A learning event in Nairobi last month brought together partners, donors and representatives of institutions from across East Africa to share ideas and experiences around community peacebuilding. We spoke with several participants to about their main thoughts and takeaways from the event.
In Somalia, security provided by formal institutions such as the police or informal institutions can lack legitimacy and impartiality. Historically, communities haven’t had access to structures that allow them to play a role in shaping security responses or reducing tensions between different conflicting groups and clans.
But as Amina Arale, Executive Director of the Somali Women Development Centre points out, “Communities have the capacity to identify and the power to come up with solutions to their own security”.
For these community approaches to peacebuilding to be successful in places like Somalia, they need to be more sustainable and inclusive. But how can this be achieved? How can communities work better across clan lines and with formal state institutions? Which approaches work, and what challenges do they face? And how can communities in different conflict-affected areas learn from each other?
These were all questions that participants discussed at a learning event, hosted by Saferworld, Conflict Dynamics International and the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law in July. Staff from the three organisations were joined by partners, donors and representatives of various institutions from across East Africa to share knowledge on community peacebuilding.
At the event we caught up with Amina and other participants to find out what they had learnt and what they considered to be the main takeaways from the event.
Adan Abdullahi Bare, Research and Training Coordinator for the Somali Youth Development Network
“This learning event is very important, as on a personal level it will empower my ability to engage more in community structures and it will help us as an organisation to review our previous approach and bring on board new approaches that will help sustain community structures.
One main learning I’ve taken from this is that we need a policy change in the government so that Somalia can have a standard policy that will guide all these community structures and so that we can lobby relevant institutions.
[After the event] I’m going to change my initial way of operating. Now I’ll bring on board other local-sector groups like government administrative units and security agencies to work closely with community-based organisations, to make sure that the objective of attaining sustainable peace and stability is achieved.”
Amina Arale, Executive Director of the Somali Women Development Centre
“This is the second time I’ve participated in a learning event. In Somalia, most of the organisations do monitoring and evaluation, but there’s not any learning inside the project. This learning helps us understand [our] impact.
We learnt about community communication systems where there is a hotline system [for reporting security incidents], and the calls are free of charge. The main takeaway from this event is to apply these to community approaches in Somalia. We have the resources in my current organisation, we just need to train young people on how to report what issues exist. These systems are easier in terms of analysis and in terms of getting information.”
Maryam Hassan, Programme Manager for Saferworld’s Somalia programme
“This event brings in practitioners and others within the sector to learn from what has worked and to also challenge the traditional way of doing programming – to show that community engagement is the solution to the conflict in Somalia and that sometimes military approaches are not the only option available. So it really changes the perspectives and gives us the opportunity to learn from each other.
The main takeaway for me here is to engage more with other actors working in similar areas to us. But also to ensure that we do more advocacy on the successes we have gained so far.”
Messina Laurette Manirakiza, Knowledge Broker – Programming and Practice for the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law
“The whole idea behind learning is to make sure that lessons emerging from implementation can inform future programming and can also inform the policymakers. So it’s really important to make sure we create connections between what is happening at the national level and what is happening at the regional level, and then from that to try to draw global lessons which can be replicated or scaled-up, discussed and interrogated at a global level.
Sometimes when we’re talking about learning – especially at the level of international non-governmental organisations or policymakers – we tend to focus a lot on practitioners. But I think we are missing out the great contribution of the communities. So I think for me the takeaway is, let’s try to make sure that we create space for communities, for institutions to have difficult conversations about what’s happening in the field. And let’s make sure that we learn together, because it’s impossible to learn alone as practitioners.”
Rukiya Abdulrahman, Senior Programme Officer at Conflict Dynamics International
“Knowledge, gathering knowledge and learning is a never-ending exercise. Every day you learn something new from your peers working in similar contexts or thematic areas.
The importance of building linkages and collaboration as well as cooperation with the various actors in the field is a key learning for me. We have had the privilege of having counterparts from Uganda, from South Sudan, the government and donors, and learning from their perspectives and listening to what their successes and challenges have been, so that is also another big takeaway for me.”