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Peace building

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by Floreana Miesen

In brief

Honduras spends about ten per cent of GDP on the consequences of crime and the fight against it

Honduras spends about ten per cent of GDP on the consequences of crime and the fight against it

Even when violent conflicts officially end, security typically remains fragile. Policymakers should examine situ­ations and assess options more thoroughly, as three recent reports point out. They were published by the Institute for Development and Peace (INEF) at Duisburg-Essen University. By Floreana Miesen

Violence and insecurity persist even after a conflict has officially ended. As Sabine Kurtenbach and Herbert Wulf outline in a joint study, the approaches development agencies have taken to peace building so far make sense, but have shortcomings. According to the authors, donors focus on state building, but tend to overestimate newly created institutions’ capacities.

Donor agencies increasingly cooperate with regional organisations such as the African Union (AU), putting them in charge of peace building. According to the INEF documents, however, the partner organisations tend to be less effective than donors assume. In development circles, security sector reform (SSR) is generally considered a promising concept: institutional reform is supposed to give people more control over their own security. In fact, however, police and military often aggravate the post-conflict security problems. In Kurtenbach and Wulf’s view, hitherto SSR programmes tend to be too blurry and are at risk of being abused for military and strategic purposes. Moreover, SSR is often perceived as an imposition of western values. At the same time, divergent interest of different donors lead to incoherent SSR policies.

Gang leaders and authorities

In a separate paper, Kurtenbach bemoans that the debate on post-war issues pays too little attention to Latin America. In spite of many conflicts there having ended over ten years ago, Latin America remains the most violent world region. Today, however, violence is generally perceived as criminal rather than politically motivated. Kurtenbach points out that there are often links between political violence and organised crime, emphasising that criminal gangs tend to corrupt agencies, thus undermining democracy.

In regard to the performance of national and local institutions, the author observes significant shortcomings – especially among police and judiciary. She considers “inveterate financing shortfalls” a major cause of problems. All too often, even capital crimes are not prosecuted.

Honduras’ sad world record

In Honduras, a poor country in Central America with 8 million people, there are 86 murders per 100,000 inhabitants per year on average, as a recent World Bank study shows. This is the world record. According to the Bank’s Giuseppe Zampaglione, Honduras spends about ten percent of GDP on the consequences of crime and the fight against it. Around 80 % of the cocaine traffic to North America passes through Central America (see comment on p. 216).

In the third INEF study, Reinhard Palm advises policymakers to pay more attention to economics. Poverty and unfair distribution of incomes, he argues, lead to insecurity. Moreover, exploitation of mineral resources typically only favours a few profiteers, which can cause recurrent
conflict.

Donor agencies should reassess their strategies, according to Palm. Only seven percent of their business-oriented cooperation takes peace into account at least as a secondary objective, even though nothing contributes more to peace building than economic success. This is evident, for instance, in programmes run by Germany’s Protestant Church Development Service to reintegrate young ex-combatants into civilian life.

Overall, the INEF authors are in favour of more coherent and better coordinated approaches to post-conflict scenarios. Development agencies should analyse the causes of conflicts, and they should assess local capacities and opportunities more thoroughly.

Floreana Miesen