Journal of Human Security | 2014 | Volume 10 | Issue 1 | Pages 46‒58
DOI: 10.12924/johs2014.10010046
ISSN: 1835-3800
Research Article
Human Security and Developmental Crisis in the
Contemporary West Africa
Ayodeji A. Aduloju* and Omowunmi O. Pratt
Department of International Relations, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria;
E-Mail: prattomowu[email protected] (OOP)
* Corresponding Author: E-Mail: [email protected]; Tel.: +234 8032558219
Submitted: 19 March 2014 | In revised form: 24 September 2014 | Accepted: 5 October 2014 |
Published: 30 October 2014
Abstract: The last two decades were characterized by severe conflicts in the West Africa sub-
region. The era of conflict resolution, management and peace building thus came to define the
region. The destruction left by long years of protracted conflicts and the present state of devel-
opment is reason enough to warrant attention both from within and beyond. The study expounds,
operationalizes and clarifies the concept of human security and development, and how human
security issues lead to underdevelopment. The paper investigates the human security concerns
in the post-conflict period and also looks at the crisis of development in the sub-region. It
highlights details on the developmental crises that have bedevilled the sub-region and at the
same time exposes the threats these crises pose on national security and peace in the sub-
region. This paper concludes that there is no appreciable effort in operationalizing human
security in West Africa and this will lead to instability. The paper maintains that human security
issues now complicate the developmental crisis in the sub-region due to its ambiguity. The
paper suggests that policy makers should address human security issues in order to tackle
developmental crisis in the sub-region.
Keywords: conflict and wars; development; human security; West Africa
1. Introduction
The West African sub-region is potentially one of the
richest in the world owing to its large stock of natural
resources. The sixteen (16) nations that constitute the
region include: Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Benin Republic,
Liberia, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Mali,
Gambia, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Mauritania, Côte
d'Ivoire, Niger and Guinea. The geographical region of
West Africa is one of the poorest regions in the world,
due to years of conflicts and instabilities which have
impinged on development [1]. What remains of conflict
in the sub-region is not guns, bullets, bombs, machetes
and other weapons used in propagating conflicts and
© 2014 by the authors; licensee Librello, Switzerland. This open access article was published
under a Creative Commons Attribution License (
wars, but a huge decline on human and infrastructural
development. While conflict has reduced in the region
in recent years, the crisis of development which has
been known for a long time, aggravated by protracted
years of conflicts and sustained by political instabilities,
has put the international community on alert.
Developmental crises such as increased poverty,
hunger, unemployment, indebtedness of government,
bad leadership, environmental degradation, etc. are
much more visible and define the contemporary West
Africa. These concerns continue to pose considerable
challenge to national and regional stability as well as to
human security [2].
The concept of security today in the international
system has taken on different meanings from the
traditional approach. This is due to the changing and
emerging issues; and challenges in the system that
states acquiring military power or engaging in 'hard
politics' alone cannot address. Amongst these diverse
meanings is the all-encompassing concept of human
security. The humanitarian concerns arising from
developmental crisis have undermined the protection
and empowerment of individuals within the sub-
region. The collapse of the security system in most
West African states through the civil wars in Liberia and
Sierra Leone as well as armed attacks in Senegal,
Niger, Guinea, Côte d'Ivoire and more recently, Mali,
the North-Eastern part of Nigeria has worsened the
phenomenon of insecurity amongst the people, leading
to developmental crises. It is also imperative to stress
that developmental crisis could also lead to human
insecurity, as is the case in the Niger Delta region of
Nigeria, where severe developmental crises caused
armed and guerrilla warfare, thereby aggravating the
human insecurity conditions in the region. According to
the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)
Human Development Index (HDI), countries in West
Africa have been among the least developed countries
of the world for decades; with low per-capital income,
high poverty levels, high inflation, unemployment and
low economic growth [3]. These Human Security con-
cerns have future consequences on national security
and prospects of peace in the sub-region.
This paper investigates human security issues in
the post-conflict period and also looks at the crisis of
development in the West African sub-region. It pro-
vides a detailed analysis on the future threats posed by
the conflict situation on regional security and peace.
2. Defining the Contemporary West Africa
Religion and language (the spatial distributions of
which form formal cultural regions) are two of the
most central elements of culture. The spatial distri-
butions of religion and language are strong indicators
of the distribution of culture. As a result of impe-
rialism, African political boundaries are often incom-
patible with the spatial distribution of language and/or
religion. In other words, cultural groupings are divided
by political boundaries. These unnatural divisions are
often a source of tension and conflicts [4].
Since the end of the colonial period, West Africa
has become one of the most violent places on earth.
Many West African nations have witnessed political
instability, with notable civil wars in Nigeria, Sierra
Leone, Liberia, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal,
and ethnic tension in Guinea and a succession of mil-
itary coups in Ghana and Burkina Faso and presently
Mali. The origin of conflict in West Africa preceded the
legal initiative that brought about the integration of the
sub-region through the establishment of Economic
Community of the West African States (ECOWAS).
