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Securitization of US Foreign Assistance Hinders Long Term Development Goals November 13, 2009

Posted by Trice Kabundi in Analysis.
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DOD Directive 1404.10 seems to be everywhere these days. The directive, issued back in January, established the DOD Civilian Expeditionary Workforce (CEW)− a civilian workforce within the DOD that is capable of providing combat and non-combat support to the military. Most operations conducted by the civilian workforce are Non-Combat Essential (NCE), which focus on humanitarian and reconstruction-specific activities. In Iraq and Afghanistan, the CEW strengthens COIN operations by increasing DOD’s “soft power” capabilities on the field through activities such as providing cities with electrical power or the development and construction of much needed infrastructure.

Fundamentally, the CEW has expanded DOD’s internal capabilities for stabilization and reconstruction, humanitarian assistance, rule of law, governance, and economic development. Most relief and development missions are now overseen and executed by CEW members- these civilians have the necessary skills sets to get the job done and also free-up service members to conduct traditional military tasks.

But, while the military views the CEW as a positive shift for DOD, others question why DOD is doing this type of activity in the first place. To many, the CEW is simply a civilian face fronting DOD missions. In the 2008 Humanitarian Responsiveness Index (HRI), Development Assistance Research Associates (DARA) examined the linkage between humanitarian/civilian missions and military operations and identified the increasing prevalence of ties between humanitarian objectives and military/political objectives as one of the major causes for the severe decline in relief worker safety.

DARA’s analysis indicates that the neutrality and impartiality that provided many aid workers with a blanket of security and access in the past has been jeopardized by increased links to military operations and objectives. More so, as the military takes on more humanitarian operations it becomes harder to draw an effective (and in the eyes of DARA necessary) line between humanitarian and military missions.

DARA’s big push for the demilitarization of aid was mirrored during a USIP event on USAID’s Community Stabilization Program this past Tuesday. Panelist Nabil Al-Tikriti argued that “there exists such a thing as humanitarian space,” and the more the military either engaged in humanitarian assistance or linked objectives with those providing humanitarian assistance, NGO’s/relief workers would be affected and targeted. In his eyes, the DOD’s shift creates a situation where civilian relief workers are now often identified with “military men.”

The impact of DOD fulfilling development and humanitarian projects has long-term consequences, with potentially harmful repercussions for both U.S. national security and development workers.

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