New World Bank-UN Sourcebook Tackles a Big Budget Item for Development: Security Spending

May 11, 2017

WASHINGTON, May 11, 2017—The World Bank and the United Nations today launched the first-ever technical sourcebook designed to help governments review and analyze public money spent in the security and justice sector. Bringing together the decades of experience the two institutions have in public finance, peacekeeping and security, the sourcebook, Securing Development: Public Finance and the Security Sector, focuses particularly on developing countries.

The sourcebook stresses that national defense, policing and criminal justice are fundamental public goods and services provided by governments. Access to effective and affordable justice and security is critical to sustaining peace and development.  Without basic security, even those not directly affected by violence suffer, and economic development lags. In 2015, violence is estimated to have cost the global economy 13 percent of global GDP, or $14.3 trillion.

Research shows that major violence in society leads to lower primary school completion and secondary school enrollment rates, lower adult literacy, less access to electricity and improved water, among other consequences. Security is particularly important for the poor and other vulnerable groups, who suffer disproportionately from fear, loss of property and violence.

Governments spend a lot of money to contain violence – the sourcebook says that in 2015, governments spent some $1.7 trillion on defense. While the primary responsibility for the provision of security and justice services lies with governments, those functions may carry a heavy fiscal burden as they often make up significant portions of national budgets. This applies equally to all governments, not only those affected by armed conflict. Yet little work has been undertaken on the composition of security sector budgets, or on the processes by which they are planned and managed.

The book offers a framework for analyzing budget planning, financial management, financial accountability and oversight in the security sector. It also offers suggestions on expenditure management issues, such as how to make security spending affordable and how to most appropriately manage corruption risks. By providing a better analysis of such spending – in part, by applying a tried-and-tested public finance tool known as a Public Expenditure Review (PER) to the security sector – practitioners can facilitate better-informed decisions about policy and operational approaches to the sector.

The sourcebook draws upon the World Bank’s expertise in macro-economic analysis and public financial management and the United Nations’ expertise in the security and justice sectors.

Partner quotes:

“This sourcebook is a great example of the partnership between the United Nations and the World Bank, where the Bank’s expertise on macro-economic analysis and public financial management is combined with the UN’s expertise in security and justice, allowing our joint institutions to do important work in a sensitive area and achieve better outcomes” said Oscar Fernández-Taranco, Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding at the United Nations.

“The World Bank invests significantly in crime and violence in the Latin American and Caribbean region to protect citizens’ security, primarily focusing on youth, schools, and prevention of gender-based violence,” said Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez, Senior Director for the World Bank Group’s Social, Urban, Rural and Resilience Global Practice. “However, we need to have functioning criminal justice institutions in parallel in order to make any dent on the high rates of urban crime and violence in these countries.  This sourcebook allows us to have the more in-depth dialogues with client governments on how to push for more effective and efficient use of resources for critical criminal justice institutions, such as the police, courts, and corrections.”

“As we work to support a broad range of countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence, whether suffering from high crime rates or undergoing complex transitions toward peace, improving our understanding of the link between security, justice and public finance will become increasingly important. We hope this sourcebook will help strengthen policy and operational dialogue, in collaboration with humanitarian-development-peace partners,” said Saroj Kumar Jha, Senior Director for the World Bank Group’s Fragility, Conflict and Violence Cross-cutting Solutions Area.

“This sourcebook shows the tremendous value in pairing the World Bank’s expertise and experience in public finance – a subject that is of critical importance to governance and the functioning of public institutions – with the UN’s deep understanding of the security sector,” said Deborah L. Wetzel, Senior Director for the World Bank Group’s Governance Global Practice. “We hope this publication will be of great practical use to reformers and public servants around the world.”


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