Invariably, there were conflicts in West Africa before
the idea of economic integration (the Nigerian civil war
which began in 1967 and ended in 1970 is a case in
As a result of decolonization in Africa in the mid-
1950s and late 1970s, conflicts in West Africa became
prominent as a result of the intense ideological rivalry
between the Soviet Union and the United States and
its allies, who used most African states to engage
themselves in conflict by proxy, as seen during the Ni-
gerian Civil war. Not only did they do this, but also
scrambled for the natural resources in the sub-region in
the 80s and 90s (diamonds in Sierra Leone, oil in
Nigeria, gold in Ghana) which meant that both sides
supported tyrannical regimes in these countries be-
cause of their vested interests. Though these conflicts
varied in dimension, duration, scales and intensities,
the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone became a
challenge for the sub-region and the international com-
munity at large due to large scale humanitarian con-
cerns, high level of atrocities committed, inclusion of
children in the wars and the influx of refugees into
other neighbouring West African countries. At the same
time, the trans-border movement and proliferation of
small arms and light weapons propelled countries
such as Togo, Nigeria, Côte d'Ivoire, Mali and others,
to experience infinitesimal form of instabilities. These
conflicts and their negative effects on the sub-region
led the West African states, under the auspices of the
ECOWAS and the international community, through
the United Nations to intervene. The ECOWAS and the
UN's conflict resolution, management and prevention
helped put an end to the era of severe armed conflict
in West Africa and have since intervened in the on-
going conflicts in Mali and Nigeria.
Today, the sub-region has transited from the era of
civil wars to an era characterised by crises of devel-
opment, a remnant of the era of armed conflict. The
region is ridden with underdevelopment, forced migra-
tion, climate change, poverty, famine, drought, rising
food prices and declining food stock etc.; which are
key factors contributing toward West Africa’s food
crisis. Fifteen million people across West Africa are
directly affected by the food crisis. Severe malnour-
ishment has caused an increase in illness and the
death rate in the region. It is also important to note
that the sub-region is not immune to one of the most
pressing issues for human life; the challenge of HIV/
AIDS. This epidemic with a global scope, affects at
least 40 million people. The region most severely im-
pacted is sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Côte d'Ivoire,
Liberia, and Nigeria [5].
Many other challenges such as human migration,
environmental sustainability, illiteracy, unemployment
and corruption define the contemporary West Africa.
Corruption and underdevelopment have impacted
negatively on the health sector. Health is still not 'for
all', but rather characterized by glaring inequities
among socio-economic groups and classes. Similarly,
the adverse impact of climate change poses a further
threat to the issue of environmental sustainability and
to the achievement of the Millennium Development
Goals. This also presents a significant policy challenge
for a region that faces huge energy needs to power its
development and industrialization [6].
3. Conceptualizing Human Security and
3.1. Human Security
Human security is indivisible. A general dynamic
of equitable and balanced development is its best
cornerstone. The growing interaction of societies
on a worldwide scale increasingly demonstrates
the overall need for human security, though it is
not yet enough to prevent all forms of violence or
conflict. The world's future depends upon a
growing need for human security and a better
understanding of all the risks and threats that
affect populations and individuals [7].
The concept of human security has expanded the
notion of security. The traditional notion of security
was one where policy makers were more interested in
policing their borders to deter external influence and
threats. However, due to the changes occurring in the
international arena, where states no longer wage war
against each other; other emerging issues, threats
and challenges have effectively caused states to unite
(as against isolationism they employed during the
national security era) and pool resources together
through joint policy frameworks to tackle these
challenges that individual states cannot resolve on
their own. Succinctly put, the inadequacies of national
security led to the emergence of human security.
While the traditional concept of national security,
which dominated the Cold War era, was mainly
geared towards the security of states and aimed at
protecting their sovereignty and territorial integrity
from military threats, the advocates of human security
demanded that this traditional notion of security be
deepened and widened. Individuals were also to be
regarded as being imbued with security, and more
attention was to be devoted to their protection.
Furthermore, non-military risk factors such as poverty,
disease, and political violence were to be taken into
greater account [7]. In the nuclear debate, for ex-
ample, it has been argued that the stability and well-
being of communities and nations rests as much on
factors associated with human development, eco-
nomic growth, and democracy as on acquisition of a
weapons arsenal [8].
This particular concept, 'human security,' is most
often associated with the 1994 Human Development
Report on Human Security, drafted and championed by
former Pakistani Finance Minister Mahbub ul Haq with
strong support from economist Amartya Sen [9]. In
defining the concept, it should be noted that as with all
concepts, there is no universally accepted definition for
the term. Different academic discourses have framed
the term differently: as a new theory or concept, as a
starting point for analysis, a world view, a political
agenda, or as a policy framework [10]. Although the
definition of human security remains an open question,
there is consensus among its advocates that there
should be a shift of attention from a state-centred se-
curity notion to a people-centred approach to security
[10]. It is also imperative to stress that human security
is a not a replacement for State security. Rather, it
seeks to examine every aspect of human life, taking
into account the various possible threats at different
levels (local, national and regional). Human security
entails a global approach linking security, governance,
solidarity and development issues. It addresses security
in a broad sense that includes all political, economic,
social and environmental dangers [11].
The Human Development Report of 1994 entitled
'New Dimensions of Human Security' was undoubtedly
the first attempt to define the concept in a universal
way. Human Security is defined in relation to seven
dimensions reflecting almost all of the key compo-
nents of human development [12]. They are:
Economic security: assured basic income; access to
employment and resources.
Food security: physical and economic access to food
for all people at all times. Hundreds of millions of
people in the world remain hungry either through
local unavailability of food or, more often, through
lack of entitlements or resources to purchase food.
Health security: access to medical treatment and
improved health conditions. Poor people in general
have less health security, and in developing coun-
tries the major causes of death are infectious and
parasitic diseases.
Environmental security: living in a healthy physical
environment which is spared from desertification,
deforestation and other environmental threats that
endanger people's survival.
Personal security: individual security from physical
violence. Threats can take several forms, for ex-
ample: threats from the State, foreign states, other
groups of people (ethnic tension), individuals or
gangs; threats directed against women or children
based on their vulnerability and dependence;
threats to self (e.g. suicide, drug use, etc.).
