Unpacking the Triple Nexus: Effective Development Cooperation in Contexts of Conflict and Fragility


IPMDSL Global Coordinator and CPDE Co-Chair Ms. Beverly Longid delivered this keynote speech during the CPDE Study Conference on Humanitarian, Development, and Peace last 10 – 11 November 2019 in Amman, Jordan.

Beverly Longid during her keynote speech.

It is a pleasure to address this Study Conference in “Unpacking the Triple Nexus: Effective Development Cooperation in Contexts of Conflict and Fragility.” Hopefully, at the end of this study conference we can agree on a common position and analysis, or at the least unite on how we shall continue the conversations on humanitarian action, development and peace and how we as members and partners the CSO Partnership for Development Effectiveness (CPDE) address these issues.

First, let us address the debate on the issue of nexus. Is there a nexus between humanitarian action, development and peace? Is there such a great divide between these issues that require distinct approaches and principles, and involves separate or independent actors? What does this mean for CPDE, the CSOs and sectors? Is it possible for different formations with each having a particular mandate or focus or priority to work together and address several concerns at once? Can we hit three birds or more with one stone?

As we answer, I am sure that we would be asking new questions, and the answers to the new questions lead to newer questions, and so on. It is not easy but isn’t this the nature of building harmony amongst many and between things that contradict each other.

Nexus from the Latin word “nectere” meaning, “to bind” is the “connection or link between things, persons, or events especially that is or is part of a chain of causation.” Hunger and poverty, plunder and disasters, exploitation and oppression, resistance and fascism and terrorism, crime and prostitution of women and children – are all causally linked.

A few days ago, a series of earthquakes ranging from magnitude 3 to 7 struck Mindanao, the Southern part of the Philippines. The people feel strong aftershocks up to today. These left thousands homeless, and many are now in the roads begging for food, water, medicines, and shelter because the Duterte government has failed to immediately respond to the situation and provide relief. The situation is expected to worsen and become complicated, as the Philippine government has deputized its military to undertake the relief operations – undermining the civilian bureaucracy.

A few days after, an article published by The National Geographic in 2017 – “How Humans are Causing Deadly Earthquakes” – hit the social media. According to the article based on the data of the Seismological Research Letters, “mining accounted for the highest number of human-induced earthquakes worldwide. The removal of material from the earth can cause instability, leading to sudden collapses that trigger earthquakes. xxx The deadliest earthquakes — were triggered by what the report calls water reservoir impoundment, or dam building. Fracking and nuclear explosions also trigger earthquakes.”

Things do not happen in a vacuum or without reason. Events do not simply fall from the sky. Events influence and determine each other. Often, they breed conflicts where there are wars of aggression that are waged for political and socio-economic hegemony; and in response, there are also wars of defense and liberation.

Thus, when we speak of conflict and fragility, we need to address the roots of the conflict. When we speak of humanitarian action, we need to address not only the immediate and life-saving situations but also undertake preventive actions that feed into existing medium-long term development plans. When we speak of effective development cooperation, we address the issue of enabling environment. And in all these, we put people at the core.

We need to address the issues of humanitarian, development, and peace in a nexus.

The “triple nexus” refers to the interrelationship of humanitarian, development and peace actors. The intention and objectives of the triple nexus are commendable in paper but problematic on the ground. What is not found in paper is that it is being used as a tool of corporations, military, and state to further anti-people development programs and policies.

Take for example in the Philippines, the USAID allocated USD 312 million for “peace, security, and stability” in Mindanao from 2001 – 2008. Consequently, Mindanao is known as the “mining capital” with a total of 500,000 hectares of mining concessions running through large tracts of ancestral domains. It also hosts vast agribusiness plantations, several energy projects, and logging operations.

Mindanao has turned into a battleground as hundreds of Indigenous activists and advocates have perished in the hands of state agents and paramilitaries to defend ancestral domains. Thousands are in evacuation centers both from continuing military operations and natural disasters. It has marginalized the already marginalized thousands of Indigenous Peoples whose way of life and sources of livelihood are affected.

Preventing conflict, violence, and fragility requires a coordinated international engagement, commitment and local actions from governments, civil society, and the private sector. This is also necessary to fulfill the 2030 Agenda’s promise to “leave no one behind.”

The current narrative in the nexus dialogue aims to address social structures across the aid systems to create how aid is planned and financed. We need to continue challenging the triple nexus to address poverty brought by conflict and to promote peace, human rights, and people centered-development.

These will have significance for what we do, how we do it and with whom we do it.

The Current Setting of the Nexus

Development Initiatives an institution that provides data-led evidence through its Global Humanitarian Assistance Report says that in 2018:

1. The well-established trend of conflict as a primary driver of large-scale crises continued. Because crisis exacerbates vulnerability and weakens resilience, countries often experience more than one form of crisis (conflict, forced displacement or disasters associated with natural hazards), either from one year to the next or at the same time.

The crisis can be recurrent within a short period of one year or protracted over a five-year period.

