Setting the Aperture Wider: A synthesis of research and policy advice on security pluralism in Tunis, Nairobi and Beirut
In contexts of security pluralism, an array of actors assert claims on the use of force, and with varying relationships to the state. Yet, plural security actors are frequently associated with human rights violations, perverse interface with the state, difficulty in providing security equitably in contexts of diversity, and an almost ineluctable tendency toward net production of insecurity over time.
Donors have few policy or practical tools with which to engage meaningfully in contexts of plural security provision. Since directly engaging plural security providers would mean upsetting relationships with state partners, conferring legitimacy on groups with unpalatable goals or tactics, or tacitly endorsing violence as a path to political privilege, donors prefer to focus on official security agencies and state oversight.
Plural Security Insights and its partners have developed the research project outlined here to address that dearth of relevant policy and programming advice. Comparative research was conducted in three urban contexts: Beirut, Nairobi, and Tunis. Key findings include:
Where security is highly fragmented, powerful actors are able to organise security arrange- ments that benefit them, and public oversight is difficult to assert. Security as a ‘public good’ cannot be assumed as an operational starting point.
Security assistance interventions in contexts of security pluralism should promote public oversight, standards of practice and divisions of labour for all providers. Supporting one type of provider inevitably privileges some groups and interests over others.
Intermediate steps between relational and rules-based arrangements for security provision may be preferable to conventional approaches that focus exclusively on building the capacity of state institutions.
Efforts to foster stronger, safer communities should pay equal attention to the social determinants of security that maintain order and foster resilience, by encouraging social cohesion, addressing exclusion and ensuring adequate public service provision.