Community and Counterinsurgency

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A guerrilla war is an intimate affair, fought not merely with weapons but fought in the minds of the men who live in the villages and in the hills, fought by the spirit and policy of those who run the local government.

—W. W. Rostow1

Over the past decade, community development, a program design that inverts standard foreign aid models by putting the poor in charge of shaping and implementing development projects, has reemerged as a central mechanism for the delivery of aid in conflict zones.2Although hard figures are limited, a few data points indicate that community development’s overall growth has been rapid: from 1989 to 2003, the share of World Bank projects with a community development component rose from 2 to 25 percent of the total portfolio; by 2007, more than 9 percent of World Bank spending went to community interventions.3 Community development programs are among the largest and most significant aid interventions in a number of conflict-affected countries and subregions, including Afghanistan, southern Thailand, the Philippines, western Colombia, Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Uganda, Nepal, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The rapid rise of community development has been in part driven by its operational simplicity and robustness. Aid practitioners argue that by channeling assistance directly to the grassroots, community-level interventions can launch quickly, scale rapidly and flexibly, remain functional under insecure, unstable conditions, and deliver benefits that are better configured to local needs.4 But community development’s rise has been driven by a deeper set of ambitions for aid: to mobilize the poor to control their own development and demand better governance, and to transform government to make it more relevant and responsive. The goal of community development, in short, is to build a new social contract between citizen and state.

The proposition I advance in this essay is that the mechanisms community development uses to reconstruct the social contract also act to embed state institutions within the grassroots. Community development functions, in effect, as an instrument for state-building. In nonconflict areas, the downward flow of resources and upward flow of participation enabled by community development represent a mechanism for citizens to receive more and better government. In conflict areas, the systems that enable this reciprocal flow can closely parallel civil counterinsurgency operations.

The point is not that community interventions are cloaked counterinsurgency projects—I argue that the two practices undertake fundamentally different forms of legitimation—but that community development’s operations mirror the state-building elements of civil counterinsurgency. From the perspective of both insurgent groups and governments combating insurrections, community development may not be a politically inert poverty reduction technology but an intervention that supports the reach of the state, particularly in contexts where the state and insurgents are competing at the grassroots by providing governance and public services. Development practitioners must factor these local understandings of their projects, and the potential responses by insurgents and counterinsurgents alike, into their own strategies and program designs.


Development from the Bottom Up

Pioneered in the 1950s, community development offered a vision of social transformation that diverged from the various iterations of modernization theory that dominated foreign aid for much of the twentieth century. While modernization theory envisioned development as a teleological process of engineered social change, piloted by technocrats and delivered through large-scale interventions and injections of capital and expertise, community development attempted to spur economic transformation by leveraging the knowledge and participation of the rural poor and providing small-scale projects—irrigation systems, agricultural extension services, rural credit systems—carefully tailored to local needs.5 Over time, the organizational systems underlying the two models converged. Early community development interventions were decentralized and heterogeneous, but as these were taken to scale as national programs, community development itself became bureaucratized, and the technology of community organization was integrated into national centralized planning and management.6

Just as early community development practice absorbed modernization theory’s emphasis on central planning, it also absorbed modernization theory’s tight linkages to the logic of the Cold War.7 Community development was seen by the West as a coherent ideological alternative to communism, and its emphasis on stimulating rural economic growth, localized political mobilization of the poor, and attempts to bring government and citizens together to improve social welfare were all viewed as mechanisms which could mitigate the risk of rural insurgency.8

Community development’s first heyday lasted perhaps a decade, cut off as it failed to quickly boost the income of the rural poor, as aid policy priorities shifted toward the nascent green revolution, and as elite capture and other implementation challenges became apparent.9 The model reemerged in the 1990s from a confluence of influences: growing critiques of the failures of large-scale, top-down aid programs; increasing recognition that local knowledge and participation were critical to the success of aid interventions; and a rising belief that the means and ends of aid programs should be to empower the poor.10 Contemporary community development programs retain the basic assumptions and operations of early models, with one key difference: while the typical first-generation program was vertically integrated, run at a national scale by a specialized government ministry, the modal contemporary intervention is fragmented, with multilateral and nongovernmental organizations occupying key spaces in the development supply chain, particularly in program design and project implementation.11

Community development programs work by building capacity for collective action at the village level. Although program designs vary widely, community development interventions have two central components.12 The first is local participation. Communities hold elections to form village development committees, which directly receive flows of aid money and coordinate communal decision-making over where and how the money is to be spent. The theory underlying participation is that the experience of authentic participation in local elections and communal deliberation will help to cement open decision-making processes at the village level.13 External agents play a critical role in this process.14 The model assumes that while communities possess the knowledge necessary to guide their own development, they must still be politically mobilized and trained to include minority and vulnerable groups in communal deliberations.

The second component is organizational linkage. New village institutions are typically connected with central or local government units, which provide technical and financial support as communities design and launch small-scale development projects.15 The goal of linkage is to expose government to socially mobilized and organized communities, so that citizens can extract support and better performance from the state.16 The form of this exposure is limited and technical: government planners meet with communities and village committees to discuss their goals and jointly make decisions over where and how government can provide training, funding, and other inputs to support community-led projects. The theory is that once citizens have been exposed to democratic, accountable decision-making processes at the village level, they will begin to press for greater government transparency, accountability, and public service provision.17 The model also contains a more explicitly political project: for collaboration and contact to build the “notion of government-community relationship.”18 The World Bank often attempts to amplify these effects by pairing community development with decentralization programs, which push funding and authority from central to local governments. The intended net effect is for citizens to have leverage over more state resources and decisions.

