Saturday, September 29, 2007

Development and Security in Southeast Asia, vol. 1-The Environment (A Kasarinlan Review)

David B. Dewitt and Carolina G. Hernandez, eds. The Environment. Vol. 1 of Development and Security in Southeast Asia. England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2003. 269 pp.

First published in Kasarinlan: Philippine Journal of Third World Studies 19, 1 (2004): 209-215.

After reading the volume on the environment of the three-tome Development and Security in Southeast Asia (DSSEA), and chapter after chapter of policy recommendations, one starts to wonder whether these recommendations are for real or just snake oil slathered on the pages of this book.

DSSEA claims that it “has at its core the question of the relationship between government and civil society in their efforts to define and to pursue security, broadly defined” (3). This three-volume work also “posits a tension between how government and its instruments understand and pursue security and how people and the communities that they comprise understand and seek their own particular security interests” (3).

For this volume on the environment “each of the chapters examines the environment, development, and security linkages…These include the overlap of human security and development, the environmental crisis as ‘slow-motion’ security threat, the differing perceptions of such ‘slow-motion’ threats, and the different uses of the environment and security linkage by different actors” (21). Eight case studies focusing on Indonesia and the Philippines with the Southeast Asia as the broader context comprise this volume. These case studies deal with the following topics: hazardous waste and human security in Southeast Asia, state responses to environmental insecurity in Southeast Asian forests, a Philippine community’s perspective on development and (in)security, human and ecological security in the context of mining disputes in the Philippines, food production and environmental security in Indonesia, state capacity and industrial pollution in the Philippines, the textile industry in Indonesia, and climate change and security. Besides probing the environment, development and security linkages, these case studies were also meant to address DSSEA’s two other goals. One of which is “developing enhanced theoretical and conceptual understanding of these complex linkages to further our knowledge and to improve our abilities to develop practical instruments in support of improved human well being [sic]” (3). The other one is to use this “acquired knowledge and information for empowerment and change” (3).

In sum, the book argues this: have enough social capital, enhance the state’s capacity to deal with environmental problems that threaten it and endanger human security, aim for sustainable development, then everything will be all right with the world. How tenable is this proposition?
Much of the weakness of this book is a result of its uncritical deployment of particular concepts like sustainable development, social capital, and human security. The Brundtland Commission’s articulation of sustainable development and Robert Putnam’s definition of social capital were repeatedly quoted in the book’s different chapters as if they were part of a papal encyclical that should be uttered, obeyed, and never questioned by the faithful. These instances raise serious doubt on DSSEA’s goal of coming up with an enhanced theoretical and conceptual understanding involving the environment-security-development nexus.

In the introductory chapter it is stated that for “the DSSEA program, development makes sense only when understood in terms of sustainable development, a comprehensive concept with ecological, economic, social, and political dimensions” (10). And precisely what is sustainable development? To answer this, the book falls back to the original Brundtland Commission formulation: “a process of change in which the exploitation of resources, direction of investments, orientation of technological development, and institutional change are made consistent with future as well as present needs” (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987, 9). Then the book tried to improve on this definition by saying that sustainable development “encompasses the creation of domestic and inter-state institutions that have the specialized knowledge and skills to regulate, to manage, and to facilitate stable political pluralism, economic development, and social equity” (7). It added that “unsustainable and mismanaged economic activities which degrade the environment, aggravate human relations, and exacerbate intra-state as well as inter-state relations can lead to social upheaval, challenging the security of the individual, of the community, of the country, and potentially the region” (8). Superficially, this makes perfect sense; it is as convincing as a glib slogan. And there lies the problem, for as one author asserts: “The Brundtland definition is not really a definition; it is a slogan, and slogan, however pretty, do not make theory” (Banerjee 2003, 151-152).

The sustainable development articulated by DSSEA and subscribed into by the various case studies is part of the current discourses of sustainable development which “despite highlighting issues of poverty and equity… do not criticize the structural conditions that characterize the increasing intrusion of capital into the domain of nature, which results in the capitalization, expropriation, commodification, and homogenization of nature” (Banerjee 2003, 160). In its policy recommendations, the most that this volume has done concerning the issue of capital is to say that “there is a need to recognize the environmental and security implications of global economic linkages” (29). After recognizing it, what now? The volume did not explore this issue. How different indeed is sustainable development from plain development? The volume did not even pose this question. It simply said that “the model of development on which rapid economic expansion of SEA has been articulated is not sustainable because it involves dynamics of social and political inequality bound to cause its demise over the long term” (4). It failed to provide any powerful critique of sustainable development. Its silence validates this critical assessment of this particular concept:
The main shortcoming of the mainstream approach to sustainable development is that it is driven by the rapid accumulation requirements of the capitalist economy, which means that it is about sustaining development rather than developing sustainability in the ecological sense. The priority is to ensure that environmental conditions are managed so as to ensure maximum long-term capital accumulation (which necessitates rapid economic growth). In this respect, neoclassical environmental economics gravitates toward a weak sustainability hypothesis at best. Here it is assumed that in most cases, human-made capital can substitute for natural capital, so that in all but few cases, there are no real limitations to expansion imposed by the environment. Market mechanisms can be adjusted to ensure that environmental factors are taken account of, with no real alteration in the fundamental character of the capitalist economy. (Castro 2004, 220)
Social capital was another concept used in this book that was not critically engaged. The concept of social capital runs throughout all the specific projects pursued within this research program (3). Yet nothing was done besides quoting Robert Putnam’s definition of social capital and its slight variations from other authors. In this volume, social capital is defined as “a type of social connectedness that facilitates the development of trust, cooperation, identifications, and norms of interaction, which in turn are crucial for decisive action—such as promoting economic growth or managing environmental resources” (63). Again, nothing seems to be wrong with this—not until one starts to question social capital’s basic assumptions and the implications of its usage in policy formulation.

Here is an incisive critique of social capital:

Whether it concerns a social or a spatial category, in some applications of social capital there is a tendency towards blaming the victim. Individuals, neighbourhoods, villages, regions, countries are underdeveloped because supposedly they do not have the ‘right’ kind of social capital.…The victim-blaming approach also has to do with neoliberal triumphalism. The West/North was right after all, wasn’t it? Modernity did bring the right kind of social capital and trust, didn’t it? But what about path-dependence then? Following social capital’s own logic, wouldn’t path-dependence point to a responsibility of the former colonial powers for the plight of the Third World? Well, not necessarily, as one might go back way before the beginning of colonialism towards the ‘real’ traditional cultural roots which have survived (resisted) the colonial impacts [sic] and are the real culprits for the present stagnation. Following this line of reasoning colonialism and imperialism are relegated to the sideline in explaining the current plight of the Third World in exchange for a path-dependent explanation which goes back to the precolonial times. (Schuurman 2003, 1000)

This limitation definitely showed in the case studies. The chapter that dealt with hazardous waste and human security in Southeast Asia was mum on the toxic legacy of American military bases in the Philippines. Except for the chapter on mining, all the other case studies just gave a wink and a nod to the colonial and neocolonial context of ecological degradation in the region. This is of course perfectly in line with the DSSEA’s thrust: to strengthen social capital in order to stave off any environmental crisis in the region which could imperil sustainable development. Why blame the colonial masters for the current mess when it is easy to heap all the responsibility on the poor, undisciplined native?

More perceptive and critical authors have also raised the issue that the stress on social capital is linked to the neoliberal’s continuing attempt to emasculate the state (Fernando 2003, Schuurman 2003). The book did not bother with this issue as made evident by two of its policy recommendations. One policy recommendation reads: “State capacity needs to be enhanced to deal with environmental threats to human security” (28). The next one states: “Support for NGO and community activities needs to be enhanced” (28). Is there a contradiction in this? The current dominant discourse on sustainable development also affects how social capital will be deployed. Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), an integral part of civil society—“an arena that both reflects and shapes social capital” (63)—is now being viewed in a different light:
The current positioning of NGOs in sustainable development coincides with the withdrawal of the state from its conventional role in social development and its replacement by the private sector. It was widely believed that the NGOs were capable of effectively responding to the weaknesses of the state and the private sector. Contrary to expectations, investments by NGOs have by no means compensated for what society has lost due to the withdrawal of the state from social development, nor have they shielded social development from the negative consequences of private sector-led development. Instead, NGOs have evolved as institutions that discipline social order to function according to the dictates of neoliberal institutions. In this process, NGO activities have contributed toward the decapitation of the state in areas where it has historically performed well, particularly for the marginalized segments of the population. (Fernando 2003, 18)
The book espouses the view that in strengthening the social capital the state will also be strengthened. This is a perspective that did not factor-in capitalism’s and neoliberalism’s uncanny ability to hold hostage both the state and the social capital. As mentioned above, the ploy to strengthen social capital can be linked to efforts to weaken the state. Hence, “the challenge is not to abandon the state as irrelevant but to liberate its power from being determined by the dictates of capital” (Fernando 2003, 23). For if capital remains supreme, “sustainable development [will be] managed in the same way development was managed: through ethnocentric, capitalist notions of managerial efficiency that simply reproduce earlier articulations of decentralized capitalism in the guise of ‘sustainable capitalism’” (Banerjee 2003, 173). However, how do you exactly liberate the state from the clutches of capital in order to save the environment and give human security to the people? Again, the book never bothered with such a question.

