The Helmet and the Hoe: Linkages between United Nations Development Assistance and Conflict Management

By Griffin, Michele | Global Governance, April-June 2003 | Go to article overview

The Helmet and the Hoe: Linkages between United Nations Development Assistance and Conflict Management


Griffin, Michele, Global Governance


Analysts frequently note that the UN was established in very different times, when interstate war dominated the international security agenda and the wave of decolonization had barely begun. The UN's membership was one-quarter the current size. Concepts such as human security, human development, governance, and peacebuilding, if they existed at all, were little used or understood, and it was the rights of and relationships between states (rather than individuals or groups) that enjoyed the spotlight. Some geopolitical fault lines were as pertinent then as now. The first ever General Assembly (GA) resolution called for the elimination of atomic and other weapons of mass destruction, (1) and in its first five years the Security Council was preoccupied by the Middle East, India-Pakistan, Indonesia, the Korean peninsula, and the Balkans. (2) But it is noticeable that Africa, which today represents over 50 percent of the docket of the Council, barely featured in the early days.

The structure of the UN still largely reflects its birth. On the intergovernmental side, there was a clear distinction from the outset between the arenas for development issues-the GA and the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)--and the forum for peace and security, the Security Council. The same distinction was evident within the UN Secretariat and its agencies, funds, and programs. As a result, two quite different communities-the development community and the conflict management (3) community--evolved, with separate procedures, financial arrangements and decisionmaking forums. Over time, however, and specifically with the end of the Cold War, the international community began to focus on the linkages between peace and development. This necessitated an enormous and ongoing institutional adaptation within the UN, whereby the development and conflict management communities began to work closely together, bridging the gaps created by their separate approaches. In this article I describe that adaptation, with a specific look at its application in Afghanistan.

While I take into account both the intergovernmental (the UN as an arena) and the international civil service (the UN as an actor) sides of the UN, (4) my focus is mostly on the latter. On the other hand, major institutional innovations within the UN rarely occur without the explicit sanction of an intergovernmental body--the executive board in the case of an agency such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Security Council and GA political and budget committees in the case of Secretariat departments--and for that reason, I also describe the debates in those bodies.

The UN and Development Cooperation

The assumption by the UN of development functions was foreseen in the charter and early GA resolutions, (5) but development did not acquire real prominence on the UN agenda until the 1960s. Before then, development assistance was almost exclusively bilateral, but perceptions that multilateral channels were less political and more efficient led to an expansion in multilateral assistance, particularly after the Pearson Report of 1969. Already by the late 1940s, however, assistance to "underdeveloped" countries was being discussed, and in 1948 the GA approved a budget line for technical assistance (advisory social welfare services) amounting to U.S.$750,000. In 1950, the UN Expanded Programme of Technical Assistance (EPTA)--the first multilateral development program financed from voluntary contributions--was established. (6) In 1966, EPTA merged with the Special Fund for Economic Development to create the main UN agency for development, UNDP. (7)

UNDP was primarily intended as a funding agency, providing funds for and assisting governments with the planning and management of national development programs. Programs were frequently executed by UN specialized agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), or by UNDP's own Office for Project Services (spun off in 1995). …

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The Helmet and the Hoe: Linkages between United Nations Development Assistance and Conflict Management
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