Community development’s narrative centers on empowering citizens to make formal institutions more legitimate, accountable, and responsive. This narrative explicitly rests on liberal theory. It locates political legitimacy as flowing from democratic decision-making, and so community interventions attempt to foster procedurally transparent, open, and fair governance by building new village institutions to transform local decision-making dynamics.19 However, community development’s second element, organizational linkage, is not liberal in the same sense. It does not provide citizens with a specific constellation of rights and powers. Instead, it aims to improve government responsiveness by increasing contact between citizen and state, providing more surface area for the ideas and demands of the public to permeate into state institutions, and enabling government to become more aware of citizens’ needs.20

Community development’s activities function as a kind of latent state-building. Unlike conventional models of state-building, community development is not designed to increase the power of formal institutions but instead to build grassroots anchoring points for the state, which enable routinized contact and collaboration with citizens. This process unfolds in two steps. First, in order for communities to begin to identify and aggregate preferences, they must be organized to hold community deliberations that meet minimum standards of social inclusion and transparency, and to carry out elections which meet minimum standards of fairness. Second, in order for citizens to coherently and effectively elicit better performance from government, the pace of interaction between communities and the state must be significantly increased so that community needs and preferences can flow, by osmosis, into the state. The first step requires the presence of external community organizers and facilitators; the second, the formation of new nodes of village authority that are networked with outside organizations. The overall result is much greater connectivity between the village and the state.


Insurgent Governance and Civil Counterinsurgency: Competition through Grassroots State-Building

Counterinsurgency first emerged as a coherent doctrine and body of practice during the wars of national liberation in the fading colonial period.21 David Kilcullen captures its core attributes as follows:

. . . classical counterinsurgency, a discipline that emerged in the 1950s but has much older roots in imperial policing and colonial small wars, is “population-centric.” It focuses on the population, seeking to protect it from harm by—or interaction with—the insurgent, competing with the insurgent for influence and control at the grassroots level. Its basic assumption is that the insurgency is a mass social phenomenon, that the enemy rides and manipulates a social wave consisting of genuine popular grievances.22

Although individual campaigns vary widely across space and time, configured in each instance to face specific insurgent organizations and tactics, both classical and contemporary counterinsurgency doctrines prescribe a carefully balanced mixture of force and inducement.23 Counterinsurgents employ force in order to destroy insurgent organizational structures and retain (or regain) territory. Yet counterinsurgency differs greatly from a pure suppression campaign, in which state forces utilize widespread, largely indiscriminate violence.24

A suppression campaign functions through fear. During conflict, the state attempts to erode the insurgency’s base of support by vastly escalating the risk and potential costs faced by the rebels’ civilian sympathizers and supporters. Intense violence serves a long-term political objective: preventing further uprisings by instilling lasting fear and destroying productive assets that might support another insurrection. The sort of violence prescribed by counterinsurgency doctrine is precisely the inverse: relatively discriminate force, calibrated to contain the insurgency and to successively clear and hold territory so that the state can provide better governance and development. The provision of governance and development, shorthanded as civil affairs, is designed to undercut insurgency by competing for the hearts and minds of the populace.25

Counterinsurgents face an uphill battle in competing for popular support. While insurgencies are almost inevitably outnumbered, outspent, and outgunned, they operate with several advantages. Insurgent fighters and organizational structures are typically tied to the communities in which they operate by long-standing social relationships, which provide rebels with local intelligence, resources, and cover. The state, by contrast, is often alien and weak, with intermittent or limited presence and capability to provide public goods to the grassroots.26 Insurgents exploit this vacuum and attempt to amplify their support within the populace by constructing competing governance systems to provide civil administration and public services.27

A wide range of armed movements go into the governance business. In territories held by Colombia’s Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC), the insurgents have provided social services, including healthcare and education, as well as core governance functions, including policing and dispute resolution and adjudication.28 In Lebanon, Hezbollah has provided health clinics, education, and loans and has implemented over 10,000 small development projects.29 Sri Lanka’s (former) rebels, the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), built a rebel state with strong policing and judicial systems, as well as semi-autonomous social welfare organizations that provided education along with humanitarian relief and reconstruction after the 2004 tsunami.30

Insurgent governance is by no means universal; numerous rebel groups function without ever constructing systems to administer territory and provide services. But insurgent governance is nonetheless widespread, because it serves a range of functions.31 Most immediately, the provision of social services helps insurgents expand local support networks and mobilize new recruits.32 Over the medium term, building governance systems allows insurgents to tax and extract resources and to regulate behavior, inflict punishment, and intimidate allies of the state. And most critically, governance helps to legitimate insurgent political control and establish the insurgent organization as a plausible long-term alternative to the existing regime.

