The second session tried to address issues of how regional organizations and civil society organizations (CSOs) promote good governance and the development of strong and inclusive democratic institutions? How to respond to transnational security threats – oppositional armed groups, organized crime etc. – challenging the authority of the state and the stability of the region?
Dr. Kwaku Asante-Darko, Senior Expert on Conflict Prevention, Department of Peace and Security of the African Union (AU)spoke about how the AU deals with challenges of transnational threats to peace and security, given his own work with the AU on early warning and early response through conflict analysis and the development of recommendations for Member States on how to prevent violence and armed conflict.
“We have threats on the content [of Africa], and often one leads to another.”, mentioned Dr. Asante-Darko, “The interconnectedness of the threats, requires recognition that you cannot deal with one without looking at the others. This makes our work as analysts very difficult.” The AU though aims for economic development, and sees peace and security as requirements to create the conditions to reach such. Challenges dealt with have been for example elections, unconstitutional changes of government, as well as “people being evoked by powerful leaders to do what they want to.”
The landscape of the continent, an area of political and economic fragmentation, and the AU having 54 independent sovereign states, including South Sudan that recently joined, assure that the work of the AU is extremely challenging. Especially when it is noted that the continent has serious challenges related to armed conflict, as well as deals with consequences of such conflicts, including Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and refugees.
The AU recognizes that instability in certain countries will have regional consequences, and therefore has developed different instruments and structures to attempt to respond to such challenges, including mechanisms to monitor threats and identify responses. However, the development of structures is not the test, the actual implementation of these instruments is where it becomes truly important.
Carlos Manuel Echeverria, Director of Communications and Public Relations at the Central American Integration System (SICA),presented a short history of SICA. Highlighting that SICA attempts to attain Central American integration as a path towards peace. In this objective, it is especially recognized that having the private sector participate with the rest of civil society is of great importance. “Often the private sector has the upper hand, and therefore its participation is essential.”
Central Americais a diverse region, where countries share challenges. Democratic practice has taken hold of the region. There is a right and duty of civil society to organize themselves and complement governments. Yet, drugs-trafficking and organized crime have weakened societies. It is not a health issue, but a security threat to the Central American states. The economic and social consequences of drugs-trafficking and organized crime have been enormous. Central America cannot solve these by itself.
Through SICA Central American states have organized themselves. It is not replacing national sovereignty, it is complimenting it. SICA has developed a Central American Security Strategy which is structured around four pillars; law enforcement, prevention, rehabilitation and development. Yet it should be part of a greater strategy at all levels and of all dimensions. The Strategy would have been incomplete without the input of civil society. Very soon the actual test will come, which is the implementation. Here again it will be impossible to do so without the collaboration with civil society. Improving security levels starts with the family, and from there to community and so on to other levels. On all of these levels civil society is indispensable. Governments even though they have financial instruments and power, they cannot do this without civil society.
Lastly, Natalia Belitser, Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy from the Ukraine, the moderator of the session, took the opportunity to add some of her thoughts. Questioning the participants on different forms of cooperation between organizations working on issues of security and peace, whether it might be on national, regional and continental level.
Continuing she underlined how hard it at times can be to identify where and what a region is. As well as depending what institutions to engage with. Regions or sub-regions cannot be identified by geographical choices alone. Questions on who civil society want to engage with, frames how they organize themselves. Such questions define the possibilities of effective cooperation. She exemplified this through her own experience in Crimea and Black Sea region.
In closing she emphasized the importance of the gender dimension in our line of work. By nature women oppose the taking of live in forms of war and conflict. It is of great importance to involve women more in conflict prevention and peacebuilding.