MSFS & GAPS Host DevTalks: Security and Development Forum

by Melissa Toufanian

Understanding how security and development are connected, especially when working with conflict and fragile states, was the focus of the latest DevTalks event. 

The Georgetown Anti-Poverty Society (GAPS), in collaboration with the Master of Science in Foreign Service Program, hosted “DevTalks: Security and Development” on the evening of December 1. The event opened with remarks from School of Foreign Service (SFS) Dean Joel Hellman, where he discussed how security and development have coexisted but rarely interacted. He foresees the need for that to change considerably in the future.

“If we project out another 15, 20, 30 years, the entire poverty reduction challenge will largely be centered around fragile and conflict states,” Hellman said. “The development business will largely be about how do you get development outcomes in insecure environments and how do you use development to build a foundation for security.”  

Post-conflict reconstruction, the role of women in developing societies, refugee resettlement here in the United States, and funding for innovative solutions to complex problems were all themes explored during the event.

MSFS Students Pose Questions at DevTalks Forum

“As Dean Hellman outlined in his opening remarks, typically security and development have been addressed very separately until around a decade ago; but this is changing,” said Elise Wilson, President of GAPS and MSFS’18. Today, around 17-18% of the world's poor live in fragile and conflict-affected states, however, this will increase to between 40-60% in just 15 years’ time.”

Following the opening remarks, four speakers gave TED-style talks on their area of expertise. The speakers were Senior Gender Adviser to the United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee and UN Women Naureen Chowdhury Fink; Senior Director of the Fragility, Conflict, and Violence Group at the World Bank Franck Bousquet; Director of the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy and Former U.S. Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine; and Acting CEO and Vice President of U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigration Eskinder Negash. Ambassador Chester Crocker, SFS James R. Schlesinger Professor in the Practice of Strategic Studies, then moderated a discussion with the participants where they also fielded questions from the audience.

Despite initial struggles, Naureen Chowdhury Fink expressed optimism on how there has been considerable progress at the multilateral realm, at least at the UN, in terms of the inclusion of women in security issues.

It was pointed out by Franck Bousquet that 90% of refugees are located in developing countries. Responding to refugee crises requires many areas of expertise, including innovative financing, leveraging partnerships with the private sector, and addressing issues of inclusivity not just poverty.

When it comes to preparing and planning for post conflict transitions, Ambassador Bodine stressed the need to address this during conflict transition peace talks, not at the end of a conflict. The end game must be stability, not just security. Bodine shared her own personal experience with Iraq and encouraged students to study Iraq as an example of what not to do in post-conflict planning and to study the sequencing and circumstances on the ground.

Eskinder Negash challenged the audience to think about when refugee crises, now with 65 million refugees and IDPs worldwide, initially began. He argued the current crisis actually began with the founding of camps, or “refugee warehouses.” According to Negash, the United States has a freedom-based refugee resettlement program.

All speakers reiterated the importance of understanding the intersection of security and development.

“We chose this topic as a student organization that focuses on international development given the critical role security and conflict play and will increasingly play in the development field and to give students an overview of some of the issues within this area,” Wilson said.