The civil affairs elements of counterinsurgency are designed to mirror and neutralize insurgent governance by establishing the state’s presence at the grassroots. The core of counterinsurgency is a competitive state-building project, designed to make the state more legitimate, by providing public services, and more visible, by establishing nodes of local governance.33

Both classical and contemporary counterinsurgency theories emphasize grassroots state-building, but with differing underlying theories of legitimation. Classical theory placed a strong emphasis on grassroots political participation. The work of David Galula, a military theorist and veteran of France’s counterinsurgency campaign in Algeria, perhaps best captures this approach. Galula argued that, following the removal of insurgent military forces, local elections were necessary to “obtain the active support of the population” and to decisively defeat the remaining insurgent political infrastructure.34 Galula strongly advised that any elections be free and fair, arguing that leaders imposed from above would be no better than puppets, who would command little respect or responsiveness from the population. In the near term, elected leaders would build support by running local government and managing economic development projects. Over the long term, Galula suggested that local leaders should be woven into a national political party connected with the counterinsurgent regime, building an institutionalized interface between citizen and state.35

Contemporary counterinsurgency theory retains the classicists’ emphasis on local institution-building. But, as Lake argues, contemporary state-building cum counterinsurgency is rooted in social contract rather than liberal theory. Contemporary counterinsurgency theory assumes that populations are willing to give their loyalty if political institutions meet their basic needs; democratic governance is not enough to secure support.36 In order to attract support from the agnostic populace, counterinsurgents demonstrate their capability and their commitment to the public good by providing security, health, education, and livelihoods.37 Local institution-building is a means to this end. Contemporary counterinsurgency campaigns engage existing community leaders, such as village shuras in Afghanistan, or build new governance structures, such as local councils in Iraq, from scratch.38 But there is no embedded theory of liberalism underpinning the extension of the state to the grassroots. The goal of contemporary counterinsurgent state-building is to elicit an upward flow of information. What is sought is not political participation but usable data on local needs to inform the delivery of public goods and actionable intelligence to inform military action.39Nonetheless, its guiding strategy would remain quite comprehensible to Galula, namely, to “build (or rebuild) a political machine from the population upward.”40


Parallels in Practice

Community development and civil counterinsurgency are, at their core, state-building projects. The kind of state-building that they undertake is more limited than conventional attempts to expand the power of the state: neither model attempts to expand the power of central government institutions to coerce, or to compel.41 Instead, the argument that I have advanced is that community development and counterinsurgency attempt to increase thescope of the state: to expand its geographic reach and the range of social services it provides, and to increase its presence in daily life.42

If both models work to increase the scope of the state, they do so for different reasons. The two interventions are motivated by a mixture of social contract and liberal theory, but the model of legitimacy underlying each is distinct. Community development rests on the belief that bottom-up democratization and greater citizen input will yield more responsive and legitimate state institutions. Civil counterinsurgency rests on the belief that legitimacy flows from state performance and the provision of public services.

But if the underlying theory differs, the operational aspects of each intervention are closely analogous. Community development and civil counterinsurgency rely on a shared mechanism of intervention: establishing greater connectivity between state institutions and nodes of village authority, and stimulating an upward flow of information. In this sense, both community development and counterinsurgency share a critical attribute with conventional state-building: they are designed to make society “legible” by providing the state with information on its population, “their wealth . . . their location, their very identity.”43

The tacit assumption underpinning the use of community development in conflict areas is that insurgents will perceive aid as politically neutral (or, possibly, politically unassailable). The first assumption is questionable. In contexts where insurgents and the state are locked in a process of competitive state-building, each attempting to win public support by establishing a presence and a flow of public services at the grassroots, the means and ends of community development and civil counterinsurgency may be effectively indistinguishable.

To date, we know relatively little about how insurgents understand the purposes and implications of community development interventions. In the following section, I explore insurgent interpretations of a large-scale community development program in the Philippines, KALAHI-CIDSS. The data are limited, but the case is illustrative: press releases and communiqués from the New People’s Army (NPA), a rural communist insurgency, show that the NPA understood and interpreted KALAHI through the lens of Philippine counterinsurgency policy. The government appears to have held a nuanced (or bureaucratically varied) view of community development, characterizing it both as a poverty reduction and counterinsurgency intervention.


Community Development through the Lens of Counterinsurgency in the Philippines

Insurgency is one of the primary political constants in recent Philippine history. Insurrections against successive colonial rulers—the United States and, during the Second World War, Japan—were followed by a rural, peasant-based insurgency through the late 1940s and early 1950s. The insurgent group, the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines known as the Hukbalahap, had initially formed to resist Japanese occupation but rose up against the postwar Philippine government and its American backers to contest inegalitarian land distribution and tenancy rights and deep rural poverty.44 By 1954 the Hukbalahap had been defeated by an aggressive suppression campaign, but the insurgency reappeared in 1969 in the form of a renewed armed wing, the New People’s Army (CPP-NPA).

The CPP-NPA has persisted across the past five decades, despite internal political divisions and episodic intensifications of the Philippine state’s counterinsurgency efforts. The insurgency’s core narrative continues to emphasize rural inequality, and the movement’s strategy is one of protracted people’s war, a steadily developing guerrilla movement, organized at the rural grassroots, drawing predominantly on the peasantry for recruits, material support, and cover.45

In areas where the CPP-NPA has established a robust presence, it organizes aid projects, principally small-scale infrastructural interventions, and provides community governance functions.46 The means by which the insurgency builds organizational structures at the village level roughly parallels the processes of community development: agents are dispatched to assess needs and mobilize the local population around social, economic, or political deficits and grievances, using a mixture of small group discussions, semi-formal training, village meetings and rallies to build local solidarity.47 When sufficient support has been cultivated and the guerrillas have identified potential local leaders, a “people’s organizing committee” is established at the village level, and a CPP-NPA cell formed to provide recruits, intelligence, money, and materiel.48

Although the Philippines faces other insurgent pressures, most importantly a long-running Moro secessionist movement centered on the southern island of Mindanao, the government has long regarded the CPP-NPA as the primary military threat facing the state, and its counterinsurgency strategies have historically reflected the challenges of controlling rural hinterlands with limited civil administration presence. Counterinsurgency plans have lurched over time between suppression campaigns and predominantly civil efforts to contain the CPP-NPA. The two most recent plans, Bantay-Laya (2002–5, extended through 2010) and Bayanihan (2011–), reflect the growing influence of civil counterinsurgency doctrine, in addition to the use of development assistance and linkages with communities to combat insurgency.

