In the aftermath of international troops’ withdrawal in 2014, the government of Afghanistan was coping up with challenges on a number of grounds, chiefly security. In the area of security, a key challenge was the role of police force, particularly the lack of community confidence in these forces in the face of growing control of Taliban. There was a dire need to build the confidence and trust among people on the security forces through community outreach sessions. Therefore, Community Watch (CW) project was launched very timely to promote wider community outreach initiatives in order to improve relations between police and local communities and improve the delivery of police services at the community-level. This included engagement of police with disadvantaged groups, including women, youth, and minorities, to listen and address security concerns that could have a transformative impact on their daily lives. Community Watch was funded by USIP and implemented by a consortium of three leading Afghan NGOs including; Sanayee Development Organization (SDO), Equality for Peace and Democracy (EPD), and The Liaison Office (TLO), referred to as SET for the purpose of this project. This consortium has combined expertise in community outreach, peace building, police engagement, gender, good governance, advocacy and research. The project was implemented in Balkh, Khost and Nangarhar to cover North, South East and East.
Alongside Taliban, Afghan National Police (ANP) and Afghan Local Police (ALP) and other ad hoc armed groups were believed by the community to be partially contributing to human rights violations and extrajudicial executions, which increased the gap between local communities and police.
TLO led the SET consortium and addressed the abovementioned challenges and gaps within the security sector by way of engaging with communities and police for trust building. The project contributed to improved police performance and strengthened community and police relationship within the targeted provinces. Furthermore, a systematic channel was created to share and exchange information related to the performance of police forces with policy makers in Kabul.
The overarching goal of the project was to promote stability, rule of law and accountability through public-police engagement within the security sector.
The main objectives of the project were;
- To support the creation of Community Watch for an effective community monitoring of Afghan National and Local Police in targeted provinces of Afghanistan.
- To promote community dialogues and inclusive community monitoring of police performance (police abuses, crime rates, average citizen encounters).
- To facilitate regular public dialogue (intra-community, community and police) on police performance with MoI, EUPOL and LOTFA, CSTCA officials at the national level and with relevant stakeholders at the local level.
TLO implemented the project activities in Khost and created a community watch committee there. The committee members were the representatives of the civil society, women, youth and businesses groups from across all the districts of Khost. Community Watch was committed to facilitate intra-community dialogue and exchange on security issues on one side and police and community dialogue on the other. The committee members were constantly monitoring the performance of police in their respective provinces and the feedback was shared with the policy makers through the advocacy group that was working in Kabul and was regularly engaging with the policy makers on security issues. The data that came from systematic observation from the provinces was gathered, analyzed and published in a report that was shared with MOI, CSTCA and EUPOL in order to improve future practices and policies and support the government to take corrective measures. During project span, three policies were developed and shared with MOI policy makers.
Furthermore, to strengthen the mutual trust and cooperation between community and police, a community award system was introduced on biannual basis. Community recognition of the police performance happened through certification and honorary medals with inscription of national police heroes. The awards were supplemented with official letters of appreciation (included in his/her service record), photo(s) printed/displayed, and biography circulated in a ceremony held for the occasion. Nine such awards were distributed and 81 police personnel were appreciated for their good performance.
The project was welcomed equally by police and communities and was regarded as a fruitful solution to their mis-trust. The project played a complementary role in the existing efforts at the central level and improved civil-police cooperation. The project encouraged good community policing by way of 1) introducing community reward for good police and 2) reporting abuse where necessary to relevant authorities. The culture of reward and punishment promoted by Community Watch (CW) and engagement of citizens to systematically monitor police performance contributed to evidence and research-based advocacy with direct involvement of the communities themselves. The activities of CW helped empower communities to take part in good governance. In addition, the policies that were drafted by SET for the better performance of police were accepted by MoIA’s policy departent and the department pledged that the policies will be utilized in future.