Annual conference Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law

KPSClogoAnnual Conference 2015 of the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law

Wednesday, June 24, 2015, from 9:00 AM til 19:00 PM

Venue: The Hague Institute for Global Justice

Sophialaan 10, The Hague, the Netherlands

Based on a broad international orientation and engagement, the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law (KPSRL) aims to inform The Netherlands development policy and its implementation in fragile and conflict affected settings.

The Platform brings together a network of relevant communities of practice comprising experts, policymakers, practitioners, researchers and the business sector on the topic of security and rule of law in fragile and conflict affected contexts. It provides a meeting space – offline as well as online – and intellectual stimulus grounded in practice, for its network to share experiences, exchange lessons learned and discuss novel insights. This way, it strives to contribute to the evidence base of current policies, the effectiveness of collaboration and programming while simultaneously facilitating the generation of new knowledge.(

I was able to ask the following two questions and related critical observations, during some of the sessions or during the breaks in conversations with some of the speakers and other participants:

1. As I noted at the Platform’s seminar “Local Research Capacity in Africa and the Middle East” on May 28, 2015 (, I am astounded by the recounted difficulties ‘our’ scholars and practitioners in security, rule of law and related fields (development studies, conflict studies, etc.) face in finding and maintaining contacts with their counterparts in fragile and conflict-affected countries in mainly the so-called developing world.

In my experience, the country/culture/language specialists I know of and am acquainted with – particularly ethnographers, ethnologists and antrhropologists – have plenty of contacts with their colleagues in the countries, regions and cultures concerned. Does this indicate a lack of contact and multidisciplinary collaboration between these specialists and those in the fields of development, security, rule-of-law and conflict studies – in short, between those in the humanities and those in the social sciences?

2. Is the Platform’s focus – and consequent expertise and knowledge – not too exclusively focused and limited to Africa, the Middle East and Central and Southern America, i.e. to primarily the South and the so-called Third World, at the expense of particularly South-Eastern Europe (Balkans) and Eurasia, i.e. those once belonging to or falling under the sphere of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union, once known as the Second World? Thus would it not be wise and indeed urgent to compare the histories, deprivations and current fragilities of post-colonial countries in the (former) Third World and those of post-communist countries in the (former) Second World?

Thus the current Open Calls for Evidence-Informed Ideas and Evidence-Based Policy Advice and Tools (see launched by the  NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development have as their “geographical focus”:

“Afghanistan, Burundi, Yemen, Palestinian Territories, South Sudan, Sierra Leone, Liberia, East Timor, CAR, DRC, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Somalia, Cote d’Ivoire, Syria or affected countries bordering it”.

All these countries lie either in Africa or the Middle East, denoting a typical focus of the traditional and still dominant branch in development studies. Moreover, few if any of these countries have known indigenous or Soviet-inspired Communist regimes, like Afghanistan – the only country arguably situated in Eurasia rather than the Middle East. I am considering to apply to one or both of these open calls, but will not shy away from making this critical observation in my application(s).

In that regard, I recommend the Editorial by chief editor Dr. Babak Rezvani in the very first issue of our Forum of EthnoGeoPolitics (downloadable at, in which he states that “Africa and Latin America get much attention from scholars in Europe and the USA. Also South, East and Southeast Asia get fair attention from scholars from the UK, the Netherlands and elsewhere. Nevertheless, Central Eurasia—i.e. the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Iranian Plateau—does not get sufficient attention, and the facilities to study it are very meager” (Forum of EthnoGeoPolitics Vol.1 No.1, Spring 2013, pp.5-6).

The following description of the conference programme is taken from (accessed 25-06-2015)

Wednesday 24 June 2015

Organized by Secretariat of the Knowledge Platform Security & Rule of Law


Our third Annual Conference seeks to connect the dots between past and ongoing activities of the Platform. With forward-looking speakers, representatives of the research consortia implementing the NWO-WOTRO funded research, and a range of experts, the conference is an opportunity to take stock and build on previous work by engaging in creative thinking and development of ideas for future activities on the intersections of our thematic program. Participants will leave the conference with new networking connections and the energy and support to take their ideas forward.


  • Robert Serry, Former Diplomat & UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process
  • Rachel Kleinfeld, Senior Associate, Democracy and Rule of Law Program of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
  • Jan de Vries, Deputy Director, Netherlands Helsinki Committee
  • Marco Lankhorst, Senior Research and Learning Officer, International Development Law Organization


  • Petra Stienen is an author and independent advisor. She worked as a human rights diplomat at the Netherlands Embassies in Egypt and Syria from 1995-2004. After she left the Foreign Ministry in 2009 she has established her own business as an independent advisor for various clients in the field of democracy, diversity and diplomacy to the government, NGOs and companies.


