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Strengthening trust between defence and security forces and local population through a reinforcement of controls at checkpoints to prevent conflict and violent extremism in Niger

Facing up to the multidimensional crisis in the Sahel and in response to the deteriorating security situation in the region of Tillabéry, National authorities in Niger have launched several initiatives designed to re-establish trust between the local population and Security and Defence Forces (SDF) in order to restore peace by promoting intra and inter-community dialogue and social commitment. It is evidenced by the recent signing of the “Accord de non-agression et d’entente célébré dans le canton de Tondikiwindi, in January 2023, between Peulh, Songhaï and Touareg communities and “l’Accord de Paix signed on 04 June 2023, between local communities in the Department of Ouallam (Tillabéry).

As contribution, the consortium formed by UNODC, UNHCR and IOM supports, through the project “Appui à l’amélioration de la protection et à la sécurité communautaire des populations frontalières dans le nord de la région de Tillabéry”, financed by the United Nations Peace Building Fund (PBF), the improvement of public protection and  persons at risk of statelessness particularly in border areas of the region of Tillabéry, as well as strengthening stability, inter-community relations and dialogue between border communities and government structures. 

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As part of this project, UNODC ROSEN’s Sahel Programme organized a training workshop on Security Search from 29 to 31 May 2023, with 15 Police officers, 10 National Guards and 10 Gendarmes from Tillabéry. This training embodies a major contribution to peace and social cohesion by optimizing defence and security forces’ capacities to conduct better and safer searches in respect of people’s rights, properties, gender,  and by strengthening the climate of trust in interactions and exchanges between local communities and government’s security forces.

As stated by one the instructors ‘‘security searches should not generate fear among local population but rather make them feel safer ’’. For this reason, the training will be an opportunity to provide tools to break down stereotypes in an effort to make people understand that searches are safety and preventive measures against terrorism and violent extremism by notably explaining that population are the firsts concerned actors in the peacebuilding process and belong to the chain ensuring the smooth running of peace operations.

The Regional Representative of the Office for West and Central Africa of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC ROSEN) states that ‘‘ the link between justice and human rights, but also between security and peace, is well established. The crises that the Sahel is facing are born out of injustice, impunity, marginalization and human rights abuse and violation. Restoring peace will inevitably require cooperation between internal security forces and local population and by preserving the momentum for peace by forgiving past acts and spreading messages of cohesion and appeasement ’’(Amado de Andrés, 2023).

Mutual efforts must thus be supported to strengthen state structures to better protect communities and ultimately achieve definitive peace. The objective of the training is to enhance the credibility of the security forces among communities and create and reinforce a bond of trust with the public (civil-military activities, integrity, human rights, and the fight against corruption), strengthen the confidence in the security forces and the judicial system at local level, increase public participation and cooperation in criminal proceedings, prevent the recruitment of individuals by criminal and terrorist groups. It will also serve as an opportunity to raise awareness among local communities on the purpose of checkpoints.

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In line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),  particularly SDG 16 « Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for Sustainable Development provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels», the project also fits in with UNODC's Africa Strategic Vision 2030 which outlines how UNODC and Member States will strengthen Africa's responses to counter Drugs, Transnational Organized Crime, Terrorism, Corruption, illicit financial flows, and improve the rule of law and build resilience.

A significant part of the training was devoted to Human rights respect and Gender issues in operations.

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