Soon after Bantay-Laya was put in place, the government of the Philippines partnered with the World Bank to launch KALAHI-CIDSS, a national community-driven development initiative initially funded at over $182 million.49 KALAHI’s designers at the World Bank drew explicit inspiration from the Bank’s Kecamatan Development Program in Indonesia, a widely cited community development intervention which focused on empowerment and poverty reduction. Initial bank project appraisals and situational analyses oriented the KALAHI-CIDSS project within the Philippine government’s ongoing “war on poverty,” and they cited this goal, along with community empowerment and improved government transparency and accountability, as core program objectives.50 Formal risk assessments focused on the problems of elite capture and reliability of local government partners and did not address the potential risks arising from the ongoing insurgency.51

KALAHI involves robust community engagement and organization at the village level, as well as a high level of connectivity between the community and both central and local government authorities. At the inception of the project, each village in the program holds a community assembly to elect a volunteer committee to oversee the aid program. The committee leads a community-wide appraisal of village needs; drafts and vets proposals for projects; and presents the proposals for village projects at a municipal forum, where they are ranked on the basis of feasibility and potential poverty-reduction impact, and a subset funded.

The state is heavily engaged throughout the project. Regional program managers attached to a national ministry, the Department of Social Welfare and Development, are involved in the screening and selection of village proposals, overseeing municipal teams that provide technical support (engineering, community mobilization, financial management and bookkeeping) to the community committees. Local government staff partner with community members to design project proposals, and they receive training alongside community members when projects are approved for implementation.52

The Philippine government’s understanding of the program’s goals and functions was nuanced. On the one hand, the presidential memorandum officially adopting KALAHI as a national government program cited the intervention as “the embodiment of the government’s poverty reduction initiatives.”53 On the other hand, numerous actors and institutions in the state framed KALAHI as a potential tool to address the causes of insurgency. In 2003, as KALAHI launched, a deputy advisor to the president of the Philippines described it as an “indispensable mechanism against poverty and insurgency,” noting that the government viewed KALAHI as a tool to erode support for insurgent groups by countering insurgent critiques of bad governance and improving public perceptions of the state.54 KALAHI’s initial round of pilot interventions also included a model that specifically focused on conflict-affected areas. While pilot programs serve an important technical function by providing early feedback on implementation and potential failure points, the government also described KALAHI’s conflict prototype as “a major pillar in the government’s strategy of combating internal security problems.”55 Finally, the government’s 2004–10 Medium-Term Development Plan called for instruments to address the root causes of insurgency, especially poverty, and noted that KALAHI would serve this function in NPA-affected areas.56

If elements within the Philippine government viewed KALAHI as a weapon against insurgency, the New People’s Army shared its perception. In a number of public statements, the CPP-NPA has denounced community development as a de facto counterinsurgency program. Their most direct attack is simply that community development is a cynical attempt to buy support. The CPP-NPA argues that KALAHI is intended to “`soften’ the locals for coming military campaigns” by the armed forces and erode support for the NPA in areas where the insurgency has strong backing.57 The NPA views KALAHI as an effort to improve the public image of the military, “deodorizing” its reputation by providing development projects and coordinating propaganda in support of military counterinsurgency.58 Finally, the NPA suggests that community development functions as an intelligence-gathering mechanism, describing KALAHI as designed to “infiltrate communities”; this claim links with broader insurgent narratives regarding the government’s utilization of nongovernmental and civil society organizations to gather intelligence.59

Insurgent interpretations of the strategy underlying KALAHI are shaped by the broader environment of counterinsurgency and competitive state-building. The Bayanihan counterinsurgency plan argued that inequality and relative deprivation are important drivers of insurgency, suggesting that efforts to address these problems could aid in the CPP-NPA’s decline.60 Insurgents, in turn, appear to have interpreted KALAHI’s emphasis on poverty reduction, and in particular its targeting of the very poorest regions for development assistance, in terms of social contract state-building—as an effort to legitimate the state via service provision.

Insurgent interpretations of community development’s mechanisms are also revealing. KALAHI unfolded across two successive counterinsurgency plans, Bantay-Laya and Bayanihan. Although Bantay-Laya emphasized the aggressive use of force to dismantle insurgent networks, it also framed military counterinsurgency as a means to create a safe space for civilian agencies to function and launch development projects.61 Local government units were tasked to play the lead role in development, relying on nongovernmental organizations, where possible, to create trusted links to the grassroots, particularly in areas with limited or contested prior civil administration. The government’s current operational plan, Bayanihan, advanced these efforts significantly, framing counterinsurgency as a “whole of nation” approach involving partnerships between the armed forces, local government, local community-based and nongovernmental organizations, and utilizing development as a strategic tool to combat insurgency.62 Within these frameworks, the CPP-NPA read efforts to connect the state to the grassroots, whether through civilian agencies, nongovernmental organizations, or other instruments, as infiltration and counterguerrilla organization at the grassroots.

