Six projects funded within call on comprehensive approaches to human security

10 March 2016

NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development granted six projects in the ‘Call for proposals on Comprehensive Approaches to Human Security’ within the Strategic Research Fund of the research programme Security & Rule of Law in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Settings. The Call aims to contribute to new evidence-based knowledge and insights on policies and intervention theories and strategies regarding inclusive, comprehensive approaches to human security in fragile and conflict-affected settings, in view of transnational security threats.

The proposals are awarded within the research programme Security & Rule of Law in Fragile and Conflict-Affected Settings. This programme is an activity of WOTRO, in close collaboration with the Security & Rule of Law Knowledge Platform.

Picture: Dmitry Chulov /

The six awarded projects will receive at most 455,000 euros for a project of a 36 month duration. In addition, for each project co-funding in kind or cash will be provided by one or more of the consortium members, with a total sum of approximately 600,000 euros co-funding for all six projects. Each project consortium consists of at least two research organisations, including at least one from a low or middle income country; and a practitioner organization located in one of the countries whose situation is targeted in the project. Among the target countries of the awarded proposals are Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Mali, Nigeria, Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, and Ukraine.

Funded projects

Securing the Local: The Role of Non-state security groups (NSSGs) in the Struggle against Extremism in Kenya, Nigeria and Indonesia   
Main applicant: Dr L.G.H. Bakker (University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
Co-applicants: Prof. K. Mohammed (Centre for Peace and Security Studies, Modibbo Adama University of Technology, Nigeria); Dr J. Fontein (British Institute in Eastern Africa, Kenya); Dr N. Azca (Centre for Security and Peace Studies, Universitas Gajah Mada, Indonesia); M. Kiriro (Ghetto Foundation, Kenya); Dr K. Witsenburg (OtherWise, The Netherlands); D. Aliah (Yayasan Prasati Perdamaian, Indonesia)

The project will undertake a multi-sited, multi-level comparative exploration of the role played by non-state security groups in the provision of ‘human security’ in Fragile and Conflict-affected states in contexts of violent religious extremism. Such extremism is experienced daily in Kenya, Nigeria and Indonesia, where Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram, and IS put chronic pressures on local communities. In the absence of effective state interventions, local non-state security groups have emerged resisting extremism by deploying defense, policing, governance and development activities. The project seeks to deliver new evidence-based insights into the broader societal support, effect, critique and understanding of such activities by: 1) analyzing non-state security groups discourse and properties, particularly concerning their potential for violence, in relation to discourses of local community stakeholders; 2) identifying and characterizing non-state security groups -government relations, including particular in terms of legitimacy and sovereignty, 3) analyzing the interplays between local, national and transnational levels of legitimacy, security provision and development, 4) formulating a dynamic theory of change concerning the developmental role of non-state security groups in dealing with extremist threat, 5) formulating a policy-oriented comparative typologization of non-state security groups actors, activities and agency, and 6) formulating country-specific policy recommendations for the inclusion of non-state security groups in security provision. The project will therefore not only add to existing knowledge about non-state security groups in both a country-specific and a comparative manner, but will also challenge current mainstream policy assumptions about the necessity to deal with such groups violently, highlighting how their legitimacy and potential for inclusion within security governance arrangements can vary contextually.

The Fulani in the Sahel: Caught between the Hammer of Muslim Extremism and the Anvil of the State (Mali, Nigeria)
Main applicant: Prof. J.W.M. van Dijk (African Studies Centre, The Netherlands)
Co-applicants: Prof. O. Obono (Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Ibadan, Nigeria); Mr A. Keita (Groupe Observation des Dynamiques Sociales, Spatiales et Expertise Endogène, Mali); Mr M. Goita (Institute de Recherche et de Promotion des Alternatives de Développement en Afrique, Mali).

