Friday, December 6, 2013

PF January 2014 - Sahel Aid - Pro Position

Resolved: Development assistance should be prioritized over military aid in the Sahel region of Africa.

(Part one of this analysis is available here.)

Pro Position

We can begin our examination of the Pro position by reviewing what the Pro is NOT advocating.  First, it is NOT advocating there should be no military aid, although in some cases, debaters may want to make that claim.  Pro DOES advocate there must be a higher priority placed on development assistance, assuming we can agree what development assistance really means.  It seems very logical that before there can be a need to prioritize, there needs to be more than one thing in the list of items to prioritize.  It makes no sense to prioritize development if there are no other choices. Second, Pro is NOT advocating that development assistance means humanitarian aid although some debaters may wish to blur the already nebulous distinctions.  Yes, there are immediate needs.  Drought and crop failure have take a huge toll and people are suffering.  Clearly they need assistance; food, clean water and health care.  But we must understand development assistance means something more long-term and sustainable which enables the population to recover more quickly from disasters.  Food and medicine only last until they are consumed.  Transportation systems, plumbing, and hospitals can sustain a population for years.

Development Builds Security

Perhaps it is logical to assume a populace struggling to survive has no motivation to concern itself with borders and nation-building and security issues when feeding ones family takes precedence over all else.  Not only that, even when people have food, the ability of national governments to provide good governance is dependent upon infrastructure and the kinds of services and resources that development assistance can provide.  It's not just about arming oneself to the teeth and thinking everything will be okay and it's not about having enough food to make it to the end of the year.  It's about having the ability to thrive generation after generation.

World Bank 2013:
Signaling a renewed focus on boosting economic growth and lifting people out of devastating poverty in Africa’s hard-hit Sahel region, two international development agencies announced major financial pledges: $1.5 billion from the World Bank Group in new regional investments over the next two years, in addition to significant country programs; and €5 billion ($6.75 billion) from the European Union to six countries in the region over the next seven years.

World Bank 2013:
It also includes $300 million from the IFC, the Bank Group’s private sector arm, which will support economic development in several countries in the Sahel. The inclusion of funding for private sector projects is aimed at attracting additional billions of dollars, which will be necessary in order to create good jobs and help bring stability to a region that has been rocked by conflict in the last two years. In addition, the Bank Group’s MIGA, which provides political risk insurance, will provide $585 million in guarantees over the next year for a gas project in Mauritania that exports power to Senegal and Mali. “The people of the Sahel region desperately need more secure living standards, and our hope is this funding helps build a new path for economic growth in the region,” said the World Bank Group’s Kim. “For too long, the people of the Sahel, especially women, have struggled with the devastating impact of too little economic growth and opportunity, a harsh climate, hunger,  high fertility rates, and the world’s highest number of maternal and child deaths.”

Resilience is Key

The overarching theme for the long-term viability of the Sahel region is resilience. As Anna Jeffery puts it, there is a need to build the people's "resilience to shocks"

Jefferys 2013:
The US$1.66 billion humanitarian and resilience appeal for the Sahel in 2013 is 5 percent funded as of 1 March. "People are clearly distracted or are looking away from the region or largely through a security lens," said Oxfam's Sahel campaigner Elise Ford. "The challenge is how are you to make good on the resilience rhetoric. How do we consider this appeal?. Despite all the talk of resilience in 2012 we've seen very little from donors on how they're going to finance it." Sahel resilience meetings are being held globally - a meeting was held in Rome last week; another is being held now in Dakar, "but there seems to be a time lag: what is happening right now?" said Ford. For farmers to harvest their crops this year they need adequate seeds by May - this is mere survival, quite apart from embracing a more ambitious resilience agenda. According to a World Food Programme (WFP) study in Niger, it takes families three years to recover from a food security shock, and that is if harvests are good for three years running. Agencies need more money, not less, to make resilience happen in the Sahel, starting from 2013, stressed Jan Eijkenaar, ECHO's resilience and AGIR (Alliance Globale pour l'Initiative Resilience) focal point in the Sahel. But the way things are going, "there won't be enough time to do resilience properly this year," he told IRIN, noting it will take decades to get resilience right over the long term.

Many key African leaders have also recognized that development assistance promotes capability.

Gubbels 2013:
USAID, one of the biggest donors in the Horn of Africa has called for the development community to change “the way it does business” to ensure that the more than 30 million people who live in the arid and marginal lands of this region can cope with future and recurring shocks. USAID stated that “we can’t stop droughts from happening, but we can enable communities to withstand these shocks and move forward by building resilience and fostering sustainable growth”. In September 201, recognising that drought related crises are no longer cyclical but chronic, East African leaders met in Nairobi and requested support for long term programs and strategies to strengthen drought preparedness, promote ecosystem sustainability, anticipate and manage climate change. They also called for reform of the humanitarian response and development assistance, to enhance resilience and promote long-term solutions

Myth of Terror

In 2005, an interesting report was published by the International Crises Group which addressed the growing concern that Sahel was becoming a "terrorist hotbed".  The report did suggest that Mali, the most democratic of the Sahel nations, was at the highest risk for violent Islamic activity and this in fact did turn out to be true.  Nevertheless, the report casts serious doubt on claims that suggest these kinds of activities are wide-spread in the region.