If the CPP-NPA viewed KALAHI as a mechanism to expand the reach of the state and infiltrate communities, how has it responded? Emerging empirical evidence suggests that on the whole, the program may have stimulated violence. One analysis by Crost, Felter, and Johnston exploits the aid-targeting criteria of the KALAHI project to identify its influence on insurgency. KALAHI employed an arbitrary cutoff point to determine whether communities were eligible for aid: each municipality was ranked according to a composite poverty scale, which was derived from household income and expenditure data and rural accessibility surveys. Only the poorest 25 percent of municipalities within each province were included in the program.63 By comparing the intensity of violence in municipalities which just barely qualified for inclusion against those which just barely missed inclusion, Crost et al. estimate the impact of KALAHI-CIDSS on insurgent violence and find that KALAHI municipalities experienced a sharp uptick in attacks following announcement of their inclusion in the project.64 Municipalities which were just under the poverty line and qualified for KALAHI funds suffered 90 percent more conflict-related casualties during each year of the project than those that just missed inclusion in the project, roughly one additional casualty per municipality per year.65 A second study by Arcand, Bah, and Labonne also finds that KALAHI activity was associated with increased violence. Drawing on newspaper reports to reconstruct a partial record of insurgent violence, they find that municipalities which were included in KALAHI experienced a greater number of clashes than those that missed the poverty line threshold and were excluded; in total, clashes involving the CPP-NPA increased by over 40 percent.66 Crost et al. are cautious regarding the causes of elevated violence, but they note that insurgents may be motivated to launch attacks in order to disrupt the implementation of community development projects that could transfer local support to the state. The emerging picture is murky, but it suggests that community development increased the intensity of competition over the grassroots.



Scholars have long recognized that development interventions have the effect, sometimes unintentional, of extending state power.67 From the vantage point of aid practitioners, community development is designed to do the opposite. It is often articulated as a subversive model that inverts the power relationships that arise during interventions into the lives of the poor, by shifting authority from aid providers and the state to newly empowered citizens.

While community development is disinterested in building the state’s bureaucratic or coercive power, it can still function to legitimate and extend the scope of state institutions. In order for community development to reform the state, it must first alter and network the village. Communities must be trained and mobilized behind a local elected body; they must be brought into closer contact with the state, so that officials become more aware of and more responsive to their needs. I have argued above that the greater connectivity between village institutions and state, both in terms of new upward flows of information and the creation of systems for routinized cooperation, functions as a kind of state-building.

Community development has been increasingly deployed in conflict areas, in large part because it holds out a model to repair communities as well as the relationship between citizens and the state.68 The implicit assumption is that a project to build a more expansive, more responsive, and more situationally aware state will be interpreted as neutral, or effectively shielded from violence because of the benefits it provides to citizens.

Insurgent perceptions of KALAHI-CIDSS in the Philippines suggest that this assumption may be vulnerable. The insurgent CPP-NPA made sense of KALAHI through a reading of the Philippine government’s counterinsurgency plans, identifying the upward flow of participation and information from village to state as a form of intelligence-gathering, and the downward flow of aid as an attempt to win hearts and minds through public goods provision. Curiously, at least in their public statements, the insurgents ignore the program’s attempt to build legitimacy through political participation, potentially an equal or more powerful weapon against insurgent organizing and recruitment.

This case, as I note above, is illustrative of the point that community development may not function independently of the conflicts into which it is injected. This is not to suggest that community development projects will automatically be interpreted as tacit counterinsurgency efforts, or that aid interventions will become targets of insurgent violence when deployed amid ongoing asymmetric wars. The relative neutrality of community development might depend on a set of contextual factors: the structure and aims of the insurgency; the relative emphasis placed on civil counterinsurgency by the state (or its backers); and, as I argue in this essay, the extent to which community development competes with insurgent organizing, and especially governance, at the grassroots.

With these potential scope conditions in mind, the Philippines case illustrates several lessons for the use of community development models in conflict areas. First and most simply, it is unlikely that aid agencies, governments, and insurgents will share a common understanding of the purposes and practices of aid, or—just as importantly—that understandings within these organizations will be consistent and coherent. Second, and relatedly, although development interventions may have their own internal logic, quite distinct from counterinsurgency, they may fit neatly within local counterinsurgency frameworks and practices. Development organizations will need to explicitly analyze counterinsurgency policies and take their implications for program implementation and risk management into account. If not, aid will be blind to politics. Insurgents are not.



I would like to thank Nat J. Colletta, Benjamin Crost, Nils Gilman, Daniel Immerwahr, Samuel Moyn, Keally McBride, and Benjamin Aldes Wurgaft. This essay benefited from feedback from Humanity‘s editors and referees, from discussions with participants at a symposium on Humanitarianism and Militarism held at Columbia University. All errors are my own.

1. W. W. Rostow, “Guerrilla Warfare in the Underdeveloped Areas” (speech delivered at the U.S. Army Special Warfare School, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, June 28, 1961), in theDepartment of State Bulletin 45 (1961): 236.

2. In this essay, I focus on what is now called community-driven development, the largest and most significant of several community-centric approaches employed by international development organizations. Unlike other grassroots approaches, such as community-baseddevelopment, community-driven development projects are not simply executed at the village level but actively involve community members in the design and implementation of subprojects. On the family tree of community development models, see Ghazala Mansuri and Vijayendra Rao, “Community-Based and -Driven Development: A Critical Review,” World Bank Research Observer 19, no. 1 (2004): 1–2.