Community security: most people derive their secu-
rity from membership of a social group (family,
community, organisation, political grouping, ethnic
group, etc.). Tensions often arise between these
groups due to competition over limited access to
opportunities and resources.
Political security: living in a society that guarantees
basic human rights and freedom of expression [13].
This definition of security was therefore 'people-
centred' and 'universal,' and also consisted of 'inter-
dependent' components. To establish this concept
'through early prevention,' the report advocated the
use of early warning indicators of human distress such
as crime rates, road traffic accidents, pollution, and in-
come inequality [14]. These indicators are now reg-
ularly incorporated in the annual issues of the UNDP
Human Development Report [15].
According to Akokpari [16], the fundamentals of
human security have been captured in a poetic, yet
practical way by Pettman [17]. Pettman believes
Human Security is;
about the young child that did not die of neglect,
the serious epidemic that did not break out, the
job that was not cut, the gun that was not run,
the ethnic prejudice that did not result in vio-
lence, the dissident voice that was not made
silent, the landmine that was not sold and in-
stalled, the woman who was not trafficked
across state borders and sexually abused, the
agricultural product that was not dumped to the
detriment of the poor farmers, the short-term
capital investment that was not allowed to wreck
an infant industry, the addictive product that was
not produced and shipped, the refugee that was
not forced to flee and remain abroad and so on
([17] p. 140).
In short, human security is about eradicating threats
to dignified life that characterise contemporary society;
it is about securing life free from threats [16].
Human security for the former UN Secretary General
Kofi Annan is an objective link that binds globalization
and international governance. In his 3rd of April, 2000
Action Plan for the 21st century, he emphasized that
globalization had to emerge as a positive force for
people all over the world. It had to help in building a
better world for all of humanity. A world where the
wellbeing of humans will be at the core of all policies,
be it social, economic, political, security etc., in order to
prevent the outbreak of conflict. He combined the total
fulfilment of three fundamental human rights in his
formulation of the notion of human security:
The right to freedom of want
The right to freedom of fear and
The right of future generations to inherit a healthy
planet [18,19].
While freedom from physical hurt, injury, abuse or
threat constitutes the core of individual security, aca-
demic views of how the communal concept of human
security should (or could) be expanded from this core
differ sharply. For some, hunger, disease and envi-
ronmental contamination represent grave security
threats—even worse than physical violence. Thus,
conditions of abject poverty or powerlessness are
viewed as not qualitatively different from vulnerability
to physical violence during conflict. Others have
argued that human security should include the notion
of 'structural violence,' referring to the structure of the
relevant political-social system (such as apartheid) or
the global trading system [20].
Fung [20] in his work brought to the fore the per-
ception of Frederico Mayor, the former UNESCO
Director General, who perceived Human Security to
coincide with the 'protection' and 'defence of human
dignity' in all circumstances. In this perspective, human
security therefore becomes identified with the defence
of human rights, which are universal and indivisible in
their very essence. With this thought in the mind of
Mayor, it is therefore the responsibility of the United
Nations to promote human security in all its facets in
the five continents. He further states that 'human
security' consists of preserving international stability on
the basis of the promotion of values such as:
The supremacy of the law
The respect for democracy
The defence of human rights
Equality before the law
Good public affairs management
The peaceful resolve of conflicts and
The protection of the environment, etc.
The United Nations Commission on Human Security
defines human security as the effort by states and
organizations to protect the vital core of all human
lives in ways that enhance human freedoms and
human fulfilment as well as empowering people to
provide and care for themselves. Specifically, it entails
creating systems that provide people the foundation
for survival, dignity and livelihood. This definition en-
compasses the two core strategies of human security:
protection and empowerment of people [21].
In simple terms therefore, this concept emphasizes
that in order for people to be secure, their lives must
be free from any pervasive threats (violent or benign)
to their rights and their safety. It thus encompasses
both the traditional and non-traditional threats to
people's security [12]. The threat range includes the
Economic threats
Food threats
Health threats
Environmental threats
Personal threats
Community threats
Political threats
Gender-based threats
Demographic threats
Crime in all forms, including terrorism
Natural disasters
Violent conflicts and wars
Anti-personnel mines, Small Arms and Light weap-
ons (SALW), etc. [22].
Human security represents an effort to re-
conceptualize security in a fundamental manner. It is
primarily an analytical tool that focuses on ensuring
security for an individual, not the state. As noble as
this concept is, it has not been void of criticism since
it gained prominence in international politics. Human
security, some argue, is merely 'old wine in new
bottles,' combining traditional concerns about 'freedom
from fear' and 'freedom from want.' The former ad-
dresses political liberties and the latter economic
entitlements, roughly parallel to the first and second
generation of human rights. Others argue that the
concept is 'too idealistic,' and fails to consider the
real-world politics of geopolitical power in a rapidly
changing international system [23].
In further conceptualization of the concept, it is
important to state that there are at least two
approaches to understanding human security. The
narrow school, which is associated with Canada and,
to a certain degree, with the Human Security Network
[24]. Fundamentally, this school argues that the
threat of political violence to people, by the state or
any other organized political entity, is the appropriate
focus for the concept of human security [25,26]. This
perspective is mainly linked to the idea of freedom
from fear.
The broad school argues that human security
means more than a concern with the threat of
violence. Human security does not only entail freedom
from fear, but also freedom from want. This per-
ception is associated with Japan, the Commission on
Human Security [21] and the United Nations Trust
Fund for Human Security. More recently, it can be
argued that a third perspective or a second generation
of human security i.e. the European school, is
evolving which encompasses both the narrow and the
broad school [27,28].
