The importance of building relationships in post-conflict environments

Before a change in regime, Rose Partners had been working with the Government of National Accord to implement a police and security sector reform programme in Libya. Working closely with the Ministry of Interior, Rose helped to reform the police service into one which was accountable, in line with international standards and served the best interests of the public.

Given the scale of the project, collaboration with other areas of government was essential in order to drive meaningful progression and development. Rose Partners has been uniquely positioned to build the relationships necessary to inspire greater collaboration across varying government organisations.

Mark Gower OBE is a Project Delivery, Training and Mentoring lead for Rose Partners, with more than 34 years’ policing experience. He’s a former New Scotland Yard senior officer and SO15 counter-terrorism expert. He was the police lead for the Foreign & Commonwealth Office as a strategic advisor on a security sector reform programme in Afghanistan. He reflects on the significance of Rose Partners’ presence in Libya:

‘Having boots on the ground is pivotal because it allows you to get that face time with people and build strong relationships,’ Mark said. ‘It’s not about the first time you meet somebody, it’s the subsequent meetings before you start to build that trust.

‘This will make them more receptive to the support you’re offering and also trust you to deliver what has been agreed.’

Despite the advantage of having a large team in-country, it is not always straightforward to build these relationships, particularly when working with an overstaffed and under-resourced police service. It can be difficult to identify who is responsible for what, particularly when there can be a high turnover of staff in senior positions.

‘By way of example, the leadership at the Criminal Investigation Directorate changed four times in five months,’ Mark added. ‘It’s important to navigate through these relationships, not get frustrated and be conscious of varying cultural affiliations in order to ensure a piece of work doesn’t become compromised.

‘The very nature of policing itself is about finding solutions, so we need to be prepared and accepting of change and any challenges we’re presented with, and provide options for them to solve their own developmental challenges.’

Mark’s training and mentoring team were able to break new ground in Libya, bearing the fruit of building strong relationships in order to facilitate collaboration across different areas of government. This included involving pathologists from the Ministry of Justice in training carried out with the Ministry of Interior – something which hadn’t occurred for six years – as well as bringing a number of organisations together to participate in workshops around the counter-terrorism strategy implementation process.

This relationship-building also extends to the global stage, with a lot of effort going into working harmoniously with international partners, such as the EU Borders & Migration agency.

‘Much of our role involved listening and observing what’s going on across these organisations, identifying gaps that may need filling and capitalising on relationships built with key organisational leaders, inspiring greater collaboration in order for better use of resource.

‘They’ve been very receptive to the support and want to embrace progression. They’ve absolutely bought into the process and they all want to do what they can to improve their communities.’

This buy-in from Libyans is a significant step towards the successful delivery of police reform. It demonstrates their appetite to form an efficient police service that is on a par with international partners and is accountable to the public. This should be the basis of any police or security sector reform programme.

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