On July 17, 2018 The NATO Southern Hub (NSD-S) and Three Stones International held an online chat forum to discuss "Who funds Instability in Africa?" During the hour and a half long event, NSD-S personnel directly engaged with community and civil society leaders from 12 African countries, many working daily on the front lines in conflict and post-conflict settings. Regional and technical experts from NGOs and multilateral organizations and think tanks also joined.
Through this event, NSD-S was able to interact and hear unpolished perspectives from civil society organisations (CSO) and leaders that live and work in Africa. This opportunity enabled an exchange of ideas to better understand drivers of instability, primarily through a local lens, and how it may be possible to leverage civil society for soft power. It demonstrated a considerable willingness by both NATO and CSOs to seek creative ways to gain perspectives from community and civil society leaders in Africa.
Several participants had questions regarding NATO’s intentions. Those questions are distilled to the following statement, "NATO is military, and we do not need military solutions to our challenges." The event allowed NSD-S personnel to address this type of statement directly by offering the explanation that the Hub has been developed as NATO’s Article 2 organization and is working towards finding better ways to engage with people to gain something very important; their perspective.
Utilizing this Grassroots Virtuality platform was a first step to bring together local voices, context and perspectives that are, otherwise, not typically accessible to NATO. By continuing to leverage these voices, foster relationships and create allies with youth, women's groups, grassroots and religious leaders, and CSOs, NSD-S will be able to more effectively fulfill its mission to connect, consult and coordinate. These on the ground perspectives will support NSD-S to provide the best possible advice to NATO while building relationships that can ultimately lead to peace and stability—NATO Soft Power.
Key takeaways from the event:
• On the ground knowledge and the voices from the community can help NATO develop strategies for how to appropriately intervene.
• NATO must be open to contemplating who and what drives a community including the thought process occurring within a community.
• Addressing only the symptoms allows for the continuation of instability and makes people more dependent.
• Youth are not the problem, they are a solution.
• If on the ground information is provided directly to NATO, will there be observable action and change in policy.
• There is collaboration with ruling parties and high-ranking politicians. This can perpetuate instability and creates a never-ending cycle if local voices aren’t included.
• Better understanding of the needs on the ground is necessary before bringing financial support.
• Just as religious groups can support/foment instability, so can they play a determinative role in helping resolve conflict.
• Illicit cash flows contribute to and connect criminality and instability.
• If leaders and decision-makers are not held accountable, a corrupt system will continue.
• International organizations are well positioned to stop instability. But, they cannot stop instability in the absence of commitment to peace, a holistic understanding of the context, and without buy-in from national and local actors.