II Governing Areas of Limited Statehood. The Role of Nonstate Actors

New Modes of Security

The Violent Making and Unmaking of Governance in War-Torn Areas of Limited Statehood Sven Chojnacki and Zeljko Branovic

War-torn areas of limited statehood such as Afghanistan, Somalia, or the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo pose a special challenge for the linkage of security and governance. Theoretically, the question arises as to what extent security can be established in such zones of violent conflict. Conventional wisdom holds that the answer is clearly negative: a complex mixture of residual state control and emerging nonstate armed groups are in fact tending to promote strategic insecurity. Processes of political disintegration and the lack of security guarantees frequently provide the rationale for local militias or rebel groups to pursue permanent strategies of violence, enrich themselves economically, and profit from insecurity. But what if the answer is positive and security appears even in the social and political processes of substate violence? Under such conditions, which forms of security governance can emerge?

In contrast to the conventional wisdom, we assume, first, that security can in fact be provided without the state or even its rudimentary structures, and, second, that the governance approach can in turn be usefully applied to analyze security dynamics in areas of limited statehood. Thereby, we define security in a narrow sense as the absence of threats to a defined social group or, more precisely, as a situation in which means applied with the intention of maintaining protection against a defined group succeed in reducing the risk level with respect to existential threats. Thus, even under the conditions of violent conflict, there are times and spaces in which nonstate armed actors arrive at collectively binding decisions and are interested in a minimum of security. In this context, however, it is theoretically necessary to take into account a twofold transformation in the provision of security: first, an increasing fragmentation of participants in the respective security markets;1 and second, the ever greater complexity of security that varies between being a public and a private good.

Under conditions of political disintegration and violent conflicts, two types of security-defined areas theoretically emerge: first, areas of strategic insecurity, characterized by a specific shortage of armed protection, a fragmentation of the spectrum of rapacious armed groups, and a lack of collectively binding regulations; second, areas of strategic security, in which security is provided to various degrees of scope and inclusiveness, and by various actors. Security can be provided both intentionally by armed actors (security governance as the institutionalization of territorial control of violence), and through the patterns of self-defense by victimized groups (self-protective security).2 In our view, the governance concept can be usefully applied precisely to these processes of partially institutionalized macronetworks of strategic security. This idea is not completely new, but rather builds upon initial approaches to interpret the violent activity of nongovernmental armed actors in areas of limited statehood as “new” forms of governance (cf. Duffield 2001; Keen 2000; Reno 2000; Jackson 2003).3 Nonetheless, from a governance perspective, a number of questions arise: When and under which conditions do armed groups provide security as a governance service, and when do they rather resort to strategies of violence that tend to heighten insecurity? Which forms and qualities does security take on and in which way do the addressees of governance actually receive these services? Last but not least, in which way do continuous violent conflicts lead to the formation of security markets and which market logic does the trade in protection commodities follow? To approach answers to these questions, we have on the one hand developed ideas on the structure and dynamics of security markets in areas of limited statehood that follow economic approaches. On the other hand, we have used the concept of opportunity structures in order to encompass the changing material and geographical conditions of control over the use of force.

In terms of configurations of limited statehood, we focus on the territorial and temporal loss of both, the monopoly of the use of force and the ability to make and enforce collectively binding decisions (cf. Risse, chapter 1, this volume). The lack of state authority in such areas leaves space and time for nonstate armed actors to recalibrate their interaction with the civilian population and invest in the provision of security. Contrary to the conventional differentiation between strong, weak, failed and collapsed states (Rotberg 2003, 2004) that uses the state as central unit of analysis, “limited statehood” is thus a configurational conception reflecting spatial variations of security and allowing for the analysis of specific security dynamics within or across territorial boundaries.

The chapter starts with explaining three unique modes of security in areas of limited statehood. We then connect these modes theoretically with the logic of security markets and the opportunity structures that come along with them. The chapter closes with an assessment concerning the usefulness of linking security with governance. The underlying assumptions are that the formation and the paths of security governance are closely linked, first, to the logics of security markets that emerge from a lack of monopolization of the legitimate use of force, and, second, to material opportunities that change over time. Specific economic or geographical opportunity structures do not constitute simply an explanatory factor for the outbreak or the dynamics of violent conflict, they also provide information about the conditions under which providers of security determine the functions of the use of force.4

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