In the Wake of September 11: Human Security and Human Development in the 21st Century
November 19, 2001
JOANNE MYERS: Good morning. I'm Joanne Myers. On behalf of the Carnegie Council, I would like to welcome you to our Breakfast Program this morning with Mark Malloch Brown, Administrator at UNDP.
In the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks, and with all the discussion about how to fight this new war, it is curious that so little has been said about tackling one of the root causes of terrorism: poverty. I would like to call to your attention one organization which has been working steadily for many years to diffuse the clash of civilizations that we all fear. UNDP is the UN's principal provider for development advice, advocacy, and grant support addressing poverty concerns around the world.
Ever since the end of the Cold War, UNDP has been increasingly called upon to address issues concerning peace, human security, and human development. This organization's commitment to these goals has proven especially useful in post-conflict situations and with states that have been otherwise isolated from the international community.
Today there are people living in the world on less than $2 a day. They are suffering from a plethora of problems, including lack of employment, no education, and little health care. Poverty, as we have recently witnessed, can often foment anger and political unrest, and it is these disenfranchised people, with their attendant difficulties, who represent danger points both for their own nation's future and for the world at large.
Therefore, in the wake of September 11th, we might ask: What are UNDP's plans for human security and human development in the 21st century? This is a topic that our guest will shortly address.
Following the recommendation by Secretary-General Kofi Annan on April 23, 1999, the United Nations General Assembly confirmed the appointment of Mark Malloch Brown to be the Administrator of UNDP. After perusing his resumé, I would have to say that they most certainly knew what they were doing, for our guest's experiences since his college days, with First Honors in History at Cambridge and later at the University of Michigan, have provided him with a vast basis of experience in many areas of international relations.
Mr. Malloch Brown joined the UN in the late-1970s when he worked for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. He was stationed in Thailand and was in charge of field operations for Cambodian refugees. In 1981, he was appointed Deputy Chief of the Emergency Unit in Geneva, undertaking extensive missions in the Horn of Africa and Central America, as well as developing procedures for dealing with crises of mass population influx. In 1981, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and its staff were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Before his appointment at UNDP, Mr. Malloch Brown served at the World Bank as Vice President for External Affairs and Vice President for United Nations Affairs. While there, he is credited with having helped the Bank enhance its outreach, expand its partnership with the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations, build stronger links with client and donor countries, and strengthen its strategic communications.
From 1984 to 1994, Mr. Malloch Brown was lead international partner for the Sawyer Miller Group, a consulting firm. He advised governments, political candidates, such as Corazon Aquino of the Philippines, and many other presidential candidates, particularly in Latin America.
He is the Founder of The Economist Development Report, a monthly update on the aid community and political economy development for The Economist, where he also served as Reports Editor and political correspondent.
Active in human rights and refugee issues, Mr. Malloch Brown served as Vice Chairman of the Board of Refugees International in Washington and as a member of the Soros Advisory Committee on Bosnia.
MARK MALLOCH BROWN:Thank you for that overly generous introduction so early in the morning. I listen to such introductions and think I'm going to kill whoever gives out my biography.
About ten days ago, I spoke at the Concern Annual Dinner, and James Earl Jones was reading through my biography in front of 400 people in one of these New York ballrooms. I thought, "Oh my God, he's even going to say my university degree." I can see this is going to go badly. Let me tell you, if you ever want anybody to remind you of your university degree, I recommend James Earl Jones. You sort of feel like a Verizon Yellow Pages. But, nevertheless, outside his hands, I'll have to kind of cut that bio down.
I'm delighted to have the chance to address these issues. It was obvious what I would speak about, not just because human development and security is so much on all our minds in the aftermath of the terrible events of September, but because they are the kind of things I associate with this institution. As a young Refugee official, I often came here to talk about refugees, and found it was the one forum in New York which wanted to hear about them in those days.
