Over the past few decades, the linkages between security and development have increased significantly.  Governments throughout the world have begun to adapt their military strategies to include plans for development.  This change is due to the increasing acceptance of the idea that development brings peace and stability.  There is a significant debate surrounding this change in strategy.  Some support military involvement in development efforts and believe military strategies can be effective in completing certain development initiatives (see resource 1).  Others believe that development is best left to NGOs and those organizations that are not affiliated with the government or the violence frequently associated with military operations (See resource 4).

More specifically, those against military involvement in development think that the humanitarian principles guiding the use of aid and development will be overshadowed by political and security goals.  Development for the benefit of the people may be forsaken for development that accomplishes specific government priorities.  This potential for a warped sense of priorities makes some shy away from supporting military involvement in development. A military role in development also has the potential to harm the credibility of the aid and development operation, as well as make it difficult for civilians to trust in the operation. This can also blur the line between humanitarian and security work and threaten the neutrality that has traditionally helped to protect many aid workers.

Those who support military involvement in development believe that cooperation between the military, NGOs, and civilians will only improve development operations.  Military operations in development may have the added reward of contributing to the overall security of the conflict area.  The military can provide “security for humanitarian workers to operate”, support “agencies’ work with logistical and protection services”, or provide “direct assistance to the population themselves”; all of these actions can be aided by the skills gained in military training (Militarisation of Humanitarian Aid, Question 1 response).

This resource guide seeks to provide key resources on both sides of the debate, highlighting the pros and cons of military involvement with development and development strategies being interlinked with security policy.  It also seeks to highlight the ethical issues surrounding the link between military security and development and aims to give voice to multiple perspectives on this debate. 



1) Counterinsurgency Center (COIN) – is an example of military doctrine combined with development strategy.  This website, created by the United States Army, outlines their strategies, which are collectively called counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency works to develop and ensure stability in areas that affect the security of the country.  This website provides up-to-date information about the counterinsurgency strategy and projects in all places in which the US military is involved.  It is representative of the changing military doctrine throughout the world following the idea that development contributes to stability, especially in post-conflict areas. 

2) 3D Security – is the website of a Washington, DC based NGO that focuses on development and security with a belief that “security requires efforts by both government and civil society. Development and diplomacy should be the first resort for preventing violent conflict, ensuring that human security-oriented defense strategies are truly a last resort”.  The site presents both sides of the debate with some experts warning against “the militarization of development” and others hoping to move towards “a broader human security paradigm”.

3) Military Involvement in Humanitarian Aid Operations – is an article written about the history of military involvement with humanitarian aid.  It identifies general problems with aid and also problems specific to the military’s involvement.  The article defines both ethical and practical issues that arise out of military involvement in aid and development. 

4) InterAction – is an aid and development network that summarizes the NGO perspective on military involvement in development.  According to a 2009 report, InterAction believes that the military’s operations “often blur the line between NGOs acting in accord with humanitarian principles, and the military’s pursuit of political and security objectives”.  The report also highlights the issues with military training’s effectiveness in accomplishing the goals set out by development experts. 

5) Militarisation of Humanitarian Aid – is a website created by the International Peace Bureau that answers common questions about the military’s involvement in aid and development.  It discusses possible roles for the military, uses/misuses of aid, and the ethical dilemma posed by the acceptance of a military role in aid and development.  It also discusses the implications of the militarization of aid on peace and security. 

6) Between Reluctance and Necessity: The Utility of Military Force in ... – is an article by Robert Egnell that examines the pros and cons of military involvement in development.  It discusses issues affecting the effectiveness of the combined efforts between humanitarian aid organizations and the military.  Ultimately, the paper decides that the benefits of military involvement outweigh the issues with it, as long as coordination improves between the military and civil society.  Currently, peace and development operations are complex issues that require increased cooperation and communication between all parties involved, including the military. 

7) “Humanitarian and Military Efforts Must Not Be Confused” – is an article that is strongly against military involvement in aid and development.  The author, Per Byman, is of the opinion that being affiliated with the military harms the credibility of aid operations and interferes with its ability to foster relationships with civilians.  Involvement could also endanger the aid workers if they are seen as part of the military and therefore a target for enemy military operations.  Humanitarian work should be “independent, neutral and impartial”. 

8) A bridge too far: aid agencies and the military in humanitarian res... – is a report produced by the Overseas Development Institute that presents both the pros and cons of military involvement in humanitarian aid and development.  On one side, experts believe “this merging of humanitarian, political and military roles and goals inevitable, practical and desirable”, but “others believe that, in the attempt to bring political, military and humanitarian objectives within the same framework, there is a danger that humanitarian objectives and principles will be compromised; as a result, the capacity to alleviate suffering will be diminished”. A third perspective takes “a pragmatic approach to civil–military cooperation, establishing policy and negotiating the more contentious ‘grey areas’ on a case-by-case basis”.

9) Do the Military and Development Mix? – is an article written by Todd Diamond and hosted on the Foreign Policy in Focus website.  It examines two major problems with the military’s involvement in development.  Though the article acknowledges that the military can provide “development practitioners with access to areas where only the military can reach,” it also states that “the trust that development professionals gain by working with Afghan professionals and beneficiaries can erode when they're seen as an extension of the military”.  The second problem is that “including development success as a factor in "winning the war" can create an impression among congressional overseers that military success and development can be measured according to the same standards”.  Both issues may outweigh the possible benefits of military involvement in development. 

