Spotlight: Investing in West African capacity to tackle regional security challenges


West Africa remains one of the most volatile regions in Africa. Despite encouraging moves away from active armed conflict in some places, many countries still face serious security threats including transnational crime, terrorist activities, political instability and regional insurgencies. Some countries in the region lack the policies, as well as the technical and administrative capacity to tackle these challenges.

Through an innovative five-year project to empower young researchers in West Africa, the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in partnership with the International Development Research Center (IDRC) of Canada, is helping to improve governance, security and justice in the region.

‘Finding lasting solutions to West Africa’s security challenges is an urgent priority,’ says Ramata Thioune, Senior Program Specialist from IDRC. ‘Given the shortage of policy analysts focusing on governance, security and justice in the region, it is vital that we empower young people now to provide sound analysis and develop better policies in future. Drawing from our collective expertise, this project with the ISS is building the next generation of West African policy researchers.’

At the ISS, research into youth issues is driven by our young researchers

Experience gained by the ISS over many years shows that good policy making comes from a sound understanding of the local context. ‘Through our junior fellow project, we provided 22 young Francophone West African researchers with the opportunity to work in a real-life policy research environment,’ says Lori-Anne Théroux-Bénoni, ISS Office Director in Dakar. ‘Working at ISS offered them a chance to engage with experts on broad security policy issues and to improve their research and policy development skills. With our support, fellows have taken up positions in government, international and non-governmental organisations where they can use their newly-acquired skills in the areas of conflict analysis, peacebuilding, security or governance.’

The project is also enabling the ISS to shape policy on human security in West Africa. The work conducted by the last cohort produced new evidence that informed policy in the Sahel. These research results helped change the discourse about violent extremism in West Africa and how to respond to it.

The ISS remains committed to building the capacity of young policy researchers in West Africa and has confirmed new fellowships for researchers from Guinea-Bissau, Niger and Mali. The programme encourages contact between past and present fellows, and having completed their work at the ISS, many continue to support each other through informal networks.

ISS Dakar is also carrying out a project on women and violent extremism in Mali and Niger as part of an IDRC-funded initiative on youth, injustice, violence and exclusion.

‘For the ISS, the “youth” are not merely a research object. Research into youth issues is driven by our young researchers who inform policy from their unique perspectives,’ says Théroux-Bénoni.

For more information, contact:

Lori-Anne Théroux-Bénoni, ISS: +221 338603304,

Picture: Sylvain Liechti/MINUSMA

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