Consistent with the book’s stance not to interrogate a concept when it can pass it off as something new, this book brandished human security the same way it does with sustainable development and social capital—uncritically. In this book, human security is defined as “human well being [sic] and the attainment of basic needs such as access to sustainable livelihoods, health, food, shelter, and human rights” (34). Human security, the book qualifies, “overlaps significantly with current popular broader definition of ‘human development’” (34). To demonstrate this overlap, the same phrase used to define human security was used to mean human development (21). Such is not a case of overlap but of interchangeability. If one concept can stand for another, why bother to use the two of them?

However, more important than the question of using the precise term is the question of how human security was put into use in delineating the breadth and depth of the book’s arguments and recommendations. As mentioned before, in its list of overall policy recommendations, the book calls for enhancing the state’s capacity to deal with environmental threats to human security. But in its definition it says that human security is concerned with the human well-being and its attainment of basic needs; therefore, human security is not just for particular subjects of certain states, it is for all. If the state will remain the main actor in providing human security, then the state will be ensuring only the human security of the people within its borders even with the “pressure and participation from the global community and local communities” (28). To say that human security can still be achieved if only the states will simultaneously pursue human security is to go beyond what can be realistically expected.

The book has clearly shown that environmental threats transcend national boundaries as in the case of global climate change, thus it follows that cooperation at transnational and international levels is needed. Human security calls for “reconceptualizing the nature of international co-operation” (Ney 1999, 20). Did the book tackle this crucial issue? It did not. If human security in the context of environmental threats will simply be dependent on the state, should it even be called human security?

By not thoroughly working on the assumptions that underpin the concepts used in framing the study, the book ended up with incoherent policy recommendations. The conceptual tools used by the book ended up blunt and conventional thus reducing any sense of novelty that could be had from the case studies. And by being blunt and conventional, this volume managed only to scratch the surface of a highly complex issue.
—Joel F. Ariate Jr., University Research Associate, Third World Studies Center.

Banerjee, Subhabrata Bobby. 2003. Who sustains whose development? Sustainable development and the reinvention of nature. Organization Studies 24 (2): 143-180.

Castro, Carlos. 2004. Sustainable development: Mainstream and critical perspectives. Organization and Environment 17 (2): 195-225.

Fernando, Jude. 2003. The power of unsustainable development: What is to be done? Annals of the American Academy of Political Science 590: 6-34.

Ney, Steven. 1999. Environmental security: a critical overview. Innovation: The European Journal of Social Science Research 12 (1): 7-30.

Schuurman, Fran. 2003. Social capital: The politico-emancipatory potential of a disputed concept. Third World Quarterly 24 (6): 991-1010.

World Commission on Environment and Development. 1987. Our common future. Oxford. Oxford University Press.

Development and Security in Southeast Asia, vol. 2-The People (A Kasarinlan Review)

David B. Dewitt and Carolina G. Hernandez, eds. The People. Vol. 2 of Development and Security in Southeast Asia. England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2003. 248 pp.

First published in Kasarinlan: Philippine Journal of Third World Studies 19, 1 (2004): 216-221.

With the Cold War over, contemporary Southeast Asia is now beset with new anxieties generated by its shifting development and security concerns. After the 1997 economic crisis, the governments and populations of the region became united in “rethinking” what should constitute economic progress in a “redefined” stable environment. The main challenge that Southeast Asia confronts and needs to overcome is the trade-off between development and security and the (mis)handling of progress vis-à-vis sustainability.

The same concern is advanced by the book, Development and Security in Southeast Asia. Unified by its fundamental shift in development thinking and security approach, this three-volume book examines how state-society relations is affected by and entwined in the complex security-development nexus. The research rests on the assumption that there is a gap between how the governments and societies in the region perceive, understand and obtain security. Given this gap, it is a comprehensive attempt to reconcile such disparity by fostering awareness on the experiences of Southeast Asian communities. The book engages governments and nongovernmental agencies to consider issues such as social equity, people empowerment and environmental conservation and regeneration as essential parts of any development project. The book’s six case studies in four Southeast Asian countries—Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand—intend to capture the complex linkage between development and security in terms of a wide gamut of issues such as migration, ethnicity, gender and employment. Brief, critical summaries of these studies conclude each chapter.

The strands of uncertainty and insecurity attached to the development in Southeast Asia have positioned the issue of migration at the forefront. The people’s search for an enhanced well-being and their dissatisfaction with their worsening quality of life has caused transnational and extraregional movements. Foremost of these is the increasing recurrence of labor inflow and outflow toward and beyond national borders that are oftentimes illicit in nature. This widespread phenomenon, along with its relation to the development-security linkage, is comprehensively analyzed by Jorge Tigno in his research on “Migration, Security and Development: The Politics of Undocumented Labor Migration in Southeast Asia.” The study is limited to the transborder mobility of migrants in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and the Philippines. It focuses on the issues surrounding the clandestine migratory movements of low-skilled labor in the said areas of the region such as its “constructed” contribution to economic decay, social instability and insecurity of host countries. In discussing at length illegal recruitment as a factor to both undocumented labor migration and the problem of identity, state resistance and policy restrictions against foreign workforce, and the existence, significance and expansion of social networks ensuing from migration, the study then is an extensive attempt to identify the causes of extra-legal immigration of workers. It also explains the discrepancy between state-society discernment of this phenomenon.

On the other hand, while it entails a viable framework for understanding the plight of overseas employees in the countries mentioned, the analysis is concentrated on their “perceived” impact on the development and security only of receiving countries. The research should have included an extensive discussion on the effects of labor flight on the sending countries themselves. With Southeast Asia as one of the main exporters of clandestine workers, it is therefore also significant to trace and indicate what the source governments do and should do to secure the well-being of their overseas nationals and how this human resource flight threatens their own socioeconomic progress and security. Nevertheless, this paper provides well-built arguments in characterizing the state’s role in the persisting social stereotypes of foreign migrants and their activities, as well as in proposing what initiatives it should take with the help of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in changing these perceptions and redefining its own policies. Above all, this sets off the initial stage from which to study further the links between transborder flow of low-skilled labor, security and development in both national and regional levels and in political, economic, social and even cultural terms.

Ruth Lusterio’s research, “Perceptions of Women Migrant Workers from the Philippines and Indonesia,” highlights the role of women as an active party to the dynamics of security and development. It rests upon the assumption that the feminization of overseas employment bears serious implications on both the individual and national levels of security. Tracing the factors that push women to seek job opportunities abroad, the study emphasizes how this increasing phenomenon is, itself, a security issue brought about by the search for other venues that could cater to a more developed and enhanced well-being. In contrast to the previous case study, migration here is analyzed as an “internal” security concern, largely affecting the source or sending countries themselves. Its findings suggest that while women employment abroad is both a source of foreign exchange and a remedy to domestic unemployment, it also causes a great deal of personal, socioeconomic and even psychological insecurities that cannot be ignored in any pursuit of sustainable development. This reflects the two-sided response of both the Filipino and Indonesian female workers themselves, arguing that their occupations overseas have both negative and positive effects. In addition, the research suggests policy options in seeking long-term solutions to this ironic trend, reaching out to various sectors, especially the government. With all the empirical data presented, the study is a meticulous attempt to understand the concerns of female migrant workers and to identify how their problems can be resolved through collaboration between and among official agencies, NGOs and the private sector. This case study has particular relevance to the fate of many women overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), especially the domestic helpers and entertainers whose myriad of problems remain unattended or unresolved.

