News & Events
Building Capacity in West Africa
Professor Sharp trains human rights advocates
School of Peace Studies Professor Dustin Sharp spent the January intersession training human rights advocates in two West African countries. This project is managed and funded by the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice (IPJ) and the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA). Below Professor Sharp shares some of the details about this challenging but important work.
- Could you briefly describe where you were and what you were doing specifically?
Sure. I spent 16 days divided between Conakry, Guinea and Monrovia, Liberia in order to launch a year-long training project with the leading human rights organizations in both countries. The goal of the training program is to sharpen advocacy skills, and particularly the development of advocacy campaigns on the basis of solid field research and policy analysis. I call it research-based advocacy. The first phase of the training takes place in the classroom, and includes role-play simulations, drafting exercises, and other activities. All in all, I conducted 32 hours worth of classroom training in each country, so it’s short but intensive!
- What are the next steps?
Though the work in the classroom is an important start, the heart of the training exercise will come in the course of 2011 as the trainee organizations go out into their communities to document specific human rights violations, draft a report on the basis of that research, and then use the report as a springboard for an advocacy campaign to try to change the situation. I will supervise the entire process, serving as trainer and mentor as each organization moves through the full research-based advocacy cycle. I hope to return to both countries in the summer to do some of that in person.
- What progress or lack thereof do you see in this region since you started this project?
Guinea and Liberia are located in a troubled and volatile neighborhood that has not known stability for the last twenty years. Though Guinea and Liberia are now much more stable than in previous years, renewed tensions in Cote d’Ivoire and continuing cross-border recruitment of mercenaries threaten some of the gains that have been made. It’s because the various conflicts that have devastated the sub-region since the early 1990s are so intertwined, that we have chosen to work in all four countries over the course of the project: Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone. There is a lot of work yet to be done. In the end, however, the skills I am teaching are vital to human rights activists in times of war and times of peace.
- Were you able to go to Cote d’Ivoire, or was it too unstable there at this time?
I am not scheduled to begin work in Cote d’Ivoire until 2012. However, I suspect that any plans to work in Cote d’Ivoire this year would have been postponed due to the electoral crisis that continues to engulf the nation.
- When does this particular project finish and what do you see as next steps?
The project should finish once the year-long training cycle in Cote d’Ivoire is completed in 2012. I am currently in discussions with OSIWA, the project funder, about possibilities for expansion of the work beyond 2012, but we have yet to come to any conclusions. But whether this particular project goes on, our relationship with local partners in the region will continue in one form or another. For example, I expect that in Summer 2011, several Kroc students will travel to Guinea and Liberia to serve as interns within the organizations I am training. It’s one of the ways in which we are trying to build bridges between theory and practice here at the School of Peace Studies.