What do we do to support communities?

Overview

Overview

AOAV has prioritized engaging vulnerable young men in all its livelihood, conflict transformation, and community strengthening programmes. Providing this population with technical (and life) skills, guidance, counselling, and employment opportunities can reverberate throughout their communities, encouraging economic development and stability.

7745475038_4f44a4b497_c

Following 14 years of civil war that ended in 2003, a generation of war affected youth across Liberia have missed education, socialisation and training opportunities.

Geographically, AOAV has tends to focus its community-based efforts on “hot spots”: locations with a history of conflict and violence, including urban areas and border zones.

In Liberia, AOAV has provided life and employment skills, counselling, and job placement assistance to thousands of at-risk youth and former combatants from vulnerable communities over the past 6 years, consisting of three to six month programmes held in four training centres across the country.

AOAV works in disadvantaged and violence-affected urban areas in neighbourhoods around Monrovia, deploying Conflict Transformation Teams (CTTs), opening community youth centres, and improving police-community relations through enhanced dialogue and problem-solving sessions.

AOAV is also building the capacity of community watch groups in underserved communities along the Liberia-Sierra Leone border, assisting them in violence monitoring and prevention and helping them build stronger links to regional security hubs and border police.

In Burundi, AOAV and its local partners provide psychosocial counselling to those impacted by armed violence and conflict in order to help victims recover psychologically, rebuild their lives, and integrate into their communities.

Looking forward, AOAV has begun to explore programming specifically in the problem of urban violence, including the problem of gang violence, organized crime, and drug trafficking.

 

SUPPORTING COMMUNITIES THROUGH INSTITUTIONS

Action on Armed Violence helps build institutions at the international, regional, national, and local levels that help prevent armed violence and mitigate its impact on people. AOAV is one of the leaders of Global Alliance on Armed Violence (GAAV), a coalition of local and global leaders committed to reducing armed violence that shares best practices on armed violence monitoring and analysis around the world.

AOAV has provided mentoring to and conducted joint research with SEHLAC (Seguridad Humana en Latinoamerica y el Caribe), a regional network composed of Latin American experts and organisations that shares ideas, debates armed violence reduction strategies, and lobbies regional leaders to focus greater attention on armed violence.

AOAV has also been very active at the national and local levels in over a half dozen countries in Africa. AOAV has been working with Nigerian NGOs to form a national Working Group on Armed Violence that will measure the incidence and impact of armed violence across the country. AOAV has also begun to support government bodies such as the Sierra Leone National Commission on Small Arms (SLeNCSA) and the Polisario Ministry of Defense in Western Sahara as they address issues of weapons stockpile management and landmine action, respectively.

AOAV supports survivors’ groups as they plan and conduct advocacy and public awareness campaigns on the rights of armed violence victims and the disabled and lobby for legislative and regulatory reforms to better address their needs.

COUNTING THE COST

In its work on the ground, AOAV is committed to building a better understanding of the costs of armed violence through short studies, nationwide assessments, and ongoing monitoring of armed violence.

AOAV does this to inform evidence-based strategies that will be used by governments and civil society to address armed violence in a targeted and effective way.

Screen Shot 2013-09-26 at 16.01.13

The Liberian Observatory on Armed Violence regularly gathers, analyses and reports on incidents of armed violence across Liberia.

The observatory exists to promote and inform positive change. Currently being developed into a national facility, it aims to be managed by a working group of over 20 members, including government and non-governmental bodies, academics, the media, and international organisations.

AOAV is working with partners to develop similar facilities in Burundi, Sierra Leone and Nigeria, and also works with partners in Latin America and the Caribbean to better understand the impact of armed violence in the region.

Counting the Cost

Counting the Cost

AOAV considers that understanding armed violence is the first critical step to reducing its incidence and impact. Empirical evidence informs effective, practical and targeted initiatives to reduce and address armed violence on the ground.

AOAV does this in a number of ways, through its policy and advocacy work and through its work in countries affected by armed violence.

Armed Violence Assessments

In order to better understand the incidence, types, trends and drivers of armed violence in the countries in which AOAV works, we have conducted systematic and detailed baseline assessments which gives us a picture of both the incidence and perception of armed violence in communities as well as informs our projects.  AOAV conducted a city-wide assessment in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, in 2011 and a national assessment in Sierra Leone in 2013.  Read the full assessments here.