The impact of economic crisis, along with political instability and social turmoil, on the workers’ security in Indonesia is analyzed in the chapter “Security Implications of the Economic Crisis for Indonesian Workers” by Tubagus Feridhanusetyawan. The study focuses on how the labor sector had been largely affected by the drastic and painful changes in the Indonesian economy and polity, with the adjustments in employment trend and income levels as the main parameters for measuring security. In attempting to identify the security implications of the economic drought in 1997, its effects on workers are examined from both micro- and macroperspectives at the aggregate and individual levels. The strength of this paper lies in this dual approach, where its clearly constructed conceptual framework effectively explains the direct outcomes of the economic crisis in the national economy and individual households as well as its implications on the macro- and microlevels of security in the country. The author likewise discusses other issues such as the decline in employment rate, the absence or ineffectiveness of social programs as safety nets for laborers, the intensifying migration and labor flight, the worsening poverty, the reverse transformation of the labor market, and the food crisis, which are altogether understood as end-products of the economic downturn and as additional sources of national insecurity. At the individual level, on the other hand, workers’ insecurity is said to be derived from the instability of employment status and the drastic reduction in wages and income thus weakening their purchasing power. Through the survey data, the findings of the study suggest that the actual effect of the crisis is in the decline of the workers’ real income, which thus necessitates a rethinking in policy orientation. The primary recommendation is for governments to embark on employment creation programs by encouraging the booming sectors to expand their hiring and to provide income support packages as safety nets through the help of NGOs.

That industrialization is part and parcel of development and the modernization process is indubitable. However, it is not without side effects that governments should push for it devoid of caution. The negative externalities of industrialization, as manifested in the labor sector of Indonesia are discussed in Muhammad Hikam’s “Industrialization and Workers’ Security: A Political Perspective.” The paper examines the local workers’ labor and living conditions under the New Order regime in Indonesia, which spearheaded the rapid growth of the country’s industrial sectors. Presenting the gap between the actual situation of workers and the aggregate economic development, it questions the nature of labor policies implemented by the said regime in nurturing and further enhancing the security of the workers. It posits that the insecurity of the work force is, in fact, derived from the labor laws and government provisions themselves that perpetuate the abysmal living conditions of the workers. Examples cited are the wage policy and labor union laws that have negative implications not only on the workers’ socioeconomic status but also on their basic human rights. The research findings suggest that the apparent success in the modernization of Indonesia sacrificed the security of the labor sector, not only because of the adoption of an inappropriate model for development as enshrined in the New Order’s labor laws and regulations but also due to the wrong perceptions of labor relations and priorities. This chapter actually intends to target both the present and future administrations of Indonesia to consider a new approach to industrialization and empower its rather inactive civil society. Furthermore, it urges the workers to establish strong links with other sectors in the society not only to advance their cause but also to help transform the country’s politics into a more citizen-based undertaking.

The chapter “Stockbrokers-turned-Sandwich Vendors: The Economic Crisis and Small-Scale Food Retailing in Thailand and the Philippines” by Gisèle Yasmeen presents another example of the oftentimes contradictory relationship between development and security. It highlights the increasing emergence of microenterprises in the region as one response to financial insecurity in a period of considerable economic development. It illustrates the growing employment trend in Thailand and the Philippines, where people engage in various income-generating activities. Focusing on small-scale food retailing, the study reveals that despite the rapid growth in the region from the late 1970s to the early 1990s, many firms had laid off workers, who in turn put up their own eateries and vending operations to earn small amount of profit on a daily basis. The growth of self-employment in Southeast Asia’s food sector is thus attributed to the mounting need for income security. In addition, the author gives attention to the high levels of women participation in microeconomic activities and the impact of industrialization on female self-employment. The last section of the case study points to policy alternatives that should be considered in recognizing and safeguarding the rights of those in the informal sector, especially women vendors and displaced workers, with the premise that such segment of the economy is not only an important source of livelihood but also fosters network building in the form of food cooperatives and microentrepreneur organizations, giving voice to the larger vulnerable work groups.

Conflict alleviation, being another core component of the development-security nexus, constitutes the main theme of Jacques Bertrand’s “‘Good’ Governance and the Security of Ethnic Communities in Indonesia and the Philippines.” He starts off by establishing the significance of conflict resolution and peace-building in any long-term development and security objective of a given society. Looking at conflict in the level of ethnicity, the author examines the relationship between political systems and the level of security they can guarantee to ethnic communities. With a focus on the religious dimension, the paper covers only Indonesian and Philippine experiences in Muslim-Christian enmity. The author is to be commended for his intelligent selection of these two cases because aside from the fact that both countries’ populations are divided into Muslim and Christian blocks and that both suffer from the discordant interaction of the two groups, Indonesia and the Philippines differ in their government types, which therefore gives a clear illustration of his main thesis about the sufficiency of “good governance” in responding to community threats brought about by ethnic strife and religious rivalries. In addition, arguing that improvement in governance and democratization per se do not necessarily address hostilities originating from cultural, racial or religious diversity and hence the insecurity of communities, the paper offers an alternative approach in resolving ethnic tensions.

With the six case studies, this book stands out as a comprehensive survey on the nontraditional security challenges encountered by both Southeast Asian governments and societies. The research emphasizes the need for a strong and effective partnership between the people and the government in fostering a stable, secured and economically fit environment. However, the study seems to discount the youth as a major actor in the present security-development drama. The youth comprise a significant portion of the region’s population and are part of the most vulnerable sectors in society. They are major contributors to development since young people nowadays, especially in Southeast Asia, are already engaged in small-scale enterprises, usually as vendors or dealers if not as undocumented migrants or victims of illegal recruitment. Also, the youth are the most affected by the mismanaged and inadequate development and security measures of governments since it is their generation that will have to endure and suffer from these unhealthy policies. Nevertheless, serving as a bridge to further similar academic undertakings, there is no doubt that this book extends a sense of optimism and confidence that the region can surpass these new exigent realities with the right combination of development strategies and security goals.—Sarah Jane Domingo, Master in Asian Studies student, Asian Center, University of the Philippines-Diliman.

Development and Security in Southeast Asia, vol. 3-Globalization (A Kasarinlan Review)

David B. Dewitt and Carolina G. Hernandez, eds. Globalization. Vol. 3 of Development and Security in Southeast Asia. England: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2003. 248 pp.

First published in Kasarinlan: Philippine Journal of Third World Studies 19, 1 (2004): 222-227.

Southeast Asia became the locus of major academic discussions with the onset of the region’s annus horribilis—the 1997 Asian financial crisis. The predicament provided an interesting backdrop to understand how the dynamics of globalization exacerbated the economic catastrophe and regionalized human insecurity. Several discourses surfaced exploring how globalization forces reconfigured intraregional relations. Most prominent is the question whether the crisis weakened the legitimacy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) states to respond to international shocks. This inquiry attempted to decipher the linkage between the emergence of transnational governance and the erosion of efficacy of Southeast Asian governments especially in economic field. Regional observers concluded that the active participation of multilateral organizations such as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the European Union (EU) in rebuilding the region’s ailing market significantly restricted the policy prerogatives of ASEAN governments. Some likewise hypothesized that the economic slowdown was triggered by the type of globalization espoused by the neoliberals—a project which endeavors to pattern the region’s economy according to the West’s market template. Nonetheless, the crisis challenged neoliberalism’s underpinning assumptions, particularly the ascendancy of the Washington consensus—liberalization, privatization and stabilization—which guided world economies since the post-World War II period. In all of these, the third volume of Development and Security in Southeast Asia unpacks the role of globalization forces in altering the region’s human security and human rights situation, social and economic development trajectories, peace-building initiatives and political stability. Ten scholars from Canada and Southeast Asia give flesh to the themes through four regional and five country case studies.

Soesastro’s chapter (19-40) integrates the chapter themes, arguing how globalization initiatives in the region have been state-led. Apparently, ASEAN governments, as initiators and promoters of economic globalization, have concentrated on completing “first-order adjustments” or policies directed to liberalize their economies while neglecting the implementation and monitoring of “second order adjustments,” or safety nets to cope with domestic, economic, social and political changes. The article highlights the general policy suggestions of the volume: abandonment of state-centric definition of security, strengthening of domestic and local institutions to introduce meaningful domestic political reforms and revitalization of civil society participation in development and security policy-making.

