At a time of increasing foreign intervention in conflict-affected states in Africa, new research from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) suggests that efforts to restore human security in these countries must start at the community level rather than at the national level.
Good governance has long been seen as key to restoring stability and prosperity to conflict-affected states and current international efforts and donor interventions have placed significant emphasis on reinstating formal governance structures at the national level. However, the latest IDS Bulletin entitled Piecing it Together: Post-Conflict Security in an Africa of Networked, Multilevel Governance questions whether this is the right approach in countries where power and authority are often located at the local level or outside of formal institutions. Its findings are based on research undertaken in Mali, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cote d'Ivoire and Somalia.
Professor David Leonard, a leading expert on conflict-affected states in Africa and editor of the Bulletin, says: "Far too much effort in reconstruction efforts in places like Mali, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and the DRC have been focused on supporting national governments, using a top-down approach to resolving the conflicts. Our research suggests that international peacekeeping will only be effective when it gives priority to engagement with local groups, their militias and local authorities like the police and law courts. In these places the national disruption and power struggles work their way into the social fabric at a community level, where they sustain the fighting."
The research will form the basis for discussion at a high level panel debate, Restoring human security to conflict affected and fragile states: rethinking what works, taking place in Brussels today.
The event provides a timely opportunity to bring together policymakers, practitioners and academics to examine how findings from this research can help inform local, national, regional and international efforts to restore human security to conflict affected states and improve the wellbeing of their citizens.