Rotary Horizontal 2
UPEACE horizontal
Brandeis horizontal 1



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.

Write a Reply or Comment

PCDN Horizontal Happy Person
SID horizontal banner
Rotary Horizontal 1
Brandeis Horizontal 2