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Tags: aid, development, military, security


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Comment by OLATUNJI AGBOOLA OLATEJU on September 9, 2011 at 2:46pm

What Role for the Military in Development is an interesting topic that will attract different reactions from different people in difffrent countries and organisations. While some NGOs may see it as an incurssion into their terrain, some civilians who have enjoyed some robust relationship with the miitary will see it as a welcome development. 

First and foremost the military is part of the larger society that will also individually or collectivelly benefit from the developmental projects. Every member of the society must have the orientation of contributing to the deveopment of the scoiety irrespective of his/her calling. There are role diffrentiations for every indvivdual and each role has its own ethics. If a military medical officer is trained to brutalise enemies of the state in time of war, this does not mean that the same officer will brutalise patients if called upon to treat them in time of need.

Military are human beings with human feelings too. Most of them have families whom they also care for, and sometimes better than some civilians. We have seen cases where military officers have assisted in the construction of schools, roads, bridges etc. There are numerous cases of the military helping the police to curb domestic crimes. We have also seen NGOs that are saddled with corruption and non-peformance. We have seen cases where civilians are divided on some developmental issues depending on the position of the government and on which side they are to the government.

The issue of development should not be mixed with the job or profession of an individual, it supposed to be an all-embracing project that must involve all and sundry irrespective of professional callings.  Since there will be rules and regulations guiding  such participation, all participating members must be made to cope with these rules if they are truly interested.

Those that argue against the military involvement may have done so out of their experiences in th hands military officers perhaps in times of conflict that threatened the coporate existenc of the state. This does not exonorate the military of bad behaviuor. There are some animals in uniforms. Unfortunately the animalistic behaviuor is not limited to the military, there are worst cvilian rapists, armed robbers, serial killers, suicide bombers etc. Others who argue against especially the NGOs may be doing so out of fear of rivalry from a disciplined organisation. Any erring member from the military involved in any developmental project  could be disciplined by the military high command. Devlopmental projects actually require discipline, sacrifice and commitment  and these are the hall marks of the military, which they can inject into devlopmental projects. Development should not exclude anybody on the basis of any form of stereotype.

Comment by Ayyaz Ahmed Khan Sial on August 12, 2011 at 2:49pm

Excellent topic...Army's job is to ensure peace, which is "sine qua non" for the development...if Army of any given country is prepared professionally, then the same is enough for ensuring peace for its country /citizens and development would automatically be there...secondly the role of army is to finish the aggression (but not to rule) and to fight against those who oppose peace and development...but on the contrary if the same is seen in world's prospective then the given proposition would change, as there would always be one aggressor while other would be subjected to aggression...Anyhow example of UN peace keeping forces are in field, they are working for not only peace but also for smoothing the way for development...

Comment by Tom K. Agalomba on August 11, 2011 at 9:14am

There is an ellaborate civil-military cooperation (CIMIC) model whose outcomes can be admired if the panacea is adhered to the later. l worked in a region where there were no secure places of abode and managed to scure a bed at a military base. During my time there they engaged NGOs, CBOs and the local elders and leadership in complimenting their assistance to aid accomplishment of projects. The military never started their own initiatives, they just came in to help what had been started earlier by the civilian bodies like supplying sand and cement to repair a bridge and logistical support to sink boreholes in schools and other public utilities. The men in uniform who over saw the CIMIC projects were actually retired professionals in their fields. They had undergone some inservice training on how to hundle the gun and dispatched to these troubled part of the worled to help restore normal life.

Comment by KABANO JOHN BOSCO on August 11, 2011 at 7:43am
I have always thought that if nations can nature their military with mentor power ratherthan that of uniform then peace can be achieved
Comment by Tore Samuelsson on August 11, 2011 at 2:53am

Excellent list of resources, Kira. This is an increasingly important global discussion. Some years back the Sweden-based Life & Peace institute did provide a comprehensive thematic issue of the journal New Routes. The title was "Civil-military relations: hot topic - different views". It is still worthwhile checking. You find this back issue of New Routes at www.life-peace.org

Best regards


Comment by TRILOK CHANDRA SRIVASTAVA on August 10, 2011 at 1:35pm

military is primarily responsible for defending the borders of the country. in case of need, it can be deployed to assist the local police for maintaining internal peace and security. also, being a team of highly trained people and with adequate logistic supports, military can be of immense help to civil administration in rescue operations at the time of any natural disaster or accidents. but, involveing them in regular developmental projects of the country will only dilute the purpose of military itself and will also be detrimental for democratic set up of the nation. let military remain in their barracks and do their primary tasks and in case of any national exegency, only ad hoc deployment may be advisable. a proper distance with the civil population must be maintained with clear demarkation of duties and responsibilities of the military and civil administration. at the most, military can initiate ,as a friendly gesture' some welfare schemes on their own in the field of education, medical facilities for local people and in maintaining local infrastructure in the areas of their presence , where it is very difficult for civil administration to do so because of tough terrain. developmental projects must be carried out by the government with the help of civil administration, NGOs, and local population, let the military  sageguard the borders so as to ensure proper implementation of developmental projects in the country.


Trilok Chandra Srivastava, INDIA

Comment by Impact Creators (Awa) on August 10, 2011 at 12:58pm

In Cameroon, the Rapid Intervention Force carry out some development work but spend more time in brutalising and vandalising innocent citizens, oftentimes in the public.

Comment by GOPI KANTA GHOSH on August 10, 2011 at 12:14pm

Today it is used to kill innocent people...it must be utilized for saving life...

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