|Home | Current Issue | Previous Issues | Submission Guidelines | Books for Review|
Globalisation, Human Security and the African Experience. Caroline Thomas and Peter Wilkin (eds.). Boulder: Lynne Reinner Publications, 1999. 211pp. Cloth $49.95.
This book aims to explore "security from a human perspective" (as opposed to the more orthodox state perspective) and "to illustrate this perspective by drawing on case material from sub-Saharan Africa" with the objective to help generate "an alternative debate and understanding of security in a global economy" (p.1). The human security perspective (HSP) is put forward as emanicipatory, focusing on the household (as opposed to the neo-liberal individual) and collectivity (rather than individual market choice). It centres on both basic survival needs and liberation from oppressive structures as necessary for human security (p.3). Broadly speaking this approach is designed to "encompass non-conventional concerns such as ecology, human rights, and social capital" (p.127).
The book is divided into two main sections. The first part deals with the concept of security and globalisation. The second part demonstrates the human security experience of specific African societies. These case studies make a grim but informative reading if human security is to be positively effected. In the introductory chapter, Caroline Thomas highlights how globalisation affects human security by compounding inequities of power and resources. In the process "power is located in global social formations and expressed through global networks rather than through territorially based states"(p.2).
Africa's plight is complicated by a variety of factors which "have served to undermine the possibility of legitimate states developing around an inclusive politics." The conventional state-centric security approach did not help. For one, the assumption of state as a provider of security rather than a source of citizen insecurity was misplaced. Indeed states happened to be instruments that destroy the security of populations.
In conceptualising the alternative approaches, Peter Wilkins offers a critique to orthodox security by questioning the past assumptions about the relationship between security and state in international relations. He also explains why Africa is chosen as an object for such a debate. It is because Africa "stands as the most marginalised continent in geopolitical terms in orthodox international relations and represents perhaps the most dramatic area of concern for those focusing on human security" (p.23).
In Chapter Three, J. Ann Tickner discusses gender, globalisation and human security. Though the approach is broad to confirm a global, modern feminist perspective, the author correctly points out that women in Africa, as elsewhere, "face multiple oppressions" (p.49). In Chapter Four, Jan Aart Scholte deals with the crucial but insufficiently addressed aspects and effects of globalisation on communities. Aswini Rays deals with the topic of justice and security in Chapter Five. The author is optimistic that at this age of globalisation, a wider consensus might emerge in the form of democratised UN, reinforced human rights, regional development and support with "the NGOs monitoring the process" (p.97). Yet it remains to be seen if any of these elements are new and how far non-governmental organisations could avoid the problems associated with their governmental counterparts.
In the second section of case studies, Ann Guest argues that the governments of Senegal and Mauritania did not seriously consider the human security of the adjoining valley populations (p.105). The study reveals the interconnections, the pressures and influences of the local and the global, the displacement and violence, as well as the partisan attention of the states towards their ethnie in the apportionment of "economic goods in the state" (p.116). Guest is of the view that while the said governments had the chance to listen to their citizens they chose not to, and therefore posed a more immediate challenge to the population of these valleys than any global forces.
Michel Chossudovsky's brief analysis dwells on the case of Rwanda, arguing that economic liberalisation is contributing directly to anarchy and civil war. Chossudovsky argues that "Rwanda's plight highlights the malign impact of neoliberal policies on the current world order in stark and brutal fashion" (p.118). He relates the colonial legacy and the impact of neo-liberal donor policies on the economic structure and social fabric. The author counters the widely held belief that blames "deep-seated tribal hatred" for genocide. In fact such a belief "exonerates the great powers and the donors" while distorting the "exceedingly complex process of economic, social, and political disintegration affecting an entire state of more than seven million people" (p.126).
Writing on the Horn of Africa, Mohamed Salih argues that the state can be the source of citizen insecurity. He notes with dismay that the end of the Cold War in the Horn of Africa did not lead to prosperity "as the result of reduced military expenditure" and the end of super power rivalry. In other words, globalisation and interdependence did not bring desired political stability of decreasing the utility of force (p.128). Indeed state actions led to more human insecurity, human rights abuse, and absence of democracy and general political discontent. Salih further opines that the end of bipolarity created new forms of polarisation along ethnic, religious, and economic ones. Thus, the deterioration of human security is one of the major drawbacks of the New World order (p.139). He rightly concludes that the end of the Cold War failed to induce significant changes in the Horn of Africa or to improve the mutual security of states and citizens (or subjects) causing "real struggles and wars fought by the dispossessed, the displaced, the hungry, and the victims of human rights abuses" (pp.142-43).
Moving to West Africa, Max Sesay details the historical, social and political factors at work in Sierra Leone and Liberia. In both countries, economic decline and state collapse were exacerbated by global capital accumulation (with enclave mono-economies exacerbated by debt accumulation and external intervention). The eventual civil war and state collapse instituted the gravest form of human insecurity in both countries.
Ali Mazrui offers a final touch to the topic of African security in the nineties as he described the African condition in the eighties. He is of the opinion that the place of states and races has shrunk. This assertion seems superficial but in a stylistic Mazurian way he keeps on asking more questions and, in the process, invites the aspirants to jump on the answers. The problem is that the questions are simpler than the answers. What to do with Bismarck's legacy? Why states collapse? Can the UN do better? How can human security advocates turn their attention to where their mouth is, as opposed to the Orthodox preoccupation with militaristic national security, balance of power, and terror?
True, Africa needs alternative solutions. But what alternatives? Regional integration, recolonisation or self-colonisation? African pax-Africana? Five African states-cum-big brothers "who would oversee the continent?" The employment of an associated "African commissioner for refugees linked to UN high Commission" etc. (pp.166-7)? The trouble with seemingly limitless choices is that most of these were tried at different times but failed. The author is definitely concerned with human security in Africa, but the mixture of his approaches weigh more heavily towards the orthodox conception of state security than the remainder of the book.
All considered, the book demonstrates that neither market nor state "has attended adequately to the human security of Africans" (p.179). Moreover the case studies bring to attention the impact of the policies and actions of the World Bank, IMF, the former colonial powers, regional governmental co-operation arrangements, etc. The gap in human security needs is projected to be filled by "micro-communities" at the village level supported by global political activism drawing from the pool of gender, environmental, and human rights concerns. The analysis in the book calls for a new agenda, with new aims, new methods and results. There is also a demand for fair trade, instead of free trade for African human security (p.181).
In sum the book is readable and a timely contribution on human security, democracy, both globally and in Africa. It comes at a time when much of the promises of the end of the Cold War and the fervour of globalisation have but reinforced generalised misery and uncertainty in Africa.
|Home | Current Issue | Previous Issues | Submission Guidelines | Books for Review|