Development aid in the face of Boko Haram

Olivier Ray, head of the crises and conflicts unit at AFD, offers some courses of action in response to Boko Haram violence in this article in the Ideas for Development blog. The sudden rise of Boko Haram shows the security risks induced by situations of chronic underdevelopment. The situation is complex, but it is established that at least five structural weaknesses form the breeding ground for the insurgency: the dismay of a youth with no prospect of social integration; the marginalisation of communities and territories in the Lake Chad region; local tensions over access to natural resources; the inadequacy of state institutions; and massive population displacements caused by the crisis, which generate tensions between refugees and host populations. Aid programmes primarily target these factors of fragility. But to the extent that these actions are taking place on shifting terrain, they contain difficulties and even risk making the situation worse, because of their impact on social relations and their connections with other types of interventions, including military. Aid professional must measure this risk without it preventing them from taking any action at all. They have at least three key areas of intervention available to them. First, they must have a long-term response to the issue of the displacement of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the crisis. Second, the youth challenge requires an integrated approach, focusing not only on economic opportunities but also on education and political participation. Third, the need for territorial rebalancing requires priority investment in the areas affected by the conflict, long marginalised by the public authorities. Development aid institutions must adapt their modes of action to the challenges of the regions where they operate, as they may well impact the fragility in which terrorist movements take root. However, they are neither an alternative to military struggle against terrorism, nor an ideological response. But not acting would seal the fate of populations that are being held hostage, for while poverty does not cause radicalism, it undeniably fosters it.