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Conflict, Security and Development in East Africa

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On May 13, 2011, the Permanent Missions of Finland and Kenya, in cooperation with Stimson Center’s Managing Across Boundaries program (MAB), hosted an event at the Finnish Consulate in New York titled, “Conflict, Security and Development in East Africa.” The event, attended by some 50 diplomats and experts, primarily from African nations, featured a distinguished panel including Stimson Center President Ms. Ellen Laipson, Ambassador Ochieng Adala, Deputy Director of the Africa Peace Forum and MAB in-region collaborator, and Mr. Øistein Moskvil Thorsen from Oxfam International.

Dr. Janne Taalas, Deputy Permanent Representative of Finland to the United Nations, opened the meeting by declaring that Africa has been a top priority for the Government of Finland for several decades and that Helsinki is prepared to address the complex relationship between security and development on the continent.  In her remarks, Ms. Laipson highlighted the importance of building stronger public-private partnerships in order to bridge the security-development divide. She noted critical links between human security and development priorities in East Africa, including public health and economic growth, to capacity-building assistance available in the nonproliferation and counterterrorism contexts. Ambassador Adala provided an “on-the-ground” analysis of the nexus between security and development, particularly focusing on trafficking of small arms and the impact on human security and development throughout the East African sub-region. The former Kenyan representative to the UN further explained the benefits of forging partnerships between governments, sub-regional and nongovernmental organizations in tackling East Africa’s security threats and development needs. Mr. Thorsen placed the security-development discussion in the context of the forthcoming Arms Trade Treaty negotiations. Mr. Thorsen also demonstrated several “dual-benefit” assistance opportunities, including security sector reform and border and customs capacity-building. In closing, Dr. Josephine Ojiambo, Deputy Permanent Representative of Kenya to the UN, synthesized the central themes of the panelists’ remarks and the question and answer session, and reiterated the significance of innovatively connecting the security and development needs of the region to ameliorate the challenges faced by both areas.

The event was part of MAB’s continued research, analysis and regional outreach under its “Beyond Boundaries Initiative,” which seeks innovative ways to utilize international security assistance to simultaneously benefit regional security and development needs. In East Africa, the program has already identified “hard security” related assistance as pathways to capacity building vis-à-vis public health infrastructure and disease surveillance, as well as toward border security to curb the small arms trafficking threat.

“The Beyond Boundaries Initiative,” formerly known as the “Next 100 Project,” is one of MAB’s flagship projects that hopes to change the current dialogue on international security assistance so that donor and recipient states alike can have a more productive relationship in overcoming both “hard security” priorities, such as proliferation of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons, as well as terrorism, and regional security priorities and development objectives. Besides engaging with East African governments and other stakeholders in the sub-region, MAB is also engaged in the Caribbean Basin, Central America and the Middle East. At the end of 2011 and throughout 2012, MAB will begin working with on-the-ground actors in the Andean Community and Southeast Asia.

To read MAB’s most recent analysis on East Africa click here.

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