Unintended Consequences: How the Global Democracy and Development Community Contribute to the Creation of Violent Non-State Actors Such as Boko Haram

Unintended Consequences: How the Global Democracy and Development Community Contribute to the Creation of Violent Non-State Actors Such as Boko Haram

Christopher Keith Johnson

Insurgency was sparked in the Lake Chad Basin through a mix of religious, economic, political, and cultural factors. Post-development theory is somewhat of an equal opportunity offender as it requires that we look beyond the state to include the global system if we truly wish to interrogate the root causes of conflict. The globalization of foreign aid, including but not limited to an internal tension between support for the widening of democratic space and the opening and/or expansion of markets through investment and trade, plays a role in what many mistakenly believe to be a local issue of isolated political violence. It is necessary to explore the role development, broadly defined and applied, plays in fuelling a crisis such as his been witnessed through the emergence of Boko Haram as a violent non-state actor.

Many would argue that policies of the global North, ill-suited to the reality of the locations in which they have been transferred, have greatly contributed to instability in the developing world (Tagma et al., 2013). Post-development theory would be of value in addressing that question. It might also uncover how a western driven global economic policy contributes to instability in the South (Escobar, 2012). There is value in Nigerians and others in the developing world debating viewpoints and theoretical frameworks regarding the way insurgency is dealt with by the state and their own communities, and how this connects with broader international policy questions (Amnesty International, 2015).

Arturo Escobar and post-development theorists are challenging the notion of Western universality. Beyond mere defiance, Escobar is recommending a complete and thorough interrogation if not dismantling of the global aid networks designed to help the poor. In his view, these systems were conceived to control the economic output of the developing world. Post-development does not form the basis of a traditional theory—something that can be easily summarized in a paragraph or less. Escobar is saying that the lived experience of people in the developing world through their indigenous social movements are best used as an example of how to manage the affairs of a nation. Through this shifting of the lens “democracy, [the] economy, and society” will be transformed (1992, pp. 21-22).

Escobar is in a sense biting the hand that feeds him as academia (his professional home) itself is “globalized” in such a way that western concepts and theories are far too often viewed as the starting and ending point of a “logical” discussion regarding global development (Brohman, 1995; Lowy, 1995; Tansel, 2013). To place the power to choose/agency in the hands of practitioners or even more dangerously—clients, partners, commoners, or peasants—is a threat to the very order of how the Western world works.

The above is not new. It arguably peaked in the intellectual expression that exploded in the developing world in the 1960s and 70s. It was never fully mainstream in the West but considered a valid component of a global conversation. It was minimized and largely dismissed once neoliberalism became the be-all and end-all of most Western policy making gatherings of note regarding the necessary components of true democracy. The freedom to choose was replaced by market driven demands.  

The lack of democratic institutions is often cited as a driver of insurgency and terrorism. But post-development would question whose concept of democracy should be promoted? Is the Western ideal the only choice on offer? Is that choice being endorsed to expand or limit true democratic space? David Chandler states:

[…]‘liberation’ in this instance is a grant of power rather than the recognition of a claim of autonomy, the export of democracy goes hand-in-hand with greater regulatory controls by international institutions or regulation by ad hoc groups of self-selecting coalitions of the willing […]  (2007, p. 483).

Should the Nigerian government continue to promote a prepackaged western democracy that limits its role as a state even as it asserts its claim of being an independent republic? Nigerians often scoff at promises made on the global stage by the political class to widen democratic space. They see this as largely being done so that the ruling elite can be rewarded in some way for its compliance.  The idea that western democracy promotion is inextricably linked to neoliberal economic policies of control is a widely held belief. The overall failure of the Arab Spring is considered illustrative of the ill fit of western democracy in some parts of the developing world. For that region, the incompatibility of European liberal individualistic understanding with Arab social and political norms was in part blamed for the failure of the movement (Tagma et al., 2013, pp. 387).

The above is largely theory, but Nigerians have recently shed rivers of blood behind something far more concrete than what could be discussed in a classroom or symposium.  How does development itself contribute to warfare? Escobar and others have not only questioned the western gaze to the South but more importantly the push for standardization to universalize norms of economic behavior.

