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Thank you for joining our 4th Annual Conference!


Hard Contexts, Hard Choices | #srolconf #hardchoices

How to tackle the Hard Choices that Security and Rule of Law policy, programming and knowledge exchange require in the Hard Contexts presented by fragile and conflict-affected settings? Guest experts from countries covering Libya, Burundi, Lebanon, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, Colombia, Germany, Kenya, Guatemala, The United States, Belgium, South Africa and France shared insights, and jointly identified avenues to adjust tools for interventions and chart the way forward with an eclectic mix of policymakers, practitioners and researchers. About 200 participants were asked to choose between the 24 featured parallel sessions, shaped and facilitated with the active involvement of a record-high of 32 Platform member organizations.

After the welcome remarks and an energizing negotiation exercise, Simone Filippini (Cordaid), Kathryn Nwajiaku-Dahou (International Dialogue on Peacebuilding and Statebuilding - OECD), Katy Thompson (UNDP), and Jelte van Wieren (The Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs) reflected in a moderated keynote conversation on the main tools, strategies and approaches that provide assistance in attempting to navigate the most difficult choices and challenges they face in working in these hard contexts. The experts stressed that we have no choice but to make hard choices; that we cannot compromise statebuilding engagement in violent situations; that we need to think politically about Rule of Law engagement; and that we need a better understanding of the intractability of violent conflicts.

 The majority of the day featured parallel sessions divided amongst the three conference themes, spiced up with several skills workshops.

Under theme 1 ‘Which balance to adopt in addressing current and emerging transnational security challenges ?’, some of the key takeaways included the recognition that State terrorism, corruption, exclusion, poverty and marginalization should not be forgotten in efforts to address violent extremism, which must be deployed within a rule of law framework. While criminalization by governments sends a strong message to the public, it is not the answer.

Meanwhile, the assumption that tackling unemployment in countries of origin will reduce the outflow of young migrants often proves to be wrong. Indeed, it fails to address the different labor expectations, the importance of social networks, or the opacity in existing employment systems.

The implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals through the current indicators risks creating perverse incentives. For Goal 16 in particular to matter, global, normative understandings of peace and justice need to be reconciled with more local needs and interpretations of justice. These were some of the key takeaways under theme 2‘Towards more politically transformative rule of law support of the conference's program.

Under theme 3 ‘Innovation in security and rule of law programming’, it was said that much remains to be learned to effectively adapt policy and programming to fragile contexts. Currently, organizational learning focuses heavily on the creation of knowledge alone, while much more attention to its transfer and retention within and amongst organizations is needed. This requires a clear vision be developed, which goes beyond individual learning so as to yield higher organisational returns and incorporates adequate incentive structures.

In order to adequately take into account the complexity of the situations we face, political economy analyses are another useful tool but need to become more flexible and adaptive. This requires looking at structural factors, levels of agency, and uncertainty.

Through the skills workshops, participants had the opportunity to enhance their research uptake skills, fine-tune their understanding of impact pathways, learn about behavioural change approaches, acquire a taste of crisis communication and get tips as to how to navigate power relations and structures in designing a range of campaigns and events so as to optimize impact.

A 'Bazaar of Publications' provided the opportunity to learn about the first research results and the work of the research consortia and other participants, both in hard copy and via a user-friendly conference app.

This year’s Conference aimed to contribute to delineating the Platform’s programmatic and research priorities, at the forefront of international developments and emerging challenges. It sought to foster innovative approaches to security and rule of law and showcased results by 16 represented NWO-WOTRO’s research projects, affiliated with the Platform. In an open and interactive atmosphere at the Bazaar of Ideas, enhanced in collaboration with an artist, participants had the opportunity to link up with a vibrant network of national and international security and rule of law professionals.

Key insights, ideas and proposed avenues will be gathered, charting the future directions and activities of the Platform. We are looking forward to continue to engage the Platform’s network in realizing our new programmatic and research agenda.

The summary report of the conference is now available here. Please keep an eye on the blog series inspired by the conference. All our publications are grouped under #srolconf and #hardchoices.

Kindly find here the timetable of the conference, and more information on the different breakout sessions.