Neo-liberal Ideology and Conflict
Neo-liberal ideology underlies humanitarian and official development aid and many argue that post-conflict reconstructions of countries in Africa are no different. Re-integration programs are top-down models of reintegration programs reflect larger developmental paradigms. Cerretti (2009) states that most conflict has occurred in the global south in the last 30 years with the global north as the major funder of conflict.
Zack-Williams and Mohan (2007) declare that imperialist designs are always dynamic and ever changing, with the sole objective of making the world safe for capital and the World Bank has defined a successful DDR program as “the key to an effective transition from war to peace”, p. 63.
The reasons for conflict are complex and diverse. And yet, neo-liberal economists, such as Collier (2007) state that the failure to globalize or liberalize economies leads to risk of civil war in Africa. Stiglitz (2002) counters by stating that globalization and the neo-liberal economic policy (increasing trade, deregulating financial markets and privatizing national enterprises) through conditionality (SAP) has led to the reduction of state powers and led to more economic and social disruption than growth.
Lawrence (2007) argues that Collier’s analysis is very much in tune with the World Bank neo-classical economic theory that omits “whole areas of analysis which need to be included to build a complete picture”, p. 171. For instance, war can results for political reasons, i.e,. support for either ideology or for rebel leaders themselves. Positioned behind scientific rhetoric, neo-classicial economic theory lacks historical specificity, i.e., the bi-lateral positioning in Africa by the US and the Soviet Union, or World Bank influences on policies. Neo-liberal assumptions led by prominent economic theorists, “almost exclusively wealthy intellectuals from the North, to present their models as if they were not shaped by their identity and their privileged geographic position in the global economy” (Cerretti, 2009, p.557)
Austessere (2007) argues that contrary to mono-causality of the likes of Collier, conflicts are far more likely to be caused by grievance than economic opportunities. For example, the oft-cited reason for war in Sierra Leone is the country’s ‘blood’ diamonds however, this ignores underlying causes such as poor governance, political and social exclusion and inept political leadership. Violence, often motivated by greed, can also be motivated by grievances such as social status, identity and political power. The greed-not-grievance argument is too mechanistic and economic, without looking at the various levels of grievances: the regional, national and local. Watchlist (2004) reports that the Liberian civil war was rooted in historical grievances, atrocious and widespread war crimes.
Hahn (2008) argues that neo-liberalism has dominated international development since the 1980s, having a tremendous impact and largely serving the political and economic interests of the global north rather than the interests of developing countries. An unsuccessful DDR process can threaten the stability of a peace agreement and long-term peace and economic growth.
Zack-Willams and Mohan (2007) state that the World Bank and IMF-sponsored structural assistance programs (SAPs) have had devastating effects on ordinary Africans, their economies and societies in general, bringing misery to a billion people for decades. No more than ideology, neo-liberalism is “a hotchpotch of economic and political diktats”, and has wreaked havoc and weakened states in Africa (Zack-Williams and Mohan, 2007).
Structural assistance programs (SAPs) have limited African states’ role in society and have created conditions for dominance by transnational corporations, limiting nationalist aspirations and resistance, and producing a soporific civil society (Zack-Williams and Mohan. 2007). The surrogate state originating from within imperialist centres – international NGOs – increasingly appropriates the role and functions of stunted and dysfunctional states.
Outsourcing more to NGOs creates less order, less peace and security for the mass of the African people (Ferguson quoted in Zack-Williams and Mohan, 2007).
Much conflict in contemporary Africa stems from the inability of the state to provide social citizenship and to finance a client network or ‘shadow state’ threatening stability and the very existence of the system. For instance, the inability of the state to levy taxes that are so critical to delivering social citizenship and social contract but to also placate retainers and others who are in service of the state.
Mawdsley (2007) links neo-liberalism, poverty and security and how a ‘security-development’ paradigm legitimizes spending on development programs whose mandate is to reduce poverty in the developing world but ultimately serves the interests of US consumers, manufacturers and investors.
Accordingly, in this modern era of war and terror, Africa and her resource-endowed nation play an ever increasing role in international economics. China’s interest in Africa’s resources may have forced the IMF to rethink the policy of conditionality in its old format and to reconstitute neo-colonialism. (Zack-Williams & Mohan, 2007).
Questions remain: what is the link between civil wars and poverty? The link between poverty and child soldiers voluntarily joining a rebel group? What about the dismantling of civil society that mitigates between state power and its people?
Far from the field there are these factors that exacerbates the emergency situation, then there's deeper structural things of undermining state capacity and also military support, historically and presently for wars that have helped to produce failed states like place like Somalia. Somalia failed in part because the US supported it in a decade long war against Ethopia which lead to its collapse.
From: Horn of Africa Severe Famine ...
Neo-liberalism has dominated international development since the 1980s, having a tremendous impact and largely serving the political and economic interests of the global north rather than the interests of developing countries.