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Establishing partnerships

Last edited: December 29, 2011

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  • Partnerships within the security sector, as well as between security actors and other sectors and organizations are critical for any initiative to have a sustainable impact, and should be established as early in the programme development as possible. Partnerships can take place at local, national, regional and international levels, including partnerships between national entities and sub-national or community-based groups (e.g. Ministry of Interior and community-based police forums).

Why are partnerships important?

  • In line with a sector-wide approach, establishing partnerships between the police, who are most frequently the key security actors directly working with survivors, other security actors (such as armed services in some circumstances) and organizations working from the policy-level to community-based operations (e.g. management and oversight bodies including executive, parliament, government ministries, civil society including women’s groups, Human Rights Commissions, the media and private contractors, and ombuds offices) ensures the contributions of a particular security initiative contributes to broader institutional and system-wide changes. 

  • Security partnerships with other sectors (health, justice, etc) and actors, including civil society and women's support groups, legal assistance, and organizations providing shelter/housing services, is important to provide the most comprehensive services to survivors. Multisectoral partnerships can help educate law enforcement personnel about gender-based violence and the experiences of women and girls, as well as provide personnel a better understanding of what interaction is needed and how it should be documented to support survivors who may wish to pursue prosecution and other judicial remedies. For example, see the case study on the United Kingdom’s Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference.

  • Local ownership and community partnership with police can improve the services delivered to survivors, by increasing women and girls’ demand for security services and building the trust of survivors. This can address the reluctance of women and girls to approach police and other security personnel, particularly if police have a reputation of being unresponsive or insensitive to survivors, or even being perpetrators themselves. Such collaboration is a core element of community policing.

Illustrative example: The Council of the European Union’s Conclusions on Improving Prevention to Tackle Violence against Women and Care to its Victims within the Scope of Law Enforcement (adopted April 2010) asserts that:

civil society, in particular, NGOs, women’s associations and, where appropriate, other public and private voluntary organizations concerned with the issue of violence against women play an important role in the effort to combat all forms of violence against women. Maintaining a close cooperation between law enforcement authorities and civil society on this issue is therefore considered appropriate.”

  • Partnerships strengthen the overall effectiveness of efforts to address the issue by streamlining resources and activities where they are most needed, coordinating data collection for improved case management and monitoring of progress, etc. This can contribute to: achieving mandatory government targets (e.g. within the parameters of a national action plan) or to ensure that legislation is implemented; and increasing the impact of limited resources allocated to the issue.


How are partnership established?

The following guidelines can help organizations select and establish strategic partnerships:

  • Draw upon the stakeholder analysis, review security and related institutions, organizations and actors for their appropriateness as partners using the following questions:

    • Do they have the trust of survivors?

    • Are they well-connected and respected by organizations working with survivors (as relevant at either the policy/advocacy, institutional or community level)?

    • Are there particular risks that should be considered (e.g. negative reputation or lack of specific experience on the issues)?

  • Select partners and 'allies' strategically (i.e. organizations/individuals supporting the initiative’s approach) by considering:

    • Who is in a position to advocate for change (e.g. at policy, institutional or community level)?

    • Are there individual 'champions' of the issue within the police, armed forced, ministries who are respected by their colleagues and can influence them informally?

    • Is there a leader or high-level figure (at national, institutional or local level as appropriate for the initiative) who can provide influential support if there are barriers or obstacles during the project’s implementation? At the community level, this may include: representatives of respected organizations or individuals such as religious leaders, traditional or customary women or men leaders, youth leaders, celebrities, etc. These partnerships should evolve and deepen to ensure the messages and actions of the leader remain consistent with the programme’s principles over time.       

  • Address risks associated with institutional engagement focused on improving the work of partners with negative practices by creating a joint workplan and communication strategy to minimize concerns and explain the partnership to the local community and external audiences. For example, a partnership with a particular police unit which has a reputation for not responding to women’s calls for protection in cases of domestic violence might be challenged by survivor-support groups, who view the police as a barrier for women to access their rights. In such cases, a jointly-developed plan with the police unit could present how the initiative will work to improve police attitudes and practices to improve responses in domestic violence cases.

  • Create a memorandum of understanding that clearly outlines responsibilities, timelines, budget breakdown (if relevant), etc., which also should ensure that all partners agree to a code of conduct (practices and guiding principles to be followed) and specific conditions for cooperation (i.e. the key issues and approaches to be implemented through the partnership). A stakeholder analysis can be used to inform the conditions of partnership, which should be finalized through participatory discussions with all partners to identify their specific skills, knowledge and experience related to the security sector and violence against women and girls is integrated.

