Seeking to Increase Human Rights and Reduce Militarism in Africa and the United States
The Human Security and (Anti-)Militarism Working Group (HSAM-WG) emerges out of our analysis that US government policies in Africa are driven by military and security relationships that
- Seek domination rather than cooperative approaches to security;
- Promote economic and political policies that undermine broad, participatory democracy,
- Systematically weaken the rights of women, communities of color and working people; and
- Concentrate economic power in the hands of a few at the expense of the majority.
As a result of the above, communities across the globe have experienced increasing militarization to the extent that it has become normalized and permeates multiple aspects of human interaction, including inter-state relations. The Working Group recognizes that increased militarization by private or state entities are partly a manifestation of a fundamental mandate to access natural resources to consolidate state hegemony and advance priority economic and military agendas despite the human consequences. They are also manifestations of a fundamental concern by those in power about possible popular backlash over growing economic inequality. Militarized force becomes a necessity to curb threats to structures of capital in individual wealth, corporate assets and state powers, including by reducing freedom of speech and association. As income gaps widen within nations, the wealthiest are in need of protection through an increasingly militarized structure, to “maintain order” by killing, incarcerating and deporting millions of people, the majority of whom are people of color and people in the lower economic strata. Militarization further contributes to dehumanizing and distancing us from our social networks and the environment. Its social dimensions include fragmented families and normalized violence against women. This reality requires advocates to rethink our approach and framework on contemporary militarism, beyond standing armies and military budgets, to structural violence, domination, and normalized repression.
African states have become partners to the West’s agenda on militarization, raising questions about sovereignty and prospects for sustainable development, social equality, and respect of all forms of human rights. As progressives in the United States we recognize that many of the same forces that are driving US government policies toward Africa are also negatively impacting the poor, communities of color and working people in the US. We have much to learn from the struggles of people in Africa and we can contribute to and benefit from efforts to challenge the forces that are driving militarism and anti-democratic U.S. policies toward Africa. We affirm our solidarity to social movements that have organized to counter these forces, and we believe more than ever that the movement in the U.S. needs to be more visible than ever before.
One focus of the HSAN-WG will be to expose the increasing militarization of U.S. policy toward Africa, expose bilateral U.S. military cooperation with individual African countries in full transparency and support cooperative, regional and multilateral security programs that are accountable to the societies they seek to protect and invest heavily in preventing conflicts and addressing the root causes of violence.
Analysis: The dramatic expansion of U.S. military and security training, bilateral aid programs and military-to-military engagement with individual African countries has primarily focused on protecting U.S. government-defined national security interests. These programs, whatever their stated objectives, are now ubiquitous globally and have a history of strengthening and supporting undemocratic and oppressive security arrangements in Africa that cause deep structural damage to the communities and nations where they take place while undermining broad-based, participatory efforts to shape collective security and conflict resolution programs that address the injustice that is often the root causes of violence and instability in these societies.
In the current global political and economic structure, it is impractical to support the absence of state/private mechanisms that will insure the protection of human rights and endangered population. Our work must recognize the need for the implementation of democratically controlled methods of transparent and accountable policing. The focus on short-term efforts to solve security programs and violent conflict through greater domination, control and militarization actually undermines the long-term efforts to address the root causes of this violence in Africa and in the U.S. In the last ten years, there is strong evidence to suggest that the military and security focus of U.S. policy in Africa has created ties between the U.S. military and coup leaders and sent U.S. military hardware and funded trainers to support military forces that exacerbated instability rather than supporting Africans who are looking to create the foundations for long-term stability in their countries.
With appropriate accountability, there are cases where multilateral, peacekeeping efforts under the control of the United Nations, the Africa Union or other international bodies are necessary in order to prevent genocide and other forms of systematic violence. The U.S. often has military, transport and other supplies and expertise that can help in these efforts. Yet, too often these multilateral efforts are dominated by the strategic concerns of the U.S. and other powerful countries that have other priorities beyond preserving humanity. This undermines the longer-term focus on and investment in creating transparent, accountable and democratically controlled security strategies that address the root causes of conflict.
For this reason we seek to strengthen African social movements to determine the nature of bi-lateral, U.S. military ties with Africa and we seek to contribute to efforts to significantly reduce this military aid. Simultaneously, we propose to focus the U.S. military on working exclusively through the African Union and world bodies such as the United Nations and the various regional and sub-regional bodies that promote conflict-resolution, human rights, accountability and the rule of law. Even within these constraints, we will also be campaigning for security forces in the U.S. and Africa to be transparent, democratically-controlled and accountable to broad sectors of civil society that include in particular women, communities of color and working people. We believe that this approach will enable African nations to emerge more naturally into the democratic and just societies they have the potential to become. Furthermore, this approach will assure the appropriate checks and balances necessary to hold governments accountable to their mandate to serve, particularly to achieve greater outcomes related to global development goals.
As the post-2015 agenda moves forward with a more inclusive mandate towards women’s rights and the rights of other marginalized communities, there is an urgency more than ever before to enable the African continent to embrace its development potential and emerge from the extensive damage that systemic militarization and violence has wrought for decades. Women’s movements have exerted pressure from local communities to the highest policy levels and their calls for accountability are persistent. There are a wealth of legal frameworks across Africa that can be implemented to assure rule of law, women’s rights, inclusive decision-making and accountability. More importantly, the African public is more informed than ever before and there is a momentum for collective action toward development. In the U.S., the American public is also more attune to its complicity in the health of Africa, and there are existing advocacy efforts that the WG could join to increase our influence and impact.
The Human Security and (Anti-)Militarism Working Group seeks to promote and leverage connections between progressive organizations in the United States and Africa in order to encourage organizing work around the U.S, (and particularly outside of Washington) that can impact U.S. government, corporate and non-governmental relations to Africa in the following ways:
Reducing and ultimately ending the militarization of US policy toward Africa. Exposing the increasing militarization of U.S. policy toward Africa, ending bilateral U.S. military cooperation with individual African countries and support cooperative, regional and multilateral security programs that are accountable to the societies they seek to protect and invest heavily in preventing conflicts and addressing the root causes of violence.
Making human security in Africa a priority- seeking long-term inclusive and shared protection and safety for African peoples. This includes addressing threats from the combinations of underdevelopment, burgeoning unemployed populations of youth, uncontrolled police and military corruption, and the ready availability of small arms and light weapons.
Focusing on accountable and inclusive governance – Common problems threaten Africa and the U.S., including climate change, economic inequality, and the illicit outflow of capital by multi-national corporations and wealthy elites. Governments have a key role to play in setting standards that mitigate these excesses and assure basic development, while civil society has contributed innovations for improved leadership.
Acting in solidarity with efforts to oppose racially- and gender-based oppression by governments, the military, police, and criminal justice systems in the U.S. and in Africa. This mandate seeks to reverse structural inequalities and build accountability for human rights violations. It also seeks to alert the U.S. public to their innate power to exercise their voting rights and question local and foreign policy that violate human rights.
Operating under these principles, the Working Group will organize 1-2 focused campaigns per year on an aspect of the above issues, to demonstrate the intersectionality of these human rights violations and to catalyze systemic policy change.