose to extricate themselves from them or keep their distance.
  • institutionalization: we are faced with an increasingly complex system with more and more actors generating more and more logics of cooperation and pooling of know-how that are extremely different, ranging from more traditional humanitarian, to development, to the military and private actors.

Barnett sees himself in a more Wilsonian approach, not taking a negative view that actors should work together and that there is no reason not to do so, raising the issue of politicization and institutionalization.

Stories and definitions[edit | edit source]

Development is a concept steeped in common sense. There will be a totally different approach to humanitarian work since we are both in a field of practice with people whose profession is humanitarian work such as development agencies, certain NGOs, certain countries and certain UN agencies; and we are also in a field of study with a development theory, a much more traditional format for a course.

Development is a notion around which there is much debate, but no consensus. Some of them point it out at different times, often in relation to the different approaches adopted.

If there is a traditional understanding of development it is how it is mobilized, practiced and criticized as a result of the idea of progress that comes from the Enlightenment period. It is a logic of progress and improvement of humanity towards more reason and freedom, to which is added a maturation of the commercial society. Critics describe this project as a liberal project in the kind of society in which we aim to be a "Western society".

The contemporary meaning of development dates back to the end of the Second World War with President Truman's statement of 20 January 1949 in his inaugural speech. This is the starting point of modern development history or what Gilbert Rist calls the "era of development".

A few years after the end of the Second World War, the Cold War emerged, yesterday's allies became the new enemies and at the time, the main place of development or humanitarian aid was Europe with the implementation of the Marshall Plan to help rebuild the destroyed Europe. It was already a highly politicized project at the time, since the countries that benefited from it were the countries of the Western bloc.

It is said that the invention of development is found in point IV of Truman's speech. One of his advisers suggested that he should say something about the countries of the South, which would be a good thing in terms of political communication.

"... we need to launch a new programme that is bold and puts the benefits of our scientific and industrial progress at the service of improving and growing underdeveloped regions. ...] Their economic life is primitive and stationary. Their pauvreté́ is a handicap and a threat, both for them and for the most prosperous regions. I believe that we should make available to peaceful peoples the benefits of our pool of technical knowledge to help them achieve the better life to which they aspire. And, in collaboration with other nations, we should encourage capital investment in regions where development is lacking. ...] Greater production is the key to prospérité́ and peace".

There is the idea that nations that have a certain scientific lead and a certain number of advances can use this lead to improve the growth of underdeveloped regions. Truman invented modern development through the invention of underdevelopment. The relationship between development and underdevelopment became the main area of friction for a very important ethical and ideological debate during the Cold War.

Some will not hesitate to find a direct link between underdevelopment and threat, because they are perceived as threatening because they are underdeveloped. The era of development began in 1949. The issue of underdevelopment as a threat will return at the end of the Cold War because during the Cold War development actors do not systematically work with the military. During the Cold War, the military did their business in a secure environment and developmentists went about their business in their own corner. One of the places where the military and developmentists already meet is the counter-insurgency framework where the military with other actors are on the scene to "win back hearts and minds" as in the Algerian war or the Vietnam war. The Truman Declaration is a mixture of genres.

We are in the invention of development through the invention of underdevelopment. It is an interventionist tension through a need to develop countries because they could appear threatening. This thesis is based on issues related to illegal immigration. There is the idea that underdeveloped countries in different forms are dangerous.

There have also been other readings in the history of development. The reading that most challenges modernist reading is a much more Marxist reading of the history of development as the theory of the world system with globalization. Cowen and Shenton published in 1996 Doctrines of Development[10] linking the emergence of the practice of development with the spread of industrial capitalism since the beginning of the 19th century in England. The thesis developed is that capitalism generates a "surplus of life".

To enforce order, strategies must be developed to manage and care for populations and especially for the most excluded and potentially dangerous fringe. These populations will be placed under guardianship and excluded. In the end, when development goes international, we are in a process of reproducing these practices, we manage at the global level these populations which are the surplus of a global capitalism. We are moving from a positivist approach to a Marxist approach in which the challenge of development is to manage potentially dangerous populations.

Mark Duffield in Development, Security and Unending War: Governing the World of Peoples[11] is inspired by Cowen and Shenton. He postulates that there is only one difference between Western countries and South-East countries: in North countries people are insured and in South countries people are not insured. It uses the image of insurance to distinguish populations. The example he gives is that at one time for disaster reinsurance companies, the 2006 tsunami that killed 300,000 people cost half as much as a hurricane in Florida in the same year. That is, in the populations affected by the tsunami, there were so few people who received insurance that it was cheaper than a hurricane in Florida that killed 20 people. It will show that the world is divided between these two types of populations. So the interventions we are going to make in the West are interventions in terms of social security and unemployment insurance, while those we are going to have in the countries of the South are simply aimed at leaving these countries in a state of autarky in order to keep these countries running at least with the idea that family networks are more important and that they will be based on them. Duffield will distinguish the global practice of development as the management of surplus living by saying that the countries of the South are even more in a bad situation because they are populations that are not insured.

