Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa
Conseil pour le développement de la recherche en sciences sociales en Afrique
Conselho para o Desenvolvimento da Pesquisa em Ciências Sociais em África
مجلس تنمية البحوث الإجتماعية في أفريقيا
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Concept Note

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The Council for Social Science Research in Africa’s (CODESRIA) project on security regimens in Africa seeks to generate knowledge on security measures in Africa and promote the influence of such knowledge on practical efforts at grappling with security threats on the continent. In many African countries ensuring security has been as important and challenging as the task of promoting sustainable development. Recent attacks by fundamentalist groups in Mali and Cote d’Ivoire have combined with routine attacks by similar groups in other areas including East, North and Central Africa to focus attention on security. These attacks are only part of a wide array of evolving security challenges in Africa. Civil wars and intercommunal violence, electoral crises, transnational organized crime, human rights abuses, etc. combine with forms of structural violence, including poverty, rising inequality and the marginalization of groups based on gender and citizenship to endanger lives and communities.

The spectacular nature of some of these threats, including terrorist attacks, means that they often captured attention to the detriment of other threats that may be less spectacular but no less harmful. CODESRIA’s project will locate forms of spectacular violence like terrorism within broader threats to human security to encourage security measures that are sustainable and that accord with longstanding struggles for democracy and good governance in Africa.

The rash of security measures recently adopted across Africa includes the creation of stand-by, rapid reaction and joint task forces, and the formation and strengthening of special forces and intelligence agencies. These measures are part of wider and longer processes to improve security at local, national, sub-regional and continental levels in Africa. These efforts have over time included the propagation of home security systems, the acquisition of exotic purebred guard dogs by some, the sprouting of gated and guarded residential estates, the proliferation of private security agencies, largescale security sector reforms and the creation and deployment of regional peacekeeping forces like ECOMOG in West Africa.

Discussions of these security measures always bring up the issue of effectiveness. But also important are their impacts on the rule of law, human rights and democratic governance, their accordance with and reinforcement of good governance norms and the extent to which they increase the resilience of individuals and societies over the long run. So are the differential impacts of these measures on marginalized communities including women, ‘strangers’ and ethnic and religious minorities, children and youth and the poor.

Comparing these security measures to health regimens or diets is useful. First, their adoption suggests the investigation of the ‘ailments’- security problems, in this case- that make their adoption necessary. It also suggests an investigation of their supposed efficacy in dealing with the security ailments they are supposed to counter. Second, since multiple regimens are often proffered as solutions to each security problem, it is important to explore the choices made by each society. Why do some societies tend to privilege militaristic responses to security problems, while others lay strong emphasis on addressing issues of structural violence like poverty, inequality and marginalization that create a fertile ground for violence? Finally, the consideration and adoption of regimens suggest processes of learning and change that are of critical importance to policy making and implementation. What do the comparative analysis of security measures within Africa and between Africa and other areas of the world tell us about ‘best practices’ in the management and transformation of various security challenges? To what extent does the specificity of context influence how well security measures work and how transferable are successes from one place to another?

Major questions: The following are the broad questions that the project will address:

1. What are the multiple and evolving security threats that preoccupy African countries today, how do these threats interact with each other and what are their causes?
2. What are the security measures that local communities, states, sub-regional bodies and continental bodies have adapted to deal with these threats and what explains the choices that actors make given the long menu of measures that exist for dealing with each type of threat?
3. What are the political, economic and social effects of these security measures and to what extent do they undermine or reinforce democratic governance, norms of good governance, human rights and the rule of law?
4. What are the gender implications of the security challenges and the measures taken to address them and how can gender considerations be better addressed in the design and implementation of security measures?
5. How can the sustainability of security measures and their effects as well as their ability to enhance the resilience of communities be enhanced?
6. How do people adapt to and exploit the possibilities created by measures to tackle security that are often becoming only more stringent and obvious in African countries?

Activities: The following activities will be undertaken under this project:

1. A half-day pre-conference forum in Dakar on *** to increase public knowledge of the project and attract new partners that will participate in the project and ensure the uptake of its products in policy circles.
2. A policy dialogue conference on September 28-29, 2016 in Bamako, Mali. It will bring together around 60 researchers and practitioners from state and non-state agencies, CSOs, NGOs and international organizations.
3. A policy brief that will highlight the policy implications of the project and a peer-reviewed publication to serve as reference material on security measures in Africa.
4. Dissemination and outreach activities anchored in a one-day dissemination meeting in Dakar to ensure their policy uptake of the results of the project.

Project outcomes: the project seeks to achieve the following outcomes:

• A better understanding of security measures that will act as a firm basis for policy making and implementation on security issues in Africa
• The use of the knowledge created in public policy reforms to deal with security threats
• Wider discussion of security challenges and measures employed to deal with them by the people affected by these processes
• Connections between researchers and practitioners working on questions of security in Africa.