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Beyond Boundaries in the Andean Region

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By Brian Finlay, Johan Bergenas and Esha Mufti – Although even the most cursory survey of the human condition today reveals wild geographic disparities in virtually every economic, social, and political measure, at no other point in history have people worldwide lived longer, had greater access to health services, or had more opportunities to acquire a basic education. These unprecedented advances in improving the quality of life have markedly decreased global poverty rates in the last half-century. Yet despite this remarkable improvement in the human condition, not everyone has benefitted equally.

While much progress has been witnessed across the Andean region-Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru-these countries continue to face significant security and development challenges that threaten the foundation upon which positive momentum has been built. Public health scourges, partly the result of urbanization and lack of access to basic health care services, have exacerbated inequality. Likewise, the lack of access to clean water for the poor rural population has appalling effects on children’s health, occasionally introducing skyrocketing rates of diarrhea, parasitic fever, and hepatitis. Water insecurity has opened new vectors for diseases across the region, leading to child mortality rates as high as 20 percent in Bolivia and Ecuador. Equally detrimental to human security and development in the region is the abundance of small arms and light weapons that fuel violent crime, gang and youth violence, extortion, terrorism, and the drug trade. The high volume of arms-an estimated 2.4 million illegal weapons in Colombia alone-can be linked to elevated homicide rates throughout the Andean region. Add to these dynamics nonstate actors like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, the National Liberation Army in Colombia, the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, and the Shining Path in Peru that prey on societies and spoil opportunities for social and economic progress.

In short, underdevelopment and soft-security challenges undermine many of the astonishing strides that Andean countries have made in the last two decades. These trends clearly demonstrate the need for additional work in order to promote increased security and more inclusive development patterns across the region.

While these are the security and development issues that dominate domestic and regional dialogue, for Western audiences, hard-security concerns-including the proliferation of nuclear weapons (especially to nonstate actors) and terrorism-continue to absorb a disproportionate share of the political discourse and capacity response. It was against this backdrop that the UN Security Council passed Resolutions 1373 (2001) and 1540 (2004). Promoted as part of a broader tapestry of formal and informal mechanisms to prevent terrorism and proliferation globally, the resolutions were seemingly ill-connected to the more pressing challenges facing much of the world.

Soon after promulgation of these measures, however, it became clear that asking developing nations of the Global South to divert attention and resources from more immediate national and regional challenges-from public health to citizen security-to the seemingly distant threat of terrorism on Western targets by the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) is not only unreasonable but also unlikely to succeed, if not from a lack of political will, then from a sheer lack of implementation capacity in many of these countries. In the end, without the sustained buy-in of those countries increasingly viewed as prominent and potential links in the global terror/proliferation supply chain-either as emerging dual-use technology innovators and manufacturers, as critical transshipment points and financial centers, or as breeding grounds for terrorist operations-it is infeasible to exercise sufficiently preventative controls over the movement of sensitive nuclear, chemical, and biological materials and/or technologies and over the malicious activities of terrorist entities.

To that end, the growing interconnectedness and interdependence between these traditionally siloed threat portfolios suggest that mutually addressing regional security and underdevelopment challenges is key to preventing them from metastasizing into international security threats. The capacity needed to prevent WMD proliferation and undermine the conditions conducive to terrorism is intimately connected to the capacity needed to fulfill economic, development, and human-security objectives of national governments throughout the Andean region. Thus, there is a strong link between implementing Resolutions 1373 (counterterrorism) and 1540 (nonproliferation and overcoming other high priority challenges in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. This realization offers a unique opportunity to capitalize on dual-benefit assistance and leverage international security assistance to promote human security and sustainable economic development. Therefore, our first objective must be to better understand the priority concerns of partners across the Global South. Subsequently, we can identify the capacity-building available, be it official development assistance or WMD nonproliferation resources.

The effectiveness of this approach has been proven around the globe, most notably in the Caribbean and Central America, but the model is also being implemented in Africa. For donors and partners alike, the growing confluence of security and development challenges during a time of strained financial resources means that these issues can be neither sustainably treated nor resolved in isolation. For this reason, bridging the security/development divide in order to foster collaboration and develop common strategies, ameliorate proliferation concerns, reinforce counterterrorism efforts, and provide an agenda of opportunity for all countries involved will be central not only in defending international security in the long term but also in facilitating sustainable economic growth and development. It is this development and security model that this report seeks to communicate.

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