Attention to the security-development nexus has become commonplace in policymaking. But how has this concept been interpreted and used? This article suggests a framework for mapping the security-development nexus. The ‘nexus’ is being used to describe a growing realm, but there is still confusion and ideological division over its meaning. The unclear content and form of the security-development nexus leaves the concept open to varied uses under the guise of progressive and ethically palatable politics. This warrants caution in embracing the security-development nexus as a policy premise or goal.
There is a growing consensus that security and development are interconnected and that their relationship is growing in significance. The notion of a ‘nexus’ suggests a possible framework for much needed progressive policies to address complex challenges. Economic resources and political will are being poured into the security-development nexus. But what does this concept actually mean and how should it be addressed?
A nexus is a network of connections between disparate ideas, processes or objects. Different accounts of development and security, from policy and from academia, can be used to start formulating a framework of the security-development nexus.
- The security-development nexus as a modern narrative: In this account, security and development are located in a particular geographical space (usually the state) and depend on a particular historical trajectory.
- The security-development nexus deepened, broadened, humanised: Alternative narratives challenge views of what the foundation for a good, safe and just society might be.
- The security-development nexus as impasse/impossible: In this account, security and development are perpetually out of reach. Policies enacted in the name of the security-development nexus achieve little and instead cause harm and waste time and money.
- Post-security-development: This account emphasises linked practices that produce certain outcomes, and are therefore tools of power. Security and development are impossible promises and vehicles for those with vested interests.
- Security-development as a technique of governmentality: Security and development are seen as mutually reinforcing idioms and techniques of power through which life is governed.
- Globalised security-development: In this case, the nexus represents interrelated human global survival issues, such as climate change, food security, natural disasters, energy and water crises, gender-based violence, violent conflict and terrorism.
The accounts above do not fully explain what the nexus is, should be or does. But exploring different concepts does open the way to assessing what is being done in the name of the security-development nexus.
- In the realm of policy, pleas for attention to the security-development nexus show confusion, lack of conceptual clarity and ideological divisions.
- Academic discourse has not adequately addressed the security-development nexus. The fields of development and security are seen as mutually antagonistic and the field of security-development is comparatively new.
- There are concerns that national and global policy is proceeding as though there is broad agreement on the workings of the security-development nexus; as though it were a recognisable and simple thing to achieve.