This project investigates the increased participation of the Fulani in political movements and agitation. They have so far been relatively invisible and apolitical, yet by far the largest nomadic pastoralist group in the Sahel region. What factors account for their current conflicts with the State, sedentary neighbours and alienation from their own elite? How will this emergent counter-discourse develop over time, and what are the implications for regional political, economic and sociocultural stability? These new forms of political mobilization will be investigated within the historical context of 19th century jihadism and the transnational flows inherent in the contemporary connectivity of the Sahel to the world through new Information and communication technologies, international criminal networks, home-grown insurgency and the rise of cohesive regional political structures. The focus is Northern Mali and Nigeria, where Jihadist groups draw (part of) their membership (amongst others) from the ranks of young Fulani pastoralists. Data will be collected through interviews, document review, focus group discussions and networking with a large range of stakeholders involved. Special attention will be given to data from new social media and the role of youth in networks and organizations as these are hypothesized to be one of the main sources of political mobilization. Contributions will be made to on-going scientific debates on the future of pastoralism, new forms of war and the rise of jihadism. Knowledge will be shared through workshops and meetings with international, national and local (Fulani) stakeholders, social media and if funding is acquired through cultural festivals.

Human Security and Conflict in Ukraine: Local Approaches and Transnational Dimensions
Main applicant: Prof. A.W.M. Gerrits (University Leiden, The Netherlands)Co-applicants: J. Techau MA (Carnegie Europe, Belgium); Dr M. Boroda (Ukrainian Institute for Public Policy, Ukraine); Mr A. Galkin (All-Ukrainian Charitable Foundation ‘Right to Protection’, Ukraine)

Human security is at risk in fragile and conflict-affected Ukraine. The conflict has a clear transnational dimension as many people in the South and East identify with a foreign state (Russia) and are influenced by its media. This undermines the legitimacy and efficacy of government and complicates post-conflict reconciliation. This project aims to bring new insights on the complex connections between the transnational dimensions of conflict, human security, and state fragility. Research focuses on two related areas: post-conflict reconciliation and the strengthening of government capacity at the local level. We are particularly interested in how the implementation of policies and practices related to post-conflict reconciliation and the strengthening of government capacity at the local level can contribute to confidence-building, restoring human security, and strengthening local governance. Through its knowledge-sharing activities, the project will reach a variety of stakeholders, including government officials at the national and local levels, civic actors, practitioners, and experts and scholars. On the basis of substantial empirical research, the project will contribute to the academic literature on the transnational dimensions of conflict, state fragility, and human security. The project also seeks to generate insights that can feed into government policies and the programs of (domestic and international) practitioners and their implementation at the local level. Finally, the project aims to strengthen the capacity of local researchers to conduct high-quality research on project-relevant subjects and of civic actors to effectively address issues pertaining to post-conflict reconciliation and local government reform.

Preventing the spill-over: combatting violent extremism with a human security approach in Palestine, Egypt and Iraq
Main applicant: Dr B.T. van Ginkel (Netherlands Institute of International Relations ‘Clingendael’, The Netherlands)
Co-applicants: Prof. M. Akgün (Istanbul Kültür University, Turkey); J. Abdulla MSc (Human Security Collective, The Netherlands); Ms R. Allam (Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Egypt); Mr K. Othman (Salahadeen University, Kurdistan); Mr S. Walid (The Center for Democracy and Community Development, Israel)

Violent extremism has evolved into a transnational threat, impacting the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region and beyond. An inclusive and comprehensive human security approach can alleviate, contain and prevent violent extremism, but is failing to be implemented due to the trust deficit between communities and the security sector as well as the shrinking of civic space, often due to counterterrorism measures. The objectives of this research include: validating the push and pull factors of radicalization; gaining context-specific insights into how human security is defined; providing insight into conditions for engagement (communities and security stakeholders); producing evidence on how this engagement leads to joint implementation of an human security-approach on combatting violent extremism; producing context-specific evidence on how an human security-approach can prevent violent extremism; demonstrating impact of the human security-approach to policymakers; providing insight into the context-specific roles of women in combatting violent extremism; developing effective combatting violent extremism -policies based on an human security-approach that diminish the support base for violent extremism in communities (multidisciplinary and multi-stakeholder). Iraq, Egypt and Palestine together present a complementary picture given there are significant differences in terms of push/pull factors leading to violent extremism, civic space, trust levels between government and citizens, and the roles and position of women as change agents. The role of context in a human security-approach is thus amplified. The research will validate the push/pull factors and demonstrate the efficacy of a human security-approach in preventing violent extremism through engaging local communities. It will involve learning exchange and development at the local level, and connect the community with (inter)national security stakeholders relevant to combatting violent extremism.

