International Alert recently delivered a three-day training on conflict-sensitivity and ethics to 30 officers from the Liberian National Police.
The training was held in Gbarnga and forms part of Alert’s two-year project called Security actions for everyone (SAFE), which aims to strengthen accountable and transparent relations and build trust between police and citizens in Liberia.
It enabled participants to improve their understanding of concepts such as peace, conflict, violence and conflict-sensitivity in the Liberian context. A baseline survey conducted prior to the training had found that 11% of the participating officers had no knowledge of conflict as a concept, 21% had no understanding of conflict-sensitivity, whilst another 11% had no knowledge of violence and 7% said they knew nothing about gender.
Throughout the training it became clear that the majority of officers understood conflict in very simplistic terms as something inherently bad that should be avoided and eradicated. The first part of the programme focused on exploring the police’s engagement with their local communities and the remainder was spent refreshing the officers’ understanding of their code of conduct.
The SAFE project was partly set up to address the lack of trust towards the government’s response to the Ebola epidemic in 2014, as identified by International Alert in a study conducted last year. It was therefore perhaps not surprising when police officers were sometimes unable to understand the relationship between cultural and structural violence with regard to their mandate.
A combination of exercises helped officers understand conflict dynamics in the communities where they operate. As one participant called Chief Superintendent Prince Gittens put it: “Conflict-sensitivity is about knowing who is involved in the conflict, why the conflict is occurring and knowing how to resolve it."
SAFE is funded by the European Union (EU) and the Embassy of Sweden, and this training was delivered in partnership with the Centre for Justice and Peace Studies (CJPS) and the Liberia National Law Enforcement Association (LINLEA).