In the first reactions to what happened in September, we have inevitably been drawn into a traditional military and counter-terrorism response. There is nobody in the United Nations community who doesn't believe that it was indispensable that the United States demonstrate resolute military resolve in addressing this. There was that creeping sense of a giant that could be slapped and might turn the other cheek, and the Security Council has demonstrated by its support for U.S. response in general that we all have a common interest in a strong system of collective security being maintained which does not jeopardize innocent civilians through an upsurge of terrorism.
Nevertheless, many of us, particularly on the development and humanitarian side of the UN—and many in this room, I suspect—also struggle a little to reconcile this astonishing and terrible attack on the World Trade Centers and on the Pentagon with the response, the war in Afghanistan, not because any of us doubt that this is indeed the current home of al-Qaida or the right locus for the military action, but just because of the sheer disproportionality of New York, the most sophisticated city in the world, being struck so hard by the world's ultimate failed state.
In the UNDP Human Development Index, the last time we could get any numbers out of Afghanistan, it ranked 169th out of 174th, and probably by now would be 174th. For those of us who have been working in Afghanistan for years, despite the virulent anti-Americanism, the fanatical ideology of the Taliban, it's hard not to conclude that the reason it was home to al-Qaida was less the welcome it got from the Taliban and more that this was the failed state where you could park any criminal enterprise you wished with no threat of the rule of law or international police being able to reach you.
If you've worked with development or refugees, this is not the first time we have seen that. One has seen the crackdown against the growing of cocaine in Colombia and it moving next door to Bolivia. One is left with a strong sense that in a global world, where everything from terrorism to drugs and crime are globalized in their distribution networks, we cannot afford a weak chain. Leave any country in a failed state condition and it is a jeopardy and threat to us all.
But it is that failed state issue that so concerns us because, while the Taliban have been in power in the last few years, the Government of Afghanistan before that was no beauty. This is a country of twenty years of political failure, of state failure, arguably a country which has never been a nation state with strong central institutions with a real national writ, a country which has constantly been subjected to foreign interference, where many of the scholars of the Taliban argue that it was just the last of many imposed regimes and did not enjoy any broad-based support in the country.
The profound breakdown of political process and state institutions is the most virulent part of this political illness that produced or allowed Afghanistan to become home to a terrorist network. Therefore, to move on from this military conflict to a serious effort at reconstructing the country is both urgent but difficult.
We are struggling now with how to deal with a country whose political culture revolts against foreign imposition, which is maddened by the experience of both foreign intervention but also foreign desertion, at being left, dropped at key moments, without the resources to develop itself. It has allowed all groups in the country to develop a skepticism and suspicion of the real commitment and motives of those who seek to help them, and that is not limited to the current coalition partners.
It touches our own efforts of the United Nations. My organization, UNDP, has been there through thick and thin. Even more heroically, organizations like the World Food Program (WFP), the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, and UNICEF have been there at a very high level for years. WFP has 1,000 national staff in the country. UNDP has 700. WFP has been delivering two-thirds of the international assistance to the country in recent years. But it has not bought us a huge depth of trust and understanding, and understandably so.
We are working with prickly groups. If there is a lot of hostility towards outside help, it is only matched by the internal hostility towards each other. The geography of valleys and mountains is very much a political geography as well, a country where really the only functioning social unit is the valley and the community in the valley, and tremendous suspicion towards the valley next door on the other side of the mountain.
This has meant that a development organization like UNDP has very much focused on community development. The need to bypass the regime in Kabul, which we were deeply uncomfortable, meant that we went to a straight community development model. Hence, this very large number of staff we have in the country, because we couldn't work as we normally worked, through government ministries.
But we are now in a situation of a lot of valleys we know well, but how do we quickly aggregate that up to a national strategy? That is a very major challenge for us.
This is compounded by a second big challenge: How, given Kabul's historic weakness as a real center of national government with institutions that are respected the length and breadth of the land, do we start to layer into Kabul national institutions which will enjoy real national authority?