The relationship between economic interdependence and the war tendencies of states is theoretically and empirically contentious. Optimist scholars reason that economic globalization discourages states to engage in war since it can disrupt interstate trade. On one hand, the pacific effects of economic interdependence were questioned when politico-economic tensions erupted among Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Acharya (41-66) concludes that the globalization-development-security nexus has been confounded by the historical specificities of regional members. He thus explored the post-1997 scenario: interstate conflicts, military development, regional cooperative institutions and domestic stability. The Asian crisis greatly reduced the military spending of many states which engendered power imbalances in the Asia-Pacific region, particularly among the US, China and Japan.

The so-called “ASEAN Way” is an informal set of rules comprised of four cardinal principles: respect for national sovereignty, non-interference, consensus-based decision-making and non-use of threat or force. Through a preliminary discussion of the threats of state-centric perspective of human security, Lizee and Capie scrutinize how the sovereignty-enhancing character of the ASEAN Way undermines the concept of humanitarian intervention (67-86, 87-114). To reinforce this claim, Capie chronicles the vicissitudes of the term “constructive intervention,” first introduced by Thai Foreign Minister Surin Pitsuwan and later Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim in response to the 1997 Cambodian conflict. The term underscores the “interconnectedness between domestic conflicts and regional stability, and the need to resolve these conflicts in a democratic manner” (82). Lizee juxtaposes the concept with the objectives “flexible engagement” to dramatize how peace-building through consensus decision-making has become a complicated enterprise in the region. For Lizee, globalization hampers the development of a system of individual rights because of its tendency to reconstruct social identities around communal lines. Therefore, peace-building must go hand in hand with democratization efforts which can be enhanced by accumulating social capital.

Kraft’s article addresses the pertinent question on whose security ASEAN states are enhancing—state regimes or the peoples (115-138). Comprehensive security has been the guiding principle in the region since the post-World War II period. But this framework was challenged by the informal legitimization of political repression in the 1970s as an instrument of statecraft. At present, ASEAN countries either deny the existence of a “universal human rights”—as a reaction to the obvious imposition of Western individualistic philosophical standards—or attempt to define human rights in more sophisticated and culture-based terms. The role of economic development in the promotion or repression of human rights is another object of debate. Globalization impinges on human rights as leaders often make choices benefiting foreign interests to the detriment of their domestic population. Newly industrialized economies used state autonomy as a main political rod to discipline the market and society, even at the expense of the people’s basic human rights. Kraft’s article calls for a balance between the states’ protection of sovereignty and their primary responsibility to uphold the rights of their citizens.

Three Philippine case studies examine how economic globalization transcended the country’s social and political milieu. Economist Gochoco-Bautista (139-172) writes that the liberalization of the financial sector is a reflection of the country’s dependence on international market for domestic growth. Hence, the government must pursue the program in tandem with the establishment of consistent and transparent economic policies. Bautista posits that it is not globalization per se but inefficient and non-transparent policies which hamper the growth of the financial sector. Hence, it is imperative to promote good economic governance by strengthening regional cooperation and encouraging civil society groups to engage in policy and development discourse. Tangentially, Mendoza meticulously explains how globalization factors coupled with flawed macroeconomic policies exacerbate the already miserable conditions of the marginalized sector in the Philippines (173-202). Economic adjustments in the 1980s brought serious danger to the financial support being delivered by the government to the poor. Further, state institutions lacked the necessary safety nets to address labor unemployment and rural poverty. The vestiges of the Asian crisis were experienced by the poor through the following: price increases in commodities, change in their eating patterns, decrease in assistance from the government, and increase of dependency burden among families on their relatives. The expansion of the poor sector increased the underground and informal economies that thrive on small-time income generation. To provide sustainable livelihood, Mendoza recommends the inclusion of the poor labor power to industries expected to grow. The government must also protect them during adjustment periods.

A chapter by Angeles chronicles how the growth potential of the Philippine garment industry has been stalled by global industrial restructuring. One strong point of the research is the author’s effort to highlight the seven major trends in the manufacturing sector which are imperative in comprehending the current state of the industry. The chapter attributes the slow growth of the industry to its dual structure—a disjointed export sector and domestic textile industry—in addition to stiff international competition and the import-dependent character of the industry. A balanced agro-industrial development strategy (BAIDS) must be realized parallel to the vigorous implementation of a pro-poor development social agenda (including the empowerment of labor groups) and educational reforms.

Indonesian authors delve with the repercussions of the Asian crisis on the Soeharto regime’s political eminence. Sukma (233-258) explores the security problematique of globalization and development in his study of the Indonesian state. The elites of the New Order government pursued a dualistic strategy of maximizing the benefits of economic globalization while preserving the official doctrine of Pancasila from possible infection. This style failed with the 1997 crisis. Strain in state-society relations intensified and economic growth was not sustained due to the state’s failure to establish necessary mechanisms to improve governance, produce transparency and foster wider political participation. Sukma contends that the fall of the Soeharto regime, was not a sole product of globalization forces. It must be noted that it was preceded by two major events—the widening gap between rich and poor, and the people’s disillusionment with Soeharto’s authoritarian and personalized regime. Large private sector firms and the capitalist class in the country were also strengthened with the rise of the so-called “new rich” and pro-active young military officers who were exposed to democratization ideas from abroad.

In another article, Anggoro provides an in-depth examination of the multiple identities and roles of Indonesian military (259-276). To better comprehend the “flexible engagement” of the military with globalization concerns, one has to investigate the institution in three levels—individual, societal (group) and national. Indonesian securocrats has politicized security policies because of their identification with the political elites whose predispositions are directly shaped by globalization factors. For instance, the clamor among young Indonesian military officers for neo-professionalism is a manifestation of their constant exposure to the teachings of participatory democracy. On the state-level, the Indonesian military’s openness to globalization can be gauged in terms of its acceptance of international norms and conduct including the idea of humanitarian intervention. Presently, cross-border cooperation is hindered by its nationalistic culture. However, Anggoro believes that the institution will become more receptive to the idea of deeper security cooperation as it gradually recognizes its implications to international trade. This prediction, however, is not substantiated by discussions on post-Soeharto political developments.

Overall, the collection has apparent weaknesses and limitations. First, the editors do not offer any justification for selecting the Philippines and Indonesia as country case studies, falling short of the expectation that the book must deal with region-wide country reports. Consequently, it skips a rich source of information from other ASEAN members which could be utilized for more comprehensive and meaningful comparative discussions. For instance, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam are better models to explain the ability of states to adapt to contemporary capitalism than the Philippine-Indonesia comparison.

Second, the editors’ adherence to the doctrine of comprehensive security and its attendant principles must be taken with caution. As discussed by Kraft, the concept has been used by post-war authoritarian governments to advance the interests of the elites (116). Centralization of authority became the grand smokescreen for the maintenance of repressive regimes in Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia.

Third, the authors are predisposed to approach the human security-globalization question in a unidirectional manner: globalization impinging on regional and domestic concerns. Discussions on the role of state and regional initiatives in changing or reversing the trend of the globalization are barely introduced. Ironically, although the book desires to advance a people-centered human security approach, the case studies unwittingly project the need for more state initiatives in protecting the citizenry. The book regards the myth of the powerless state as erroneous: Keynesian overtones can be found in Gochoco-Bautista’s article; Mendoza’s pro-poor policy suggestions are akin to state welfarism while Anggoro’s paper foresees a state-centric orientation of the Indonesian military in the future. The overarching claim is that economic and political conundrums emerge because of the incompatibility of state responses to globalization requirements.

Since the state responds to globalization challenges variably in different periods and contexts, instruments of globalization must be re-examined constantly. Surprisingly, the trajectory of ASEAN as a regional government is not addressed in the book. The volume can be expanded to include the crucial questions currently facing the organization—its enlargement vis-à-vis its ability to reach a consensus, its effectiveness to respond to member-states’ domestic concerns and the role of external organizations in helping ASEAN reinvent itself.

On a positive note, the chapters can be commended for accentuating the contending issues of the globalization-security-development troika: survival of state regimes and preservation of human security, economic liberalization and domestic market protection, cultural globalization and national culture preservation, economic liberalization and political liberalization, among others. Chapter authors converge in the thought that globalization is an irreversible process thus governments must safeguard themselves from its unpredictable consequences. The policy recommendations put forward by the authors can be commended for their emphasis on the need to revitalize popular participation in ensuring a more responsive human security policy-making.
Ronald Molmisa, University Research Associate, Third World Studies Center.

