From Congo to Mali, efforts to restore human security should start at the community level

24 January 2013

At a time of increasing foreign intervention in conflict-affected states in Africa, new research from the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) suggests that efforts to restore human security in these countries must start at the community level rather than at the national level. 

Peacekeeping in Monrovia

Good governance has long been seen as key to restoring stability and prosperity to conflict-affected states and current international efforts and donor interventions have placed significant emphasis on reinstating formal governance structures at the national level. However, the latest IDS Bulletin entitled Piecing it Together: Post-Conflict Security in an Africa of Networked, Multilevel Governance questions whether this is the right approach in countries where power and authority are often located at the local level or outside of formal institutions. Its findings are based on research undertaken in Mali, Sierra Leone, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Cote d'Ivoire and Somalia.

Professor David Leonard, a leading expert on conflict-affected states in Africa and editor of the Bulletin, says: “Far too much effort in reconstruction efforts in places like Mali, Sierra Leone, Somalia, and the DRC have been focused on supporting national governments, using a top-down approach to resolving the conflicts. Our research suggests that international peacekeeping will only be effective when it gives priority to engagement with local groups, their militias and local authorities like the police and law courts. In these places the national disruption and power struggles work their way into the social fabric at a community level, where they sustain the fighting.”

The research will form the basis for discussion at a high level panel debate, Restoring human security to conflict affected and fragile states: rethinking what works, taking place in Brussels today.  

The event provides a timely opportunity to bring together policymakers, practitioners and academics to examine how findings from this research can help inform local, national, regional and international efforts to restore human security to conflict affected states and improve the wellbeing of their citizens.  

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Niagalé Bagayoko, recent fellow at the Institute of Development Studies and editor of the IDS Bulletin Hybrid Security Orders in Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Comfort Ero, Africa Program Director, International Crisis Group 
  • Denisa-Elena Ionete, Head of Fragility and Crisis Management Unit within EuropeAid at European Commission 
  • Professor David Leonard, Visiting Fellow, Institute of Development Studies and editor of the IDS Bulletin Piecing it Together: Post-conflict Security in an Africa of Networked, Multilevel Governance
  • Jeremy Lester, Conflict Prevention and Peacebuilding Adviser, External Action Service of the European Union 
  • Howard Mollett, Senior Conflict Policy Advisor, Care International UK 
  • Professor Ferdinand Mugumo Mushi, Catholic University of Kinshasa

IDS will also be co-convening in event in the House of Commons, Westminster, with the Africa All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Tuesday 29 January.

If you would like to attend the event, please contact Hannah Corbett on +44 (0)1273 915649 or