When war, terrorism or communal bloodshed erupt in any country, the roots of the turmoil often must be found and healed at the community level. In such localities, government officials, police and community leaders are likely to mistrust each other—especially where centralized governments have built police and legal systems to defend the state more than to serve citizens. The breakdown in relations opens space for threats to local and global security, including violent extremists, organized crime, and the trafficking of arms, drugs or people. In countries of Africa, the Middle East and Asia, USIP has pioneered a method to bring state officials, community leaders and citizens together to work out the roots of their problems and cooperatively rebuild security.

soldier
Burkina Faso, December 2016. Photo Credit: Meridian Hill Pictures.

The mix of problems that permit violence and extremism is different in each community. So USIP’s approach has been flexible across the 12 nations where it has been used. This method includes Justice and Security Dialogues, which the Institute has used in Nepal, Libya, Yemen, Tanzania, Iraq and Burma. It currently is focusing them in Tunisia, Nigeria and four nations of Africa’s Sahel region: Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Senegal.

After years of dictatorship and factional war in Iraq, citizens mistrusted the police, the courts and each other—and those divisions created opportunities for ISIS and other extremist groups. In Tunisia, years of authoritarian rule left impoverished communities fearful or angry at policing that has relied primarily on force. In Burkina Faso, local vigilante groups sometimes challenge the role of police as a security force. In many countries, local communities are burdened by hundreds or thousands of people driven from their own homes by warfare.

Solutions, Immediate and Long-Term

In any human conflict, the real root causes often are hidden and unrecognized. So as a first step, USIP teams, working with local partners, gather representatives of all the relevant groups in a community for dialogues with police to collectively identify what has gone wrong. The dialogues generally last for a year or longer, and emphasize openness and transparency. They lead the community toward practical, concrete solutions to the security problems that trouble the daily lives of community members.

The dialogue process achieve not only those immediate solutions, it builds a lasting foundation for trust and future cooperation among citizens, police and other state institutions. And, because USIP mentors and supports local civic groups as partners in the process, each dialogue also strengthens the host country’s capacity to resolve its own problems peacefully in the future. Each dialogue also generates insights into the systemic problems of countries facing violence. These insights can be used to improve local, national and international policies. Evaluations of the dialogues have found that they reduce violence. After USIP held Justice and Security Dialogues in an area of Nepal following that country’s decade of civil war, local incidents of violence decreased by 80 percent. The changes that the dialogues brought to police and government operations were sustainable, still being implemented as much as 10 years later.

Achievements of Justice and Security Dialogues include these examples:

  • In Nigeria, preliminary consultations to prepare for a full dialogue improved relations between police and residents in the city of Jos. Citizens in a neighborhood of the city had burned down the police station and forced police to stay out of their community. The preliminary dialogues yielded agreements in which community members donated land for a new station, and police and residents cooperated to get it built and arrange for police to return.
  • In Iraq, dialogues reduced sectarian tensions and inhibited violence in Baghdad, Basra, Kirkuk and Karbala. The dialogues, in 2013-2016, helped establish crisis management plans in each of the four provinces to better manage humanitarian crises arising from Iraq’s war with the ISIS militant group.
  • In the Sahel region, dialogues are reducing mistrust between communities and police that at times has been exploited by religious extremists. In Burkina Faso, a dialogue underway in 2017 has defused tensions between police and once-mistrustful members of a local vigilante group who have begun cooperating with police in controlling crime. In Dakar, Senegal, the project has improved the sharing of information between community members and police.

Related Publications

Hacia una Cultura de Estado de Derecho

Hacia una Cultura de Estado de Derecho

Friday, July 22, 2022

Hacia una cultura de Estado de derecho se recomienda principalmente para profesionales del sector judicial de medio y alto nivel, ya que asume que el lector tiene algún grado de conocimiento y experiencia dentro del sistema de justicia en su propio país. Esto incluye funcionarios gubernamentales como legisladores, fiscales, jueces, policías y funcionarios penitenciarios y representantes no gubernamentales incluyendo abogados defensores, representantes de instituciones nacionales de derechos humanos y otros órganos de supervisión y miembros de organizaciones de la sociedad civil.

