In the post-Cold War era, diverse new threats to long-term global political and economic stability have emerged. Such threats include terrorist activities, the proliferation of nuclear technologies and delivery systems, and biological threats that include both bioweapons and naturally occurring epidemic diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

Summary

In the post-Cold War era, diverse new threats to long-term global political and economic stability have emerged. Such threats include terrorist activities, the proliferation of nuclear technologies and delivery systems, and biological threats that include both bioweapons and naturally occurring epidemic diseases such as HIV/AIDS.

While it is now increasingly understood that the HIV/AIDS pandemic constitutes a threat to the security of all nations, the process by which the disease destabilizes societies, economies, governance structures, and the national security apparatus remains opaque.

Indeed, one of the greatest problems in understanding the threat posed by the pandemic emanates from the fact that prior studies have often examined only one facet (say, the effect of HIV/AIDS on unemployment) of the epidemic's impact on a given country. The purpose of this study is to demonstrate, by focusing on the case of Zimbabwe, how HIV/AIDS operates simultaneously across various domains--demographic, economic, and governance--to destabilize states and threaten their national security.

Given the complex mix of factors that are contributing to Zimbabwe's current malaise (political corruption, a land distribution crisis, and an enduring drought), it is perhaps best to think of the HIV/AIDS epidemic as a powerful "stressor" that is exerting a significant negative influence on the nation's economic health and political stability. The epidemic's impacts are both direct--HIV/AIDS is projected to take the lives of over 30 percent of the Zimbabwean population over the next decade--and indirect. Among the latter category, three threats stand out.

First, the HIV/AIDS epidemic is dramatically reducing Zimbabwean life expectancy and quality of life through disease-induced morbidity and mortality and by increasing disease-related poverty.

Second, the disease is systematically eroding the economic strength of the country, shrinking productivity, precipitating a decline in savings, increasing the country's debt load, and diminishing its store of human capital.

Third, the epidemic is systematically eroding the institutions of governance (such as police and military forces) while depleting state capacity, thus dramatically narrowing the range of policy options available to policymakers. These factors combine to produce both the motive and the opportunity for intrastate violence between political elites, classes, or ethnicities and may even generate state failure. The epidemic may also provide increasing incentive for the Zimbabwean state to engage in violence against its own citizens, as political elites seek to maintain their grip on power in a destabilized and disaffected society.

HIV/AIDS-induced declines in population health are generating a significant decline in Zimbabwean state capacity. These findings are generalizable, as the effects of debilitation and mortality will exhibit similar effects upon the macroeconomy and apparatus of governance across all similarly afflicted societies. If the pandemic continues to spread unchecked throughout the developing world, it has the potential to generate widespread economic and political instability and to generate and exacerbate existing conflicts both within and between nations.

As shown in neighboring Botswana, where the government has led the effort to diminish the impact of the epidemic, good governance can compensate to some degree for relatively low levels of state capacity. In Zimbabwe, however, the Mugabe regime had until recently not given a high priority to containing and treating the disease. If the government is to exhibit stronger leadership in the fight against the epidemic, various domestic and international actors need to collaborate much more closely and pressure Harare to do more. The study's concluding chapter makes a number of recommendations that call for improved partnerships between the international community, Washington policymakers, and Zimbabwean nongovernmental health providers and community service agencies.

 
About the Authors

Andrew Price-Smith is assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy at the University of South Florida, St. Petersburg. He has served as an adviser to the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Defense.

John L. Daly is associate professor of public administration, Department of Government and International Affairs, at the University of South Florida in Tampa. He has both local and international experience working with government and public administrators. In 1998-99, he was selected as the Fulbright Senior Scholar to the Kingdom of Swaziland, where he served as a technical consultant to its national government.

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