Human security appears to appeal to 'middle
powers' neither the most powerful nor the weakest
states. When the UNDP definition of human security
was put up for discussion at the Copenhagen Social
Summit in 1995, no formal consensus was reached.
Although the conference's declarations included a
commitment to 'promoting social integration by fos-
tering societies that are stable, safe and just,' the
proposed human security definition was perceived at
the Summit as too broad, too idealistic, and as
threatening traditional concepts of national security.
The negotiations concentrated on striking a balance
between national sovereignty and global action: the
EU countries argued for increased leverage was only
sought on national policies in the name of social
development, while the G-77 countries held firmly to
the importance of 'territorial integrity and non-
interference,' which the universal and all-encom-
passing elements of human security appeared to
Perhaps the strongest argument against the con-
cept is its vagueness and breadth. If human security
is comprehensive, it may be impossible to prioritize
policies and actions. A series of associated terms have
developed; people's security, the security of displaced
people, livelihood security, environmental security,
comprehensive security, and health security. How can
all of these insecurities be grouped into a single
concept? Which of these threats should be prioritized?
Can any be excluded? A deep understanding of the
Human security concept, its various components, its
interplay with other political concepts and its peculiar
nature (if any) in the West African sub-region may be
required in charting future perspectives and priorities
towards addressing the emerging issues and
challenges to peace and security in the West African
3.2. Development
'Development' is a concept that is contested both
theoretically and politically, and is inherently both
complex and ambiguous [29]. It would be an under-
statement to say that the definition of 'development'
has been controversial and unstable over time. Gore
[30] notes that in the 1950s and 1960s a 'vision of the
liberation of people and peoples' dominated the dis-
course on development, based on 'structural trans-
formation.' This perception has tended to 'slip from
view' for many contributors to the development liter-
ature. A second perspective is the definition embraced
by international development donor agencies that
Thomas notes as a definition of development which is
directly related to the achievement of poverty reduction
and of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) [31].
There is a third perspective by a group of writers
that Hickey and Mohan identified as 'post-modernists.'
The 'post-modern' position is that 'development' is a
'discourse' (a set of ideas) that actually shapes and
frames 'reality' and power relations. It does this
because the 'discourse' values certain things over
others ([32] p. 38). A common theme within most
definitions is that 'development' encompasses 'change'
in a variety of aspects of the human condition. Indeed,
one of the simplest definitions of 'development' is
probably a notion of 'good change,' although this raises
all sorts of questions about what is 'good,' what sort of
'change' matters (as Chambers acknowledges), the role
of values, and whether 'bad change' is also viewed as a
form of development [33]. Although the theme of
'change' may be overriding, what constitutes 'good
change' is bound to be contested, as Kanbur states,
because 'there is no uniform or unique answer' [34].
Views that may be prevalent in one part of the devel-
opment community are not necessarily shared by other
parts of that community, or in society more widely.
Until fairly recently great reliance was placed on
GNP per capita as a convenient index of development.
It was useful as a compact indicator to policy makers
and provided a quantifiable measure for economists
who were able to monitor its fluctuations and analyze
changes due to movements in sectoral output, factor
shares or categories of expenditure. Yet, experience
has shown that increases in national income do not
necessarily lead to the solution of social, economic and
political problems. They remain, perhaps emerging in
different forms and changing their dimension in
countries with rising per capita income. Indeed, not
only does economic growth often fail to resolve social,
economic and political difficulties, certain types of
inappropriate growth may actually initiate and promote
them. It should be recognized that we cannot avoid
making value judgements when it comes to defining a
more comprehensive index of development. But whose
value judgements are to be accepted? One approach
would be to copy the path of industrial countries, but
which of the currently rich and developed countries
appear as really desirable models? Some Western
countries with seemingly high incomes cannot be
recommended, owing to the damage to the ozone
layer from the release of industrial gases into the
atmosphere and the likely consequences through
global warming for all of us, particularly in the Pacific.
The widespread exposure to the modern diseases of
cancer, coronary heart disease and other health
problems related to high intakes of artificial foodstuffs,
over-reliance on politically unstable countries for stra-
tegic raw materials (e.g. oil), which often contributes to
internal crisis stemming from theses unstable countries,
with a spiralling effect on other regions surrounding
them, are all pointers to the imperfect nature of their
developmental models [35].
For a region to be termed developed, certain
conditions should be attained by its citizens, to be
precise, enough food and other basic goods and
services, (human beings are required to consume a
certain amount of calories per day), minimum levels
of clothing, footwear and shelter, etc. The failure of a
state to attain such an income level which allows the
consumption of the minimum nutritionally determined
level of food intake would warrant its citizens to be
considered destitute and in absolute poverty. Another
basic necessity, and a precondition for gaining enough
income to rise above the poverty line, is access to a
job or some form of employment, which may entail
formal paid employment, unpaid work on a family
farm or in a family business, or caring for children and
members of the household i.e. unpaid household
work. The lack of an income-generating opportunity
implies labor market inactivity and unemployment,
and may lead to poverty. Even when a country realizes
a high rate of economic growth, it may fail to reduce
poverty and underemployment, since the growth pro-
cess it is following (e.g. urban-based, import-depen-
dent industrialization) is leaving the majority of the
population untouched. Meanwhile, in some parts of
Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and in sub-Saharan
Africa, because population growth rates are so high,
rates of economic growth and employment creation
would need to be unprecedented to prevent rising
numbers of households falling into poverty. In many
Pacific island countries population growth rates exceed
the recently attained rate of economic growth, and many
households fail to realize any income growth [35].
