Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster „Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration“

Intentional Ignorance and Tolerated Violence in Development Policy

Hybridity and Security Governance in Latin America

Dr. Patrick Laurency


Security sector reforms evolved into hybrid patterns of domestic security governance especially when it comes to the delegation of security tasks to non-state actors. This is particularly the case in Latin American countries where formal or informal cooperative arrangements not only exist between state authorities and private security companies or other non-state actors including community associations but also with criminal actors for the sake of curtailing at least the most excessive manifestations of crime.

Privatization, outsourcing or decentralization of public security tasks result from restrained institutional capabilities in developing and emerging countries and from deeply routed distrust of the citizenry in governmental institutions in countries shaped by authoritarian rule. Thus, hybridization of domestic security arrangements may be interpreted, on the one hand, as an attempt to improve legitimacy. On the other hand, decentralization and privatization have to be put in the larger context of post-cold-war normative changes in favor of neoliberal theories of development and adjustment.

However, the retreat of the state from the provision of domestic security is obviously associated with various shortcomings. These include the fact that security is provided only selectively in favor of state elites and the well-off middle class and thus to the disadvantage of the general public and notably of the poor strata of society who remain primarily affected by violent crime. The apparent correlation between the promotion of hybrid security structures and selective domestic security may be due both to poor management and informal cooperative arrangements with organized crime complemented by excessive state repression. Moreover, conflicting goals among state-elites may render reform projects like “community policing” ineffective. Evidence in support of the assumption that hybrid security arrangements and poor performance of domestic security sectors correlate comes from several studies on Colombia, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico or Honduras.

The way international actors and/or donor countries deal with hybrid security structures and selective domestic security is highly ambivalent. In any case, it does not have much in common with the officially pronounced concepts of modernization based on the principles of good governance, rule of law and democracy. Instead, policies range from tolerance vis-à-vis less severe cases of violence to tolerance towards networks of organized crime and/or ‘violence entrepreneurs’ controlling or containing minor criminal activities in their ‘beat’.

A crucial question is to what extent indigenous non-state-actors are capable to provide “second-best”-solutions of sufficient sustainability in the field of public security. Most experts address the dilemma connected to such arrangements rather soberly. These interpretations start from the assumption that both governmental and non-governmental organizations from developed countries indeed have a general interest in best-practice and good-governance solutions in accordance with the recommendations of leading international organizations (EU, UN, IMF, World Bank) but may prefer second-best solutions under the assumption that those ambitious goals are unachievable anyway. This is the reason why hybridity in the field of public security is sometimes considered a quite appropriate policy tool in areas where statehood remains limited.

This research project is, however, based on a rival assumption. In accordance with the theoretical approach of “successful failure”, which has been developed by Seibel (1996) and afterwards extended to international environmental policy by Laurency (2013), the project is aimed at testing the hypothesis that in hybrid arrangements of governmental development organizations, indigenous authorities and NGOs key-actors can be interested both in underperformance of security-relevant institutions and in ignorance of performance levels in general. It is supposed that, when it comes to development aid in the security sector, indigenous authorities and NGOs anticipate a loss of financial resources in cases of successful containment of violence. Likewise, it is supposed that donor countries and their local development agents do not have substantial interest in complete information about those deficiencies and the resulting inefficiency in spending taxpayer’s money.

A problem of related research is obviously the difficult access to empirical evidence regarding the extent, the causes and the consequences of hybrid security arrangements. Explorative studies are currently conducted to assess those problems and the possibilities to overcome them.