Whose Security Counts? Participatory Research on Armed Violence and Human Security in Southeast Asia (A Kasarinlan Review)

Chutimas Suksai, Raymond Narag, Daraaceh and Keng Menglang. Whose Security counts? Participatory Research on Armed Violence and Human Security in Southeast Asia. Bangkok: Small Arms Survey and Nonviolence International, 2003. 55 pp.

First published in Kasarinlan: Philippine Journal of Third World Studies 19, 1 (2004): 228-232.

Whose Security Counts? endeavors to link violence, misuse of small arms and human insecurity in Southeast Asia. It collates the findings of different case studies conducted in Burma/Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, which are part of a three-year project of Small Arms Survey and different partner institutions in Asia-Pacific. It explores the views, understandings and interpretations of survivors and witnesses of armed violence in different settings. The authors do not feign comprehensiveness of the research-publication and caution that it captures only a narrow breadth of the rich findings of the case studies.

The authors set off the tone of the book with a discussion of human security and its challenges in Southeast Asia. Unlike the different regions in Asia, the concept of human security within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member-countries is constricted by a powerful security sector, stronger than and sometimes more independent of central authority. However, human rather than state-based approach to security is a necessary prerequisite to fully appreciate the relationship between small arms misuse and armed violence. Addressing misuse rather than proliferation is where the line can be drawn between a people-centered perspective vis-à-vis the traditional notion of security.

The book also critiques the predisposition of most studies to characterize the level of violence based on statistical figures of firearm-related deaths and injuries. Quantitative data do not capture the totality of violence, but rather silence the victims’ perspective of their situation. It is in this context that participatory research approach, particularly participatory rural appraisal (PRA) was employed for surfacing the answers to the questions: What makes people insecure? How is insecurity understood? What are the local responses to human insecurities? PRA emphasizes local knowledge to enable local people to make their own appraisal, analysis and plans. Local people undertake data collection and analysis, with outsiders facilitating rather than controlling. Thus, the “subject” becomes the “expert” while the researcher a “listener” (9). A mixture of PRA tools—semi-structured interview, focused group discussion, pair-wise ranking and mapping—was consistently used in all the five case studies, mainly for the purpose of triangulation.

Narag’s case study on “Fraternity Violence and Small Arms: Impact on Student Security in Five Manila Universities” is a radical departure from the traditional small arms research in the Philippines, as it unmasks armed violence in metropolitan Manila, a non-conflict-affected area. Narag, a former victim of fraternity violence, attributes aggression among otherwise progressive student organizations to the militarization of Philippine society since the 1970s. The study digresses from the original intention of the research, which is to elicit people’s perception of security. Rather, it focuses on the causes of violence, which by and large center on the assertion of masculinity and supremacy. Use of arms is coincidental rather than the norm. This therefore is to a great extent unlike the gang wars in the slum communities of Metro Manila reminiscent of Fernando Mereilles’s depiction of armed violence as the interplay of poverty, drugs and guns in Cidade de Deus.

Development-induced violence is the theme of Suksai’s “State-led Violence in Mae Moon Mun Yeun Village at the Pak Moon Dam” and Menglang’s “Rural Livelihoods and Small Arms: Impacts on the Lives of Rural Villagers.” The former documents and analyzes the effects of armed violence in relation to resistance of a local community in the province of Ubon Ratchathani to dam construction by the government-owned enterprise Electricity Generation Authority of Thailand (EGAT). In contrast, Menglang’s case study focuses on the violent appropriation of forests in the Tumring Commune of Sandan District, Kampong Thom, Cambodia. Logging concessions were granted to corporations, all of which have the Tumring Communal Police as their private armies. Both studies underscore that people’s security has been jeopardized mainly by loss of access to natural resources, primarily land. Small arms, in this context, play a role as tools of coercion, intimidation and a range of abusive behavior in seizing common property resources. In addition, the deployment of armed soldiers and policemen affect the communities’ capacity to participate in non-violent demonstrations and protests, rendering them vulnerable and compliant. Weapons thus perpetuate power imbalances or asymmetries within the framework of development aggression.

Conflict serves as the backdrop for the last two case studies. “Counter-insurgency and Small Arms: Displacement and Insecurity” (Daraaceh) describes the insecurities of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in encampments within Aceh. Pair-wise ranking was used to draw out human security concerns. IDPs register an overwhelming fear of physical threats such as death, abduction, torture and rape. Furthermore, insecurity varies according to gender and age. For instance, young women reveal that their foremost apprehension is rape, while men are more alarmed of abduction and forced disappearances. Conversely, the last case study, “Survival in the ‘Liberated Area’: Impact of Small Arms and Light Weapons on Villagers in Karen State” (Suksai), which also deals with IDPs, portrays the experiences of Gho Kay villagers who are ethnically Karen and currently live under the administration of the Karen National Union (KNU). The discussion of insecurity in this case study is very thin. The issue of small arms misuse is somehow being forced to come to fore without establishing the circumstances that induce such. The study devotes a great deal of discussion on the technical aspects of weapons and types of injuries, which in the end seems to be altogether irrelevant. Despite their lapses, these two case studies highlight a very significant, yet oftentimes neglected, outcome of conflict; that is, civilians have become numb and accustomed to armed violence, such that the effects of terror after long periods of exposure have led to abnormal social behavior, erosion of the moral fabric and breakdown of cultural norms.

The synoptic paper encapsulates the emerging and crosscutting themes of human insecurity and small arms misuse. The authors mention four common patterns, which are present in all distinct case studies but may not be generalized to the region as a whole: the predatory nature of security sector actors, the frequently coercive dynamics of development, the forms of resistance taken to counter abusive authority, and the less visible downstream effects of small arms misuse on livelihoods and civil rights (40-41). What is conspicuous in this section, however, is that Narag’s case study seems to be misplaced along the way. This in some way makes the book in itself problematic and deficient in its analysis. If the study was able to extract or apply the gender dimension of violence and small arms misuse, then it could contribute to this crucial trend, which incidentally is very apparent in the case studies, yet the book failed to introduce. This section, moreover, overemphasizes small arms misuse, at the same time, downplays the root causes of armed violence. This brings us to the correlation between arms and violence, which certainly is imperative if the human security framework is expected to be a more advantageous mechanism than the state-centered approach in dealing with these problems in Southeast Asia.

The book ends with “Policy Relevance of Participatory Research in Southeast Asia,” which attempts to cull from the common themes solutions that could mitigate the level of violence and human insecurities in Southeast Asia. A repertoire of policies is presented, mainly targeting the accessibility of arms in increasingly militarized environments in the region. Within the purview of the state is security sector reform, particularly on reinforcement of human rights training within the ranks of the police and military. The authors, however, contend that “the reform of the security sector does not necessarily require the development of new approaches, laws and norms” (42). Observance of United Nations (UN) instruments is an achievement in itself. Harmonizing this effort is strengthening their democratic accountability to the civilian population and improving their work conditions to curb endemic corruption in the security sector, the most concrete manifestation of which is illicit arms dealing. Needless to say, these are simply expedient measures if not complemented with efforts to transfigure the attitudes and orientation of the police and military which unfortunately still hinges upon the framework of national security.

However, the authors contend that all these stopgap policies are rendered futile without regional and global initiatives. Cognizant that ASEAN does not offer an enabling environment for arms control, the authors champion an international instrument that would call for stringent human rights conditionality on any transfers of military and police arms and a moratorium of further sales to any area where armed conflict is taking place or where human rights violations is widespread—the Arms Trade Treaty. Undoubtedly, these mechanisms are laudable. However, the recommendations presented by the authors are relatively unexpected as far as the methodology and findings are concerned. The remedies put forward in the book are heavy reliance on international norms and instruments, albeit under the rubric of human security, rather than local responses to armed violence, such as community policing and peace-building. A hodge-podge of policy proposals which governments have the legal mandate to implement—from security sector reform to the Arms Trade Treaty—oddly became the identified panacea taken from the country studies. There seems to be a disjuncture between the reality on the ground illustrated by the case studies and the favored solution. Instead of adopting a bottom-up perspective to address human insecurities, which is the intention of drawing attention to local experiences through participatory research as clearly indicated at the outset, the authors contradicted themselves and opted for more state-centered solutions.