  • Create a strategy and action plan with shared directions for partners, building on individual strengths and expertise. In order to be successful, members of a partnership need a joint understanding of the issue (e.g. what are the different forms of violence women are experiencing, how are these defined), which can be drawn from a situational analysis.

Illustrative example: Steps to guide the development of an Action Plan

1. Analyze the issue

Consider the following questions in the discussions:

  • What are the practical problems that give rise to your concern? (How do they impede women’s safety/offender accountability?)  

  •  Does the concern arise from an individual case/occurrence, or does it represent a larger systemic problem? (i.e. the same problem has occurred in a number of cases)

  • Does the concern indicate a need for more training?

  • Is the concern a result of an “attitude” about violence against women, an assumption or belief?

  • Is the concern or problem a result of improper referrals?

  • Can the concern be addressed at a local level, or does it require a higher level of authority?

2. Vision for change Visioning requires a goal-oriented focus and joint discussions on the optimal outcome. As a group ask: “What is the best possible solution?” Define this solution in concrete terms (e.g. “every assaulted woman receives a swift, sensitive and appropriate referral to an agency that can provide her with information about her rights and options for support.”)

3. Develop a plan Once the problem has been identified and vision for change has been defined, begin a process of creating an action plan. The following questions can guide the discussion:

  • Practical issues: what can be done now (or has been done) to fix the situation; who will take action; by when; and what is the agreed upon strategy?

  • Systemic issues the problem represents: what long-term improvements can be made at the local level to address the problem?

  • Does the problem represent a need for change at another level of authority? Can it be addressed through a regional authority (e.g. police boards, regional authority)?

  • Does the problem represent a need for action/response at a Provincial or Ministry level?

  • Who will document the problem, best practices and plan, and how and to whom will that be communicated?

4. Monitor It will be useful to determine at the outset what signs will determine the successes. Progress should be evaluated, and possibly adjustments made along the way. Don’t be discouraged if the original problem must be revisited several times before achieving the level of success envisioned. A process of monitoring and evaluation is crucial to a substantial change process and may require ongoing work to overcome challenges and obstacles.

Excerpt adapted from: Community Coordination for Women's Safety Project. 2005. Building Partnerships to End Violence Against Women: A Practical Guide for Rural and Isolated Communities . BC Association of Specialized Victim Assistance and Counselling Programs. Vancouver.

  • Hold regular consultations between partners to ensure joint strategies and action plans are implemented and support a partnership process that is successful and sustainable. The consultation mechanism provides a critical platform to strengthen relationships between actors as well as to discuss any necessary changes in strategies.

(Adapted from: DFID. 2003. “Tools for Development: Handbook for those engaged in development activity”. London. DFID; OECD. 2011. “Justice and Security M&E Toolkit.” OECD. Paris)


Examples of partnerships involving security organizations:

Albania: In November 2008, a Cooperation Agreement between five ministries (Labour, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities; Interior; Justice and Health; and Education and Science) was signed for the Implementation of Law no. 9669 ‘On Measures against Violence in Family Relations’. The agreement established a partnership between police and domestic violence shelters to provide referral services to survivors (Government of Albania, 2008).

Russia: In 2009, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the local government, law enforcement authorities and other service providers (government and civil society) to assist women survivors experiencing domestic violence and other ‘individuals in difficult life situations’, which outlines general duties for different sectors and calls for all bodies to undertake prevention activities and take steps to standardize institutional practices with regard to training, data management etc (in English and Russian) (DFID, 2003; OECD, 2011).

Sierra Leone: the Police Family Support Units have a partnership with the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender & Children's Affairs in an effort to address all forms of abuse against children and women. The Memorandum of Understanding between the Sierra Leone Police and the Ministry calls for a social worker of the Ministry of Social Welfare, Gender and Children's Affairs to be located in the Family Support Units, responsible for referrals, or direct provision of, psychosocial care and legal advice. As of 2010, there were 41 Family Support Units across the country (UN Secretary General’s Database).


Key Tools

Training Resources on Police Reform and Gender, Exercise 12: Community engagement map (Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces, 2009). This exercise, as part of a larger training resource package, helps plan for enlisting the support of community actors for a common goal. Available in English.

Building Partnerships to End Violence Against Women: A Practical Guide for Rural and Isolated Communities (Community Coordination for Women's Safety Project, 2005). This guide is for organizations to build partnerships with other community actors in order to prevent violence against women. The benefits of partnerships, as opposed to fragmented approaches, are examined, as are relationship-building, clarifying commitments, information sharing, diversity and more. Tools, challenges faced, and case studies are provided. Available in English; 131 pages