Armed Violence Observatories

As a way to systematically and regularly capture data on armed violence, AOAV has worked with stakeholders in Liberia, Burundi and Sierra Leone to facilitate the establishment of Armed Violence Observatories (AVOs).  AVOs bring together government institutions, civil society organisations and the media which capture data on armed violence incidents in the course of their everyday work, such as the police, local hospitals, NGOs and newspapers, to collect, store and analyse this data in one place.  In this way, different stakeholders have access to the same important data for their own needs, but crucially are also provided with a space to make collective decisions on preventing and reducing armed violence.  Read more about the Observatories AOAV has helped establish, including their reports on armed violence, here.

 

Supporting Governments

Supporting Governments

Improving security in border communities

AOAV works with community watch groups in the border areas of Liberia and Sierra Leone to address lingering insecurity, build local capacity to respond to violent crime, and improve trust between communities and formal security providers.

Both Liberia and Sierra Leone have emerged from civil wars in the last decade. While overall security has greatly improved, many remote areas remain out of reach of formal security apparatus, such as the Liberian National Police, and provide little information about incidents of violent crime and how they respond to it. The border between these countries, rich in diamonds and other natural resources, was used as a staging post for violence during the wars, as well as a battleground in its own right.

Today, formal government security mechanisms are limited, with a lack of equipment, facilities, and access preventing them from playing an active part in violence prevention or responsiveness in the district. As a result, security and justice are carried out within communities, and vigilante groups are active throughout the area.

Based on the findings of a 2012 border area survey, AOAV is working with a local NGO and regional security providers to mentor 10 community watch groups in Grand Cape Mount County, the westernmost county in Liberia. The project aims to increase the capacity of these groups to document and respond to violent crime in a responsible, legal manner.

AOAV will provide sensitization training according to the requirements of the local community, particularly regarding vulnerable groups such as women and children, and train community watch teams to monitor, document, and report on crime and violence. AOAV also coordinates with local police to encourage and improve trust and cooperation between formal security providers and community watch teams.

Border Area Assessment Report

In 2012, AOAV conducted a border area survey to better understand how border communities perceive violence and insecurity and assess their capacity to respond to violent crime. The report found five main themes among the key issues that contribute to violence in the region:

-Poverty: Poverty was commonly identified as the central cause of crime and violence on the border, primarily as a result of an increase in risky behavior, unequal access to resources, and lack of security provision.

-Justice: Justice is most commonly carried out within the community. While police and formal courts are recognized as legitimate security providers, communities identified poverty, power dynamics, and corruption as barriers to accessing justice.

-Gender-based violence (GBV): Women and girls were frequently identified as a ‘vulnerable group’ in the communities surveyed, and alcohol was commonly mentioned as a factor contributing to rape and domestic violence.

-Land disputes and other causes of tension: Land disputes were by far the most commonly reported cause of tension. Political issues were identified as a cause of tension more frequently in Sierra Leone than in Liberia.

-Youth: Respondents were generally positive about the role that youth can play in communities and recognized that they face many challenges due to lack of employment, education, and training opportunities.

AOAV conducted capacity assessments with 21 local NGOs based in the border areas of Liberia and Sierra Leone, focusing on the size, organizational capacity, and relevance of their programming to armed violence reduction and prevention. While the majority of these organizations do not focus directly on armed violence reduction programming, many address the underlying issues, particularly through supporting the youth population.

The following key recommendations were developed based on the border area assessment:

1.     Jobs and development in border areas: While significant progress has been made in terms of post-war gains in peace and security, there remains a perception of marginalization among respondents with regard to basic services and job creation.

2.     Focus on youth: Youth is a key concern for border communities, both as potential perpetrators and victims of crime and violence, and more should be done to ensure that youth are supported in remote border areas where vulnerability can be most acute.

3.     Support for conflict prevention and resolution in remote communities: Community watch teams can play a vital role in promoting secure communities, but their relationship with police needs to be carefully managed if they are to retain support. As justice is mainly carried out within the community, ongoing support should be available to ensure that this continues in a structured manner.

4.     Increased support is needed for local NGOs and networks on and across the border: As border communities are organizing themselves, structured support over time will assist with the development of an active civil society where border communities are better able to access resources and advocate for their rights.

5.     Capacity support for police and justice institutions: As many communities rely primarily on their own justice systems and lack resources, knowledge, and faith in formal systems to regularly access them, the capacity of police and formal courts needs to be greatly expanded in order to build trust and respect between citizens and the state.

The final report will be available in late 2013.

