The African Security Sector Network (ASSN) in collaboration with its partners, the African Union (DSD/CIDO/ECOSOCC) and Oxfam Novib held a learning event on ‘Stretching Civic Space: Influencing on Inclusive Peace and Security’ at the African Union Commission in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 26 to 27 February, 2020.
Funded by the Knowledge Management Fund of the Dutch Knowledge Platform Security and Rule of Law (KPSRL), the learning event was based on the recognition that all countries affected by armed conflict, confront differing degrees of challenges including insecurity and a lack of protection of civilians, as well as restricted civic space. While civil society’s vital role in Security Sector Reform processes is recognized by global and regional bodies and policy frameworks, particularly, the African Union Policy Framework on SSR, Civil Society partners face obstacles to their participation in governance processes and dialogue.
The event consequently, provided a platform for the exchange of programmatic experience and sharing of strategies to prevent the shrinking of – and even stretch – civic space to influence on inclusive security in conflict-affected contexts where governments and other stakeholders are not so receptive to civil society needs.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) drawn from South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi, Niger, CAR, South Africa and Ethiopia shared their best practices, and South Sudan in particular, served as a case study on innovative strategies used by civil society to promote inclusive transitional security arrangements and SSR processes in the peace agreements.
The event covered a wide range of issues on civic space. Participants engaged in thorough discussions on the challenges to civic space which includes lack of funding, lack of capacity of CSOs to engage the security sector, administrative and bureaucratic hurdles in registration and re-registration, absence of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly as well as lack of access to public information among others.
Similarly, the event also elaborated on approaches adopted by some CSOs to gain traction and stretch the civic space. Experiences were shared by the South Sudan and CAR CSOs, ASSN and the ISS. A few of the strategies shared included improving understanding on the nature of civil society itself, building trust with relevant stakeholders over time, adaptability, planning and risk management.
Full report on the learning event is forthcoming.