Registration (09:00 – 09:30)

Welcome and opening (09:30 – 10:00)

Keynote conversation (10:00 – 10:45)

Rober Serry will share important lessons on working in conflict situations drawing from his own experience.

Break (10:45 – 11:15)     [I was only able to arrive and attend the conference at this stage.]

Conversation with the Platform’s Steering Group (11:15 – 12:15)

Last year’s Annual Conference has been agenda setting: what has been done with this agenda; how has it informed the activities of the Platform; what has been developed; what have been the outputs and outcomes of all these different activities? How successful has the Platform been so far, what are the lessons learned for the future? This is an interactive conversation between the participants and the members of the Steering Group, on the work and progress of the Platform, including ideas for the future.

Deconstructing the reconstruction tender (12:15 – 13:00)

In this session special attention will be given to a critical review of the proposals for the reconstruction tender, and drawing general lessons for the network of the Platform to increase the effectiveness of policy and programming.

Lunch (13:00-14:30)

Change of venues

Afternoon breakout sessions (14:30-16:30)

Our afternoon breakout sessions are designed to draw lessons from the Platform’s past and ongoing activities, with the aim of harnessing new insights to chart innovative future directions in our various projects.  The breakouts sessions are organized around three headers.

1. Innovative solutions for security and justice

Security and rule of law interventions are traditionally state-centered, but at local levels a wide range of alternative actors are involved in the provision of security and justice. How do citizens deal with this variety of actors? Where do they turn with their security and justice needs, and what is the role of elites and politics in this process? How do these dynamics affect international efforts to effectively support citizens in their quest for security and justice?

  • Citizens seeking justice and security in fragile contexts

This session brings together knowledge about the provision of justice and security in fragile contexts, and how citizens seek access to justice and security. How do these two sectors interact? What lessons can be drawn from contrasting the experiences in both sectors, and what are the implications for programming? This topic strongly challenges conventional Rule of Law programming, with its state-centric focus on service delivery. What are implications for state-building and peacebuilding approaches? What would development interventions look like, and how can international actors usefully engage?

  • Avoiding political entanglement, or embedding justice in politics?  [I attended this breakout session; the topics of all the other sessions were interesting to me as well, but most of these were already booked full.]

Interventions often seek to steer clear of politics, as this often raises difficult questions regarding legitimacy and elite involvement. Security and Rule of Law programming is, therefore, often presented and undertaken as a purely technical endeavor. However, is this realistically possible? What are the first findings about the political economy of justice provision in fragile and conflict-affected contexts? How should the development community deal with politics, and what is the appropriate level and scope for engagement?

2. Testing assumptions: development and (in)stability

The relationship between development and stability is complex. Many programs and policies focus on stimulating economic development to increase stability and to contribute to peace. But what are the assumptions underlying our interventions, and how can these be tested?

  • Testing assumptions: the private sector’s contribution to peacebuilding and stability

An important focus of the Platform has been to better understand the role of the private sector in building and promoting peace and stability in fragile and conflict-affected contexts. The private sector is seen to contribute to broad economic recovery, along with trust and reconciliation, a stronger political framework, and security. The Platform has undertaken activities and supported research to investigate the assumptions underlying these claims. What is the evidence to support the assumptions? What questions remain, and what new challenges have been identified?

3. New crises? Dealing with transnational dimensions

In a world of unprecedented flows of finances, information, people and goods, increasingly complex transnational crises challenge the adequacy of the existing toolbox for international engagement in fragile and conflict-affected situations. How to effectively integrate policies and interventions focusing on migration, countering violent extremism and criminal justice with the existing comprehensive approach? And how to deal with issues like coordination and coherence in an increasingly crowded and entangled policy field?

  • The current crisis in Burundi: the effectiveness of international engagement

The recent turmoil in Burundi raises questions about the effectiveness of international engagement in the country. Taking into account what we know now, was the Dutch strategy to focus on security sector reform, but also economic development and access to justice, the right approach? Has it been executed in the best possible way? Was the approach comprehensive or did we miss specific actors and sectors? What is the way forward, and what lessons do we need to take up to further work on peace and security at local, national, regional and international levels?

  • Migration: exploring the potential of the comprehensive approach

Comprehensive approaches were developed to involve and align a wide range of actors and programs to deal with complex, multi-faceted crises. The current situation in the Mediterranean, where unprecedented flows of migrants have resulted in the deaths of thousands of people, represents a nexus of issues. Can we draw lessons from our experiences with comprehensive approaches to deal with this new crisis? Are existing policy instruments fit for purpose? How can we deal with the root causes driving migration, and take into account local perspectives and ownership of solutions? Should we attempt to develop a comprehensive (European) approach? What are the alternatives?

Break (16:30-17:15)

Change of venues 

Closure and drinks (17:15-19.30)