Remarks at AFRICOM Academic Symposium
Population-centric Security Force Assistance: Creating a Mindset of Civilian Protection
Marla B. Keenan
Managing Director and Military Engagement Director
Center for Civilians in Conflict
Delivered June 24, 2014 at AFRICOM’s 6th Academic Symposium “Perspectives and Partners on Population-centric Security Sector Transformation
Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center
Thank you so much for inviting me to share my thoughts with you today. And thank you to AFRICOM, KAIPTC and the Government of Ghana for sponsoring such an important event. I’m always fascinated by the great minds involved in thinking through human security, and I’m pleased to be able to add the views of my organization, the Center for Civilians in Conflict.
I’m going to focus on how security force assistance—like that provided by AFRICOM to many African countries, including many represented here today—should focus more squarely on professionalizing and strengthening security forces to better protect their own populations.
CIVIC is not a typical NGO. We are generally referred to as an advocacy organization, but I’d also call us technical advisors on civilian protection. We work directly with international and regional organizations, governments and militaries to create policies and practices to better ‘protect’ civilians living in the midst of violence and conflict.
I like to think of our work as bridging the civil-military divide. We’re civilians, we advocate on behalf of civilians in conflict and therefore take a “civilian-centric” approach to our work. But we advocate with and advise governments and militaries. In a conflict zone, for example, we talk to civilians about their experiences. It’s this information that we feed into our policy and military recommendations -- it’s a fresh “population-centric” perspective that militaries don’t often get and it has the potential—and indeed I’ve seen it—change the minds of officers and soldiers.