“Ready to wear” development has consequences. As an example, an increase in carbon emissions in Nigeria, the continent and elsewhere has led to rapid desertification impacting livelihoods and adding to insecurity (Saraki, 2014). In Borno state in northeast Nigeria, the birthplace of Boko Haram, ignoring environmental concerns in the pursuit of profit has, in part, resulted in the decimation of Lake Chad, eliminating countless numbers of jobs in what was once a very long supply chain. Simply stated—jobs, in part, produce hope. Without hope something must fill the void.

The pursuit of a one size fits all style of development and democracy promotion largely ignores inequality and leads to the level of economic uncertainty that can in part contribute to the creation of a movement such as Boko Haram. If it, and others like it, are only contested by western tactics such as the so-called war on terror, the machine that, in part, created the crisis continues to function unchecked and unquestioned. When hostilities end, the very same system that significantly contributed to the crisis is deployed to rebuild what was damaged by conflict. If there is no address of the root causes or western universality, and more specifically neoliberalism, and globalization, including how the above are packaged in democracy and governance aid programs, development itself fuels the need for more development. 

In line with the above and a necessary ingredient in unpacking the cyclical nature of violence can be found in the work of renowned peace studies scholar Johan Galtung. Galtung states:

In the violence triangle, cultural violence legitimizes both structural and direct violence, linking these three types of violence in causal chains with cultural tenements legitimizing exploitation, repression, oppression, alienation, and other forms of structural violence. This in turn may trigger the eruption of direct destructive violence by the economically exploited, politically oppressed, and culturally alienated. These three types of violence—cultural, structural, and direct—reinforce each other. Direct violence breeds itself in victims as a desire for revenge and as part of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and in perpetrators as Post Glory Exuberance Syndrome (PGES) (2015, p. 329).

There is no easily identified “other” in the above. And by eliminating the exotic from a discussion of conflict/insurgency/terrorism one could become open to preventative measures and alternatives to warfare. A temporary solution to conflict might be brought about through combat but there is seldom a lasting peace without a political component as lead element.

The packaging of Boko Haram as against Western education rather than westernization itself is problematic. Some have framed the Boko Haram grievance as one that could be easier to process and address.

Boko Haram is struggling against 'Westernisation', which it associates with the present political order in Nigeria, and its perceived injustices and failure to deliver development. The sect has a presence across northern Nigeria but is concentrated in the north-east, which development indicators show is the poorest part of the country, with the worst provision of education and health care (Oxford Analytica, 2011).

If Westernization is defined not solely by religion or education, but rather includes pervasive and indisputable inequality, then Boko Haram is not only questioning Nigeria but the global order itself. In that sense it sees Nigeria as no better or worse than the West. An Oxfam report cited damning statistics on inequality and the threat it has on democracy in the world’s largest economy, the United States (Fuentes-Nieva and Galasso, 2014, p. 3). The World Economic Forum (WEF) listed severe income disparity as its top global risk (2013, p. 10). Boko Haram is singling out membership of the global economic complex which goes far beyond Nigerian borders (Sachs, 2010, p. vii). If economic policies have fueled inequality globally, even threatening the stability of the drivers of global policy, it would no doubt wreak havoc on the secondary states being forced to implement policy created elsewhere.

Resistance takes many forms. Some as unsavory and wrongheaded as the apocalyptic death cult known as Boko Haram. Do not confuse what I am saying here. Boko Haram is an irresponsible, destructive political and military force that must be checked. Positive steps have been taken to limit its impact. Nigerians are beginning to see some of these initiatives in the recently launched deradicalization and rehabilitation programs for ex-combatants that are being led by government and to a lesser extent civil society. However, if inequality remains unchecked in Nigeria and elsewhere, and local solutions offered by grassroots civil society actors are ignored, even if defeated today, Boko Haram will simply return under a different name tomorrow.

References

Brohman, J. (1995) Universalism, Eurocentrism, and ideological bias in development studies: from modernization to neoliberalism. Third World Quarterly, 16(1): 121-140, Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3992977 [Accessed 18 June 2016].

Amnesty International (2015) Nigeria: Stars on their shoulders: Blood on their hands: War crimes committed by the Nigerian military 2 June. Available from: https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/afr44/1657/2015/en/ [Accessed 25 March 2016].

Chandler, D. (2007) The security–development nexus and the rise of ‘anti-foreign policy’, Journal of International Relations and Development 10 (363-386). Available from: http://www.palgrave-journals.com/jird/journal/v10/n4/pdf/1800135a.pdf [Accessed 30 January 2014].

Escobar, A. (2012, c 1995) Encountering development: the making and unmaking of the third world. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Escobar, A. (1992) Imagining a post-development era? Critical thought, development and social movements. Social Text, 31/32, 20-56, Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/466217 [Accessed 29 March 2016].

Fuentes-Nieva, R. and Galasso, N. (2014) Working for the Few: Political Capture and Economic Inequality, Oxfam, http://www.oxfam.org/en/policy/working-for-the-few-economic-inequality [Accessed 10 March 2016].

Galtung, J. (2015). Peace journalism and reporting on the United States. The Brown Journal of World Affairs, 22(1), 321-333. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1783018522?accountid=8630 [Accessed 25 May 2016].

Lowy, R.F. (1995) Eurocentrism, ethnic studies, and the new world order: Toward a critical paradigm. Journal of Black Studies, 25 (6): 712-736, Available from: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2784761 [Accessed 18 June 2016].

Oxford Analytica Daily Brief Service (Jul 27, 2011). Nigeria: State struggles for response to Boko Haram. Available from: http://search.proquest.com.ezproxye.bham.ac.uk/docview/879150771?accountid=8630&rfr_id=info%3Axri%2Fsid%3Aprimo [Accessed 2 May 2016].

Sachs, W. (ed.) (2010) The development dictionary: a guide to knowledge of power. London: Zed Books

Saraki, B. (2014) For Nigeria tackling climate change is a security imperative. Ecologist 8 March. Available from: http://www.theecologist.org/blogs_and_comments/commentators/2312535/for_nigeria_tackling_climate_change_is_a_security_imperative.html [Accessed 21 May 2016].

Tagma, H.M., Kalaycioglu, E. and Akcali, E. (2013) ‘Taming’ Arab social movements: Exporting neoliberal governmentality. Security Dialogue 44(5-6) 375–392, Available from: DOI: 10.1177/0967010613500512 [Accessed 15 March 2016].

Tansel, C.B. (2013) Breaking the Eurocentric cage. Capital & Class, 37 (2): 299-343, Available from: DOI: 10.1177/030981681348994 [Accessed 18 June 2016].

World Economic Forum (2013) Global risks 2013 Available from: http://www3.weforum.org/docs/WEF_GlobalRisks_Report_2013.pdf [Accessed 14 October 2017].

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Our article above appears to inform us that Western ECONOMIC POLICIES are the factors which are adversely effecting both the global South and the global North:

BEGIN QUOTE

If Westernization is defined not solely by religion or education, but rather includes pervasive and indisputable inequality, then Boko Haram is not only questioning Nigeria but the global order itself. In that sense it sees Nigeria as no better or worse than the West. An Oxfam report cited damning statistics on inequality and the threat it has on democracy in the world’s largest economy, the United States (Fuentes-Nieva and Galasso, 2014, p. 3). The World Economic Forum (WEF) listed severe income disparity as its top global risk (2013, p. 10). Boko Haram is singling out membership of the global economic complex which goes far beyond Nigerian borders (Sachs, 2010, p. vii). If economic policies have fueled inequality globally, even threatening the stability of the drivers of global policy, it would no doubt wreak havoc on the secondary states being forced to implement policy created elsewhere.

END QUOTE

But what if it is not so much Western ECONOMIC POLICIES but rather CAPITALISM ITSELF that is the "root cause" (both at home and abroad) of our difficulties?

BEGIN QUOTE

Capitalism today continues to produce remarkable benefits and continually greater opportunities for self-cultivation and personal development. Now as ever, however, those upsides are coming with downsides, particularly increasing inequality and insecurity. As Marx and Engels accurately noted, what distinguishes capitalism from other social and economic systems is its "constant revolutionizing of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, [and] everlasting uncertainty and agitation." ...

... the question at hand is just how to maintain the temporal blessings of capitalism while devising preventives and correctives for the evils that are their eternal concomitant. ...

For capitalism to continue to be made legitimate and palatable to populations at large, therefore -- including those on the lower and middle rungs of the socioeconomic ladder, as well as those near the top, losers as well as winners -- government safety nets that help diminish insecurity, alleviate the sting of failure in the marketplace, and help maintain equality of opportunity will have to be maintained and revitalized. Such programs already exist in most of the advanced capitalist world, including the United States, and the right needs to accept that they serve an indispensable purpose and must be preserved rather than gutted -- that major government social welfare spending is a proper response to some inherently problematic features of capitalism, not a "beast" that should be "starved." ...

The left, in turn, needs to come to grips with the fact that aggressive attempts to eliminate inequality may be both too expensive and futile. The very success of past attempts to increase equality of opportunity -- such as by expanding access to education and outlawing various forms of discrimination -- means that in advanced capitalist societies today, large, discrete pools of untapped human potential are increasingly rare. Additional measures to promote equality are therefore likely to produce fewer gains than their predecessors, at greater cost. And insofar as such measures involve diverting resources from those with more human capital to those with less, or bypassing criteria of achievement and merit, they may impede the economic dynamism and growth on which the existing welfare state depends.

The challenge for government policy in the advanced capitalist world is thus how to maintain a rate of economic dynamism that will provide increasing benefits for all while still managing to pay for the social welfare programs required to make citizens' lives bearable under conditions of increasing inequality and insecurity. Different countries will approach this challenge in different ways, since their priorities, traditions, size, and demographic and economic characteristics vary. (It is among the illusions of the age that when it comes to government policy, nations can borrow at will from one another.) But a useful starting point might be the rejection of both the politics of privilege and the politics of resentment and the adoption of a clear-eyed view of what capitalism actually involves, as opposed to the idealization of its worshipers and the demonization of its critics.

END QUOTE

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2013-02-11/capitalism-and-inequa...

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:

Time to see -- both at home and abroad -- that:

a. Not so much Western ECONOMIC POLICIES but rather CAPITALISM ITSELF is the "root cause" of both our domestic and foreign problems? And, thus, time to see -- both at home and abroad -- that, in relation to same,

b. Only enlightened DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN POLICIES can save us; this, from the exceptionally well-known and the exceptionally well-understood adverse effects of CAPITALISM ITSELF?

(Thus, and as per my my earlier comment below, to again contend that the argument of "unintended consequences" -- both at home and abroad -- this cannot be so easily made and/or be substantiated. This, given that the adverse consequences -- of CAPITALISM ITSELF -- are exceptionally well-known and are exceptionally well-understood. The fault, therefore, appears to lie -- on both our domestic and foreign policy fronts -- in our various national leaders, and in our various representatives, not acting responsibly; this, to adequately address these exceptionally well-known and these exceptionally well-understood adverse aspects of CAPITALISM ITSELF?)

From our article above and, in this case, from the perspective of how development/capitalist activity adversely effects the global South:

BEGIN QUOTE

Many would argue that policies of the global North, ill-suited to the reality of the locations in which they have been transferred, have greatly contributed to instability in the developing world (Tagma et al., 2013). Post-development theory would be of value in addressing that question. It might also uncover how a western driven global economic policy contributes to instability in the South (Escobar, 2012). ...

The pursuit of a one size fits all style of development and democracy promotion largely ignores inequality and leads to the level of economic uncertainty that can in part contribute to the creation of a movement such as Boko Haram.

END QUOTE

Next, for comparison, from a 2013 Foreign Affairs article entitled: "Capitalism and Inequality: What the Right and Left Get Wrong;" in this case, highlighting how development/capitalism (similarly it appears?) adversely effects the global North:

BEGIN QUOTE

Inequality is indeed increasing almost everywhere in the postindustrial capitalist world. But despite what many on the left think, this is not the result of politics, nor is politics likely to reverse it, for the problem is more deeply rooted and intractable than generally recognized. Inequality is an inevitable product of capitalist activity, and expanding equality of opportunity only increases it -- because some individuals and communities are simply better able than others to exploit the opportunities for development and advancement that capitalism affords. Despite what many on the right think, however, this is a problem for everybody, not just those who are doing poorly or those who are ideologically committed to egalitarianism -- because if left unaddressed, rising inequality and economic insecurity can erode social order and generate a populist backlash against the capitalist system at large.

END QUOTE

https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/2013-02-11/capitalism-and-inequa...

Thus, might we say that such things as inequality, the erosion of social order and the generation of populist backlashes -- IN BOTH THE GLOBAL SOUTH AND THE GLOBAL NORTH -- that these are the "inevitable products" of capitalist (and, thus, of "development?") activity?

(Again re: this negative phenomenon and the global North, from the recent Harvard article: "Trump, Brexit, and the Rise of Populism: Economic Have-Nots and Cultural Backlash:"

BEGIN QUOTE

Rising support for populist parties has disrupted the politics of many Western societies. What explains this phenomenon? Two theories are examined here. Perhaps the most widely-held view of mass support for populism -- the economic insecurity perspective -- emphasizes the consequences of profound changes transforming the workforce and society in post-industrial economies. Alternatively, the cultural backlash thesis suggests that support can be explained as a retro reaction by once-predominant sectors of the population to progressive value change.

END QUOTE)

Bottom Line Question -- Based on the Above:

Given -- in addition to its very well-known positive aspects -- that such things as inequality, the erosion of social order and the generation of populist backlashes are the very well-known negative "inevitable products" of both capitalist and development activity, then how can we -- with a straight face -- say that:

a. The rise of populations (both at home in the global North and abroad in the global South) -- in reaction to these such adverse aspects of capitalist and development -- are

b. "Unanticipated" (and/or, from our article above, "unintended") consequences?

(Note: If everyone knows that such things as inequality, the erosion of social order and the generation of populist backlashes -- both at home and abroad -- are the "inevitable products" of both capitalism and development activity, then must we be held accountable for, on both our domestic and foreign policy sides, [1] not acknowledging this fact up front and [2] not making reasonable plans and not taking reasonable proactive measures, to deal with these such "inevitabilities"/these such "problems?" Inevitabilities and problems which are clearly inherent/clearly part-and-parcel to the capitalist and development activities that we seek -- both at home and abroad -- to pursue/to achieve?)

The first question I have is how much did poor land management have to do with growth of deserts long before the population explosion after the 1950s?
An NGO that has invested in birth control and HIV care is obviously involved in population growth especially in regions that will not support the basic necessities and the population. Despite this we fail to recognize false expectations as a result in advances in telecommunication and its users sense that all the things that they see in prosperous nations at the touch of an app button should also be theirs.
No one ever asks if such technological innovations create false expectations feeding radical ideologies and religious strains.
It is also not unreasonable to deduce that these fundamental strains on terra Firma excite an "us against them" mentality which is then mistaken as hope. It becomes the grist for radicalism and incites religious fanaticism.
Analysts made the mistake of assuming radicals came forth from poverty like life forms from primeval ooze. But it is more likely failed and even destructive agricultural practices combined with an exhaustion of basic resources and an undeveloped ability to make the best use of valuable other natural assets combines with geometric population growth in the last 50 years has exacerbated the balance of man. resources and the ability to live in regions that are at peril. The solution cannot be found at gas pumps in the USA. But pick up your app and that may be exactly what you will come to believe. Even westerners who promote that belief without offering genuine solutions that address population mega-growth and have reduced population control to regaining government influence in mega-cities in the lateral.
There are some very real solutions to energy needs but that will not redress the problems ascribed to carbon emissions.