Plural Security Insights (Plural Security Insights)

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Policy and Research Papers

Hustling for Security: Managing plural security in Nairobi’s poor urban settlements

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Nairobi’s urban settlements offer unique settings in which to examine the interplay between citizens’ need for security, the state’s inability to fully meet that need, and the opportunities this creates for powerful private actors. In Kenya’s capital, this situation has led to a context of plural security provision, in which an array of actors assert claims on the use of force, operating simultaneously and with varying relationships to the state. Despite the proliferation of active security providers, who range from opportunistic enforcers to tireless local guardians, most people in Nairobi’s poor urban settlements are exposed to daily threats on their person and property.

This report by Plural Security Insights is part of a comparative research project on plural security in urban settings that draws upon empirical insights from case studies in Beirut, Nairobi, and Tunis. Fieldwork in Mathare, Korogocho and Kangemi provided insights into how settlement residents must rely upon their social networks and personal attributes to ensure access to a combination of protective communities. Unable to call upon the state as the guarantor of public welfare, citizens must ‘hustle for security’, using their wits and their networks to assemble a tenuous patchwork of protection. The research identified not only the risks this creates for individuals and communities, but also how the propensity to resort to individualised security strategies can undermine the notion and the actualisation of ‘the public good’.

The paper concludes with proposals for addressing the more malign aspects of plural security provision, specifically, the need to curtail the providers’ power and to work towards consolidating various providers under uniform rubrics of oversight and performance standards. 

The series also includes:

Setting the Aperture Wider: A synthesis of research and policy advice on security pluralism in Tunis, Nairobi and Beirut

Beirut, a safe refuge? Urban refugees accessing security in a context of plural provision

L’offre plurielle de sécurité dans le Grand Tunis Quelles alternatives à l’État pour combler le « vide » sécuritaire?

For full access to Hustling for Security and the other publications, kindly follow the link.

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Beirut, a safe refuge? Urban refugees accessing security in a context of plural provision

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In contexts of plural security provision, security is produced and distributed by an array of actors asserting claims on the use of force, operating simultaneously and with varying relationships to the state. This paper is a case study that forms part of the Plural Security Series by Plural Security Insights. It describes how a vulnerable urban population, Syrian refugees in Beirut, Lebanon, realises its security interests within plural provision arrangements. Since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, as many as 1.5-million Syrians have fled into Lebanon. Fieldwork in the Beirut neighbourhoods of Naba’a and Sabra revealed that refugees experience a precarious security environment in the city, characterised by constant fear of harassment and detention, lack of protection, and limited mobility. Research identified a diverse repertoire of strategies upon which Syrians draw to access security, from avoidance to reliance on in-group problem-solving and affiliation with sympathetic local security providers.

The paper concludes that Lebanon’s current policy framework exacerbates the vulnerability of Syrian refugees, and that the very nature of security pluralism in Beirut is unlikely to promote equitable distribution of security as a public good, especially to newcomers. It proposes changes to the regulatory and security regime applied to control Syrian communities, and advises the Lebanese state to address the security gap for refugees within the parameters of the existing consociational power-sharing framework.

The series also includes: 

Setting the Aperture Wider A synthesis of research and policy advice on security pluralism in Tunis, Nairobi and Beirut

Hustling for Security Managing plural security in Nairobi’s poor urban settlements

L’offre plurielle de sécurité dans le Grand Tunis Quelles alternatives à l’État pour combler le « vide » sécuritaire?

For full access to Beirut, a safe refuge? and the other publications, kindly follow the link.

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L’offre plurielle de sécurité dans le Grand Tunis: Quelles alternatives à l’État pour combler le « vide » sécuritaire?

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Security and urban development are closely interlinked in Tunis. The urbanisation of Grand Tunis has always been marked by informal settlements whose inhabitants decry the state’s inability to provide affordable and suitable housing in increasingly crowded neighbourhoods (so-called “popular” neighbourhoods), which have become centres of petty and drug-related crime. The lack of basic infrastructure such as streetlights and public transport and the weakening of mechanisms of social control among neighbours heighten residents’ sense of insecurity in these areas.

The current structure of local governance has prevented the state from adequately responding to these challenges, as processes of decentralisation and security sector reform have not progressed sufficiently. Local government representatives, such as the delegate, lack necessary resources to fulfil their obligations, their position has been politicised as political parties attempt to champion their preferred candidate, and people lack trust in the delegate who they associate with the surveillance apparatus of the old regime. This case study in French forms part of the Plural Security Series by Plural Security Insights.

The series also includes:

Setting the Aperture Wider: A synthesis of research and policy advice on security pluralism in Tunis, Nairobi and Beirut

Beirut, a safe refuge? Urban refugees accessing security in a context of plural provision

Hustling for Security: Managing plural security in Nairobi’s poor urban settlements

For full access to L’offre plurielle de sécurité dans le Grand Tunis and the other publications, kindly follow the link.

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Setting the Aperture Wider: A synthesis of research and policy advice on security pluralism in Tunis, Nairobi and Beirut

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In contexts of security pluralism, an array of actors assert claims on the use of force, operating simultaneously and with varying relationships to the state. In such contexts, security providers may acquire legitimacy by proving more effective and efficient, proximate and relevant to local populations, and are often cheaper than state alternatives. Yet, plural security actors are frequently associated with human rights violations, perverse interface with the state, difficulty in providing security equitably in contexts of diversity, and an almost ineluctable tendency toward net production of insecurity over time.

Donors have few policy or practical tools with which to engage meaningfully in contexts of plural security provision. Since directly engaging plural security providers would mean upsetting relationships with state partners, conferring legitimacy on groups with unpalatable goals or tactics, or tacitly endorsing violence as a path to political privilege, donors prefer to focus on official security agencies and state oversight.

Plural Security Insights and its partners have developed the research project outlined here to address that dearth of relevant policy and programming advice. Comparative research was conducted in three urban contexts: Beirut, Nairobi, and Tunis.

The individual publications of the case studies are:

Beirut, a safe refuge? Urban refugees accessing security in a context of plural provision

Hustling for Security: Managing plural security in Nairobi’s poor urban settlements

L’offre plurielle de sécurité dans le Grand Tunis: Quelles alternatives à l’État pour combler le « vide » sécuritaire?

For full access to Setting the Aperture Wider and the other publications, kindly follow the link.

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