Type: Tools for Peacebuilding

Justice, Security & Rule of Law

Despite Post-Election Violence, Niger Achieves Democratic Breakthrough

Despite Post-Election Violence, Niger Achieves Democratic Breakthrough

Friday, March 12, 2021

Niger’s presidential election has ushered in the West African nation’s first-ever democratic transition of power. As some international observers have heralded the success of these elections, accusations of irregularities have led to massive protests and government repression, including a 10-day internet shutdown. Hundreds of people have been arrested in the capital, Niamey, while police have clashed with protesters in several other cities. USIP’s Nourdine Harouna Abdou explains what happened in the first- and second-round votes and what the elections mean for peace and security in Niger.

Type: Analysis

Democracy & GovernanceGlobal Elections & ConflictJustice, Security & Rule of Law

Amid Rising Sahel Violence, Burkina Faso Builds a Response

Amid Rising Sahel Violence, Burkina Faso Builds a Response

Thursday, May 16, 2019

A perfect storm of violence is breaking upon Africa’s Sahel. Since late 2018, communal conflicts—many over access to food, water or productive land—have produced thousands of deadly attacks. Across the region, nearly 4,800 people died in conflicts from November to March, according to the violence-monitoring group ACLED. The greatest surge in bloodshed is in Burkina Faso, where communal militias or religious extremists killed 500 people over five months. But amid the dire headlines, governments and civic groups in Burkina Faso and other Sahel countries cite progress in stabilizing communities with a basic step that simply has seldom been undertaken: broad, local dialogues among community groups, police forces and officials. Community leaders and government officials say they are now expanding those dialogues to improve national security policies to help counter the tide of violence.

Type: Analysis

Fragility & ResilienceJustice, Security & Rule of Law

View All

Latest Publications

China, Russia See SCO at Counterweight to NATO but India Is Ambivalent

China, Russia See SCO at Counterweight to NATO but India Is Ambivalent

Thursday, July 11, 2024

A week ahead of the NATO summit in Washington, leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) gathered in Astana, Kazakhstan for the group’s annual meeting. Already one of the world’s largest regional organizations, the SCO added Belarus to the bloc at this year’s summit. Established by China and Russia in 2001, the SCO was originally focused on security and economic issues in Central Asia. But amid growing division and competition with the West, Beijing and Moscow increasingly position the growing bloc as a platform to promote an alternative to the U.S.-led order. Still, the organization’s expansion has been met with friction by some members.

Type: Analysis

Global Policy

How Myanmar’s Central Bank Facilitates the Junta’s Oppression

How Myanmar’s Central Bank Facilitates the Junta’s Oppression

Thursday, July 11, 2024

Over the three years since Myanmar’s military overthrew the county’s elected government, the Central Bank of Myanmar (CBM) has emerged as a critical component of the junta’s apparatus of public oppression. It is the principal actor providing the junta — the self-styled State Administrative Council, or the SAC — with the financial resources to wage its wars, and it is the primary instrument via which the junta seeks to thwart international sanctions.

Type: Analysis

Economics

Robin Wright on What to Expect from Iran’s New President

Robin Wright on What to Expect from Iran’s New President

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

The election of reformist candidate Masoud Pezeshkian as Iran’s new president dealt a “stunning blow in many ways to the hardliners,” says USIP’s Robin Wright. However, “the hardliners still have control of the legislature and the judiciary, and they can create havoc for the new president” and his agenda.

Type: Podcast

Mapping Haiti’s Road Toward Justice: Lessons from Colombia and Guatemala

Mapping Haiti’s Road Toward Justice: Lessons from Colombia and Guatemala

Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Haiti’s new interim government faces immense challenges, but none are as urgent as breaking the stranglehold that gangs have over the country’s capital, Port au Prince. Force alone will not bring peace, even with the arrival of the modestly-sized and Kenyan-led multinational security support mission. The country instead requires creative, whole-of-society — not just whole-of-government — mechanisms to divert gang members from crime and violence as part of a comprehensive counter-gang strategy.

Type: Analysis

Justice, Security & Rule of LawReconciliation

View All Publications