3. The World Bank has only recently begun to track community development lending and grants. World Bank Operations Evaluation Department, The Effectiveness of World Bank Support for Community-Based and -Driven Development: An OED Evaluation(Washington, D.C.: World Bank Publications, 2005), xii–xiii, ix; World Bank, World Development Report 2008: Agriculture for Development (Washington, D.C.: World Bank Publications, 2007).

4. Philippe Dongier et al., “Community-Driven Development,” World Bank Poverty Reduction Strategy Sourcebook, vol. 1 (Washington, D.C.: World Bank Publications, 2003). Available online at (accessed February 2, 2012). See also Kathleen Kuehnast, Joanna de Berry, and Naila Ahmed, “Community-Driven Development in the Context of Conflict-Affected Countries: Challenges and Opportunities,” Report No. 36425-GLB (Washington, D.C.: World Bank Social Development Department, 2006).

5. For instance, W. W. Rostow, The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1960).

6. Hans P. Binswanger-Mkhize et al., “Historical Roots and Evolution of Community Driven Development,” in Local and Community Driven Development: Moving to Scale in Theory and Practice, ed. Hans P. Binswanger-Mkhize, Jacomina P. de Regt, and Stephen Spector (Washington, D.C.: World Bank Publications, 2010), 27, 29, 31. See also Irwin T. Sanders, “The Concept of Community Development,” in Community Development as a Process, ed. Lee J. Cary (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1989), 9–10.

7. Nils Gilman, Mandarins of the Future: Modernization Theory in Cold War America(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007).

8. Lane E. Holdcroft, “The Rise and Fall of Community Development in Developing Countries, 1950–65: A Critical Analysis and an Annotated Bibliography,” Michigan State University Rural Development Papers 2 (East Lansing: MSU Department of Agricultural Economics, 1978), 2, 8, 10, 12, 26–27. See also Louis Miniclier, “Community Development as a Vehicle for U.S. Foreign Aid,” Community Development Journal 4, no. 1 (1969): 8.

9. David Korten, “Community Organization and Rural Development: A Learning Process Approach,” Public Administration Review 40, no. 5 (1980): 482. See also Miniclier, “Community Development,” 8; Holdcroft, “Rise and Fall,” 2, 8, 10, 12, 26–27; Korten, “Community Organization,” 482.

10. Mansuri and Rao, “Community-Based and -Driven Development,” 4–5. On empowerment, notably Robert Chambers, Rural Development: Putting the Last First(London: Longman, 1983). See also Dongier et al., “Community-Driven Development,” 304, 307; Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (New York: Knopf, 1999).

11. Holdcroft, “Rise and Fall,” 12.

12. World Bank Operations Evaluation Department, Effectiveness, 2. See also William M. Biddle, “The `Fuzziness’ of Definition of Community Development,” Community Development Journal 1, no. 2 (1966): 5–12.

13. Mansuri and Rao, “Community-Based and -Driven Development,” 1–2.

14. Ibid. See also Hans P. Binswanger and Tuu-Van Nguye, “Scaling Up Community-Driven Development for Dummies,” World Bank website (2004), (accessed February 2, 2012).

15. David K. Leonard, “Analyzing the Organizational Requirements for Serving the Rural Poor,” in Institutions of Rural Development for the Poor: Decentralization and Organizational Linkages, ed. David K. Leonard and Dale Rogers Marshall (Berkeley, Calif.: Institute of International Studies, 1982), 6, 35–7.

16. Arne Strand et al., “Community Driven Development in Contexts of Conflict,” paper commissioned by the Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Network of the World Bank (Bergen: Chr. Michelsen Institute, 2003), 16.

17. Patrick Barron, “CDD in Post-Conflict and Conflict-Affected Areas: Experiences from East Asia,” background paper prepared for the World Development Report 2011: Conflict, Security, and Development (Washington, D.C.: World Bank Publications 2011), 17. See also Monica Das Gupta, Helene Grandvoinnet, and Mattia Romani, “State-Community Synergies in Community-Driven Development,” Journal of Development Studies 40, no. 3 (2004): 45–48.

18. World Bank, draft note, “Community-Driven Conflict Recovery: From Reconstruction to Development,” World Bank website (n.d.),, 7 (accessed February 2, 2012). See also Sarah Cliffe, Scott Guggenheim, and Markus Kostner, “Community-Driven Reconstruction as an Instrument in War-to-Peace Transitions” (working paper, Conflict Prevention and Reconstruction Unit of the World Bank, 2003).

19. On liberal theory and institution-building, see Roland Paris, “Saving Liberal Peacebuilding,” Review of International Studies 36, no. 2 (2010): 337–65; and David Lake,”The Practice and Theory of U.S. State-Building,” Journal of Intervention and State-Building 4, no. 3 (2010): 268–69.

20. Alan Whaites calls this dynamic responsive state-building. See Whaites, “States in Development: Understanding State-Building” (working paper, UK Department for International Development, 2008), 10; Barron, “CDD in Post-Conflict and Conflict-Affected Areas,” 17.

21. David Kilcullen, “Counter-Insurgency Redux,” Survival 48, no. 4 (2006): 111.

22. David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerrilla (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), xv. Some counterinsurgency theorists have challenged the assumption of popular support. Charles Wolf, for instance, argued that the “inputs” for insurgency—recruits, food, information—are simply costs which insurgencies meet either through cultivating popular support or extracting resources through coercion. Wolf, “Insurgency and Counterinsurgency: New Myths and Old Realities,” RAND Corporation report P-3132–1 (1965), 10.

