This week was a fascinating time to be in the nation’s capital. The city was abuzz in anticipation of James Comey's testimony before Congress on Thursday. On the morning of, it seemed like everyone was talking about the impending hearing. Headlining the New York Times website was an article reporting on the excitement among DC residents. People were taking off work to watch the hearing unfold, and local bars were holding events (which apparently included free shots starting at 10:00 am at the Union Pub two blocks from my house; please note that I did not attend). Fortunately, USIP live-streamed the hearing so that employees could watch while working. A colleague and I took advantage of the opportunity, half-listening to the conversations on the screen while scanning the Internet for potentially relevant sources. Ultimately, the experience was an eyeopening demonstration of DC culture. Everyone seems to be acutely attuned to current events, and that attention evidently translates into excitement bordering on devoted sports fandom.
For work, I edited country reports for publication and began researching security laws in Nigeria and Tunisia. The country reports were written by USIP’s partner organizations, which run the dialogues in the six project countries. Each report is comprised of six shorter reports on the workshops conducted in specific communities. Though the reports provide general context on the general security situations in each region, they focus almost exclusively on the issues that the community identified as most relevant to their day-to-day lives. Additionally, the reports examine the community-identified strengths and weaknesses of relationships between relevant security sector actors and explain the steps the community plans to take to improve the security situation.
The level of community ownership of these dialogues is incredible, and I was able to learn more about it at a weekly team progress meeting. The project is administered by regional and country directors. The regional directors organize events that bring together actors from the six countries to build networks and share experiences. The country directors work with local partners to ensure that the partners understand the JSD approach and to help organize and provide resources for the dialogues themselves. All of the actual content produced in these conversations comes from local actors, not from the local partners or USIP. After the dialogues, which identified the primary security problems and suggest practical solutions, the participating members have to find funding for and implement those solutions. Although USIP could provide that funding, the participants instead have to obtain support from local institutions and entities, which makes reform more sustainable in the long-run.
I also began researching the security laws in Nigeria (which is English-speaking) and Tunisia (which publishes legal texts in French and Arabic). While the research process for Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, and Senegal was characterized by a lack of information, the opposite is true this time. For Nigeria and Tunisia, there is almost too much information, such that it is hard to identify what is important. It’s a great problem to have, and I am enjoying the process. Nigeria is frequently researched so there are multiple databases that contain relevant legal information. Additionally the Geneva Center for Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF) has a database of all of Tunisia’s laws (which are mercifully consolidated). Although the laws are only available in French and Arabic, Google Translate’s automatic translation function makes the work easy.
The week ended with a quick trip back to Williamsburg due to a plumbing issue (one that I attempted and failed to fix myself on my last trip). This weekend I’ll be participating in a Half Tough Mudder in Doswell (for which I am totally unprepared), before heading back to DC on Sunday.