Towards more effective human security approaches in the context of the emerging threat of violent radicalisation in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia
Main applicant: Dr E.H. Harper (The West Asia - North Africa Institute, Jordan)   
Co-applicants: Dr D. Connolly (The Hague Institute for Global Justice, The Netherlands); Dr A. Khalil (The University of Jordan, Jordan); Ms N. Shawarib (Mercy Corps, Jordan); Ms S. Khallaf (UN High Commissioner for Refugees (regional office for MENA), Jordan)

The theory of change informing approaches dubbed ‘human security‘ is that addressing the underlying causes of conflict — voids in development, opportunity and rights — is the most effective means of maintaining security and promoting resilience. The emergent threat of violent extremism has modified the policy environment in which such approaches are designed and implemented. Greater emphasis on preventing security incidents has narrowed the space for people-centered approaches. This particularly affects vulnerable groups, including refugees. While such measures may improve security in an immediate sense, it is counter-argued that this disempowers communities, aggravates local conflicts and compromises human security programming aims. These policy responses also contradict the emerging scholarship on radicalisation which identifies communities as pivotal in countering extremism. Overarching challenges are the absence of an advanced evidence base and a lack of common ground between the security and development-humanitarian sectors. These actors have different objectives, reference points and success criteria. This project seeks to respond to this evidential gap and provide a platform to reconceptualise how human security approaches can align with and contribute to counterextremism policies. Practitioner partners will be involved in the project from its inception, in data collection, stakeholder engagement, and in policy implementation. The outcomes will inform the capacity-building of policy, programmatic and community stakeholders in the four target countries to design and implement more effective human security approaches. By bolstering conflict resilience and reducing extremism threats, the project represents a strategic contribution to the discourse on human security and emerging threats in fragile and conflict-affected settings.

Security Assistance and Non-State Actors in Iraq, Syria & Afghanistan: Comprehensive and Inclusive Human Security Beyond the State?
Main applicant: Mr P. Rotmann (Global Public Policy Institute, Germany)
Co-applicants: Mr T. Ruttig (Afghanistan Analysts Network, Afghanistan); Prof V. Fontan (American University of Kurdistan, Iraq); Mr S. Smith (United States Institute of Peace, Afghanistan)

This project will assess bottom-up security assistance in fragile states in light of transnational security dimensions, both transnational threats (e.g. ISIS) and transnational assistance (Western or regional interventions). Do Local and Hybrid Security Forces in Afghanistan, Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan (hereinafter, “Iraq”), and Syria respond effectively, inclusively and comprehensively to human security concerns? Theories of Change for Local and Hybrid Security Forces mechanisms will be re-evaluated not only regarding transnational security implications, but also regarding community perspectives and legitimacy, rule of law and state-building priorities, and protection concerns. This balance of research questions is necessary to fully reflect how such mechanisms balance comprehensive human security concerns in practice. Three case studies of Local and Hybrid Security Forces mechanisms will draw from stakeholder interviews together with in-depth qualitative field research in affected communities (based on careful risk assessment) that will better assess community perspectives, practical implementation issues, and evolving conflict dynamics (particularly transnational). Findings will inform an overview paper, policy briefs for direct stakeholders, and thematic issues across both regions. Research will be interwoven with stakeholder outreach to ensure a constant feedback loop with practitioners and policymakers, and greater likelihood of adoption of findings. Project partners will leverage extensive practitioner networks in the US, Europe and relevant international organizations to maximize knowledge sharing, including through a major event in Washington, DC. Iraq and Afghanistan partners will utilize existing ties with local governments, foreign donors and local communities to hold informal knowledge sharing roundtables. Employing local researchers in research will further enhance local voices and capacity development in two target Lower and Middle Income Countries.

About the Security and Rule of Law research programme

The research agenda of the research programme Security & Rule of Law was formulated by the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law, installed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands. The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development, is responsible for managing the programme.

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Source: NWO