Perhaps this paradox springs from the book’s failure to lay down the various debates on human security at the beginning. It is simply predicated on the assumption that human security “prioritizes freedom from fear and freedom from want as preconditions for development” (8). This all-encompassing definition obviously is akin to human rights and human development. What makes it novel and more desirable than state security is not covered by the introductory chapter. The fact is, human security is a heavily contested concept in terms of its meanings, forms and implications. Many scholars have articulated that its breadth becomes both its strength as well as weakness. With this research-publication’s shortcoming, the human insecurities aggregated from the case studies were unable to tighten, refine or debunk existing discourses on the concept.

In sum, the book is bold enough to attempt to dissect and interlink a nebulous concept, human security, with violence and arms misuse. The study is also groundbreaking for introducing and applying an unconventional and still evolving research technique to gauge the level of violence and insecurity from relatively secure universities in Manila to hostile Aceh. The potential of participatory research as a tool in security studies is the main contribution of this research-publication. The data presented in the case studies are useful empirical facts for problematizing human security in Southeast Asia. However, the book though informative is raw. Supplemental reading may be necessary to better understand and substantiate the findings and their analysis.
—Sharon M. Quinsaat, University Researcher, Third World Studies Center.

Nutrition in the Philippines: The Past for Its Template, Red for Its Color (A Kasarinlan Review)

Cecilia Florencio. Nutrition in the Philippines: The Past for Its Template, Red for Its Color. Quezon City: University of the Philippines Press, 2004. 179 pp.

First published in Kasarinlan: Philippine Journal of Third World Studies 19, 1 (2004): 233-238.

Nutrition in the Philippines: The Past for Its Template, Red for Its Color is the latest contribution to the voluminous literature written on the nutritional status of the Filipino. The book is the output of a pioneering initiative commissioned by the National Nutrition Council (NNC) to critically examine the scientific bases of the Medium-Term Philippine Plan of Action for Nutrition (MTPPAN), which is the sixth medium-term plan on nutrition since the proclamation of the Nutrition Act of the Philippines in 1974 and the first to be subjected to a critical and external review. The review process aims to examine the accuracy and consistency of national data in terms of providing the appropriate policy directions and interventions set in the MTPPAN, the budgetary allocations vis-à-vis the actual expenditure for every program, and, the institutional capacity of the NNC as the lead agency in implementing, monitoring and evaluating the program components.

The book is divided into five chapters. After setting forth the objective of the study, which is to provide a comprehensive scientifically-based assessment of the MTPPAN, the author lays down the questions that probe into the inherent characteristics of the plan. The Philippine Plan of Action for 1993-1998, the predecessor of the MTPPAN, is used as the springboard for evaluation and is discussed thoroughly in the second chapter followed by an in-depth scrutiny of the main elements of the MTPPAN focusing on its framework and guiding principles. More than merely describing the program components of the plan document, the meticulous review of the impact of the programs and the various mechanisms to carry out strategies is anchored on a sociocultural context and past endeavors to give the proper perspective upon which appropriate intervention to eventually eradicate malnutrition can be drawn. Definition of terms such as undernutrition, micronutrient deficiency, and overnutrition that would otherwise fall under the general term “malnutrition” is presented to establish the relevance of the strategies identified as a response to the poor state of nutrition in the country.

As the title suggests, previous undertakings seeking possible solutions to the malnutrition challenge in the country, whether in paper or through experience, provide the corresponding milieu that enables the crafting of a nutrition plan addressing the perennial malnutrition problem in the country. This adheres to the conviction that as much as the past can impart lessons for sound policymaking, importance given by both government and the public to the implementation of policies, plans and programs are requisites to achieve successful intervention.

The author posits that the nutrition problem in the country has not been arrested despite the rosy picture that national statistics paint. Instead, malnutrition evolved into a multitiered challenge “where the layers, although of different thickness and onset, are not unrelated to one another” (129). The author characterizes the nutrition status in the country as having “a thick, expanding layer of undernutrition in both children and adults” at its base and “over it also a thick, expanding layer of micronutrient deficiency” across all age groups in the population. A third layer of overweight and obesity that is beginning to form in certain segments of the population has also set in that exacerbate the incessant problem of malnutrition. These problems are traced to the “inequities and inadequacies in food, health, and care” (129). The author’s assessment of the gravity of the problem across ages also puts emphasis on the geographic dispersion of the problem. According to the author, the spatial distribution of the nutrition problem would have provided a clearer picture of its spread across the different provinces in the country. Furthermore, this enables strategic planning on the part of the NNC to equitably allocate resources to areas where appropriate programs should have to be implemented in accordance with provincial nutritional requirements. Using a localized analysis of the extent of the problem would give substance to the MTPPAN’s rhetoric of being a “needs-driven” plan.

While national statistics provide a picture of the current state of nutrition in the country its relevance in plan formulation relies on how planners interpret them and how these are enunciated in nutrition policies and agenda. The author cautions that misinterpretation of figures endangers simplifying the nutritional problem of the Filipinos, thus coming up with oversimplified and incongruous strategies. This is especially true when official statistics culled from national surveys do not match prevailing conditions or when figures are taken at face value. National data were used as success indicators in evaluating the PPAN 1993 to 1998 but does not truly represent the variation in terms of target beneficiaries reached across programs and among target groups. The author supports this assertion by illustrating the fluctuating performance indicators of each program from 1993 to 1998. Contrary to NNC’s claim that the targets for the PPAN have been met, the author pointed out the inconsistency of applying the same targets for the MTPPAN.

Aside from looking into the PPAN 1993-1998 to gauge the bases of the MTPPAN 1999-2004, supplementary national level plans, statutes and international commitments are also examined to establish the coherence of the MTPPAN. The Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) 2001-2004 provided the overall development agenda of the country. Health and nutrition-related planning documents such as the Directional Plan for Vitamin A Deficiency and Control Program 1989-1993, Directional Plan for the Philippine Population Management Program 2001-2004, National Objectives for Health 1999-2004, and the National Diabetes Prevention Control Plan presented the strategies for specific dietetic concerns, which the MTPPAN is supposed to capture as the most comprehensive nutrition framework of the country. Attention is also afforded to the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (AFMA) as well as the Philippine commitments to General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) to ascertain its implication on the direction of food security in the country.

The measure of success of a national plan can be approximated by the level of implementation that takes place at the local level. Drawing lessons from the village level performance and the difficulty in aligning national level plans with local plans is manifested in the dismal performance of formulating local nutritional plans. The author attributes this to the dependence of local implementers on their national counterparts in terms of formulating a local plan that reflects the needs of their constituents. The lack of meaningful exchange between the two aggravates the poor institutional mechanism of the nutrition program. The apparent absence of local government units (LGUs) as participants in the national plan formulation does not correspond with the role expected of LGUs as local implementers of national programs and policies. The lack of inputs from LGUs may be ascribed to the poor appreciation of local executives of the importance of nutrition in local development as seen in several comprehensive development plans (CDP) even of first class municipalities where nutrition plans are mere enumeration of projects formulated by national government agencies such as providing vaccination and vitamins and minerals supplementation program. This compounds underlying factors that the author identified such as the mismatch between projection of budgetary requirements and the target number of beneficiaries, “underreported” actual expenditures and “overreported” service delivery. These are but reflections of the lack of clear policies and guidelines, fragmentary implementation, and poor monitoring and evaluation, as the author pointed out.

Aside from the lack of coordination between national and local level implementers, national level “nutrition manpower” is also beset with inadequate capacity for data analysis and interpretation, which is an important aspect in the planning process. Distorted data analysis and interpretation have consequences in the identification of targets and objectives. Budgetary requirement, albeit passing through political intramural in Congress during budget deliberations, may not be presented accurately and this has ramifications on the implementation of programs and projects. In response to the challenge faced by the “nutrition manpower,” the author proposes that importance should be given to people involved in the planning, policy-making and implementation of the nutrition program. In the same way that attention and budgetary allocations are afforded to programs to curb malnutrition in the country, importance should also be given to human resources development “to strengthen the nutrition manpower” (88).