International Crises Group 2005:
"The Sahel, a vast region bordering the Sahara Desert and including the countries of Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania, is increasingly referred to by the U.S. military as "the new front in the war on terrorism". There are enough indications, from a security perspective, to justify caution and greater Western involvement. However, the Sahel is not a hotbed of terrorist activity. A misconceived and heavy handed approach could tip the scale the wrong way; serious, balanced, and long-term engagement with the four countries should keep the region peaceful. An effective counter-terrorism policy there needs to address the threat in the broadest terms, with more development than military aid and greater U.S.-European collaboration."

I understand that many Con teams will dispute the above source as being outdated.  I presented it because I felt if its predictions proved accurate with respect to Mali, there may be strong reason to support the accuracy of the remaining parts of the report.  Nevertheless, this later article by Scott Johnson, writing for Newsweek further explains the rationale:
"There is also little evidence that the groups carrying out the violence in the Sahel subscribe to the same world views as Qaeda militants along the AfPak border. The clearly stated objective of the militants in Waziristan, for instance, is the toppling of the nuclear-armed regime in Pakistan. The Sahel gangs, by contrast, have failed to outline a clear rationale for their attacks, and their operations are more like those of small-time criminals than purveyors of ideological hatred bent on regional or global domination, even if their rhetoric includes references to jihad and the "detritus of Afghanistan," says Vijay Prashad, an expert on the Sahel at Trinity College in Connecticut. The Sahel group, known as Al Qaeda in the Maghreb, is "not a threat on the world stage," says Prashad. "It has no global ambitions. It doesn't even seem to have local ambitions. They've devolved into a gang."
" Indeed, at least so far, the violence in the Sahel bears few similarities to large-scale Qaeda operations elsewhere in the world. Western institutions have largely been spared. Al Qaeda provides no financial support to the region, according to U.S. military officials. Nor have funds raised locally found their way to larger Qaeda operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, or Iraq, say U.S. officials. "I think it's a mistake to interpret this episodic instability as part of a broader movement with a clear religious or political agenda," says Peter Lewis, director of the African Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins School for Advanced International Studies. "I don't know of anybody outside the security or national-defense establishment who is making that interpretation."

Finally, recognizing these sources may seem dated, and in light of the so-called terrorist seizure of the the Algerian gas plant, it is interesting to note experts continue to view the events as small-scale and not inspired by some larger, multinational agenda.

Dowd & Raleigh, 2013:
We review the tenets of the ‘globalized threat’ narrative here, considering the evidence for the impression of a growing and diffuse Al-Qaeda network, Western targets, and dangerous ungoverned spaces. Using empirical evidence of activity within the Sahel and Maghreb, we dismiss the notion that all violent Islamist groups are operating towards a regional or globally coordinated jihad, and instead find that groups – even those formally affiliated with Al-Qaeda – operate within the local and national contexts of their origins.

Myth of Transnational Crime

While we may cast doubt on the idea that terrorists are lurking in every nook and cranny of the Sahel we may also address that claims that international crime and drug smugglers are popping up like dandelions in spring.  I suggest looking at this report for support.

Lacher 2013:
This paper reviews the evidence for the links between drug smuggling and extremist activity in the Sahel-Sahara region. While it demonstrates that such links clearly exist, the paper argues that the widespread talk of a drug-terror nexus in the Sahel is misleading, for several reasons. First, much of the evidence presented as basis for such claims can either be easily debunked, or is impossible to verify. Second, rather than the two extremist groups as such, involvement in drug trafficking appears to concern individuals and groups close to, or within, MUJAO and AQIM: within both groups, members are driven by multiple and, at times, conflicting motivations. Third, numerous other actors are playing an equally or more important role in drug smuggling, including members of the political and business establishment in northern Mali, Niger and the region’s capitals, as well as leaders of supposedly ‘secular’ armed groups. Fourth, the emphasis on links between drug trafficking and terrorism in the Sahel serves to obscure the role of state actors and corruption in allowing organized crime to grow. Fifth, the profits derived from kidnap-for-ransom played a much more significant role in the rise of AQIM and MUJAO. 

The Root of Evil: Underdevelopment?