23. Kelly Greenhill and Paul Staniland, “Ten Ways to Lose at Counterinsurgency,” Civil Wars9, no. 4 (2007): 404; see also U.S. Army and Marine Corps, Counterinsurgency: Field Manual 3–24 (Washington, D.C., 2006), 1–3, 1–5 to 1–7; Kilcullen, “Counter-Insurgency Redux,” 111. On prescriptions, refer to Daniel Branch and Elisabeth Wood, “Revisiting Counterinsurgency,” Politics and Society 38, no. 3 (2010): 5. See also Kalev Sepp, “Best Practices in Counterinsurgency,” Military Review (May/June 2005): 8–12; and Frank G. Hoffman, “Neo-Classical Counterinsurgency,” Parameters 37, no. 2 (2007): 71–87.

24. Thank you to Nils Gilman for raising this point.

25. Stephen Biddle notes that counterinsurgency theory assumes that the public will be largely undecided. See his comments in the book review symposium “The New U.S. Army/Marine Corps Counterinsurgency Field Manual as Political Science and Political Praxis,” Perspectives on Politics 6, no. 2 (2008): 348. See also Colleen Bell and Brad Evans, “Terrorism to Insurgency: Mapping the Post-Intervention Security Terrain,” Journal of Intervention and State-Building 4, no. 4 (2010): 377; and U.S. Army and Marine Corps,Counterinsurgency, 1–20.

26. David Kilcullen, “Twenty-Eight Articles: Fundamentals of Company-Level Counterinsurgency,” Military Review 86, no. 3 (2006): 2; Angel Rabasa and John E. Peters, “Dimensions of Ungovernability,” in Ungoverned Territories: Understanding and Reducing Terrorism Risks, ed. Angel Rabasa (Santa Monica, Calif.: Rand Corp., 2007), 7–9. See also Kilcullen, “Counter-Insurgency Redux,” 112.

27. On this concept, see Robert W. McColl, “The Insurgent State: Territorial Bases of Revolution,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 59, no. 4 (1969): 613–31. See also Nelson Kasfir, “Guerrilla Governance: Patterns and Explanations” (paper presented at the Yale Seminar on Order, Conflict and Violence, New Haven, October 29, 2008); and Zachariah Mampilly, Rebel Rulers: Insurgent Governance and Civilian Life During War(Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2011).

28. Román D. Ortiz, “Insurgent Strategies in the Post-Cold War: The Case of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia,” Studies in Conflict and Terrorism 25, no. 2 (2002): 127–43; and Zachariah Cherian Mampilly, Rebel Rulers: Insurgent Governance and Civilian Life During War (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 2011), 2.

29. Melani Cammet, “Habitat for Hezbollah,” Foreign Policy, August 17, 2006.

30. See, for instance, Kristian Stokke, “Building the Tamil Eelam State: Emerging State Institutions and Forms of Governance in LTTE-Controlled Areas in Sri Lanka,” Third World Quarterly 27, no. 6 (2006): 1021–40.

31. McColl, “Insurgent State,” 614.

32. U.S. Army and Marine Corps, Counterinsurgency, 1–7, 1–9; and Ortiz, “Insurgent Strategies,” 130–31. See also Stathis Kalyvas and Laia Balcells, “International System and Technologies of Rebellion: How the End of the Cold War Shaped Internal Conflict,”American Political Science Review 104, no. 3 (2010): 420–21.

33. See Stathis Kalyvas’s comments in “Counterinsurgency Field Manual as Political Science and Political Praxis,” 351.

34. See David Galula, Counter-Insurgency Warfare: Theory and Practice (New York: Praeger, 1964), 92.

35. Ibid., 95–96.

36. Lake, “Practice and Theory,” 258, 273–74.

37. D. Michael Shafer, “The Unlearned Lessons of Counterinsurgency,” Political Science Quarterly 103, no. 1 (1988): 63–64. See also U.S. Army and Marine Corps,Counterinsurgency, 1–1, 1–21, 5–14 to 5–17; Robert R. Tomes, “Relearning Counterinsurgency Warfare,” Parameters 34, no. 1 (2004): 17–18, 24; and David C. Gompert et al., Reconstruction under Fire: Unifying Civil and Military Counterinsurgency (Santa Monica, Calif.: Rand Corp., 2009), 8–11.

38. U.S. Army and Marine Corps, Counterinsurgency, 5–16.

39. Tomes, “Relearning Counterinsurgency Warfare,” 19.

40. Galula, Counter-Insurgency Warfare, 96–98.

41. James Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998), 94–96.

42. Gompert et al., “Reconstruction under Fire,” 8–11. See also Francis Fukuyama, “The Imperative of State-Building,” Journal of Democracy 15, no. 2 (2004): 21–23.

43. Ibid., 2.

44. Benedict J. Kerkvliet, The Huk Rebellion: A Study of Peasant Revolt in the Philippines(Berkeley: University of California Press, 1977).

45. See International Crisis Group, “The Communist Insurgency in the Philippines: Tactics and Talks,” Asia Report, February 14, 2011, 3–10; and Jose P. Magno Jr., and A. James Gregor, “Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in the Philippines,” Asian Survey 26, no. 5 (1986): 501–17.

46. Paz Verdades M. Santos, “Centre of Gravity: The New People’s Army in the Bicol Region,” in Primed and Purposeful: Armed Groups and Human Security Efforts in the Philippines, ed. Diana Rodriguez (Geneva: Small Arms Survey, 2010), 46–47.

