Thematic program 

The thematic focus of the Platform’s programmatic and research activities has been established by the Steering Group through a consultative process within the network, by building on prior research, activities and programmatic focus, while adopting a forward-looking approach to incorporate emerging challenges. The priority areas of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ security and rule of law policy remain a guiding factor in the work of the Platform. 

The activities undertaken by the Platform will all revolve around further understanding, testing and challenging the following three focus areas:

Which balance to adopt in addressing current and emerging transnational security challenges?

The world is faced with tremendous security challenges related to large-scale transnational organized crime, radicalization and political extremism, growing threats by non-State armed actors and mass population movements. Declining aid budgets and an increasing donor focus on refugee crisis response have implications for the prioritization in humanitarian, security, and development interventions as well as the resulting quality and scale of these interventions. Increasing attention is directed towards short-term security needs as perceived by the Western donor community, including border control and counter-terrorism. This occurs to the detriment of responding to underlying causes of conflict and long-term development challenges, the apparent need for sustainable investment in inclusive and just societies, as well as a coherent and durable response to the refugee crisis that fully acknowledges the interconnectedness between the refugee crisis, aggressive foreign policies, violent conflict, politicized and/or misspent ODA, and exploitative economics.


  • Mindful of lessons learned of our policies and programming, how could donor-supported security programs developed to control and regulate mass population movements be designed so as to be more responsive to the causes, dynamics and consequences of migration and displacement, in a manner that is conflict-sensitive and aware of existing power structures.
  • Moving beyond law enforcement and humanitarian band-aids: addressing underlying drivers and locally grounded understandings of instability, injustice and violent extremism (eg. political, socio-economic marginalization and exclusion) in order to foster inclusive State-building policy and practice, within a rule of law framework.
  • How to effectively deal with non-State armed actors in terms of mass atrocity prevention, engagement in peace negotiations, and political participation.

Towards more politically transformative rule of law support: working through informal justice systems and challenging state led injustices

Over the past decade, rule of law support has become an established element of the support package offered to countries in all stages of a conflict cycle, in order to either prevent, stop or deal with a history of violence, whereby the main focus lays on “access to justice” for citizens. Experiences in this field as well as the lessons that can be drawn from the evolution of revolutions and conflict in the Middle East and North Africa, have shed light on important blind spots. In light of the SDGs, in particular Goal 16, opportunities have arisen to move beyond the minimum standard they set and to take advantage of this momentum to craft the best possible policies.

A heavier policy focus seems to be needed on informal justice mechanisms, as these tend to increase access to justice and are often perceived as more legitimate in the eyes of the local population. Many however perpetuate or exacerbate forms of discrimination and exclusion which need to be grappled with, and flourish due to the shortcomings of the formal State mechanisms themselves.

Neither formal, nor informal justice systems are capable of dealing with crimes perpetrated with the complicity of the State, in particular in contexts where institutions serve the interests of those occupying the state. Yet, these are injustices that nurture social unrest and conflict. So far, little attention is drawn to this fact, let alone that there are practical entry points for addressing it. The Platform would like to spark a discussion to explore ways to address the blind spot of State injustices. 


  • Informal justice systems: How to work with, rather than around, local realities through informal justice mechanisms so as to explore novel approaches to support them?
  • State injustices: How to develop different approaches which tackle the creation of injustice by economic and social elites, rather than by working around it through technical approaches only, which contribute to fueling a key driver of conflict?
  • How to advance peace and justice in a manner that connects global norms with people’s actual needs and capacities in a locally appropriate and sensitive manner?

Innovative approaches to security & rule of law programming 

In spite of significant international engagement and funding in fragile and conflict-affected contexts, expected outcomes have not materialized. In the context of the SDGs, how can we move beyond shortcuts in the international community’s response and undertake actions which have a real impact, rather than resorting to interventions which look like they are effective but of which we know they will not be? And how to do so by navigating the increasing constraints imposed by shrinking civic and political space?

Contemporary insights on iterative program design which balance accountability, transparency and impact, while focusing on political feasibility, testing, learning and the incorporation of feedback loops will be taken as a baseline to discuss current challenges for our policy and programming.


  • How to best develop flexible, adaptive, and politically-savvy justice and security programming that takes account of risk taking, for impact to be likely in highly complex settings?
  • How to better connect donor and local accountability? And how to balance accountability and learning, in an environment where organizational learning cultures are nurtured?
  • How to integrate conflict analyses and gender analyses and avoid common pitfalls in designing, monitoring, and evaluating gender-sensitive research, policies and programs.
  • How to optimize the use of data in planning, monitoring and learning?