The obvious direct link between per capita income
and the numbers living in poverty is via the distri-
bution of income. Clearly, poverty will be reduced
much more rapidly where the fruits of economic
growth are accompanied by their more equal distri-
bution, yet, some would argue that equality should be
considered a development objective in its own right,
and that large scale inequality and massive poverty
are objectionable by any religious or ethical consid-
eration. Who could possibly defend the continuance of
the existing situation whereby the average American
is 117 times richer (in income terms) than the average
African? Yet, the true fulfillment of human potential
requires more than the above. In addition, a range of
levels of basic needs, encompassed under the
umbrella term 'social indicators,' need to be satis-
factorily provided. They include adequate levels of
education (especially literacy and numeracy), food
security and nutrition (particularly of young children),
mortality, life expectancy and morbidity, and access to
a whole range of social services such as health, safe
water, sanitation, transportation and housing. In ad-
dition, development requires a breakdown of tradi-
tional sex roles so that women can also realize their
full human potential and gain the ability to freely de-
termine—through access to family planning services
the number of children to which they give birth [35].
Furthermore, he stressed that dissatisfaction with
GNP as an indicator of development has led to an
interest in alternative indices of the 'quality of life.' A
'Physical Quality of Life Index' (PQLI) is usually
composed of a composite of three indicators: life ex-
pectancy, infant mortality, and literacy. It is often
presented as a measure of how effectively various
development strategies distribute the benefits of prog-
ress to the various component parts of society. The
latest version of a PQLI is that of the United Nations
Development Programme (UNDP) which was unveiled
in 1990 and has brought into existence 'human
development' and more recently 'sustainable devel-
opment.' It argues that 'human development is a
process of enlarging people's choices.' These critical
choices concern a long and healthy life, education and
access to scarce resources [14–35].
In recent times, 'development' has been explained
using 'human development' and 'sustainable devel-
opment.' Recent United Nations documents emphasize
'human development,' measured by life expectancy,
adult literacy, access to all three levels of education, as
well as people's average income, which is a necessary
condition of their freedom of choice. In a broader
sense the notion of human development incorporates
all aspects of individuals' well-being, from their health
status to their economic and political freedom.
According to the Human Development Report 1996,
published by the United Nations Development Program,
'human development is the end—economic growth a
means' [36].
According to the Report, human development is
defined as 'a process of widening the range of people's
choices.' And human security means 'that people can
exercise these choices safely and freely—and that they
can be relatively confident that the opportunities they
have today are not totally lost tomorrow.' The latter is
'a critical ingredient of participatory development.' If
given the opportunities to meet their most essential
needs and to earn their own living, people will set
themselves free and ensure that they can make a full
contribution to developments of themselves, their local
communities, their countries and the world [15]. In this
way, the Report explains that the concept of human
security advanced from the perspective of development
with special reference to its four characteristics:
universal concern, interdependent, ensured by early
prevention and people-centered [37].
Sustainable development is a term widely used by
policy makers all over the world, even though the
notion is still rather new and lacks a uniform inter-
pretation. Important as it is, the concept of sustainable
development is still being developed and the definition
of the term is constantly being revised, extended, and
refined. According to the classical definition, given by
the United Nations World Commission on Environment
and Development in 1987, development is sustainable
if it 'meets the needs of the present without compro-
mising the ability of future generations to meet their
own needs.' It is usually understood that this 'inter-
generational' justice would be impossible to achieve in
the absence of present-day social justice, if the
economic activities of some groups of people continue
to jeopardize the well-being of people belonging to
other groups or living in other parts of the world [38].
Social justice defined as equality of opportunities
for well-being, both within and among generations of
people, can be seen as having at least three aspects
(in no particular order) economic objectives that
include growth, efficiency and stability, environmental
sustainability that aims to foster a healthy envi-
ronment for all humans, ensure the rational use of
renewable natural resources and the conservation of
non-renewable natural resources and finally the social
objectives that seek to promote equity, participation,
cultural identity, social cohesion and social mobility.
Ultimately, only development that manages to balance
these three groups of objectives can be sustained for
long [38]. Conversely, ignoring one of the aspects can
threaten economic growth as well as the entire devel-
opment process.
4. Problematizing Human Security and
Development in West Africa
Human Security as a concept offers a better expla-
nation for the causes and solutions to the phenom-
enon called conflict and war. Since the end of colo-
nialism, states in the sub-region have had the legal
rights, under various international agreements to go
to war in order to protect their statehood (national
security). The post-colonial regimes in the sub-region
have witnessed different degrees of insecurity such as
political instabilities, coup d'état, resource based con-
flict and recently, environmental concerns such as
climate change, natural disaster and desertification,
which poses new threats in the region. The examples
of the Fulani herdsmen migrating and encroaching on
the farm land of the Tiv tribe in Benue state of Nigeria
have resulted in multiple crises over the years and
more recently, the rapid shrinking of Lake Chad a
source of freshwater servicing about 20 million people,
cutting across four countries (Chad, Niger, Nigeria and
Cameroon) has been responsible for causing droughts
which lead to bad harvests, to destruction of farms and
homes by floods etc. This is a major concern for the
international community. The UN Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO) have called the situation an 'eco-
logical catastrophe' because the impact of the drying
lake is causing tensions among communities around
Lake Chad. There are repeated conflicts among na-
tionals of different countries over control of the re-
maining water. Cameroonians and Nigerians in Darak
village, for example, constantly fight over the water
[39]. In order to problematize Human Security, it is
important to understand the causes of past and new
conflicts in West Africa.