Armed violence networks

Armed violence networks

SEHLAC
AOAV works with partners in Latin America and the Caribbean to better understand the impact of armed violence in the region. In collaboration with the working group SEHLAC (Seguridad humana en latinoamerica y el Caribe) we research national capacities to understand and address the problem and we carry out advocacy work with governments to ensure that armed violence is addressed effectively.

GAAV
Global alliance on Armed Violence

NWGAV
We work in Nigeria with the Nigerian Working Group on Armed Violence.

Mapping key efforts to prevent & reduce armed violence

9491479824_b6cd85aec9_z

A member of the NWGAV during a report planning meeting in Abuja in August 2012

What?
The mapping aims to provide an overview of “who does what” in the field of Armed Violence Prevention and Reduction (AVPR) in Nigeria. It seeks to identify key actors and organisations to map the scope, scale and nature of their major interventions and to review the existing legislation related to armed violence.

Who?
The mapping is conducted by the members of the Nigeria Working Group on Armed Violence (NWGAV) and selected civil society partners who are collaborating with AOAV during the length of the project. The Women’s Right to Education Programme (WREP) acts as a national focal point for the NWGAV.

INEW
We work with INEW

 

Reports

Reports

LATIN AMERICA & CARIBBEAN

Best practices to prevent and reduce armed violence: Prevention as a key element in building citizen security and coexistence – November 2012

The second article in the series discusses Bogota’s successful public policies to prevent and reduce armed violence. It provides insights into the combination of prevention and improved law enforcement which has significantly reduced crime and homicide rates in Colombia’s capital city over the last twenty years.

The original Spanish version is available here.

Women as victims: How can you explain that God knows what he is doing? And lets them take away my son? – September 2012

SEHLAC is publishing a series of articles on topics related to armed violence prevention and reduction in Latin America, selected for their timeliness and relevance to the region. The first article highlights the situation of women as direct and indirect victims in the case of Venezuela. It shows that, even though the majority of the dead are male, the women and families who are left carry the brunt of armed violence. It focuses on the people who grief and highlights the impacts on their lives.

The original Spanish version is available here.

States’ capacities to address armed violence in Latin America and the Caribbean AOAV-SEHLAC – May 2012

Layout 1This report looks at national capacities to address the issue of armed violence of 12 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. In particular, the report documents states’ efforts to:
– Measure, monitor and analyse the phenomenon of armed violence
– Develop and implement legal instruments and programmes to address victims’ rights
– Develop and implement legal instruments and programmes to prevent and reduce armed violence.

The original Spanish version is available here.

Instruments for measuring armed violence in Latin America and the Caribbean – June 2010

This document offers an overview of existing government efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean to measure and monitor armed violence. It looks at types of data collected, at the institutions in charge of collecting the information and it analyses some of the issues related to the use of the collected data. This is a preliminary report that is followed by a complete regional overview to be published in October 2011.

 

NIGERIA

Mapping efforts against armed violence in Nigeria – June 2013

Cover NigeriaFinalReport-1To get a better idea of “who does what” in the prevention and reduction of armed violence, the Nigeria Working Group on Armed Violence and Action on Armed Violence have mapped more than 500 organisations – mainly from civil society, but also from government, academia, and international organisations – and their projects tackling violence.

This report presents a first overview of the findings, with a special focus on the role of NGOs and faith-based organisations.

 

LIBERIA

Designing for impact coverDesigning for impact: Lessons from AOAV’s vocational training for vulnerable youth in Liberia

Info Sheet Agricultural Training Programmes In Liberia

AOAV operates an innovative vocational training and rehabilitation programme model in Liberia for ex-combatants and high risk youth who pose a threat to national and regional security. In partnership with the Ministry of Youth and Sport, AOAV has implemented this programme in several training sites across Liberia since 2007, enabling at-risk youth to earn incomes through legal livelihoods, reducing their vulnerability to engaging in conflict, and empowering them to become responsible and peaceful members of society.

 

Tumutu Agricultural Training Programme for ex-combatants and vulnerable youth – Monitoring and Evaluation Report – November 2010

A report evaluating the success of socio-economic reintegration among TATP graduates in Liberia; based on internal M&E visits conducted by AOAV.

 

Vulnerable Youth Feasibility Study – September-December 2006

The results of this feasibility study formed the basis of AOAV’s vocational agricultural training programmes in Liberia.

 

SIERRA LEONE

Sierra Leone Armed Violence Baseline Survey Report – 2013

Cover Sierra Leone Armed Violence Baseline Survey Report-1This report presents findings of a 2012 nationwide baseline assessment of armed violence. The research included key stakeholder interviews, a nationwide household survey, focus group discussions and a literature review.

