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Workshop Report: Hybrid Security Orders

DCAF and Crisis Response Council hosted, on 22 and 23 March 2022, a group of experts for a closed-doors workshop in Geneva, Switzerland. The convened cohort explored important themes related to the complexities and challenges of hybrid security orders. These included managing hybrid actors, the political economy of violence, the role of international actors and the state, and the need to harmonize policy tracks in transitional processes. These themes were explored notably with reference to the Iraqi, Yemeni and Libyan contexts. This post-conference report aims to present some of the key discussion points and summarise recommendations issued during the conference.

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Key excerpts

Operationally accountable groups punish fighters when they break humanitarian law. On the other hand, strategic accountability focuses on the political motivations for groups to fight. Armed groups can have varying political objectives. Actors can be divided between secessionists and centre-seeking rebels, with the cohort agreeing that the former tend to have a greater tendency to respect international laws and norms. Some armed groups function as pro-government militias. Others are basically apolitical and operate more as organized crime.

To be sure, the international community must have a better set of policy actions in dealing with non- State actors become credible partners in the MENA region again. The Western (be it the US, NATO, EU, and its members states) focus on state-to-state support modalities must be revisited and possibly re- channelled. While this switch is progressively happening with support programmes at the local level, it has yet to happen with armed groups (especially community-based ones), since the relationship between host government and armed groups are varied, both across and within contexts in the MENA region (e.g. some are part of governments, police or armies, some not; some get money from Central Banks, some not, etc).

Many armed groups naturally gravitate toward the central government because it is the centre of expenditures. The security sector itself is a business opportunity for these groups. While SSR cannot solve all of these issues, it underscores the inherently political nature of the exercise. When coupled with Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration (DDR) imperatives, the socio-economic sphere takes on a fundamental role: some participants in fact expressed that putting an emphasis on job creation (including through central bank initiatives in the public sector and corporate social responsibility initiatives in the private one) was a more sustainable alternative to short-term guarantee provision without conditions for real demobilization and disarmament.

The need to harmonize economic, political and security tracks is apparent. In the short-term, the political process must in fact reckon simultaneously with complex and interconnected issues, including which armed groups to integrate or demobilize, and relatedly, which part(s) of the informal economy could be formalized without creating security threats, among others. All of this, the cohort agreed, would require robust public oversight mechanisms over the security sector (notably in terms of public financial management and oversight of disbursement, procurement, etc.) – which fragile contexts in the MENA region lack.


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