We are going to see a sort of "UN-lite" operation, supported by a lot of nongovernmental organizations. The IRCU is there; the ICRC, Médicins Sans Frontières, both of whom went back in Kabul yesterday.
I hope it will not be an effort with the sort of hundreds of ex-pats with their white Land Rovers which have characterized some of these earlier efforts. That would be very dangerous for everybody involved, but also would go against the grain of this Afghan concern and desire to take charge of their own destiny and be supported in it with the technical assistance and capacity-building, but not once more displaced by foreigners trying to find a solution for them.
Therefore, of course, the efforts of our UN colleague, Lakhdar Brahimi, are so critical to try and build a national government which broadly represents all interests. The seizure of Kabul is thus both good and bad news.
Everybody was surprised at the speed with which the Northern Alliance occupied the capital, and not incredibly encouraged by the head of the Northern Alliance, the former President Rabani, who is still recognized as President by the UN, announcing that he was going to Kabul as President and the King could return as a private citizen if he so wished. To try and get beyond the reassertion of that kind of inter-tribal rivalry again, to really create a broad-based national government, is going to test Mr. Brahimi's skills.
But it will also test the resolve and political will of the United States, the United Kingdom and their allies. Because they created the opportunity for the Northern Alliance to break out of a redout of less than 5% of the country, they now have an obligation to see this through with their new allies and ensure that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past and that we really build a broad-based government there.
Having said that about Afghanistan, I am now going to risk losing your attention by going to the rest of the world and its links to Afghanistan.
I will start with what is my favorite theme of the moment: Afghanistan as a failed state is enormously important to fix, as are Somalia and some other failed states I could mention, which are potentially every bit as much of a jeopardy and threat to the international community as Afghanistan has proved. And, indeed, if we believe Mr. Rumsfeld's comments overnight, that it was very likely that Osama bin Laden would escape Afghanistan, you have to ask, "Where is he going to go next?" Therefore, the failed state issue is enormously important to us.
Let me now get into somewhat more provocative territory and say that in some ways Afghanistan is a bit of a side show, because none of the terrorists who attacked the World Trade Centers were Afghans, none were Palestinians, none were poor. Most of them were middle-class Saudis with university degrees and with pilots' licenses, several of them were Egyptians, and at least one was from another small Gulf state.
One has to look at the circumstances in the broader Islamic swathe of nations which are breeding, at least in a very small minority, this virulent anti-government fundamentalism, this willingness to take up the arms of the terrorists.
Here the lessons are a little less comfortable for the development community, because some countries, such as Saudi Arabia, have not needed aid in recent years because they have the ultimate reliable alternative to aid, oil, wealth.
Others, such as Egypt, have enjoyed huge levels of American generosity for years. For those of us in the development community, the question has long been how to spend development assistance in Egypt.
Pakistan received huge amounts of U.S. development assistance right through the Afghan War—and, indeed, those levels remained quite high until the nuclear testing.
Central Asia, another home of nascent terrorist movements, in the same way, has received in the 1990s, since the breakup of the Soviet Union, very high levels of development assistance, most of it concessional finance from the World Bank and, to some extent, the IMF.
And yet, these countries' political systems appear to, for certain fundamental structural reasons, encourage this small minority of radicalization. I would argue that there are three interrelated reasons that these countries could remain breeding grounds of very difficult political-cum-violent movements for us to address.
I should be clear that I am not singling out a particular country for this. I'm talking about the region, and I don't consider myself an expert, and I also consider myself too prudent a UN official, to point the finger at individual countries in this regard.
The first issue is very clearly the democracy deficit in countries without participatory representative government. If you are an angry young Saudi or Uzbek, don't count on using the ballot box to solve your issues. There is very little opportunity for domestic, nonviolent, political expression at home, and that is true of pretty much the whole region. It is in some ways, therefore, an invitation to export your political protest.
Second, those same young people are victims of a failing education system. There has been a ten-fold increase in the number of fundamentalist schools in Pakistan over the last decade to replace a failing state education system. The phenomenon is not limited to Pakistan, but holds true in the whole region, as far afield as West Africa, where in country after country, secular state-sponsored education is failing. The combination of collapsing economies, collapsing state institutions, and population growth has overwhelmed the good public education system, which in many countries had been left behind by the colonial masters.
Into that vacuum has come Islamic schools. One has to be very careful of criticizing another culture's education system, but the most critical thing to point out is that, unlike the Catholic schools in New York—which we all think of as a great alternative to public school because the students who come through those are in some ways even more critical of everything they see than those who come through P.S.-whatever—that is not the case with the Islamic schools.
The curriculum is heavily based on rote learning and on very little engagement with issues of modern society or economy and very little development of, if you like, the culture of critical examination of information and intelligence and all that we think of in terms of teaching young men and women to be critical about and think deeply about the issues and information that comes before them in life. The other great deficit to this school system is that they are for boys alone, thus leaving little educational opportunity for girls throughout much of the region.
The third element for those young people coming out of a system where they have no political voice and inadequate educational opportunity except through the Islamic school strain, is the absence of jobs. What has struck me dramatically in recent visits to Egypt, Iran, and other countries in the region is that a population explosion combined with failing economies has led to a million-plus people a year entering the job market without jobs.
That is the real crisis: a group of countries, which we regard as stable, have a democratic, an education, a job, and an economy deficit. That is the time bomb in terms of sustaining any kind of global enterprise, and of the evolution of a common global political economy. We must in that context ask what the early phase of the response against terrorism has done to address that.
Let me provoke a little by saying it has probably so far, by the rush to win allies in this fight, endorsed the current failures in those countries. There is no evidence that the new development assistance has been tied to political reform or economic restructuring. In fact, for myself and my colleague, Jim Wolfenson at the World Bank, we are throwing our hands up in the air in despair, because in many of these countries we have been preaching the virtues of reform and less aid, and suddenly there is aid and no reform.
It was precisely that combination of large U.S. assistance going into unrestructured, unreformed societies that fed the ideological perception that these were corrupt regimes dependent on American largesse. If you go to the heart of Osama bin Laden's complaint against the Saudi regime, that it is not legitimate Saudi theocracy, you find that it is the dependence on America, the presence of American troops.
Likewsie, if you read the Egyptian media, you see continuous attacks on the United States for its support to a government system which many young Egyptians do not consider as reforming or responding to their popular concerns.
So we must think very hard about how we ensure the kind of deep-rooted reform in societies which is going to give a voice and an opportunity to a demography which is against us, in a world where at least half the population is under twenty-one.
Let me then turn to the third circle of countries very briefly—my "ultimate moral hazard" countries—which are those that had absolutely nothing to do with the events of September, the struggling, very poor countries of Africa; the smaller, poorer countries of Latin America—indeed, some of the richer countries of Latin America—all of whom are struggling with economic slowdown, with long-running reform efforts which some have been taking enormously seriously, and run the risk of being even more under-resourced than before September the 11th.
When I say "moral hazard", it's obviously a completely unintentional moral hazard, but it would be a terrible tragedy if the historic verdict on this was that you saw a vast shifting of a very fixed, modest aid pie from low-income, poverty-reduction activities to support to middle-income countries in the fight against terrorism. This would be the ultimate short-sighted undermining of our broader global goals of somehow overcoming the great Achilles heel of globalization, a world where almost half of the population of 2.8 billion live on less than $2 a day.
While a great portion of that poor are in South Asia, if we ignore Africa and Latin America, we risk further exacerbating this sense of inequality of treatment and the lack of seriousness of really long-term commitment and approach.
It comes at a moment when, not here in the United States but in Europe, there was a real seriousness emerging about more levels of development assistance to adequately fund the campaign between now and 2015 to halve world poverty. Much work has gone on recently such as the European Development Ministers reluctantly committing to develop a timetable to get to 0.7% of their economies in overseas aid from the current level of 0.22% amongst all OECD countries.