47. James Putzel, “Managing the `Main Force’: The Communist Party and Peasantry in the Philippines,” Philippine Journal of Third World Studies 11, no. 3 (1996): 137, 142.

48. Santos, “Centre of Gravity,” 46; Magno Jr., and Gregor, “Insurgency and Counterinsurgency in the Philippines,” 504–5.

49. Although nationally scaled, KALAHI focuses spending on highly impoverished communities through two levels of targeting: only the forty-two poorest provinces in the Philippines were included in the program, and within each included province, only the 25 percent poorest municipalities are eligible for aid. See Dave Llorito, Erika Lacson, and Elisabeth Mealey, “WB Approves US$59.1M Additional Financing for Community-Driven Development Projects in the Philippines,” World Bank website, September 30, 2010, (accessed February 2, 2012).

50. World Bank, “Project Appraisal Document . . . for the Kapitbisig Laban Sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS) Project,” Report No. 24642–PH (Washington, D.C.: World Bank Environment and Social Development Unit, East Asia and Pacific Region, 2002), 2–3. See also KALAHI-CIDSS Manual for Area Coordinators and Community Facilitators (2004),–KalahiCIDSS–Manual.pdf (accessed February 2, 2012), 1–2. It should be noted that an additional $59 million extension to the KALAHI program explicitly aimed to bring the program to conflict-affected areas, citing conflict mitigation as a program objective. See World Bank, “Project Paper on a Proposed Additional Loan . . . for the Kapitbisig Laban Sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS) Project,” Report No: 56355-PH (Washington, D.C.: World Bank Philippines Sustainable Development Unit, 2010), 5, 12.

51. World Bank, “Project Appraisal Document . . . (KALAHI-CIDSS),” Report No. 24624–PH (Washington, D.C.: World Bank Environment and Social Development Unit, East Asia and Pacific Region, 2002), 6, 8, 28–30. See also Report No. PID11067 (2002).

52. For a detailed discussion of project design and implementation, see Andrew Parker, Yumi Sera, and Bhuvan Bhatnagar, “Empowering the Poor: The KALAHI-CIDSS Community-Driven Development Project. A Toolkit of Concepts and Cases” (Pasig City: World Bank, 2005), 28–35.

53. Memorandum Circular No. 33, “Institutionalizing the Kapit Laban Sa Kahirapan (KALAHI) as the Government’s Program for Poverty Reduction,” reproduced in National Anti-Poverty Commission, KALAHI Convergence: Working Together for Poverty Reduction(Quezon City, 2005), 115.

54. Virgilio Leyretana, “KALAHI: An Indispensable Mechanism against Poverty and Insurgency,” speech cited in Ben Reid, “Securitising Participation in the Philippines: KALAHI and Community-Driven Development,” Journal of Contemporary Asia 41, no. 1 (2011): 60.

55. National Anti-Poverty Commission, KALAHI Convergence, 63–65.

56. National Economic Development Authority, “Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan 2004–2010” (2004),–2010/MTPDP%d202004–2010%20NEDA%20v11–12.pdf (accessed February 2, 2012), 180–81.

57. “Philippines for Sale,” Ang Bayan, October 7, 2010, 5. Ang Bayan is the “official news organ of the Communist Party of the Philippines, issued by the Communist Party of the Philippines’ Central Committee.”

58. Fr. Santiago Salas, press release, National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Eastern Visayas, September 29, 2010, (accessed February 2, 2012); press release, Information Bureau of the Communist Party of the Philippines, “U.S. military involvement in AFP counter-guerilla operations in Bicol,” February 16, 2003, (accessed February 2, 2012).

59. Jorge “Ka Oris” Madlos, press release, National Democratic Front of the Philippines-Mindanao, October 10, 2010,–10Oct02–100days/doc/ndf%20minda.txt (accessed February 2, 2012). The National Democratic Front is a broad coalition of left-wing political movements, including the CPP-NPA. See also Central Committee, Communist Party of the Philippines, “Message of the CPP Central Committee to the NPA Red Commanders and Fighters,” March 28, 2011,–message-of-the-cpp-central-committee-to-the-npa-red-commanders-and-fighters.html (accessed February 2, 2012).

60. Armed Forces of the Philippines Internal Peace and Security Plan, “Bayanihan,” (accessed February 2, 2012), 7–8, 26, 30–32. While the counterinsurgency plan’s overall policy framework is publicly available, the operational plan and campaign details have, of course, not been released.

61. Renato Cruz de Castro, “The Twenty-First Century Armed Forces of the Philippines: Orphans of Counter-Insurgency or Military Geared for the Long War of the Century?”Contemporary Politics 16, no. 2 (2010): 160.

62. “Bayanihan,” 7–8, 26, 30–32.

63. Benjamin Crost, Joseph Felter, and Patrick Johnston, “Aid under Fire: Development Projects and Civil Conflict” (working paper, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, 2010), 17–21.

64. A regression discontinuity research design.

65. Crost, Felter, and Johnston, “Aid Under Fire,” 28–32.

66. Jean-Louis Arcand, Adama Bah, and Julien Labonne, “Conflict, Ideology and Foreign Aid” (working paper, Households in Conflict Network, 2010).

67. James Ferguson, The Anti-Politics Machine: Development, Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994); and Stuart Corbridge et al., Seeing the State: Governance and Governmentality in India(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005). For a radical critique, see Arturo Escobar,Encountering Development: The Making and Unmaking of the Third World (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1995).

68. Cliffe, Guggenheim, and Kostner, “Community-Driven Reconstruction.”


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