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An Invitation to Reflect with the Advisory Committee: SRoL & COVID-19


Dear KPSRL community,

The COVID-19 pandemic is not only a major threat to public health and the global economy. It also poses a serious challenge to rule of law and security around the world. COVID-19 is a global threat, affecting almost every country in the world. Yet the manifestations and impact vary significantly by location, both in terms of revealing vulnerabilities and deep inequalities across social groups,and through an explosion of social solidarity and innovation. At the same time the crisis offers up a transformative opportunity - a time to shift the focus from how we will survive the immediate threat, to its potential for catalyzing systemic change.

Last week we, the KPSRL Advisory Committee, held a virtual meeting to discuss how COVID-19 was impacting the work of the KPSRL community. We called in from Europe, the Middle East, the Horn of Africa, South Asia and the USA. Despite our differing lived experiences of COVID-19 restrictions - from advisories to enact physical distancing, to mandatory 24hr lockdowns enforced by security forces - we shared the same concerns and hopes for rule of law and security in the face of this global pandemic.

We strongly agreed that in this unprecedented time, an online community of practice that aims to facilitate mutual learning, build and shared evidence-based knowledge, influence policy and innovate implementation, is particularly necessary. This will help us respond to the immediate needs resulting from the COVID-19 threat, while also tackling many of the deep structural issues animated by the pandemic, but that our sector has been wrestling with for a long time.

In our meeting, we identified three broad issues where we would like to invite you, as members of this community, into discussion and reflection. In presenting these themes here, we hope to create a space for community members to share their perspectives on the risks and resilience, innovation and creativity emerging in our communities - and to harness insights to rethink how we might address the crisis now, and how we may work in the post-COVID-19 future.

1) From hard security to human security

COVID-19 cannot be defeated by a hard security approach. This is not a 'war' and the 'enemy' cannot be defeated by a commanding officer or a strong military. Yet government responses to the crisis are revealing embedded patterns of violence and authoritarianism around the globe. In the words of Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Counter Terrorism, "We could have a parallel epidemic of authoritarian and repressive measures following...on the heels of health pandemic."1 Violence - in the home and on the streets - is occuring with impunity. Declarations of emergency powers are eroding fundamental rights in disproportionate and unjustified ways. Police crackdowns target those with little recourse to 'shelter in place'. Human Rights and personal privacy are being falsely set up as acceptable trade-offs to coutner the virus's spread. Certain groups are exploiting rhetorics of COVID-19 as a 'foreign' threat to exacerbate tensions and fuel conflict. Justice and security institutions have been ill-prepared for the present crisis. Together these factors are weakening the rule of law and promoting insecurity in a broader sense. Overcoming the COVID-19 threat will require us to have serious conversations about reviving the human security agenda in its original form. That is, to place issues such as civil liberties, rights, health, food security and shelter firmly back on the security agenda.

What have you seen?

How is the COVID-19 threat perceived and experienced in your community?

Is now the time to rethink our understanding of 'security'? And if so, how and why?

Please click here to contribute your reflections to the 1st prompt. (Les réflexions et les suggestions en français sont également les bienvenues).


2) From structural inequalities to local solutions

The topic of the 2018 KPSRL Annual Conference was Inequality, highlighting its symbiotic relationship with insecurity and injustice. Today the COVID-19 crisis has irrefutably revealed the structural fault lines of social, economic and political inequality and exclusion within and across communities around the world. These gaps are seen at all levels and across all societies, whether in the global North or the global South. They relate not only to access to healthcare, but access to housing, services, education, the digital divide, and more. They are both gendered and generational, and statistics in the US for example, already demonstrate the disproportionate impact on people of color and on the poor. COVID-19 and the government measures taken to respond to it are revealing vulnerabilities in highly specific and contextaulized ways. At the same time there has been a newfounded explosion of energy and innovation at the local and community level. Civic action and social movements are emerging from increased recognition of the interconnection between neighbors, communities, and society. In the midst of calls for physical distancing, across the globe, communities are demonstrating resilient forms of social cohesion and connectedness. Community members are mobilizing to address failings in government responses, whether in food distribution, the dissemination of information, or even in challenging the political overreach of governing actors, the militarization of responses or the disproportionate and unlawful actions of security actors in enforcing containment measures. In this way, an important conversation is being started around how authority, public trust and legitimacy are earned, key issues that will shape the space for collective and preventative action.

What have you seen?

How can the energy of community mobilization be harnessed and sustained beyond the crisis?

How is leadership being (re)defined by COVID-19? How is community being (re)defined COVID-19?

What innovations are emerging that could be replicated in other places?

Please click here to contribute your reflections to the 2nd prompt. (Les réflexions et les suggestions en français sont également les bienvenues).


3) From adaptive to transformative resilience

COVID-19 is challenging the resilience of individuals and communities around the world. Some of these communities have been tested by and navigated similar pandemics before, such as West African countries, or the DRC, while in the grips of Ebola. For others, this is an unprecedented time. COVID-19 offers an opportunity to expand our approach to resilience, to focus not only on how to survive this natural threat (adaptive resilience), but on how we can achieve transformative resilience. While the novel corona virus poses a global health risk, the present crisis, entagled with underlying fault-lines of injustice and insecurity, is much more expansive. And so too must be the response. The security and justice issues outlined above are not merely symptoms of a chaotic period. Rather, these structures of exclusion, repression and inequality have weakened our social systems, making societies more vulnerable to disintegration in times of duress; times like these. Seen this way, resilience is not about simply absorbing the shock. It is about fundamentally reshaping societies in order to prevent future upheavals. This requires us to reframe our ideas of local responses to local challenges, to rethink our approaches to programming and funding, and to ensure we have the systems in place to enable this change. As we face this global crisis together, now is the moment to reflect, to reconsider what we thought we knew, to learn, to share and support one another moving forward.

What have you seen?

How would you describe resilience in your own community, specifically with regards to justice, rule of law, enforcement, peacebuilding, human security, conflict and/or mediation?

Considering how some societies have navigated crises like this before, what opportunities might the COVID-19 pandemic offer us to build upon? What is required to make that change happen?

Please click here to contribute your reflections to the 3rd prompt. (Les réflexions et les suggestions en français sont également les bienvenues).


As rule of law and security practitioners ourselves, we have many questions without yet finding the answers. However, we hope that by harnessing the collective knowledge and experiences of the KPSRL community, we will be able to unpack these issues together. We also hope that through the KPSRL we can give voice to the lived experienced that have not yet received the attention they deserve.

From the KPSRL Advisory Committee


Please click here to contribute your reflections to the 1st prompt.


Please click here to contribute your reflections to the 2nd prompt.


Please click here to contribute your reflections to the 3rd prompt.


Les réflexions et les suggestions en français sont également les bienvenues.



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