The state-centered and militaristic concept of security has broadened to include social, economic and cultural facets of the individual. Constructs such as food security is yet to be introduced in the nebulous discourse of human security wherein food becomes the focal point of national development. Moreover, international treatises such as the International Covenant on Social, Economic and Cultural Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child explicitly articulates the individual’s right to food for one to achieve “the highest attainable standard of living” (Briones, Cajiuat and Ramos 1997). In particular, food security does not only mean advancing self-sufficiency in food production but more importantly providing an environment where nutritionally adequate food is physically and economically accessible to the population (Briones, Cajiuat and Ramos 1997). As a party to these agreements, the Philippine government has committed itself to providing for the basic needs of its citizens to eradicate poverty by obviating hunger and significantly reducing the prevalence of malnutrition. The State’s recognition of nutrition as fundamental in social reform and economic development has afforded it a status of being a national priority.

Commendation is due to the author’s effort to tie up the MTPPAN with the various plan documents which affirms its comprehensiveness as the general framework to combat the nutrition problem in the country. The attempt to consult other supplementary national level plans underscores the need for horizontal alignment of various plans related to the nutrition status of Filipinos with the MTPPAN as the principal document.

The book has the benefit of having a very objective and straightforward assessment given the author’s experience as a former member of the National Nutrition Council (NNC), the highest policy-making body on nutrition in the country. The author has the advantage of having the knowledge of the inner workings of the executive body, as well as the nuances of implementing its policies. Her position as a respected scientist in the field of nutrition gives her due authority to provide an incisive and comprehensive analysis of the Philippine nutrition program and its corresponding policies. Her advocacy of the scientific and practical field of nutrition, which center on food as a basic human right has also given the study a more holistic appreciation of one aspect of human security hinged on the nutritional well-being of the individual. More importantly, as the author emphasized plans such as the MTPPAN should be reflective of the social and cultural context. Thus, the book is a valuable input in charting the future of nutrition policy in the country. Policymakers, researchers and students of nutrition can very well gain insights from the book as to the importance of recognizing that nutritional well-being of a people is anchored on the individual’s basic right to food and is crucial in bringing about social reform and economic development.

More than gaining public acceptance and recognition, the book’s influence would be measured in terms of a change in the perspective of national and local governments in viewing nutrition as a concern second only to economic development. The yearnings of a nation, or at least of its leaders, are articulated in national plans such as the MTPPAN. Turning this yearning into a reality necessitates the involvement not only of government but of also individuals seeking to instigate changes in the overall condition of a nation.

Lastly, the author’s assertion that the basic framework in formulating our national level plans should be the right of the every individual to food. The contribution of the book as a practical guide to policy makers can be summed up in the words of the author that “…the nutritional well-being of a people is inextricably linked with the country’s overall socioeconomic development and progress toward a more equitable distribution of its resources” (129).
Zuraida Mae D. Cabilo, University Research Associate, Third World Studies Center.


Briones, Angelina, Jocelyn Cajiuat and Charmaine Ramos. 1997. Food security perspectives: Focus on Asia and the Philippines. Paper presented at the United Nations and the Global Environment in the 21st Century: From Common Challenges to Shared Responsibilities, 14-15 November 1997, United Nations, New York City.,%20A%20PAPER.pdf

Friday, September 28, 2007

Southeast Asia: The Human Landscape of Modernization and Development (A Kasarinlan Review)

Jonathan Rigg. Southeast Asia: The Human Landscape of Modernization and Development, 2nd ed. London: Routledge, 2003. 386 pp.

First published in Kasarinlan: Philippine Journal of Third World Studies 19, 1 (2004): 239-241.

I have not encountered a book on modernization and development in Southeast Asia as comprehensive and exhaustive as Jonathan Rigg’s Southeast Asia: The Human Landscape of Modernization and Development. It covers a wide variety of topics that ranges from the rise and fall of Southeast Asian economy to the everyday lives of farmers and factory workers in the outskirts of the metropolis. However, nothing is more exciting in this book than the conundrum posed by Rigg that all things considered development and modernization have indeed “lifted millions of people out of poverty and raised living standards on a broad front for the great majority of the population of the region” (338) on the one hand, and the widely held view that poverty is still the main problem facing many, if not almost all, Southeast Asian countries today. Untangling this conundrum is what Rigg painstakingly tries to do in this book.

This book is a second edition of the one that was published in 1997. It still comprises four main parts but with an additional 60 pages of new and insightful empirical data (see Part III and passim). Part I, “Southeast Asian Development: The Conceptual Landscape of Dissent,” explores a variety of theoretical issues that emerge in the debate among scholars between the proponents of the “miracle thesis” and those who are critical of this thesis. Part II , “Marginal People and Marginal Lives: The ‘Excluded’,” examines and assesses the “impact and effects of modernization and development on people and places” (xv), especially those who were excluded—or what Rigg describes those who “missed out” on development. Then, in Part IV, “Change and Interaction in the Rural and Urban Worlds,” Rigg takes us to the ways in which various social actors and agents make sense of the opportunities and challenges that development has offered. This is the most stimulating part of the book as Rigg invokes narratives after narratives of local people without losing his empirical ground as a social scientist. Part IV of the book, “Chasing the Wind: Modernization and Development in Southeast Asia,” concludes with a critique of “post-development.”

Although this book is a revised version of the 1997 edition, it still remains as dogmatic as in its earlier view that the modernization project in Southeast Asia is a success; not even the so-called Asian crisis in the1990s “wipe out the successes of the past,” Rigg claims (xi). He then goes on, dismissing “post-development,” and even citing how the “modernization ethic” has been “Asianized” (329), suggesting that it is not foreign but rather part of the local landscape. It is, according to him, such an ethos that has driven Southeast Asia to fare relatively well compared with countries in Africa. The euphoria in his tone about the success of Southeast Asia would not however stand scrutiny for such euphoria is arguably not all there is in Southeast Asia. It is a one-sided rendering of the development drama in Southeast Asia. In contrast to Rigg’s claims, most of Southeast Asia is beset with a huge foreign debt problem, urban and rural landlessness, widening gap between the rich and the poor and so on. While undeniably a wide range of people in Southeast Asia may have “benefited” from development and modernization, they have done so, but not without costs—costs that resulted in social exclusion, dislocation and marginalization of several groups in the region.

It is in these terms that I criticize Rigg for he couched his data in terms of how well they might fit in with his argument that Southeast Asia has indeed succeeded in improving the material well-being of people in the region. This point is very disconcerting because rather than providing answers why there is income inequality or why non-farm activity is increasingly common, Rigg simply presents the facts, and gravitates from one theoretical perspective to another, depending of course on which explanatory model is suitable. He states, for instance, that “the debate over the links between poverty and growth should really be framed in terms of who is benefiting the most” (104). He then goes on to state that “if it is the rich, then inequalities in economy and society will widen; if it is the poor, then inequalities will narrow” (104). This is, of course, oversimplified, if not deceptive, for it does not provide us with any clue at all with respect to structural conditions as to why inequality exists in Southeast Asia. It is also not helpful insofar as making us understand the sociopolitical context of inequality. He hardly mentions various hierarchical power relations to say the least, and how landlords (or “bosses” if you will) wield their political power in the countryside to maintain control over economic resources. Rigg fails to address this issue; he seems merely to want to point out that inequality exists in Southeast Asia. One wonders if it is a manifestation of his clearly functionalist, perhaps even fatalistic, approach.

In Part IV, Rigg dwells lengthily on the question of whether peasants are pushed out of agriculture or pulled into factories. Or, put differently, do employment opportunities in factories outweigh the costs of employment in agriculture? There is no doubt that this question is more complex than one might think, but for Rigg it all comes down to this: “The decline in the returns to farming and the shrinking of the land resource…have emphasized to many young (and older) rural inhabitants that farming will not easily secure an adequate livelihood in the future” (204). Again, he resorts to a narration of facts that farming, aside from being given “low status,” has increasingly become unattractive given that yields are declining, prompting peasants to seek nonfarm alternatives by migrating to the cities in search of jobs. On the other hand, we are left with the impression that peasants are making a “rational” choice for opting to take (either permanently or semipermanently) on nonfarm work. The point that I am driving at here is that while farmers in reality have diversified their activities to cope with the declining returns of farming, Rigg could have gone beyond this reality, and made a case by pointing out that the political economy of farming remains tied to the issue of peasant landlessness and powerlessness, the inability of governments to provide support infrastructure or otherwise to farmers, and so on. Does this mean though that factory employment is the solution to problems faced by farmers? Rather than address this question squarely, Rigg renders an ambivalent portrayal of factory work as a “mixed blessing” of exploitation and development, and at the same time being elusive as to which solutions are better for countries in Southeast Asia.