The research was conducted jointly by AOAV and SLANSA (the Sierra Leone Action Network on Small Arms).

 

 

LATIN AMERICA

Best practices to prevent and reduce armed violence: Prevention as a key element in building citizen security and coexistence – November 2012

The second article in the series discusses Bogota’s successful public policies to prevent and reduce armed violence. It provides insights into the combination of prevention and improved law enforcement which has significantly reduced crime and homicide rates in Colombia’s capital city over the last twenty years.

The original Spanish version is available here.

 

Women as victims: How can you explain that God knows what he is doing? And lets them take away my son? – September 2012

SEHLAC is publishing a series of articles on topics related to armed violence prevention and reduction in Latin America, selected for their timeliness and relevance to the region. The first article highlights the situation of women as direct and indirect victims in the case of Venezuela. It shows that, even though the majority of the dead are male, the women and families who are left carry the brunt of armed violence. It focuses on the people who grief and highlights the impacts on their lives.

The original Spanish version is available here.

States’ capacities to address armed violence in Latin America and the Caribbean AOAV-SEHLAC – May 2012

Layout 1This report looks at national capacities to address the issue of armed violence of 12 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. In particular, the report documents states’ efforts to:
– Measure, monitor and analyse the phenomenon of armed violence
– Develop and implement legal instruments and programmes to address victims’ rights
– Develop and implement legal instruments and programmes to prevent and reduce armed violence.

The original Spanish version is available here.

Instruments for measuring armed violence in Latin America and the Caribbean – June 2010

This document offers an overview of existing government efforts in Latin America and the Caribbean to measure and monitor armed violence. It looks at types of data collected, at the institutions in charge of collecting the information and it analyses some of the issues related to the use of the collected data. This is a preliminary report that is followed by a complete regional overview to be published in October 2011.

Policy positions

Policy positions

Supporting Communities: policy positions

Within both formal and informal institutions – such as government, civil society, media, laws, policies, culture, traditions – lies the potential for dampening the incidence and impact of armed violence. However, these same institutions can also encourage or even accelerate the dynamics of armed violence. AOAV works internationally, regionally, nationally, and locally to bolster existing institutions’ ability to reduce armed violence and support its victims, and looks to create enabling institutions where none exist.

10441694975_c2515c6974_zFormal institutions are critical components to any effort to reduce armed violence and mitigate its impact. Government bodies, notably those from the security and justice sectors but also health, social services and municipal authorities (among others), have a leading role to play in addressing armed violence. The legal framework, regulations, policies, practices, and informal norms that guide government action typically need to be changed in order to better mitigate armed violence and support those it victimises. Often underestimated is the need to coordinate action across implementers, programmes, and often international donors and NGOs; quite often relevant coordination bodies are weak or non-existent.

In addition to government institutions, other sectors should be mobilized to address the problem of armed violence. Local NGOs, community based organizations, businesses, and the media, as well as traditional and religious leaders, have proven in numerous contexts to be as or more critical to solving serious social problems. The Nobel-prize winning efforts by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) network, of which AOAV was an active member, as well as dozens of inspirational leaders – such as Diana Princess of Wales, Jody Williams, Queen Noor of Jordan, and survivors such as Tun Channareth, Song Kosal, Margaret Arech Orech – to pass the Land Mine Ban is a notable example of the power of non-governmental actors to affect change. The joint effort between civil society organisations and the Catholic Church to negotiate a gang truce in El Salvador, which overnight reduced the number of murders by half, is another example of the extraordinary impact of non-governmental actors.

In addition to formal bodies, informal institutions must be mobilized to reduce armed violence over the long term. Authorities struggle to implement laws and programmes in any country when the underlying society and culture is unsupportive; changing social and political norms, informal traditions, and long-standing cultural and religious practices is often crucial to tackling a problem as multi-faceted as armed violence. Public sensitization campaigns, efforts to prevent election-related violence, and encouraging traditional and religious leaders to speak out against weapons and suicide bombing are just some examples of what can be done to influence informal institutions.

 

Counting the Cost

At policy level, AOAV advocates for comprehensive casualty recording and for the regular production of national reports on armed violence.

Man digs a grave for a future casualty of Syria's civil war, at Sheikh Saeed cemetery in Azaz city

Counting the cost of armed violence for people means quantifying its impact on civilians. Recording the numbers of civilians killed and injured is one of the best ways to do this.

