Political realities threaten post-2015 peace and security agenda

A Ugandan member of the African Union Mission in Somalia on the frontline in Mogadishu. It is estimated that by 2025, 80 percent of the world's poor will live in fragile states. Photo by: Stuart Price / United Nations

As the post-2015 process shifts from consultations to negotiations, those involved in shaping the agenda are bracing for the battles that lie ahead.

In the area of peace and security, political objections threaten a general consensus that making development work in conflict-affected and fragile states is critical to any agenda that aims to eliminate global poverty. It is estimated that by 2025, 80 percent of the world’s poor will live in fragile states.

At an event last week at the Johns Hopkins University’s School of International Advanced Studies, representatives from civil society, the United Nations and the U.S. government talked about some of the challenges of getting conflict and security included in the agenda.

Molly Elgin-Cossart, a former chief of staff to the U.N. High-Level Panel on Post-2015, said that among the main roadblocks are country objections to the “securitization” of aid, worries about aid conditionality, and resistance to a governance agenda seen as biased.

“This issue has become a proxy battle, essentially, for global governance reform, financing of development, and a lot of the most contentious issues of the multilateral system, of which we know there are many,” she explained.

Elgin-Cossart noted that as obvious as the need for the agenda to address fragility and conflict might be, the negotiating blocks at the U.N. would make it difficult to push for anything that was potentially divisive.

“I think the more that we can get specific, discuss things that do not infringe upon sovereignty, do not look as if they are breaking apart some of these negotiating blocks, and instead focus on things that really are development focused, and do not threaten this idea of we’re crossing the boundary into security writ large — the more I think it will be possible to bring around consensus,” she said.

If a standalone goal on fragility and conflict would hold the rest of the agenda hostage, another strategy could be to “double-hat” goals and sub-goals by inserting language to measure security and governance, making it harder to remove altogether, suggested Charles Call, a senior advisor at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations.

John Podesta, the U.S. representative to the U.N. HLP, speaking recently at the Brookings Institute, pointed out that while a standalone goal to measure security and governance issues may be politically difficult — and even unrealistic — governance issues have been critical to the successes and failures of the Millenium Development Goals.

“Where they were specific, where the indicators were concrete, and where you could measure them, they had the biggest impact, but only in the places where there was good governance, or at least reasonable governance,” Podesta said.

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About the author

  • Paul Stephens

    Paul Stephens is a former Devex staff writer based in Washington, D.C. As a multimedia journalist, editor and producer, Paul has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Washington Monthly, CBS Evening News, GlobalPost, and the United Nations magazine, among other outlets. He's won a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting for a 5-month, in-depth reporting project in Yemen after two stints in Georgia: one as a Peace Corps volunteer and another as a communications coordinator for the U.S. Agency for International Development.