Serious work to up the investment in the very poor countries is obviously jeopardized if (1) resources swing towards the middle income and (2) those resources once more get discredited because they are not tied to reform, and the taxpayer in the West doesn't see results of his development support.
So the strategic, or almost statesman-like, challenge for us is to ensure that our support for Africa does not waver and is supplemented, rather than substituted for, by support for the countries we have mentioned.
There is a tremendous change amongst U.S. political opinion in Washington towards development assistance. Part of this is perhaps a little bit more predictable than you might think, in that I have never seen a period where defense spending goes up where foreign aid doesn't increase as well.
Although I don't particularly like that association, I understand it, and I know that it's not entirely accidental, but is related to a country such as the United States recognizing the need to manage a global threat, wanting to build up its defense spending as a consequence, but realizing that there is a further dimension to this. You're already seeing a change in Washington, albeit a quite uneducated change at the moment, and a rather short-term tactical response to the immediate events of September.
But in the slightly longer term, you're seeing an interesting coalition of politicians whose minds were already unfreezing before September the 11th. The sight of Senator Helms at a Bono concert, or some other of the more remarkable visuals of the movement towards support for debt relief, indicate that already people were beginning to understand that you cannot sustain a global political economy which allows America's values and commercial interests and America's security interests to prosper and be met without addressing the crisis of poverty in half the world.
So we were already on the road, but this is still a country and a town—at least Washington—which has a deep skepticism of public spending and public institutions. We need a rationale for increased development assistance, because if we do not, I think it will remain just a short-term response.
But the tragedy also began to point to a rationale which was already latent, which is this profound sense that the failed state of Afghanistan, the broader political failure in the region I described, the consequences of unaddressed poverty in a region such as Africa, do not stop at borders.
In a way, terrorism was just a brutal expression of an argument that we had been making about HIV/AIDS: failing to contain the pandemic in Africa offers the prospect for spread back through Asia, Eastern Europe, and ultimately already into higher infection rates in Western Europe and North America. Other public health menaces are showing similar patterns of movement, jumping in ways that were unexpected across behavior patterns, coming back as a new threat, with old medicines not addressing them as effectively as before. More typically, we have long been aware of the issues of unaddressed economic failure in countries leading to an immigration problem that then hits us all.
This sense of global dependence on managing problems abroad before they come and hit Americans at home was already there, lying low in the political culture. September 11th was this ultimately horrible way of bringing it from the unthought parts of our minds to the forefront. But because the idea was already seeded, it will be a dramatically transforming idea.
I would just make two observations. One, it really does rest on the concept of human security: that your security is my security; that if you are left without education, without the minimum of a decent life in your own country, the consequences for that may be as serious for me as they are for you. That very simple sense of the mutuality of our security, and of that security not just being physical security, although that is a key part of it, but this broader set of being able to offer our families and our kids some measure of decency in this world, is something which is very American and which is being understood and captured in people's thinking.
The second extension of that is the whole issue of the rights of states. Here I have to pick my words very carefully, and if I was writing a prepared script, there would have been a row in my office yesterday, because they never like what I say on this point.
I believe very profoundly that the real lesson of September the 11th was that states don't have the right to fail. This is a dynamite statement to make at the UN, where our Secretary-General has just gone through five years of trying to shake off the debate—or at least win the debate, or close the debate—about the right to humanitarian intervention, and then I come along with something even more seditious and revolutionary and say that states don't have the right to fail. It's not just a matter of the right to come in with rice bags and the Red Cross when a state breaks down. It is that we cannot allow them to get into that state in the first place.
But what redeems me, in part, is an equal recognition, as I said on Afghanistan, that the difference between preventing a right to fail and some heavy-handed intervention by an army of expatriate helpers won't work in Afghanistan and is, therefore, not the right approach. But my point is more that we cannot make large investments in developing countries and not demand a broad-based, participatory government that operates according to transparent rules of law, that respects the human rights of its citizens, that allows them political voice, which meets their basic needs.
That brings us to the very UNDP philosophy of human development. In fact, the term "human security" came out in our 1994 Human Development Reportand is now the subject of a Commission, led by Amartya Sen and Sadako Ogata, on Human Security. In our mind, it is very much rooted in this overarching concept of human development.
I arrived at UNDP as a little too hard-lined economist from my World Bank days, and was skeptical of human development with its emphasis on quality of life indicators rather than on real hard economics alone. What has been extraordinary to me has been to deal with presidents of different ideological persuasions across the world and see their laser-like focus on the human development of their citizens, the use of our indexes to measure the access of their citizens to education and health care, and to skew their public spending to address it.
Vincente Fox of Mexico, with whom I launched this year's Human Development Report, claims that it was essentially from his manifesto against a failed national government, the PRI Government, that he developed his own Human Development Reportto point out the failures of the previous government to address these basics.
Cardoso of Brazil, a lot of the big leaders of states in India , all over the world—left, right, very democratic, quite democratic—all are focused on this recognition that the ultimate political challenge is how to bring those quality of life issues to bear on ordinary citizens. Long before we got re-interested in development and foreign assistance, a new generation of leaders who are truly global, are enormously focused on this issue of the quality of life of their citizens.
So while I began with the gloom of Afghanistan and its neighbors, one has to say that our greatest asset is a new generation of democratic leaders around the world who understand that their votes depend on redressing global poverty and, behind that, the broader set of factors which lead to human security and an absence of human development. So between a North more willing to give and a South more willing to lead, the opportunities for a coalition of development as part of what we are seeing today has never been better.
Question & Answer
QUESTION:You've been playing a personal role in trying to help prevent the slide of a particular state towards failure, and that is Zimbabwe. How can you help a country that wasn't poor to begin with, but seems to be extraordinarily badly governed, from failing, which we seem to be witnessing in slow motion as time goes on? Can you tell us a bit about your personal experience?
MARK MALLOCH BROWN:It's a very good example, and shows the limits of intervention as the solution. Zimbabwe is a country to which WFP is now going to have to ship major food aid, which had one of the most prosperous, best-managed economies in the region. For those of you who know it, it's a wonderful country.
But the roots of addressing the kind of fundamental inequality in a country, which is going to undermine it if not addressed, goes way back beyond the last few years to when finally the British Lancaster House reached the agreements which led the white regime to step aside and allow a democratically elected government to come to power under President Mugabe.
The great failure was to put land reform on one side. This land is the issue of the political culture in Zimbabwe and, in a country where so many are landless and where 10 million hectares of the best farmland are in the hands of white farmers, is a recipe for instability.
But if you come to the short term, since 1980, both sides have blamed the other for lack of progress, and there is plenty of evidence to support both propositions—of President Mugabe using the land issue only just before elections to whip up hostility and his core vote; of the British inevitably going through different elections, and development ministers taking a deep breath and finally promising to put up very large sums of money, and then a new election, and they're back to square one. The issue was left unresolved because there wasn't the political will on both sides to fix it.
The Secretary-General and I have come into this really at the eleventh hour and tried, in the parliamentary elections last year, to get land reform out of it by offering to come up with a program which would respect the principles of honest distribution of land going to small farmers, financially supported by the British and other donors. It has been a political football kicked back and forth.
I have a mission, led by my Bureau Director for Africa, in Harare at the moment supported by the so-called Commonwealth Group—the Nigerians, the British, Australians, and others—and they have laid out a political framework which puts land reform at its center.
We are trying. But this is so political with an election next spring. The President this weekend welcomed our mission by seizing another 2 million hectares. So it is going to be a test of diplomatic, as well as land reform, skills.
There is no easy, quick fix. It's fine for me to say go in and turn these countries around, but failure is a long-term process, and when you have a chance to prevent the failure is when it's a slow-moving set of development issues that democratically elected politicians in the North think they can address next year. By the time the political will is there to address it, because it has become a real crisis—a Zimbabwe or an Afghanistan—it's too late. The political positions have been taken, the state has failed, the economy has failed, and it becomes a much more expensive post-breakdown fix than it would have been by a little statesmanship ten years earlier.
QUESTION:I would like to move you back to the gloom of Afghanistan, if I may. Since the events in Afghanistan have been put on fast-forward, one of the big concerns is the vacuum that has been created there, very unexpectedly— not just a political or security vacuum, but also an administrative vacuum being quickly filled by the Northern Alliance. Anybody who has spent five minutes looking at the Northern Alliance knows that, even though it is our ally right now, it is a group which does not inspire confidence for the future.
UNDP has been doing a lot of rethinking and taking new approaches, especially in areas such as crisis recovery, security, et cetera, so you probably are right on top of it. What is going to happen in Afghanistan, not down the line, like what Mr. Brahimi presented to the Security Council and the Council approved yesterday, but immediately, tomorrow, next week, the week after? Are you thinking about some sort of presence there; and, if so, could you share some of it with us?
MARK MALLOCH BROWN:You have put your finger on it. You can imagine the discussions at the senior level within the UN between a political process which still remains medium-term, and myself and my humanitarian colleagues saying, "What are we going to do this weekend?" There really is a sense of this vacuum emerging.
I would stress one point that I made at the beginning, which is that the United States did open this military possibility for the Northern Alliance. They now have a commensurate political responsibility to talk to their new allies with great firmness on this, because this is a group that has been slung out of Kabul before for running a narrow-based government that failed to respect human rights and give voice to all Afghans. So the need to force them to participate in a political process which achieves a transitional, broad-based administration is very urgent.
Mr. Brahimi plans to dramatically accelerate that approach on the political side. The art of the perfect consultation must not get in the way of the possible, which is that we need a government representing all ethnic groups there quickly.
But on the development side, the Resident Coordinator of UNDP, Erick De Mul, who is Coordinator for the whole UN system, will leave shortly for Kabul, and a group of seventeen international staff will go in.
Now, the second issue is: what are we going to do? Again, our view is that we must tackle this from the bottom up and then from Kabul down. From the bottom up was a community development program, called Peace, that we have been operating for some years, which has allowed us to have 700 staff in Afghanistan. We are going to go back into the villages and valleys we were in, and then try to leverage it to as many valleys as possible as quickly as possible with this set of community-based interventions, which are deliberately very participatory, focusing on health clinics, schools, and agriculture.
The second is the Kabul level, where we are going to move very quickly on national institution building with the priorities of health, education, and the security sector, including a justice system, and the security sector separate to the broader peace-enforcement, peace-keeping dimension. But unless we get a primitive, functioning policing and justice system, this could soon become very ugly. So we're going to be trying to capacity build around those three.
Again, it will be the whole UN, not UNDP alone. And speed is going to be of the essence.
QUESTION:You made a very good case about the danger of giving a lot of aid to these countries without attaching certain conditions of political liberalization and economic reform. But many people feel that economic reform as it has been practiced in the past has itself been part of the problem.
What do you mean by "economic reform", and how has the concept evolved, and where do you stand now on what is the right package to help these countries prosper?
MARK MALLOCH BROWN:I'm glad for the opportunity to be able to distance myself from my former institution.
First, if I'm right about the importance of the collapse of state schools and the rise of Islamic schools, one of the reasons to which you would attribute this is a longstanding, no longer followed, World Bank policy for users' fees for kids going to public school. This effort was definitely one of the forces which has driven children into Islamic schools and was one of the extraordinarily short-sighted things that economists do without an understanding of the broader political consequence.
Second, economic reform without political reform can be horrendously problematic, because if you don't have a political system that is sensitive to the social stress that you are creating by radical restructuring of an economy—the pockets of unemployment and deprivation that you're creating—economic reform can become an end in itself and you get stuck because you, over time, as an authoritarian leader, don't see the trouble coming, you don't adjust your policies to try to provide some temporary transitional support as you go through economic reform; and then, suddenly, you've got such a backlash that, as an authoritarian with no political system through which to let the pressure out through a genuine political debate, you drop the reform program.
In many of these countries, we've seen a stop/start reform, a year of reform until it gets really difficult, then a collapse in the face of political opposition, a few more years of a meandering economy going downhill, then a renewed effort to reform, and then again the political opposition failing.
I start with the democracy dividend, because I truly believe that political participation is in almost all cases the necessary precondition for successful economic and social reform.
I certainly think that UNDP has very carefully sought to position itself as an organization that fights for globalization for all, that believes that economic reform has a transformative effect on economic growth prospects, but unless there is strong public policy intervention at the national and global level, it will have incredible unintended consequences in terms of distribution of wealth, distribution of failure, and those who get left behind in the global economy.
We are not market fundamentalists on this at all, and we are very conscious of the failure of the reform efforts of the 1980s and 1990s, and that those were as much bad advice from international organizations as domestic failures.
QUESTION:You said that states are not allowed to fail. That's putting it very well. What I see is the UN in the future with a reasonable number of states that are democratically governed. They will not allow the old ones to fail. They will intervene, just as we intervene in the civil society when we see somebody who is out of bounds.
How do you see this transition, in particular, in the countries that you mentioned here among the Muslim states? We are very concerned that we are not pointing the finger in the direction of a particular religion. But you pointed to the social structure, that half of the population is under twenty, there is hardly any middle class. How do you see the transition into a democracy, either revolution or something else? This is a sensitive, I admit, but one of the crucial issues we have to face in the future.
MARK MALLOCH BROWN:I've beaten up on enough countries in the region. Let me give Iran a turn, because to my mind it's a very interesting case and one which preoccupies me a lot. I'm very keen on the government of President Khatami. I think he is doing really fantastic things.
But what I saw, at least before September the 11th, was a view of the West which was very hands-off, a sense that all you had to do was give it time and Iran would come back into the Western column. The argument seemed to be that the demographics supported political and economic liberalization, that you had an aging group of clerics jholding on to power with arthritic hands; and that you had this young Westernized group, many of them with relatives in America, all of them with MTV in their living rooms, who were just waiting to push this old guard out; and that, therefore, all Europe and the United States had to do was stand by and let it happen—it might take five years, might take ten.
I was struck by something very different, which was that you had this struggling reformist President. And we do extraordinary things in Iran: we have a project to support the strengthening of the Parliament; we do a lot of work with civil society. We are incredibly close to them and are treated as the outside reform agent with whom they feel most confident in some ways.
But a struggling President had above him these clerics and very violent allies of that group who were willing to take to the streets to prevent reform, but beneath him it was much more complicated. This younger generation were not straightforwardly Western. They borrowed the tools of Western technology—the Internet, cable television, et cetera—but, a little bit like the young Chinese who demonstrated on the Internet against the spy plane earlier in the year, there was a very strong nationalist, anti-American culture prevailing amongst them. There was a sense that demography would let them win in the end; and, secondly, an understandable reluctance to engage with the government which, because the President doesn't control all the levers of power, clearly has some activities going on which the West, very understandably, hates. For these reasons, you just left Iran alone.
That seemed to me to be inviting a change of regime over time—to a secular, yes; but a nationalist, illiberal secular regime—because this combination of a million kids going onto the job market without jobs, this sense of isolation, and the United States as the ultimate enemy—all these things appeared to be building a culture amongst younger people which was not pro-Western, not pro-globalization, and certainly not pro-American.
We need to engage culturally, intellectually, and economically in a much more vigorous way, with a much profounder understanding of the dynamics of change in each of these countries and a much more sympathetic approach to encouraging change.