Improving the conditions for reconstruction and development in Bangladesh, South Sudan and Yemen
In 2012 Saferworld began a four-year, multi-country project in Bangladesh, South Sudan and Yemen funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The aim of the project is to contribute to an improved environment for reconstruction and development in these three countries. It sets out to do this by creating more active, informed and inclusive societies, and more effective and accountable institutions – in turn increasing public safety and security.
In all three countries, the programme is guided by Saferworld’s community-based approach to security and conflict prevention. This community security approach is about helping to make sustainable improvements to people’s experiences of safety and security. The approach focuses on understanding what makes communities feel insecure and finding locally appropriate ways of responding to these causes.
Working with local partners, Saferworld is helping people in targeted communities in South Sudan, Yemen and Bangladesh to identify and prioritise their safety and security needs and bringing together communities, police, local authorities and other security and justice providers to address them. Importantly these projects aim to build durable links between the community and local government and police structures, and enable communities to cope with pressures that could otherwise bring about violent conflict.
The project not only involves work in communities, but also work with sub-national and national authorities to make services more transparent and more responsive to community needs. This makes authorities and service providers more legitimate and accountable in the eyes of the communities they serve.
And the project’s work on community security doesn’t stop there. We will also draw on our ‘in-country’ experiences in South Sudan, Yemen and Bangladesh to work with policy makers, politicians and civil society in donor countries and international institutions to promote a more integrated and ‘people-centred’ approach to security.
To support these various strands there is a strong emphasis on:
- monitoring and evaluation – to track the progress of the approaches we are piloting
- lesson learning – to ensure that lessons learned from successes and failures in each country are analysed and presented in a useful format
- advocacy and communications – to share these lessons, and bring the voices of communities up to relevant actors.
In Bangladesh we are building on the success of community security and conflict prevention pilot projects run by Saferworld and local partner BRAC over the last few years. It supports replication of the local level community security model on a larger scale to improve public security, build state legitimacy and contribute to an environment in which peace dividends can be better realised.
Saferworld and BRAC are implementing the community security programme across 16 communities in five districts in Bangladesh, drawing on lessons learned and best practice from our pilot work. In many cases it will be rural women leading local projects which will be integrated into a wider programme of community empowerment, giving them a voice in the community. This aims to develop community institutions, strengthen local governance, inform communities of their rights, and address violence against women.
Many of the community solutions to local security problems link to more mainstream development areas such as water and sanitation, education, public health, access to safety programmes and increased political participation. We work with communities to identify their needs and also with those who are best placed to respond to them, such as local authorities, security providers and other development actors.
We also believe that the experience of replicating community-based models to scale in Bangladesh will offer important lessons for other programmes and actors.
In South Sudan we are implementing a community security programme to empower communities at the grassroots level to address the security challenges they face. We are working in Warrap and Western Bahr el Ghazal States with local partners the Kuac Area Development Agency (KUADA) and The Organisation for Children Harmony (TOCH).
During the initial stages of the project, we have worked closely with our partners to build their capacity to conduct community security assessments. These assessments provide an evidence base to help prioritise the security and safety challenges in local areas, such as cattle raiding, lack of opportunities for youth, and the prevalence of gender-based violence.
A variety of research methods are being used, building our partners skills in the use of traditional research tools like focus group discussions, household interviews, and key informant interviews, as well as more innovative approaches, such as the use of participatory photography to document and explain safety problems faced by communities.
Locally there is substantial mistrust between communities and the police service in South Sudan, due to a complex set of factors including the prevalence of small arms, the military background of most police, and a lack of understanding around what a modern police service does and how it functions. Saferworld is working closely with the police, the UK Department for International Development’s Security and Access to Justice Programme and our local partners to build constructive relationships between the police and the citizens they serve. Through our supporting a Police Community Relations Committees – where members of the community and the police service meet once a month – we are raising awareness among local communities of the role, operational procedures and mandate of the police on the one hand, and citizen rights and responsibilities on the other. By providing regular opportunities for the police and communities to interact in a constructive manner the project is building trust, communication and understanding between communities and security providers and as a result is enabling communities to feel safer.
These processes support the growth of both formal and informal accountability and civilian oversight mechanisms. These are key if the Government of South Sudan is to successfully reform its police into a modern, democratic and accountable service. Saferworld hopes that our work in Warrap and Western Bahr el Ghazal can influence and inform community security programmes in other states in South Sudan and internationally.
Yemen is a complex country facing a range of insecurities and conflicts across its various regions. Many different actors and stakeholders exist with a range of overlapping and competing priorities. It is important in the current transition phase that more effort is made to understand and address the safety and security issues that local communities face.
With local partner National Organisation for Community Development (NODS), Saferworld is supporting two communities in Ta’iz governorate to identify the major drivers of insecurity. We are also working with them, local and national security providers (formal and informal), and policymakers to find sustainable solutions to these issues.
Ta’iz city and surrounding areas experienced heavy fighting between government and security forces and tribal militias in 2001, destroying infrastructure and undermining relations between communities and security providers. People in this post-conflict region face on-going security issues including conflict over land and water, youth conflict issues, and border disputes between communities.
We are supporting groups within these communities (including youth and women's group) to address their security concerns and deal constructively with security providers in order to reduce the level of insecurity they face. We are working in one rural area and one urban area in Ta’iz which will serve as pilot sites for Saferworld’s community security projects, with the potential to expand and adapt the model to other regions of the country after three years.
Saferworld also aims to strengthen local community security and conflict prevention systems and local governance mechanisms. We are doing this through an integrated approach of capacity building, networking and the sharing of lessons and experiences.
The project will ensure that analyses and experiences of security and conflict at the community level feed into national-level transition and development strategies. This aims to ensure that national-level governance and development mechanisms take into account the local dynamics of security and conflict in Ta’iz.
This project offers a great opportunity to document, analyse and use the evidence from our programmes in South Sudan, Yemen and Bangladesh to inform international debates and policy processes.