To this end, AOAV aims to ensure that every country sees recording casualties as an obligation and a clear sign of accountability towards its citizens. Being properly recorded and identified is a basic right of every victim of armed violence and can help fulfilling other rights, such as access to healthcare.

Casualty recording can also be an effective way to prevent and reduce armed violence by providing hard evidence of the true impact of armed violence.

The evidence gathered by AOAV and partners informs targeted advocacy efforts towards an international obligation to record casualties.

AOAV also aims to increase the number of countries producing national reports on security and armed violence. These reports inform and direct governmental responses to the problem of armed violence. They reflect a commitment from countries to acknowledge and address the problem of armed violence, and they lead the way to effective programmes that support the most vulnerable populations.

In line with its programmatic approach, AOAV believes best practise requires both government and non-governmental institutions to engage with these reports. Such collaboration ensures that the reports maintain commitment beyond the political life of the government, generate a wider dialogue about the national response to armed violence, and help coordinate real-life responses to the problem.

 

WORKING WITH COMMUNITIES
While armed violence is problem that people can understand and debate at the global, regional, and even national levels, the impact of armed violence is felt most strongly by those at the local level. Streets, neighbourhoods, communities, and cities are most often the locus of efforts to practically reduce armed violence that are impacting peoples’ daily lives. AOAV is committed to supporting community-based solutions to the problem of armed violence through its research, policy work, and on the ground programmes.

Tumutu

The problem of armed violence is tends to be most serious in locations with high levels of income inequality, significant ownership of arms, high unemployment, limited or weak government services (especially in the provision of security and justice), and a history of social tension and violent conflict. Another critical factor is the size of the youth population and the availability and quality of education and employment opportunities available; where these are in short supply, instability and armed violence tend to follow.

According to the World Bank[1], approximately 1.3 billion youth live in developing countries, where many youth lack basic education, marketable skills, sufficient employment, and opportunities to engage in the social and political life of their communities. In Afghanistan (68% of the population under 25 years old), the Palestinian Territories (67%), and across West Africa (40%), large populations of underemployed and vulnerable youth portend problems if nothing is done to support these vulnerable groups.

Academic research and practical experience has shown that communities with large populations of unemployed young men are at the greatest risk of a wide host of social problems: from delinquency and alcohol abuse to petty theft, gang membership and armed violence. Around the world, in communities where armed violence is rampant it is often young men committing the violence or having it done to them. In 2010, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that the homicide rate for young men in the U.S. was 22.6 deaths per 100,000 (the overall global rate is 7.9, including countries in conflict); for women of the same age the rate was 3.4.

Therefore, AOAV has prioritized engaging vulnerable young men in all its livelihood, conflict transformation, and community strengthening programmes. Providing this population with technical (and life) skills, guidance, counselling, and employment opportunities can reverberate throughout their communities, encouraging economic development and stability.

Geographically, AOAV has tends to focus its community-based efforts on “hot spots”: locations with a history of conflict and violence, including urban areas and border zones. In Liberia, AOAV has provided life and employment skills, counselling, and job placement assistance to thousands of at-risk youth and former combatants from vulnerable communities over the past 6 years, consisting of three to six month programmes held in four training centres across the country.

AOAV works in disadvantaged and violence-affected urban areas in neighbourhoods around Monrovia, deploying Conflict Transformation Teams (CTTs), opening community youth centres, and improving police-community relations through enhanced dialogue and problem-solving sessions. AOAV is also building the capacity of community watch groups in underserved communities along the Liberia-Sierra Leone border, assisting them in violence monitoring and prevention and helping them build stronger links to regional security hubs and border police.

In Burundi, AOAV and its local partners provide psychosocial counselling to those impacted by armed violence and conflict in order to help victims recover psychologically, rebuild their lives, and integrate into their communities.

Looking forward, AOAV has begun to conduct research and explore programming specifically in the problem of urban violence, including the problem of gang violence, organized crime, and drug trafficking. AOAV is analysing the problem of urban violence in Latin America and engaging local partners in discussions on best practices in reducing it in an effort to share ideas across the region and to new contexts, such as in Africa and Asia.

AOAV is also promoting the principles and practices of community-based policing, which involves building collaborative relationships between communities, police, the justice sector, municipal authorities, and civil society organizations in a joint effort to solve problems instead of solely focusing on detentions, arrests, and convictions.

 

Public support is vital to AOAV. Please donate: