Transforming understandings of the merging of development and security

Submitting Institution

University of Bristol

Unit of Assessment

Politics and International Studies

Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Studies In Human Society: Policy and Administration, Political Science

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Summary of the impact

Professor Mark Duffield's research on the relationship between development and security has had a significant impact on the understandings and work of practitioners in many agencies worldwide, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Médecins sans Frontières (MSF), the UK Department for International Development (DfID), the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Independent Diplomat in South Sudan and the Enough Project against genocide and other crimes against humanity.

Underpinning research

The body of research relating to the impact set out in this case study refers to the period from 2006 when Duffield was Professor of Development Politics and Founding Director of the Global Insecurities Centre at the University of Bristol until his retirement in 2012.

After his return to academia in 1989, Duffield's research drew on his formative experiences as Oxfam's Country Representative for Sudan (1985-1989) and almost a decade of consultancy work in conflict zones in Africa, the Balkans and Afghanistan. Adopting a qualitative research methodology and working directly in the field, Duffield's driving concern has been to understand the nature and implications of Western humanitarian and development interventionism in the post-Cold War era, a theme explored in his 2001 book Global Governance and the New Wars: the Merging of Development and Security (1,876 citations). This seminal contribution opened up what is now an extensive field of reflection on the interconnections between development and security. Duffield then explored the idea of development as a liberal strategisation of power that governs in the name of people, freedom and rights (principally in Duffield 2005 in Conflict, Security and Development: 81 citations).

Upon his arrival in Bristol in 2006, Duffield embarked upon the second landmark phase of his research, this time on the emerging international security architecture, which Duffield argues has the development-security merger at its core. This new research enabled a more advanced level of theorisation about development as a relation of security. In these outputs Duffield explored how development functions as a tool of governance, and how conflict, humanitarian crises, poverty and fragile states provide opportunities to deepen this policy framework. This work highlights the risk-averse way that aid agencies approach the management of security in the field and its impact on their ability to fulfil their humanitarian functions. His research bridges the academic and policy worlds, bringing critical theory to bear on current policy debates. Since 2007 he has identified the very tight, almost annual, time frames of the twists and turns of global liberal governance as the actors within it re-evaluate and revise their engagement with the global South.

The key unfolding themes it has identified are:

  • Unending war: The merger of development and security has produced unending war to govern the global South [1].
  • Containment: This unending global civil war is increasingly taking the form of efforts by the global North to prevent the non-insured people of the global South from circulating into the global North, and to prevent them doing so less by intervention than by containment [2] [7] [8].
  • Implausible self-reliance: The contained peoples of the global South are expected to be self-reliant, even though this self-reliance is implausible and actually reinforces a global life-chance divide [3] [7] [8].
  • The bunkerisation of aid: The institutions of the global North tend to assume that, for containment of the global South to function, aid must be delivered but the merging of development and security has resulted in aid workers coming under increasing attack. As a result major aid programmes have to a significant degree retreated to fortified aid compounds, out of touch with the societies they are meant to be assisting [4] [9].
  • Resilience and pervasive risk: Despite the spatial propagation of the bunker (gated communities, green zones, tourist enclaves, etc.), the pervasiveness of environmental risk for global North and South has fed into the pervasiveness of the notion of resilience, in which living with risk and coping with its realisation are increasingly normalised and yet beyond many [5] [9].
  • Remote management of aid: The failures of bunkerised aid, implausible self-reliance and the demand to be resilient have led to a mostly fruitless search for methods of remote management in order to deliver effective aid while limiting the risks to aid workers [6] [9].

References to the research


[1] Duffield, M. (2007) Development, Security and Unending War: Governing the World of Peoples, Cambridge: Polity Press. 497 citations. Submitted to RAE 2008. Can be supplied upon request.


[2] Duffield, M. (2008) `Global Civil War: The Non-Insured, International Containment and Post-Interventionary Society', Journal of Refugee Studies, 21(2), 145-165. doi: 10.1093/jrs/fem049. Peer reviewed. Impact Factor: 0.383. 5-Yr Impact Factor: 0.956. 46 citations.


[3] Duffield, M. (2010) `The Liberal Way of Development and the Development-Security Impasse: Exploring the Global Life-Chance Divide', Security Dialogue, 41 (1): 53-76. doi: 10.1177/0967010609357042. Peer reviewed. Impact Factor: 1.612. Ranking: 12/82 in International Relations. 68 citations.


[4] Duffield, M. (2010) 'Risk Management and the Fortified Aid Compound: Every-day life in Post-Interventionary Society', Journal of Intervention and Statebuilding, 4 (4) 453-474. doi: 10.1080/17502971003700993. Peer reviewed. 29 citations.


[5] Duffield, M. (2011) `Total War as Environmental Terror: Linking Liberalism, Resilience and the Bunker', South Atlantic Quarterly, 110 (3): 757-769. doi: 10.1215/00382876-1275779. Peer reviewed. 9 citations.


[6] Duffield, M. (2012) `Challenging Environments: Danger, Resilience and the Aid Industry', Security Dialogue, 43(5), 475-492. doi: 10.1177/0967010612457975. Peer reviewed. Impact Factor: 1.612. Ranking: 12/82 in International Relations. 7 citations.



[7] Duffield, M. (Principal Investigator — PI) (2007-08) On the Edge of `No Man's Land': Chronic Emergency in Myanmar, Office of UN Resident Coordinator/Humanitarian Coordinator and United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), £15,000.

[8] Duffield, M. (PI) (2008) Evaluation of UNHCR's Reintegration Operation in Southern Sudan, Geneva: UNHCR, £12,000.

[9] Duffield, M. (PI) and Collinson, S. (Co-Investigator) (2010 - 31 January 2013) Achieving Policy Coherence in Challenging Environments: Risk Management and Aid Culture in Sudan and Afghanistan, ESRC-DfID Joint Fund for Poverty Alleviation Research, £406,809.

Details of the impact


Duffield's impact since 2008 has its foundations in his directly relevant and considerable experience in the field. From 1985-1989, he was Oxfam's Country Representative in Sudan, responsible for managing under challenging conditions what was, at the time, its largest overseas humanitarian and development programme. In 1991 Duffield was commissioned to write an internal agency report, Oxfam's Emergency Response to the Gulf War. In 1993 Norwegian Church Aid appointed Duffield PI on a project investigating humanitarian intervention in Ethiopia and Eritrea. In 1994 he produced a report for the United Nations Children's Fund on Complex Political Emergencies in Angola and Bosnia. In 1994-95 Duffield was appointed Team Leader by the Catholic Association for Development to evaluate the Sudan Emergency Operations Consortium. In 1995-96 he was commissioned by the United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs to coordinate the Evaluation of the UN's Operation Lifeline Sudan. In 1996 the Swedish International Development Co-operation Agency employed Duffield to work on its Evaluation of Social Reconstruction in Croatia and Bosnia. In 1998 DfID appointed him to lead an evaluation team on the DfID Contribution to Poverty Reduction in Mozambique. In 1999-2000 he was Team Leader (North Sudan) on the Evaluation of European Commission Humanitarian Office Assistance to Sudan. In 2001 he led a research team to evaluate the UN's Strategic Framework for Afghanistan. Thus, over nearly two decades Duffield had extensive exposure to humanitarian and aid agencies and donor governments, allowing him to develop formal and informal ties with a wide range of key actors. This close, sustained involvement with diverse agencies, issues and crises brought the merging of development and security to his attention.

Impact 2008-13

The thinking developed in Duffield's research [1] was brought to bear on two UN-funded missions [7] [8] at the start of this period which in turn led to a further research output [2]. In 2007-08 he headed a research team examining how development agencies operate in the `difficult environment' of Myanmar and in 2008 he ran the evaluation of UNHCR's reintegration programme in South Sudan and Blue Nile State. Through these engagements two new themes of his work came into focus — implausible self-reliance and aid bunkerisation. This led directly to Duffield's 2010-13 ESRC-DfID project [9] on achieving aid policy coherence in challenging environments. It was conducted in conjunction with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI)'s Humanitarian Practice Network (HPN) which has members in over 130 countries. It also had an International Reference Group (IRG) throughout as a platform for two-way learning. The IRG was exceptionally high level and wide-ranging including the following and their representatives: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs; European Inter-agency Security Forum Coordinator; WFP; US Agency for International Development Senior Adviser on Business Transformation and Bureau of Policy Planning and Learning; Senior Advisor, Emergencies, Danish Church Aid; Humanitarian Director, Oxfam; Policy Development and Evaluation Service, UNHCR; US Social Science Research Council; Director, Humanitarian Policy; Save the Children Fund, Somalia; Director, Humanitarian Practice Group, ODI; DfID Stabilisation Unit; Director, Humanitarian Accountability Partnership International; Head of Humanitarian Section, Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Interpeace; Peace Training and Research Organisation, Afghanistan. This degree of buy-in is indicative of the attention paid by top practitioners to his research.

The ESRC-DfID project has brought to the attention of practitioners Duffield's two latest themes — the problems for resilience posed by pervasive risk [5] and the difficulties faced by attempts at the remote management of aid as a response to the risks faced by aid workers [6]. They and others are trying to think through its implications. Duffield spoke in March 2010 at a Wilton Park conference supported by the Australian Agency for International Development, Royal Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency and Foreign Office with senior figures from the International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, DfID, the UN Mission in Afghanistan and the US Department of Defence. These issues, including explicit reference to Duffield's work, formed part of the discussion of the High Level Expert Forum on Food Security in Protracted Crises at the headquarters of the Food and Agricultural Organisation in Rome on 13-14 September 2012 [j]. In May 2013, Duffield presented at the Danish Institute for International Studies on the rise of humanitarian remote management and the respondent was the Secretary General of the Danish Red Cross (

Policymakers and aid workers of many kinds report that Duffield's research has had a major impact on their thinking and practices. An independent consultant advising DfID on conflict analysis and formerly of Oxfam has described how Duffield's groundbreaking work made practitioners aware that aid was being managed from a security perspective. The consultant highlighted how specialists in the field refer to Duffield's work since he is considered one of a small number of key worldwide experts on the relationship between aid and security, and the politicisation of aid more generally [b]. The WFP has highlighted the importance and relevance of Duffield's work on issues related to humanitarian space, in particular the politicisation of aid and the bunkering of the aid industry, and its impact on access and the relationship between aid workers and beneficiaries. The WFP concurs with Duffield's position that practitioners are not as close to the community as they need to be in order to understand beneficiaries' needs. Furthermore, the WFP anticipates that Duffield's research on the security/development nexus and the containment of populations will likely inform future work undertaken by WFP on the complexity of forced migration [b]. Independent Diplomat's Representative in Juba, South Sudan, has highlighted the importance of Duffield's work [4], which he valued enough to disseminate widely to contacts in the aid community and to Government of South Sudan officials. The Juba Representative stated that he delivered a lecture recently at the Danish Defence Academy in which he had cited Duffield extensively [e]. The co-founder of the Enough Project on ending genocide and crimes against humanity in Africa has said that Duffield's work has been central to the NGO's understandings of conflict dynamics. Duffield's search for answers that go beyond conventional explanations has influenced Enough in its endeavour to seek answers to structural causes, rather than simply proximate reasons for conflict [c]. According to the Research Director at Médecins sans Frontières (MSF) `Mark Duffield is one of the most stimulating academics writing on humanitarian practices. His work has been very influential within MSF especially to understand the evolution of our operational environment and the policies we are dealing with ... one can legitimately claim [that] Mark Duffield is among the key thinkers that helped MSF to autonomise itself from the liberal peace agenda' [d].

Duffield is frequently interviewed by journalists, including radio and TV programme researchers. In 2011 Duffield's insights were featured extensively in The Guardian's Global Development Poverty Matters blog, generating 27 comments. The article included this point: `It is not hard to see why it is becoming ever more difficult for aid-workers to do what they got into the industry to do. How can they, Duffield challenges us to consider, in a world where they are taught in countless security training courses: "If you see an accident, don't stop, think carjack!"' Duffield helped in the production of a two-hour television documentary `The Trouble With Aid' that was broadcast by BBC Four on 9 December 2012 (

In sum, as a 2012 report from the Feinstein International Centre put it: `The terminology of "the securitization of aid" and much of its intellectual underpinning has been provided by Professor Mark Duffield' [j] (p. 9 n. 3).

Sources to corroborate the impact

[a] Factual statement, Independent Consultant advising DfID (formerly of Oxfam). Corroborates the impact of [1] creating widespread awareness of aid being managed as a security issue.

[b] Factual statement, Policy Officer, World Food Programme. Corroborates the impact of [2] on donor understandings of stabilisation and [4] and [5] on their understandings of bunkerisation.

[c] Factual statement, Co-founder, Enough Project. Corroborates the impact of [1] and [2] on the Enough Project's focus on underlying issues.

[d] Factual statement, Research Director, MSF. Corroborates the impact of [3]-[6] in motivating MSF's efforts to become autonomous from the liberal peace agenda.

[e] Factual statement, Juba Representative, Independent Diplomat. Corroborates the impact of [1]-[6] in incrementally, indirectly but still importantly shaping how donors see 'fragile states'.

[f] Collinson, S. and Elhawary, S. (2012) `Humanitarian Space: A Review of Trends and Issues', Humanitarian Policy Group (HPG) Report, no. 32
Corroborates the impact on humanitarian policy thinking of [1] regarding unending war and [4] regarding the bunkerisation of aid.

[g] Fishstein, P. and Wilder, A. (2012) Winning Hearts and Minds? Examining the Relationship between Aid and Security in Afghanistan, Feinstein International Center, Corroborates the impact of [1] on humanitarian and security actors' understandings of their actions.

[h] Phillips, M. (2011) Living Hand to Mouth: Protection Funding and Coordination in South Sudan, Policy Development and Evaluation Service, UNHCR, Corroborates the impact of [4] on UNHCR thinking about the bunkerisation of aid.

[i] Reid-Henry, Simon (2011), `Why Western Aid Workers are Coming Under Threat', The Guardian, Poverty Matters Blog, 27 May, Corroborates the impact of [4] and [5] on awareness of the issue and implications of the bunkerisation of aid.

[j] Keen, D. (2012), Aid and Development in the Context of Conflict: Some Problems and Pitfalls, High-Level Expert Forum, Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO). Corroborates the impact of [1] on high level discussions at the Food and Agricultural Organisation.