Modernists and their critics: towards the impasse of development theory[edit | edit source]

We are moving from a fairly defined and historically traceable practice, which is that of humanitarian aid, to a field of practice, which is development with more vague, conflictual outlines and, above all, to the challenges of important international relations in terms of transforming the international system or being able to transform the international system.

The development debate takes place from the late 1950s to the late 1980s and even today. This is the moment when development theory was the most important.

Modernists[edit | edit source]

On development there is the modernised thesis that underlies this approach in terms of progress to a certain extent that is intuitive based on the Truman Declaration launching the era of development or, as some will say, underdevelopment.

The modernist thesis, which is still very important today, is based on the idea that the countries of the South are lagging behind in their cultural and economic development. In other words, there is a sense in which progress is being made towards more reason, rationality and democracy and we must help the countries lagging behind to catch up. It is a logic where all companies go through different phases of development. From a critical point of view, modernist theory can be summarized as a development by phase.

Walt Whitman Rostow and Talcott Parsons are the most cited authors in relation to the canons of this modernist thesis. They start from the idea that a society is developed when it is increasingly differentiated, i.e. the different sectors of society are differentiated. By becoming more complex and different, a society develops.

The modernist thesis is supported by key development actors such as the World Bank, which will help reform countries to catch up. Military-humanitarian interventions, when they have a complex military intervention component, with developmentists, lawyers, we remain in this paradigm. It is a paradigm that also applies to democratization since there are currently European Union operations in various countries with the dispatch of lawyers to help build and develop "rules of law operation" in order to help establish a rule of law by training lawyers and provide these countries with institutions that would enable them to become developed States.

For this approach, the causes of underdevelopment are internal. If the countries of the South are underdeveloped, it is their fault because they have not developed the capacities that would allow them to develop, so we will help them to develop. This concerns the area of "good governance", because if we have good governance, it is possible to develop.

When we talk about the responsibility to protect, we mean the idea that we can intervene in a country as long as the government of a country is not going to be able to provide its citizens with the means for its development. The border becomes blurred on the fields of action of the intervention.

Typically, the countries that are going to be against intervention will be countries that will have a "southern" type of sovereignty relationship, such as Brazil, India and China, which have a discourse on respect for sovereignty that is much more traditional in the sense that sovereignty is intangible and all states in the international system are equal and therefore we cannot overthrow regimes.

Critics[edit | edit source]

In these theses of modernism, which are intended to be transformative, a whole series of criticisms have emerged. Most of the critics are Marxist, the most famous of which is the theory of dependence of André Franck, but also of Prebisch who want there to be a relationship of dependence between centre and periphery in the international system. Ultimately, the countries of the centre are developed because the other countries are underdeveloped. Underdevelopment is not simply the cause of bad governance, but because underdevelopment simply becomes a historical creation of capitalism, because to exercise it, capitalism needs to create underdevelopment.

There is also the thesis of Wallerstein and Amin's theory of the world system theory, where we are in the emergence in a much longer time of a capitalist world economy since the 16th century that will create these dependency relationships.

What these critics have in common and on which they agree is that the causes of underdevelopment are external. It is the functioning of the international system that will generate underdevelopment. When we talk about development, the real issue is the causes of underdevelopment, which is at the heart of the fundamental disagreement between the various protagonists.

The debate ran out of steam a little at the end of the 1980s because there were great signs of the modernist theory running out of steam in practice with the debt crisis in Latin America caused by loans to help them develop, on the other hand, there has been a series of criticisms against Marxist theories in which they have been criticised for being in a functionalist bias with a certain sense of history that lent a certain homogeneity to all the countries of the South while we are not in a homogeneous population, but in different stages of development where the development of certain countries has thwarted some of the dependence, notably with Brazil and certain countries of South-East Asia. We have reached a development impasse according to David Booth.

At the end of the Cold War, there were some failures of one thesis and the other, but this remained the great defeat of Marxist theses. The thesis of dependencies that was in vogue has been somewhat lost in the sense that we can quite rightly make a correlation between the explosion of humanitarian interventions, an explosion of development aid, a belief in the end of the Cold War as a great moment of unlocking the international system with the end of humanity. The end of the Cold War enshrined the modernist thesis with a vision of underdevelopment as the result of internal and not external causes. The modernist thesis remains the most popular, the causes of underdevelopment being concerned as internal rather than external.

Peace-building and the fusion between security and development[edit | edit source]

This is the idea that since the end of the Cold War, we have been on a liberal agenda aimed at transforming the countries of the South that are lagging behind and from there mobilizing huge resources. From the 1990s onwards, the idea emerged that it was possible to solve the problems of the countries of the South by intervening in them. This is a very positive logic in the context of the time with the desire to reap the peace dividend. Francis Fukuyama in his book The End of History and the Last Man develops[12]

the idea that in a liberal world, the socialist system having lost, a new system is being set up all over the world because it is the best system and that it will be exported with practices and a cultural model and also soft power. After that, Fukuyama converted to peace building.