Pro can not deny that some forms of terrorist activities and organized crime are occurring in the Sahel.  Con will have that evidence in their files.  Pro can question the nature of the activities, that is, are they inspired by a multinational effort to undermine Western ideologies or are they local responses to regional conditions? Conditions which can be changed. Any debater (or debate coach) who has explored the topic of poverty and lack of opportunity perceives the link to gang activity, organized crime and recruitment into terror groups.  Studies and evidence do support these links and they are useful for establishing support for prioritizing development assistance over military aid as a remedy to the criminal and violent activities.

Apogan-Yella 2005:
In the past national security in West Africa focused almost exclusively on military concerns. A disproportionately high percentage of national resources went into the procurement of military hardware and maintenance of large military forces in the hope of promoting physical security. These were achieved at the expense of quality standard of living for the peoples of West Africa. National security was synonymous with military might or power. In spite of the armaments and security apparatus of post-independence West Africa, intra-state or internal conflicts have continued to pose problems to many governments in the sub-region. National security therefore appears no longer a military matter alone, as the security of the individual now seems more important than the security of the state in most developing countries particularly so in our post cold war world. True security only occurs when people really feel secure. The need for the state to provide common security for all its citizens in the spheres of trade, food, health, monetary matters and peoples’ fears on disease, unemployment, poverty, crime and terrorism has become increasingly important to be ignored.

Apogan-Yella 2005:
Conflicts in West Africa, since the end of the cold war, have predominantly been intrastate. Addressing these conflicts appropriately, requires countries in West Africa, ECOWAS, the AU, the UN and the international community as a whole to understand the underlying causes of these conflicts. It has been argued above that political, economic, social/cultural and environmental insecurity emanating from underdevelopment is the main cause of conflict or instability in the ECOWAS sub-region. To reduce or eliminate insecurity in the sub-region the causes of underdevelopment and thus conflict in West Africa must be given due attention at national, sub-regional and at the international levels.

I want to leave this analysis for now, with this excerpt from Humanitarian News and Analysis.

IRIN 2013:
"Poverty and underdevelopment and a sense of marginalization and exclusion that comes from lack of governance, particularly at the local level, are seen as drivers associated with violent extremism," Benjamin Nickels, an assistant professor with the ACSS, told IRIN. "Supporting development is a long-term approach to undermining drivers associated with violent extremism," he added. "You do have a number of underlying factors that make certain regions particularly vulnerable to violent extremism and extremist ideologies, and then you have a number of factors that trigger violence. Amongst these factors there is an underlying economic dimension that often gets missed," said Raymond Gilpin, the ACSS academic dean. Poverty, unemployment and socioeconomic deprivation partly explain the rise of Islamist movements - violent and non-violent - argued Ostebo. "There are other factors of extremist violence. However, it is easier for militant groups to recruit unemployed youth who see no future for themselves, than those who are in employment. The more young people are able to be employed the less chances there are that they can be recruited by militant groups," said Gilles Yabi of the International Crisis Group. "Development is part of the measures against extremist violence. But we are already in a situation [in West Africa] where underdevelopment is so deep that reversing it is very difficult," he told IRIN.
This topic is rich in evidence on both sides and will be a very interesting, and I think, very balanced debate topic.  Like always, I may choose to revisit in the future and add more analysis and ideas for contentions. Until then, good luck and have fun with this topic.


Global Leaders Pledge Billions of Dollars for Africa’s Sahel
The World Bank, November 4, 2013

Analysis: The R-word - Rhetoric versus reality in the Sahel
IRIN, humanitarian news and analysis, a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Anna Jefferys, DAKAR, 4 March 2013 (IRIN)

International Crises Group
Africa Report N°92 – 31 March 2005

Changing the Development Paradigm: Key to Managing Drought Risk in areas of Chronic Food Insecurity in Africa
Background Paper prepared for the Global Assessment Report on Disaster Risk Reduction 2013
Peter Gubbels; 2013,%202012.pdf

Challenging the Myth of the Drug-Terror Nexus in the Sahel
WACD Background Paper No. 4
Wolfram Lacher, 2013

The Terrorist Myth In North Africa, Newsweek
Scott C. Johnson / November 19 2009

Caitriona Dowd and Clionadh Raleigh, 2013

Colonel Austin A Apogan-Yella, Ghana Army,2005

OP-ED on addressing the conditions conducive to the spread of terrorism
Why is terrorism still spreading?
Terry Davis,Secretary General of the Council of Europe, April 2007

Understanding the causes of violent extremism in West Africa
IRIN, humanitarian news and analysis, a service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
DAKAR, 10 May 2013 (IRIN)

1 comment:

Feel free to leave comments relevant to the topics and activity of competitive high school debate. However, this is not a sounding board for your personal ideologies, abusive or racist commentary or excessive inappropriate language. Everyday Debate blog reserves the right to delete any comments it deems inappropriate.