For large parts of the population in West Africa, political participation and contribution to public circles is impaired by a number of challenges. Women and young people, in particular, might face cultural, economic or political obstacles when attempting to make their voices heard.
In the framework of a training project covering Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, Alert has trained a number of facilitators who conduct workshops for groups of women and young people. These workshops empower traditionally excluded groups and assist them in planning activities which will help them to contribute meaningfully to the political debates in their respective contexts.
This publication is a toolkit, a resource pack for facilitators from Liberia. Sierra Leone and Guinea. Published in French and English, it provides a number of exercises which can be used to foster discussions and reflections around analysis, visioning, skills-building and planning to enhance the political participation of women and youth.
International Alert has worked in West Africa for many years, and has a long association with Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, the original member countries of the Mano River Union (MRU)1. Since 2007 much of its focus in the region has been on gender issues in peacebuilding. International Alert’s work uses UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace and security as a way of addressing women’s priorities in peacebuilding.
This briefing note seeks to contribute to the knowledge on Resolution 1325, building on International Alert’s work in the MRU region during the last few years. The first section briefly discusses the need to adjust the approach to implementing Resolution 1325 in challenging contexts such as post-conflict Sierra Leone and Liberia and conflict-prone Guinea. Based on a brief discussion of salient issues and thematic priorities across the three countries, the subsequent section sketches the contours of a comprehensive agenda for implementing Resolution 1325 in the MRU region. The three components of this agenda are addressing women's security needs, enhancing their political participation, and implementing gender equality legislation and policies. The briefing note ends with the following four broad recommendations to sustain and enhance work on Resolution 1325 in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone:
1. Working (better) with what exists: Engage custodians of the customary justice system.
2. Address sexual and gender-based violence: Mobilise communities through change agents.
3. Economics matters: Address the economic dimension of gender, peace and security.
4. From plans to action: Make smart investments in civil society.
Sexual and gender-based violence in the MRU
Sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) has been one of the major legacies of the 14-year (1989-2003) regional conflict in the Mano River Union (MRU). In response, in 2008 International Alert and its partners designed an initiative targeting war-affected communities in nine border areas of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. This Human Security in the MRU project has challenged knowledge, attitudes and practices concerning SGBV in order to reduce perpetration and the stigmatisation of survivors, and provided information, counselling and advocacy in order to guide men and women through prevention and redress actions. This report aims to capture the experiences of the project in the context of work in three interlinked but quite specific country contexts. It looks at the extent of SGBV and domestic violence as experienced in the target communities, details the challenges and best practices of project staff in their attempts to raise awareness and change attitudes and practices, and analyses the particular challenges of providing security and accessing justice (statutory or customary) in the various target communities. It concludes with a series of recommendations for the improved provision of security and justice for women, girls and other vulnerable groups within the MRU.
In spite of its huge reserves of gold, bauxite, iron ore and widespread forests, Guinea is one of the least developed countries in the world. International Alert started its engagement in Guinea in 2006. At that time, Lansana Conté, president of Guinea since 1984, was still in power. Political tension had simmered for years as a government that tightly controlled electoral processes constantly challenged multi-party democracy.
International Alert recently conducted research into perceptions of security and access to justice among stakeholders in three districts of Lofa County in northwest Liberia, as part of its EC-funded Initiative for Peacebuilding (IfP) project. The eruption of communal violence in Voinjama while Alert’s team was visiting the county seat provided a stark reminder of the fragility of peace in Liberia and the challenges of security provision in a remote and sensitive region.
As part of the Human Security Project, International Alert Guinea recently held a series of workshops in the town of N’zerekore, in Guinea’s forest region, aimed at reducing sexual violence against women and improving access to justice for women and girl victims.
As the people of Guinea were preparing to go to the polls to cast their vote to elect their president on 27th June 2010, the West Africa programme in collaboration with the Mediation Support Project – a joint venture between swisspeace and the Center for Security Studies (ETH-Zurich) – ran four mediation training workshops during May 2010 in N’zérékoré, Conakry, Labe and Kankan.
The Republic of Guinea in West Africa is rich in natural resources, but its people remain poor. Guineans have endured decades of autocratic governance, but they currently have an opportunity to turn a new corner towards a more democratic future. International Alert has worked there for the past few years, helping Guineans seize this opportunity for change and with a particular focus on holding dialogues where people can discuss and envisage practical ways forward.
This report is prepared within the framework of the Diamonds for Development programme (D4D). The D4D directly targets the role that mineral resources have played in conflict and can play for development.
Based on a series of visits to working diamond mines, interviews with diggers, mine owners, traders, exporters, government officials and NGOs, the report describes the current state of the diamond industry in West Africa, providing both an overview of the sub-region and detailed analysis of each country. It identifies possible ways of using diamonds as a tool for development rather than a fuel for conflict, including how to deliver a larger part of the revenue from diamonds to the miners themselves and to the rural communities that host them, plus strategies for making artisanal mine owners more efficient and profitable and less financially dependent on the traders who buy their stones. It also suggests ways of improving cooperation and harmonising diamond policy at the regional and international level.
This conference was convened within the framework of the Diamonds for Development initiative (D4D), which focuses on the sustainable use of revenue from mineral resources for the purposes of development. It was organised by the Government of Liberia in partnership with UNDP Liberia and International Alert with the objective of identifying ways to ensure that the alluvial diamond sector contributes to sustainable peace and development in the Mano River Basin sub-region.
Report on the proceedings of the Diamonds for Development Sub-Regional Conference.