4.1. Causes of Past Conflicts
After the colonial era, states in the West African sub-
region plunged into decades of conflict. Most of the
conflicts recorded in the sub-region were intra conflict
and virtually all countries in the sub-region have been
involved in fighting at one time or the other. Over the
years, these violent conflicts have called for global
intervention due to their grave humanitarian crises.
For instance, the Nigerian civil war, Liberian civil war,
Ivorian civil war, Sierra Leonean civil war, the Niger-
Delta crisis in Nigeria, etc. have resulted in lasting
negative effects on peace and development in the sub
region. According to Adeleye [40], sources of conflict
in Africa are boundaries, bad governance and low
economic development.
The boundary related conflicts in West Africa were
the product of the Berlin Conference of 1884 and the
Scramble for Africa, where the former colonial powers
shared the boundaries in Africa indiscriminately
according to their interests [41]. At the end of colo-
nialism there were clear indications that boundaries in
West Africa were ill-defined. This restricted the
traditional movement of people and also brought peo-
ple of different origins and ancestral history together.
This led to inter-tribal conflicts in the post-colonial
states in West Africa. The Nigerian civil war is a case
in point. Again, the ill-defined boundaries have led to
boundary disputes between Nigeria and Cameroon.
Governance conflicts in the sub-region were the result
of huge violations of human rights, corruption, margin-
alisation, nepotism etc., which resulted in violent de-
mands for democracy, coup d'état and counter coup in
Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Low
economic development in most West African states led
to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund
bailout with its stringent conditions, which complicated
development in the region and led to high inflation
rates, poverty and unemployment. According to
Olonisakin [42], the structural causes of conflict in West
Africa are weak democratic structures, spatial inequality
and social exclusion, level of economic development and
distribution, management of natural resources, land allo-
cation and management. These causes of conflicts in
West Africa have begot civil strife, recruited youths as
militias to resist marginalization and demand equality
and development.
4.2. New Conflicts in West Africa
Presently, there is an appreciable reduction in large
scale violent conflict and civil strife in West Africa:
'pockets of simmering tensions, insurgencies and the
re-emergence of coups d'état continue to trouble the
sub-region' [43]. The Boko Haram uprising in the
North-Eastern part of Nigeria, the recent crisis in Mali
which threatens peace and security in the sub-region,
the civil war in Côte d'Ivoire and the Niger-Delta oil
conflict are all examples of recent conflicts in the sub-
region. These pockets of crisis have grave implications
for the sub-region because their causes are deeply
rooted in previous conflicts. Significantly, the pro-
liferation of small arms and light weapons has pro-
pelled these recent conflicts. The Boko Haram uprising
in the North-Eastern Nigeria can be likened to a war due
to high humanitarian problems such as high death rates
and the destruction of both local and international
infrastructures (the bombing of the United Nations
building in Abuja and the Nigerian Police headquarters).
This crisis has also affected Nigeria-Cameroon relations
as Nigeria recently closed its northern borders with
Cameroon to shut out the Boko Haram terrorists that
use the borders as launch pads for attacks.
Furthermore, another challenge facing West Africa is
that of climate change and natural disasters. Though it
is acclaimed that the era of conflict left a huge human-
itarian crisis like poverty, proliferation of small arms,
underdevelopment, poor public infrastructure, low life
expectancy, etc., the crisis of environmental insecurity
seems worse. Today, sea levels are rising, deserts are
encroaching, flooding and erosion are leading to
shortages in food supplies and famine, forced migration
of people in the sub-region leading to a refugee crisis.
Though the integrating legal framework in the sub-
region: the Economic Community of West African
States (ECOWAS) made provisions in its treaty for the
free movement of goods and persons; the treaty does
not make provisions for the social well-being of the
citizens of the region.
In summary, it is noticeable that the causes of past
and new conflicts in West Africa are inadequacies in
people-oriented security frameworks or policies. If the
concept of hman security brings together economic
security, food security, health security, environmental
security, personal security, community security and
political security; their absence may be the main cause
of conflicts in West Africa. In spite of the democratic
regimes, people are still marginalized politically:
electoral crises after elections are common in Nigeria,
Côte d'Ivoire and Togo. The ideas of the right to
freedom from want, right to freedom from fear and
right of future generations to inherit a healthy planet
[20] are not visible. Instead, people across the region
are living in fear and want and there is no visible plan
for the next generation.
4.3. Developmental Consequences of Conflicts in West
The developmental wreckage as a result of conflicts
cannot be over-emphasized due to its devastative na-
ture. In West Africa, the raison d'état of most conflicts
is the absence of the standard means of measuring
qualitative well-being, which contributed to the failures
of some states in the past. Though the many years of
colonialism played a part in the underdevelopment of
the sub-region, as expounded by Walter Rodney in his
work 'How Europe Underdeveloped Africa,' the long
years of conflict in West Africa can be blamed on how
the sub-region underdeveloped itself. Development
brings about 'good change' in all strata, security of lives
and properties, and effective maintenance of social
amenities, however the reverse is the case in West
According to the United Nations Development
Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report, the
West Africa sub-region is the world’s least developed
region. The Human Development Report of the UNDP
has over the years become a reference for measuring
countries' standard and uses indices such as health,
education, social integration and security, environment,
population trend and multidimensional poverty indices
to measure development. The data below show the
Human Development Index trends for countries in West
Africa from 1980 to 2013, and also show their 2013
ranking on the global developmental chart.
Table 1. Human development index (HDI) trends for countries in West Africa, 1980‒2013.
