Belgium is committed to security to support development

Development is not possible without security. This is why the Belgian Development Co-operation is also engaging with the security sector. It now has a solid basis for carrying out this sometimes delicate exercise.

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Men around sapling

Belgium is recognised for its expertise in developing a police force close to the people. On the photo: project Enabel in Burkina Faso. © Enabel/Xzotic

Security and development are closely linked. ‘Without peace and security, development is not possible, and without development there is always the threat of instability or worse,’ political philosopher Adekeye Adebajo recently stated in MO*.

SDGs and security

This insight is also firmly embedded in the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG16 promotes peaceful and inclusive communities for sustainable development, aims to provide access to justice for all and builds towards effective and trustworthy institutions accessible to all.

But other SDGs also include various targets relating to a peaceful and secure society. For example, SDG5.2 states that all forms of violence against girls and women must be clamped down upon. SDG8.7 aims to put an end to modern slavery and human trafficking, as well as child labour and the use of child soldiers.

Security to aid in development

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's Development Assistance Committee (OECD-DAC) also states that development, peace and humanitarian aid are closely linked. The organisation has developed 11 principles to inspire development donors to actively contribute towards conflict prevention and peacebuilding.

The Belgian Development Co-operation has taken the ‘security’ aspect to heart and endorses the principles from the OECD-DAC. This is not only because its main aim – improving living conditions – is laying a solid foundation for a safe society. Sometimes, it is also useful to invest directly in the security apparatus itself. However, this is on the condition that it promotes the economic development and prosperity of developing countries.

Of course, there are risks associated with such security activities. Nor can development co-operation be used to support a country's military activities. However, the capacity to protect human rights or fight corruption can be improved.

Men under tree

© Enabel/Xzotic

Security in the broadest sense

In a memorandum, the Belgian Development Co-operation has extensively mapped out this complex domain. The memorandum clearly defines the types of actions that are eligible and the criteria to be used to decide whether a project can go ahead or not. A detailed risk analysis is essential.

Security is understood in a very broad sense. It does not, therefore, only concern the actors responsible for public order in a strict sense, such as the police, the army, customs and intelligence services. It also concerns institutions such as parliaments, ministries, non-state security services, universities, women's groups, the media and so on.

According to this vision, the judiciary is also an integral part of the security sector: courts and prisons, as well as lawyers and victim support. Strong rule of law is needed for an effective and responsible security sector and vice versa. The judiciary also plays a crucial role in improving access to public services, in particular for vulnerable groups, curbing corruption, limiting abuses of power, and ensuring a healthy business environment conducive to economic growth.

Among the types of eligible actions is conflict prevention, including through mediation. A reform of the security sector – police, judiciary, the prison system, etc. – is also possible, including increased democratic oversight and a strengthened civil society.

When intervening in the security sector, Belgium aims to pay particular attention to women, children and young people. High-performing, accountable and transparent institutions are also a point for consideration.

A great deal of experience

All in all, the Belgian Development Cooperation has a great deal of experience with the security sector. Indeed, our country is recognised for its expertise in the development of a police and justice system that stands close to the citizen, and in the reorganisation or merger of security services.

Between 2008 and 2019, €175 million euros were set aside for it. This was done, inter alia, through the UN Development Programme (UNDP) for the management of organisations for peace, justice and inclusivity, in addition to conflict prevention and strengthening resilience.

The Belgian development agency (Enabel) supported the justice system in both Burundi and Burkina Faso, among other things. In the DR Congo, Enabel improved the family life of soldiers. A number of NGOs are also working on security, in particular Lawyers Without Borders, the Peace and Justice Commission, RCN Justice and Democracy and others.

Partners at home and abroad

The Belgian Development Co-operation concludes co-operation agreements with Belgian actors such as the federal police, defence and justice system. The federal police in particular has been a loyal partner for many years. The projects often attempt to improve the functioning of police forces for the benefit of the population.

Internationally, Belgium is seeking to join in with the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN), particularly in the Sahel. In addition, UN institutions such as the Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the Women's Agency (UN Women) have in-house expertise that could contribute towards greater peace and security.

In short, in order to respond better to the close link between development, peace and humanitarian aid, the Belgian Development Co-operation now has a well-developed framework to put this sometimes delicate exercise into practice.