A liberal project to regulate the world is being set up. One of the most famous books is Mickael Iniatiev's Empire Light, which will explain that under the benevolent leadership of the United States, the United States will do its best to settle the countries of the South and finally help them enter the international community and benefit from the opportunity to be in liberal democracies and with a functioning market economy. It's the idea of a lean empire.

Mark Duffield is an English academic who has an interest in Marxist approaches, but who is also a former humanitarian worker and will develop the thesis with other authors such as David Chandler and David Harly who will challenge the liberal agenda of transformation and liberalization in the southern countries. Duffield's thesis is to point out that for the developmentist since its creation in the 1940s, underdeveloped countries are a threat and that developing the countries of the South is a way for the countries of the North to be more secure.

At the same time as the UN, the United States or even the European Union, there is the idea that security is development and that development is security. In the end, the two projects are completely linked. September 11 is no longer seen as a rupture, but as a continuity in the relationship between security and development. The US National Security Strategy fully supports the idea that certain countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan must be developed to generate less terrorism. The 2003 European Security Strategy also sets up this scenario where, as a benevolent foreign policy, it is necessary to be benevolent to generate more security. There is an interest in "sympathy".

There is the idea that interests and values converge. In Switzerland, a human security division has been created in the Department of Foreign Affairs, which is a concept created in 1994 by UNDP to contribute to the security of individuals in order to contribute to the security of the world. For Duffield, NGOs and aid agencies are the first lines of imperialist actors in the countries of the South.

His thesis is a little problematic because we are in a somewhat nuanced reading of humanitarian interventions that would be limited to an imperialist project. Duffield makes a link between liberalism, security and development. That is to say, a liberal society that is established beyond a discourse on progress and freedom is in a Foucauldian understanding of power since the exercise of power is exercised in a biopolitical manner. Liberalism is becoming a technique of governing populations. From then on, this system will be exported to the rest of the world and security and development are only two sides of the same coin that support an imperialist project.

As a Marxist, he is part of a historical perspective in which the whole development of the various humanitarian development, security, military and international police tools are only means of controlling the "surplus of life". From this historical perspective, Duffield says that decolonization has created the need to police the international scene and we will have to intervene to manage these undesirable populations and that humanitarian aid is only a last safety net to manage these populations. Duffield sees it as an extremely effective power technique, explaining that some have tried eugenics or extermination and that, in the end, this mode of government is more effective, but we remain in a logic of power exercise and domination. That's why we're in an imperial project.

He gives the example of the abolition of slavery because he points to the tension and paradox of liberalism. By pushing for the abolition of slavery, that is, to give more freedom to this population, when slavery was abolished, the question arose as to what to do with these populations. There has been the experience of the constitution of Sierra Leone or Liberia or Liberia or even some in Jamaica, where the aim was to show that it is possible to create States and that these populations can take charge of themselves. This is a dark vision of the international system, but one that has the merit of challenging a doxa on humanitarian interventions that is part of a historical coherence that may prove relevant in some cases.

To criticize Duffield, we notice that he is part of a certain vision of history. In his work, he will talk about the fusion between security and development, but to a certain extent he adopts a very Wilsonian Anglo-Saxon vision of humanitarian aid. One may wonder whether Duffield does not reproduce and support a certain vision of intervention and justify them when practitioners on the ground are not caught in an imperialist scheme and when their profession is that of humanitarian aid, which must retain a certain independence. So this theory, which is intended to be teleological, is not representative of the real situation. It would be a form of simplism.

Annexes[edit | edit source]

Bibliographie[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Page de Stephan Davidshofer sur Academia.edu
  2. Page personnelle de Stephan Davidshofer sur le site du Geneva Centre for Security Policy
  3. Compte Twitter de Stephan Davidshofer
  4. Page de Xavier Guillaume sur Academia.edu
  5. Page personnelle de Xavier Guillaume sur le site de l'Université de Édimbourg
  6. Page personnelle de Xavier Guillaume sur le site de Science Po Paris PSIA
  7. Page de Xavier Guillaume sur Academia.edu
  8. Page personnelle de Xavier Guillaume sur le site de l'Université de Groningen
  9. Barnett, Michael. "Humanitarianism Transformed." Perspectives on Politics 3.04 (2005): n. pag. Web
  10. Cowen, Michael, and Robert W. Shenton. Doctrines of Development. London: Routledge, 1996.
  11. Duffield, Mark R. Development, Security and Unending War: Governing the World of Peoples. Cambridge: Polity, 2007.
  12. Fukuyama, Francis. The End of History and the Last Man. Francis Fukuyama. New York: Perennial, 1992.