Country 1980 1990 2000 2005 2007 2010 2011 2012 2013
Benin 0.253 0.314 0.380 0.414 0.420 0.432 0.434 0.436 0.476
Burkina-Faso - - - 0.301 0.314 0.334 0.340 0.343 0.388
Cape Verde - - 0.532 - - 0.581 0.584 0.586 0.636
Gambia 0.279 0.323 0.360 0.375 0.383 0.437 0.440 0.439 0.441
Ghana 0.391 0.427 0.461 0.491 0.506 0.540 0.553 0.558 0.573
Guinea - - - 0.331 0.342 0.349 0.352 0.355 0.392
Guinea-Bissau - - - 0.348 0.355 0.361 0.364 0.364 0.396
Côte d'Ivoire 0.348 0.360 0.392 0.405 0.412 0.427 0.426 0.432 0.452
Liberia 0.298 - 0.304 0.301 0.334 0.367 0.381 0.388 0.412
Mali 0.176 0.204 0.270 0.312 0.328 0.344 0.347 0.344 0.407
Mauritania 0.340 0.357 0.418 0.441 0.454 0.464 0.464 0.467 0.487
Niger 0.179 0.198 0.234 0.269 0.278 0.298 0.297 0.304 0.337
Nigeria - - - 0.434 0.448 0.462 0.467 0.471 0.504
Senegal 0.322 0.368 0.405 0.441 0.454 0.470 0.471 0.470 0.485
Sierra Leone 0.255 0.247 0.244 0.315 0.331 0.346 0.348 0.359 0.374
Togo 0.357 0.382 0.426 0.436 0.442 0.452 0.455 0.459 0.473
Source: [3].
Table 2. West African countries human development index (HDI) for 2013.
Country HDI Rank (2013)
Benin 165
Burkina-Faso 181
Cape Verde 123
Gambia 172
Ghana 138
Guinea 179
Guinea-Bissau 177
Côte d'Ivoire 171
Liberia 175
Mali 176
Mauritania 161
Niger 187
Nigeria 152
Senegal 163
Sierra Leone 183
Togo 166
Source: [3].
The scale value of UNDP HDI is 1.00, out of which
developed countries like Norway, Australia, United
States, Canada, Sweden and Ireland fall within the
HDI range of 0.9‒1.0, while countries in West Africa
are between 0.3 and 0.5 (Sierra Leone had a HDI
index less than 0.2 during its civil war). The HDI
values and the 2013 development ranking of the
UNDP indicate that the most impoverished countries
of the world are mainly found in the sub-region. From
the current ranking of Ghana and Cape Verde it can be
inferred that the relative stability (through govern-
mental affirmative action towards human security) that
Cape Verde has experienced over the years and that of
Ghana in recent years have contributed immensely to
the visible developmental progress. Ghana, categorized
amongst the low developing countries of the world in
1980 with HDI index of 0.391, had achieved
astounding progress by 2013 with an HDI index of
0.573 that positioned it as medium developed country
and ranked it as the 138th country in the global ranking
of human development. Niger's HDI trend of 0.179 in
1980 to 0.337 in 2013; and its 187th position in the
global ranking of human development can be linked to
series a of Tuareg invasion of the 1990's and series of
conflicts associated with electoral crises that ended in
2010. The Malian state has still not recovered from
the developmental crisis the conflict created.
According to a report of the Danish Refugee Coun-
cil (DRC) [44], humanitarian crises like food shortage
and insecurity, forced displacement, water shortage
and outbreak of diseases are resurfacing in Guinea as
a result of inter-ethnic violence, leaving in its wake
approximately 30'000 people that have been dis-
placed, dozens of civilians who have died and the
destruction of several infrastructures. Also, the DRC
monitoring team in Northern Nimba, Liberia; has also
identified recent movements of Guineans including
cases of separated children who left the country due
to continuous hostilities and increased tensions in
Nzerekore [45]. In summary, a detailed review of the
history of instabilities in each West African state
resulting from Human insecurity will provide a glaring
linkage between such instabilities and the devel-
opmental crises that abound in the sub-region.
5. Human Security Issues and Developmental
Crises in West Africa: Interface and
5.1. The Interface
It has been established in the previous sections of this
work that human security is human centred. This ex-
plains the security demands of this contemporary
international system to think of the protection of indi-
viduals rather than the states. The major causes of
internal crises are largely the ones that affect the
livelihood of individuals (human insecurity) within the
states, rather than the state itself. The final outcome of
insecurity (war and conflict) leads to heighten devel-
opmental crises such as inadequate social infra-
structure, poor health, high illiteracy rate, high inflation
rate, debt burden, unemployment, food crisis, famine,
outbreak of diseases, forced migration, poverty, political
disenfranchisement, election rigging, marginalization
etc. Human insecurity issues in West Africa have re-
sulted in civil wars in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia,
Togo, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and
the Gambia, which further caused underdevelopment,
or put differently, developmental crises. In Liberia and
Sierra Leone for instance, the conflicts left behind
underdevelopment tendencies such as forced mi-
gration, poverty, food shortage and the outbreak of
diseases (e.g. HIV/AIDS, Polio, Malaria, Cholera etc.).
Furthermore, the UNDP report in 2001 claimed that
Sierra Leone had the world's lowest GDP per capital,
which stood at 448 USD, Mali 753 USD and Guinea
Bissau 678 USD compared to Luxemburg with 42'769
USD [46]. In this same year, the UNDP was unable to
get data on Liberia because it was embroiled in
conflicts that nearly collapsed its sovereignty.
Figure 1. The interface between human security and developmental crises.
The interface between human insecurity and devel-
opmental crises is that they affect people, as well as
the state and its citizens, and the aftermaths of both
have adverse effect on the state and the people.