2. 206.4 million people were estimated to be in need (of humanitarian action) and a high concentration of people in need are in just six countries, with more than 10 million people identified in Yemen (22.2 million people in need), Syria (13.3 million), DRC (13.1 million), Turkey (11.1 million), Afghanistan (10.6 million) and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (10.3 million). These six countries accounted for 80.6 million people in need, almost two fifths (39%) of the total number.

3. A third (33% or 697m) of the global population are living in extreme poverty (on less than $1.90 per day) is in countries with UN-coordinated appeals and consecutively for at least one preceding year.

4. The total number of displaced people increased for the seventh consecutive year, to 70.8 million, up from 68.4 million in 2017, an increase of 2.3 million (3%). The numbers of IDPs and refugees both reached record levels, increasing to 43.6 million and 23.6 million respectively.

5. The South of Sahara regions hosted the largest number of displaced persons for the first time in eight years, driven by 20% growth in IDPs from 2017.

6. Developmental official development assistance (ODA less humanitarian assistance) and humanitarian assistance are progressively being channeled to the same protracted crisis contexts. A greater proportion of developmental ODA is being delivered in the form of loans. ODA loans to these countries have grown and at a much faster rate (by 394%) than loans to other developing countries (by 40%) between 2012 and 2017.

7. The three largest donors continue to be the US, Germany and the UK. These countries accounted for 52% of all government contributions, although contributions from all three decreased. Among other donors, substantial increases were made by the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, providing an additional US$1.7 billion (567% rise) and US$806 million (173% rise), respectively.

What do the figures mean? The world is in a state of conflict. The world is in a state of crisis.

1. Conflicts arise over ownership of land and resources, over control of territories for trade routes and markets, and worldwide influence and dominance. Wars, occupations, criminal violence, political instability, terrorism, and humanitarian tragedies lead to death, migration, forced displacement and other sufferings.

These incidents lead to a state of fragility resulting in poverty, injustice, and disempowerment of peoples. Domestic and global development needs to address the crucial issue of conflict and fragility to ensure individual and collective welfare, human rights, and socio-economic development towards global security.

It’s important to note that humanitarian action can only resolve humanitarian needs; it cannot prevent conflict and fragility, nor can it end humanitarian needs in the absence of political solutions to conflict.

2. ODA funds for poverty reduction are being channeled into military spending especially in developing countries with security “threats.” Aid nowadays is leaning towards a militaristic approach. Terror attacks have been used to justify the mandate of ODA to favor the rising cost of military spending as it undermines the rights and welfare of poor and conflict-ridden countries.

In the case of Myanmar, China is a major provider of financial and military aid. China aggressively pursued road building and laying of oil and gas pipelines; it has supplied 90% of its arms, ship, and warplanes. Similar stories are told and heard in other continents. We would like to hear more ground realities in the next sessions. Essentially, aid should not be a weapon aimed at the expense of the socio-economic rights of the people.

Militarism doesn’t simply mean the presence of war. It facilitates the corporate control and plunder of the environment – displacing rural communities of peasants and Indigenous Peoples whose primary livelihood is based on land. The destruction of the peoples’ livelihoods and natural resources is part of the warfare.

Aid must help resolve the root of conflict and fragility through relevant and people-centered development projects using a rights-based approach. We must assert that humanitarian aid should be used for the elimination of extreme poverty and vulnerability. We want to channel funds towards peace building based on social justice, not war and militarism.

For the longest time, aid has yet to address the root causes of the condition that creates the need for humanitarian assistance. Civil Society Organizations and social movements must march together in the assertion of people’s sovereignty.

Challenges for the CPDE

Development cooperation is an important element of the triple nexus. It goes beyond the issue of coordination but more importantly a synergy of objectives, actions, and results. This would involve behavior change and building trust among all actors and stakeholders. It means engaging and working with existing partners not simply implementing programs or providing handouts to target groups. It also means working with relevant authorities, humanitarian agencies, civil society organizations and mass or social movements, and to a defined extent the private sector. It also requires policy coherence at all levels.

At the same time, we should be flexible or quickly adapt to new information and new conditions; and be able to amend strategies, plans, and activities – this includes the heart to take appropriate risks, and make necessary corrections.

In addressing peace, respect and adherence to human rights and international humanitarian laws, should be a key point. It is sad that there is a decrease in the observance of international humanitarian laws while the scope of counter-terrorism laws are increased. We should oppose the increasing scope of anti-terror laws that criminalizes humanitarian assistance such as we see in the borders and legitimate opposition or dissent, and the imposition of harsher penalties against those found guilty thereof.

The CPDE should promote conversations on the nexus issues and nexus implementation focusing on areas of conflict and fragility, and reach out to the most vulnerable groups. There is a heightened risk of minority ethnic groups, Indigenous Peoples, IDPs and refugees, and stateless/unregistered people not receiving assistance for political reasons.

On humanitarian actions, we need to be critical and be able to objectively handle the state perspectives and avoid concentration of actions only to state accessible areas.

The CPDE through its working group should be able to hold activities on the ground to sharpen analysis and forge solidarity as we unpack the triple nexus. We should be able to monitor and document the influx of aid in our respective countries and regions, and assert and reclaim people’s ownership of aid and development.

Participants of the Study Conference on Triple Nexus.

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