26 Sep 2013
This week, world leaders gather at the UN headquarters in New York to discuss, among other topics, a new global development agenda. The body's eight millennium development goals, which include the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger, expire in 2015, giving UN member states the opportunity to shape the future of development. They also have the chance to position peace and stability at the centre of the debate.
In countries marred by conflict and disaster, development tends to focus on promoting economic growth and progress in specific social sectors such as health and education. Fundamental issues for lasting peace and stability – rule of law and justice, good governance, social cohesion, economic and environmental sustainability – are often left at the margins.
To my surprise, I often hear arguments against including peace and stability in a new global development agenda. One of the most common of these arguments is that building long-term peace and stability is separate from the work of long-term human development. In fact, peace and stability do not fall outside of the boundaries of development. The two must go hand in hand.
Violence not only claims lives, but also unravels the very fabric of society, leaving schools and hospitals destroyed and a devastated population suffering the physical and psychological toll. If we look at the facts, nine out of 10 countries with the lowest human development index have experienced conflict within the past 20 years, and about 40% of fragile and post-conflict countries relapse within a decade.
Another argument I often hear is that mixing peace and security efforts with development work can compromise national sovereignty. The reality is that early action to address the root causes of crisis, such as social inequality or low access to justice and security, is key to preventing brewing tensions from escalating into full-blown conflict. Waiting for the security council to intervene under "exceptional circumstances" may prove too late for many thousands of people.
While armed violence and conflict continue to take lives, destroy infrastructure and deplete employment opportunities, their most destructive force lies in derailing states and societies from their long-term development goals and prospects for a better future.