Human insecurity leads to developmental crises vice
versa. When policies directed towards achieving the
broad human security objectives of freedom from
'want' and 'fear' are operationalized and achieved, this
will lead to development. Also, human insecurity and
developmental crises lead to conflicts and wars since
individuals can take up arms or revolt if their basic
needs are not provided. While developmental crisis is
not human insecurity and human insecurity is not
developmental crises, they both have the same con-
Human Security
People and State
Developmental Crisis
People and State
(Individual and state)
sequences (conflict and war) on both individuals and
5.2. The Interchange
The aftermath of past and causes of present crises in
West Africa have revealed that human insecurity and
developmental crises can switch place. Both are
human centred with the ability to cause conflicts and
can alternate with the other to be effective in solving
humanitarian concerns. In conflict and war scenarios
in West Africa, the objectives are shaped by human
insecurities and developmental crises. Developmental
crises can swap places with human insecurity in order
to justify conflict or war, while the end of conflict and
war leads to developmental crises. This is not to say
that both cannot occur together during conflict, but
when one is used as motive for conflict, the other will
further explain the devastating effect of conflict.
For instance, the neglect of its citizens by the
Nigerian government in the wealth distribution and
development in the oil-rich Niger Delta region has led
to conflict between the people of the region and the
State. The fundamental issues behind the conflicts are
related to human security concerns such as
environmental pollution and despoliation, disempow-
erment and subjugation, marginalization and ex-
clusion. Long years of oil exploration in the region
created huge environmental disaster for the oil pro-
ducing communities, through oil-spillage. This impinged
on their access to drinkable water, green environment
and at the same time made fishing and farming, which
are their main occupations difficult. This caused per-
vasive poverty and the underdevelopment of the region.
The situation got worse in November 1999 when the
former president of Nigeria ordered military action on
Odi community in Bayelsa state [46]. The employment
of military action proliferated militant groups, and
caused combustion of armed attacks on the state and oil
companies, hostage taking and vandalism of oil
installations. In 2009, the then president late Musa
Yar'Adua granted amnesty to repentant militants with a
promise to develop the region.
From the example given above, it is evident that
while human insecurity started in the form of envi-
ronmental pollution and ethnic marginalisation,
developmental crises like poverty and unemployment
food crises were the outcome. Human security cre-
ated a developmental crisis; their heightened level
due to negligence created armed conflict, which later
made the region volatile and underdeveloped. The
level of interchange is at the point of justifying the
motive for attacks and kidnappings (human insecurity).
While the amnesty granted by the government is a
policy agreement of rapid human development in the
region. Human security and development crisis inter-
change in order to understand conflict and post-conflict
Figure 2. Interchange between human security and developmental crises.
In other words, the interchange explains how hu-
man security issues and developmental crises revolve
around the same environment in order to define and
justify conflict or war and developmental crises.
6. Security and Development in West Africa: A
Human security and development is people centred,
multidimensional, interconnected and universal. In
principle, human security and development reflects
the aggregate gains as a result of the mitigation of
each and every factor that contributes to insecurity. In
practice, there is need to focus on a core of inse-
curities and developmental crisis within each specific
context. For the concept of human security and devel-
opment to thrive, it must be operationalized, applied
and enjoy global acceptance.
Consequently in West Africa, conflict and war are in-
terrelated. The states of the sub-region have influenced
and can still influence the shape of future conflicts and
wars. Human security and development should involve
policies that can address democratic governance, trans-
national crimes, human rights, refugee crisis, poverty,
unemployment, socio-economic exploitation, basic
needs, public health issues and civil unrest arising from
ethnic identities, greed and grievance. Human security
and development formulas should extend to internal
security, because the region is now plagued with pock-
ets of conflicts within the state. Providing national
security alone does not ensure internal peace; there is
need to shift from state-centric security and devel-
opment to re-thinking the people as the central security
concern. In all, human security includes what we have
understood as humanitarian aid, peace and stability,
which brings sustainable development.
(The State and the People)
Human Security Issue
Developmental Crisis
Human Security Issue
Developmental Crisis
Finally, human security and development provides a
holistic approach to promoting peace. In other words,
the presence of human insecurity automatically
translates into developmental crisis and vice versa.
Using development-security nexus is in line with the
modern approaches and debate on human security and
development will provide a basis for the deeper under-
standing of the concepts at the international level.
Despite being broad, and given the challenges from
other schools of thought, the human security and
development paradigm provides an ideal shift in under-
standing peace, security and conflict transformation.
Peace may not necessarily mean absence of war, but
attaining human security and development would mean
promoting a stable environment [47]. In various states
where conflicts have ended or are boiling underneath,
there is the need to adopt the development-security
nexus to tackle the menace.
As a final point and result, this paper highlights how
human security issues complicate developmental crisis
in West Africa due to its ambiguity. The paper suggests
that policy makers should address human insecurity by
tackling developmental crises in the sub-region. There
are lessons from other regions of the world that em-
phasise the urgency of the need to address the lin-
gering issues of human insecurity and developmental
crisis. While the relative failure of the Arab spring ex-
emplified by the descent of Egypt and Syria into chaos
and destruction may currently be a deterrent for a
'West African Spring,' the resentment for governments'
inability to institutionalize human security and effec-
tively address developmental crises to enhance the
standard of living of the people is undeniable. The
exposure of the teeming young and middle-aged class
in the sub-region to the high standard of living in the
developed world through increased access to conven-
tional and social media raises important questions. How
long can the region hold on before it descends into
chaos and anarchy with grave humanitarian concerns
for the entire sub-region if the status quo of under-
development and human insecurity does not change?
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