While development in Southeast Asia implies that on the one hand multinational corporations are needed for capital, technology and market connections, workers on the other hand are left with no choice but to surrender their labor to these companies at all costs. In the long run, development is sublated, for it not only lacks an autonomous technology, but also leaves most Southeast Asian countries with no recourse other than to import technology from the developed countries, making them what Paul Virilio calls “hypermodern.” In the meantime, too many Southeast Asians have no choice but to work in factories under exploitative conditions, become prostitutes, and migrate to other countries in search of employment.—Aloysius Ma. L. Cañete, PhD Student in Cultural Anthropology,Department of Anthropology, Arizona State University, Tempe, Arizona.

Natural Resources and Violent Conflict: Options and Actions (A Kasarinlan Review)

Ian Bannon and Paul Collier, eds. Natural Resources and Violent Conflict: Options and Actions. Washington DC: World Bank, 2003. 409 pp.

First published in Kasarinlan: Philippine Journal of Third World Studies 19, 1 (2004): 242-245.

How can wealth make you poor? This paradox is the central question being addressed by the book Natural Resources and Violent Conflict published by the World Bank. Constituting seven essays, the book examines the link between natural resources and conflict and puts forward recommendations on how to deal with the problem of civil wars in countries highly dependent on natural resources.

One of the most important findings of researches conducted since the mid-1990s on the causes of civil wars is that “natural resources play a key role in triggering, prolonging, and financing these conflicts.” These natural resources are largely oil and hard-rock minerals, including columbo-tantalite (coltan), diamonds, gold and other gemstones, timber and drugs (if these are to be considered natural resource). The volume reveals that close to 50 armed conflicts are linked to licit or illicit exploitation of natural resources in 2001.

During the Cold War, rebel groups were mostly financed by the superpowers or their regional proxies. At the end of the period, however, rebel groups began to look for other financial sources in their own countries. Rebel groups can maintain their strength with financial viability, thus making the established governments take them seriously. It is for this reason that rebel groups engage in business activity alongside their military operations to keep their finances afloat.

In venturing into business, the rebel groups have to utilize their competitive advantage. Unfortunately, their “only competitive advantage is their large capacity for organized violence and mayhem” (4). Since most rebel groups have their base of operations in the rural areas where natural resources are largely located, they engage in various forms of extortion and exploitation and trade of these commodities. At times, they engage in extraction activities of the resources particularly those needing simple technologies to extract. The well-known examples of these are the conflict diamonds of Angola and Sierra Leone. Moreover other commodities such as coltan, drugs, gold and timber have been sources of business activities for rebel groups in developing countries.

Multinational companies engaged in more sophisticated extraction of commodities are the primary targets of the rebels’ extortion rackets. Moreover, they have been kidnapping foreign executives for ransom to raise funds. They usually team up with criminal elements to carry out these operations. In 1990s, kidnapping is the third primary source of finance for Colombia’s two rebel groups (National Liberation Army and Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) after drugs and extortion. From 1991-99, the guerillas netted an estimated $1.5 billion from kidnapping, and these revenues are continuously rising. Rebel recruitment increases after each successful kidnapping as recruits anticipate large payoffs from the operation.

The presence of violent secessionist movement statistically increases in countries with valuable natural resources like oil which has been pinpointed as particularly dangerous. Examples of these secessionist groups are those found in Aceh (Indonesia), Biafra (Nigeria), Cabinda (Angola), Katanga (ex-Congo), and West Papua (Indonesia). The discovery of these resources could embolden secessionist movements which cloak their existence with the rhetoric of ethnic grievances. Poor governance and corruption could fuel the ethnic groups’ secessionist tendencies especially if the latter have a fighting chance of wresting control of the commodities. Conflicts have been prolonged because of the abilities of rebel groups to finance their wars even without the support of a superpower. The duration of conflicts now appear to be longer than those started in the 1980s. The negative repercussions of civil wars cannot be overstated. As the book states:

the costs of the war continue to accrue long after the fighting has stopped: the peace dividend proves elusive as the government finds it difficult to cut military spending; violent crime tends to explode, affecting people and investment climate; capital flight continues and private investors, local and foreign remain skittish; the prevalence of epidemics and disease remains higher than before the war; and human and social capital, destroyed or defrayed during the war, can take decades to recover.(1)
It is therefore important to address the problem of civil wars and put forward recommendations on how to stop the flow of cash from natural resources to the rebel groups. In line with this, the book outlines points of action that need to be taken by governments and global institutions to curb the problem. The recommendations addressed to the governments of developing countries include “making greater efforts to adopt economic policies and institutions that can stimulate growth and reduce poverty, improve governance and transparency, and redress reasonable grievances” (8). Nonetheless, there are recommendations that require concerted global action. One is the call for international financial institutions to help strengthen the economies of developing countries. The role of the international banking community to report suspect deposits from corrupt government officials was likewise emphasized among others.

The recommendations of the book are classified into two main headings: the development agenda and the governance of natural resources. Economic growth would reduce the occurrence of conflict and overtime would facilitate diversification of the country’s economy such that dependence on natural resources would be reduced. Three instruments are needed to stimulate growth—domestic policies, international aid and access to global markets. With regard to the need to diversify, it has been shown that countries with “diverse base of exports are better protected from the adverse effects of price fluctuations and less prone to the resource curse” (8-9). There is also need to reduce exposure to price shocks of developing countries heavily dependent on primary commodities as they are most vulnerable to crashes in export prices. There must be global action to assist these countries to improve their risk management. At the same time, financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank should design mechanisms to reduce price shocks.

Regarding the governance of natural resources, the book discusses that the presence of secessionist movements is greatly bolstered by corrupt government officials that siphons off revenues from the natural resources for private gains rather than use these for the improvement of the people’s living standards. Government’s best defense against brewing secessionist movements is for it to exercise transparency and open itself to public scrutiny regarding the revenues generated from the exploitation of natural resources. In order for government to effectively implement this, the book recommended, among others, the involvement of international financial institutions and credible domestic institutions in the scrutiny of the funds. It is likewise important to shut rebel organizations out of global markets. Initiatives toward the development and implementation of certification and tracking schemes that make it difficult for rebels to sell the commodities in the global market should be launched by governments and international financial institutions, while those currently in operation should be reviewed and further strengthened—for instance, the Kimberley Certification Process which monitors and makes it difficult for rebel groups to sell rough diamonds in the global market.

Other recommendations include criminalizing the payment of extortion money by multinational companies and the banning of ransom insurance for this has encouraged rebel groups to venture into kidnapping activities. Instead of offering protection, kidnap insurance “has the perverse effect of reducing the incentive to protect workers from kidnapping, increasing the size of ransom payments, and lowering the transaction costs for the rebel group” (6). Likewise, international banks should know their clients and to report suspect receipts to prevent corrupt officials from illegally siphoning off funds from natural resources. Moreover, measures to attract reputable extraction companies to operate in low-income countries should be put in place. Reputable companies are more unlikely to offer bribes to corrupt governments in exchange for permits to extract natural resources.

The book is important for those who are into the study of conflicts. Although the issue of finance is essential, this is rarely examined in various literatures on conflict. In view of this, the book makes a valuable contribution. Moreover, the volume provides important information about conflict and rebel movements which are not readily available from other sources. Important documentation and discussions were likewise made on the efforts currently undertaken to curb the problem of conflict and the use of natural resources to sustain the rebellions. The seven case studies provide comprehensive analyses of these efforts, discussing in detail the strengths and weaknesses of these endeavors and put forward recommendations on how to improve them. The recommendations are comprehensive and detailed, calling for actions from the ranks of government, global institutions and civil society groups. Their soundness can be attributed to the fact that they were written by experts who have done researches and written extensively on areas such as the governance of natural resources and transparency, development economics, anti-corruption strategies for both the public and private sectors, environmental crime and commodity tracking issues, and war economies and the regulation of extractive industries in conflict areas. Some of the writers have also been actually involved in certain initiatives related to conflict and natural resources.

Lastly, it would be interesting for the World Bank to do a follow-up report as to the concrete steps it has taken to implement the recommendations outlined in the book. The contribution of the book would not be fully realized if concrete actions are not taken to implement the suggestions it has painstakingly put forward.
Glenda Lopez Wui, Deputy Director, Third World Studies Center and Assistant Professor, Faculty of Education, University of the Philippines-Open University.